I usually write to you to request a prescription. When I have an appointment, I usually talk to you about my ailments – about what is not good. Nowadays that relates to chronic illness.
Today I write to share positive: the privilege of participating in LIVING WELL – the self management programme that aims to help live with long term health conditions – group engagement with individuals who combine together a broad age group with a broad range of illness. I gained from it; I enjoyed it! I use the word enjoy because we shared the experience of illness in the context of our everyday living and although suffering was there, morbidity was nowhere!
Upon first encounter I was amazed to learn that regardless of age and condition, we all shared a similar experience which presents itself in what we have identified as the ‘symptom cycle’, such as the never ending loop of pain, difficult thoughts and emotions, poor sleep, physical limitations …. I gained tools to help manage and ‘break the cycle, to gain more better moments than moments that feel unmanageable. This was nice. Some of the tools are familiar, ones we put to use in our everyday – at work or at home, such as problem solving, decision making, communication (with doctors, for example), however, it became evident to me that we don’t always identify this so we don’t necessarily put our management tools to use in an effective way in the course of an illness in the everyday.
Hey, one doesn’t train to be a patient!
LIVING WELL encapsulates this and in an intense 6 session period, equips us with a toolbox that we can dig into at any given moment. Practice starts together; the work, we each have to continue to apply later. LIVING WELL is a lesson in responsibility and ownership of one’s condition. True, everything is good in ‘class’ and like learning to swim, you might get the moves when you’re in the pool having a lesson but next time you step into the water on your own, you might still feel you are going to drown. I do know it takes time to master tools but I also know that I have been equipped with a framework. I also now know that there is a strength from experiencing a group face to face.
LIVING WELL has enabled me to form a sense of community thanks to caring instructors who themselves experience long term health conditions and have participated in a course prior to becoming the guide. This is also thanks to an amazing group of people who, like me, may have had a sleepless night last night and not because we were out clubbing but because the challenges to go out to ‘a club’ can be immense. ‘Club’ here merely symbolises engaging with life in the everyday. I have learned new strategies that others use on how they may cope with a sleepless night, I hope they have learned something from me. So, we have gained and you do too. As we have learned about responsibility and ownership of how we engage with our long term health conditions,
LIVING WELL demonstrates how we can better engage with our doctors. You have come to know me overtime through my condition. You can understand the importance of this course for me. I strongly hope there will be future opportunities for existing groups to meet again in session for further learning.
But,without patients wanting to participate in the first place there will be no LIVING WELL. I am apprehensive that the course has now ended; someone else might be apprehensive about starting. Can you please continue to promote the LIVING WELL programme in your surgery to your patients, and amongst your colleagues so their patients can ‘LIVE WELL’ too? It has been a privilege,