Every one of us goes through difficult times. I have mentioned before how some survive whilst others do not, I have also mentioned ones who simply did not try and that to me is a big mistake. As has been famously said, it is not the falling down, because we all do that. It is the getting up again that is important. It may take a bit of doing, it may require time and support from others, but it can be done. I know. I have been writing weekly blog posts for a while and as I am getting closer and closer to finishing one, I usually get a sort of ‘prompt’ for the next one. In fact some of you may have noticed that there can be something of a thread between each one. But recently I sat and posted a blog as usual, which was fine and in addition the next one was started. No, you eager ones, you must always wait for Friday, you just have to! Except this one time I received little or no ‘inspiration’ for this next blog, as it just didn’t occur to me. So I left writing for a day or so, I got on with other things and came back to it. I was then reminded of how I was, both physically and mentally, last year. That was when I found myself in a hospital bed, I couldn’t even roll over without help. But one nurse then said “which is your ‘good’ side?”, as they knew one side is weaker than the other. So I was gently coaxed, I was also politely encouraged. I was helped in a positive way, but not rushed. Once I had proved to myself and to them that I could do that, they said “well done – now try the other side’. I needed a pillow to support me, but in time I did it. Except the next task was to get me sitting up in bed. Then I was shown an exercise or two so I could strengthen my arm and leg muscles and after a time I was sitting on the edge of the bed, with two physiotherapists just grinning at me and saying “We knew you could do it!”. After a while of this I stood up. I could only stand on my own two feet for a few seconds, but I did it. I used a clever device to rotate round and this did enable me to move and manoeuvre myself into a chair. It took some doing, but it was done. I looked at the two of them and then said “You……” They knew. They grinned even more! So regular, daily but easy practice followed and I began to walk a few steps, holding on tightly to a walking frame. I don’t mind admitting that at times it took quite a bit of encouragement. Next was to get to the en-suite toilet. Again it took some work, but I achieved it. But what delighted me was the attitude of these nurses and physiotherapists, as they said nothing at all about what had happened to me or how I had got myself into this state. I did think about it and I knew I had let myself down. To this day I can get myself upset over that, but not as much as time slowly progresses. What I have learned to do is forgive myself. Others have said I should feel proud of what progress I have made, but only a few know how I was and how I’d not looked after myself. Proud? No. Actually I am humbled and so very thankful to be given another chance at life in this lovely world and which I do hope to enjoy for some time yet. As I write this, I am in a Care Home where they really do care. I have read horror stories of other Care Homes but this is a very good one. I admit that sometimes, even as I write this, Carers will get stern, sharp even, with an inmate but that is because they know that particular person can and should do better. In time I know that I will gain strength physically and mentally as well as emotionally. I shall go out yet again into a world which has also had to change in the last eighteen months. I do think back to 2019 and walking down Gallowtree Gate, the main street in Leicester, wondering why a few Chinese students were walking around and each one wearing a mask over their mouth and nose. Many shops have closed, bus routes are different to how I remember them and I will find other changes. But we survive. So for me it is important to reiterate what I said last year. There are many who do not have the same ideas, the same thoughts as I do and that is how things should be. But having a positive outlook on life is such a good thing, in my humble opinion. I saw a really lovely item of inspiration on Facebook the other day, it is this.
When it comes to our body, we are taught from a very young age what not to do, like putting a hand in or near a fire, that hot food and drink can burn or at least scald. Medicines are kept out of the way of children, because the danger is they might be seen as sweets. Minor cuts and bruises are dealt with, most often at home, with guidance from local midwives and nurses. As we get older we learn more at school about how things work, but it can depend on the level of education we attain as to how much we learn. Those who go on to higher education may become nurses, doctors and then go into specialist areas. If I had tried to talk to my grandfather about DNA and the things we know about ourselves now, I think he might have said it was all nonsense and not to be believed. For example bloodletting did begin around 3000 years ago with the Egyptians, then continued with the Greeks and Romans, the Arabs and Asians, then spread through Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It reached its peak in Europe in the 19th century but subsequently declined and today in Western medicine is used only for a few select conditions. But to appreciate the reasons behind it, we should perhaps first go back some 2300 years ago and consider just how disease was thought of at that time. Back then, Hippocrates (~460–370 BC) believed that existence was represented by the four basic elements, these being earth, air, fire, and water, which in humans were related to the four basic ‘humours’; blood, phlegm, black bile, yellow bile. Each humour was centred in a particular organ, considered to be the brain, lung, spleen, and gall bladder and related to a particular personality type, which were sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholic, and choleric. Being ill meant having an imbalance of the four humours. Therefore the treatment consisted of removing an amount of the excessive humour by various means such as bloodletting, purging, catharsis, diuresis, and so on. By the 1st century bloodletting was already a common treatment, but when Galen of Pergamum (129–200 AD) declared blood as the most dominant humour, the practice of venesection (an effective way to reduce the iron levels, red blood cells or the thickness of your blood to a safe level) gained even greater importance. Galen was able to propagate his ideas through the force of personality and the power of the pen and his total written output exceeds over two million words. He had an extraordinary effect on medical practice and his teaching persisted for many centuries. His ideas and writings were disseminated by several physicians in the Middle Ages when bloodletting became accepted as the standard treatment for many conditions. I have found more on the subject of bloodletting and those of you wanting more are free to do your own research! All I will say is that by the late 1800s, enthusiasm for leech therapy had waned, but leeches are still used today in special situations.
