I’ve not been blogging as much as usual these last couple of months. The truth is I’ve not been doing most things as much because I’ve been a bit poorly with my back. It started mid September and got gradually worse and then very slowly better. I recently had an MRI scan and it turns out three of my disks were prolapsed (slipped) and the bottom one was compressing my nerve on the right side.
The good news is, I’m loads better now. So much better that I’m off the strong pain killers, I can walk okay and I bought some lovely new football boots – I’ve just joined a five aside league and I’m hoping to start playing next week – back depending!
UPDATE: Turns out my muscles on the right are weak so have to slowly build them back up before I play football – so hopefully I’ll be playing early 2016!
I wanted to say a big thanks to the people who knew what was happening and who dropped round meals and generally kept my spirits up by being in touch and just acting like normal lovely people. Special thanks to my flatmate Rhian! I’ve had severe back pain before – a couple of years ago it took me out for around 3 months so this time I was better at dealing with it. Here are some things I learned last time, that helped me get through it better this time around:
- Ask for help
I’m not good at doing this but I did it early on this time. Just an email to a few friends explaining the situation and asking if folk could drop round a meal if they had time or be in touch or pray for me.
- Think weather
A couple of years back when it was really bad my physiotherapist said you need to look at a week overall and think weather – it might be raining right now and today’s weather looks worse than yesterday but overall has the week been better than last week? That way when you have a bad day it doesn’t seem quite so discouraging and you can hopefully see a gradual improvement.
- Lower expectations
I’ve always been an over achiever. I’m now a recovering perfectionist. If you’re used to expecting a lot from yourself and then you can hardly do anything it’s incredibly discouraging. I’d start to feel a bit better and plan a full day of things including getting up early to fit it all in. Then I’d sleep through three alarms and feel exhausted and end up disappointed because I couldn’t do much at all. So I got used to expecting less. I’d maybe have one thing to aim for in a day. Doing some writing. Going to an event.
- Take every day as it comes
You just don’t know how you’re going to be so it’s hard to plan for pain and also, there’s no point worrying about tomorrow either. Just be wherever you are at the time. Which I know is easier said then done.
- Find ways around things
Walking or standing aggravated my back and after a few minutes of either I’d be in a lot of pain. So as I got better I drove to things, even very short distances. And sat or crouched down when standing became too hard. My car spectacularly failed its MOT and is now scrapped so in desperation, I tried cycling to a Pilates one evening. Because it was sitting – I was okay. After that I started cycling – it was so good to be able to get some exercise and get around but without hurting my back.
- Don’t let fear stop you
Because it can suddenly become quite painful, it’s easy not to go out because you’re scared. I knew that fear could make my world smaller and smaller until I’d end up hardly doing anything. Then I’d feel quite miserable and that makes the pain worse. So I did my best to do things, even if I didn’t stay long. Even if it hurt and it was all I could do that day.
Lovely Wigtown Book Festival
I had four events at Wigtown Book Festival near the end of September when my back was still quite bad. I was still on prescription painkillers and I wasn’t sure how it would go.
I made contingency plans for the first two ‘Can’t-Dance-Cameron‘ schools events with 500 children. I could get volunteers up on the stage to show them the capercaillie dance moves if I couldn’t do them. I could do the whole event sitting down if I had to. I didn’t take the super strong pain killers the night before because I knew I’d never get up in time and I asked people to pray. I didn’t sleep but despite that, it actually went really well. I was able to stand and even dance on the stage and give the children my full energy. Here are some sketches Shoo Rayner drew at the event:
— Shoo Rayner (@shoorayner) October 1, 2015
Lots of teachers came up to say how much they’d enjoyed the event and they didn’t know about my back so they weren’t just being nice. The shop sold out of one of my books at the first event too so that was amazing. I got to sit for the signing so that gave my back time to recover between events.
I headed to the author’s yurt for lunch with my hot water bottle and enjoyed the lovely food (yes that is lobster!):
And lovely people, the volunteers, the staff, Shaun at the Bookshop, the authors – Robert Twigger took some fab black and white photos of us all and added them to the message board every day:
and later I visited my wonderful chairperson Renita’s house and spent the afternoon there drinking tea and resting. That evening I went to a magical storytelling evening based on ‘the moth‘ but called ‘the midge’. I was enjoying myself so much I even joined in with a story myself.
— Scotland (@Scotland) October 1, 2015
And after that I still felt okay so I went along to book at bedtime – hot chocolate in the bookshop and a poetry reading from Peggy Hughes. It was such a lovely day and there’s such a wonderful welcome and atmosphere at Wigtown. I didn’t want to leave! So that was one of my best and most unexpectedly well days.
The next day I had a swim with Renita’s dog, walking to the water hurt but then the cold water hit me and the pain went – it was really good for my back.
(Thanks to Renita Boyle for the video and photo!)
And later that evening it was Rally and Broad:
with the wonderful Bookshop Band:
I loved being part of the event with such brilliant performances from everyone (and a great audience!). There wasn’t a theme for the event so I based my set on all things at Wigtown.
And the final day was a family event for the Grouse and the Mouse – many of the rooms in the school had been transformed into magical fairy-light lit venues for the festival. It was amazing!
(thanks to festival photographer Colin Tennant for this photo)
And before I traveled back to Edinburgh I saw ‘To Begin’, a moving show from the National Theatre of Scotland based on the real stories of the people of Wigtown (with lots of local people acting in the show too).
— Emily Dodd (@auntyemily) October 3, 2015
So a big thanks to everyone at Wigtown for having me. I loved it and I’m looking forward to coming back soon.
Another lovely festival I visited at the beginning of September (before my back got bad) was Tideslines Book Festival. I had a couple of events in schools
Author Emily Dodd in to entertain our Primary 2s and 3s this morning. pic.twitter.com/9p4Mk4SbAs
— St Bridget’s Primary (@BridgetPrimary) September 11, 2015
and then a public event in a theater with my first ever Hollywood style dressing room:
And after the event the festival had organised a whole host of nature crafts with rangers and artists. Here’s a black grouse made from a pine cone:
The rangers had slugs and bugs and fox fur you could feel:
And the children had loads of fun too:
Next week it’s Book Week Scotland and I’m really looking forward to these events – it’s so good to be feeling better again and I’ll just make sure I get plenty of rest in between.