Much has been learned about our physical health and how to maintain it, but from what I have learned, many years ago mental health was ignored. The Madhouse Act of 1774 was the first legislation in the United Kingdom addressing mental health. Privately funded lunatic asylums were widely established during the nineteenth century and the County Asylums Act 1808 permitted (but did not compel) Justices of the Peace to provide establishments for the care of “pauper lunatics” so that they could be removed from workhouses and prisons. The Lunacy Act 1845 established the Board of Commissioners in Lunacy and as a result, Justices were forced to build lunatic asylums financed by local rates. In 1859, there were about 36,000 people classified as lunatics in all forms of care in England and Wales, with about 31,000 classed as paupers and 5,000 as private patients. Over 17,000 of the paupers were in county asylums or on contract in licensed houses, about 7,000 were in workhouses, whilst a similar number were ‘living with friends or elsewhere’. Ten percent of workhouse infirmaries provided separate wards for those considered as insane. The Lunacy Act of 1862 then permitted voluntary admission and any person who had been a patient in any type of mental hospital during the previous five years could enter a licensed house as a voluntary boarder. The Lunacy Commissioners could remove lunatics from workhouses to county asylums and the chronic insane who were considered harmless were moved from the overcrowded asylums to the workhouses. In London, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, established by the Metropolitan Poor Act 1867 built two large asylums for London. These were the Leavesden Mental Hospital and the Caterham Asylum. They were built to similar designs by the same architect and each was intended to accommodate 1560 patients in six three-storey blocks for 860 females and five blocks for 700 males, but within five years each had been extended by around 500 places. In 1870 there were about 46,500 poor law mental health cases: 25,500 in county asylums, 1,500 in registered establishments, 11,500 in workhouses and the remainder boarded out with relatives. In 1876, there were nearly 65,000 people classified as mentally disordered in England and Wales. It is not clear if there was actually an increase in the prevalence of mental illness. From around 1870 there were moves to separate those who were then called ‘idiot’ children from adults. Darenth School for 500 children with learning disabilities was opened by the Metropolitan Asylums Board in 1878 and a separate institution next to the school, with accommodation for 1,000 adults, was opened in 1880. The Lunacy Act 1890 then placed an obligation on local authorities to maintain institutions for the mentally ill and by 1938, 131,000 patients were in local authority mental hospitals in England and Wales, with 13,000 in District Asylums in Scotland where there were also seven Royal Mental Asylums. However, mental hospitals were overcrowded and understaffed and mental health services were not integrated with physical health services when the NHS was established in 1948. Shortages of money, staff and buildings continued. Then in 1956 the Confederation of Health Service Employees organised an overtime ban, the first national industrial action in the NHS. The government increased capital spending from 1954, hoping to increase bed numbers by 2,800 but rising numbers of patients, especially the elderly, caused a shift in policy away from institutions and towards day centres and community care. In 1961 the Minister of Health made a speech where he said “in fifteen years time there may well be needed not more than half as many places in hospitals for mental illness as there are today”. This marked a shift towards Care in the Community and it was given further impetus by a series of scandals over long-stay hospitals from 1968 onwards. On World Mental Health Day in 2018, the Prime Minister finally appointed the UK’s first Suicide Prevention minister. This occurred as the government hosted the first ever global mental health summit. So a great deal has been done over the years, certainly in my lifetime, to recognise and address mental health issues. But I feel that we must continue to learn how our minds work an how we are affected by the world around us, most especially when faced with a global pandemic. More and more people are seeing that even if they do not agree with having recommended treatment, they should surely respect the wishes of others and follow the behavioural guidelines. Here we are not legally required to wear a face covering in every setting, but we should do so in circumstances where the government does recommend. They expect us to continue to wear face coverings such as in crowded and enclosed spaces like public transport. As I said last year, this Covid-19 is creating so much extra work in hospitals, but it is also having a knock-on effect in other places. Lockdown has meant no visits by relatives or friends to Care Homes, so patients and their families have been suffering as a result. We have been limited as to how close we are allowed to get to each other and for many that can be most frustrating. I am of the opinion that healthy living is a combination of a positive mind, a healthy body and a calm, peaceful spirit. Both doctors and nurses help us when we need good maintenance of body and mind, but we can do much to help ourselves.
I think back to the time in 2010 when I was in a hospital bed and a doctor was explaining to me what had happened in terms of the heart attack I’d had. He told me what extra tablets I needed to take in addition to those I was on to control my epilepsy. As I have said to a few folk now, I foolishly asked the doctor how long I would be taking these extra tablets for. I think I was under the impression they would be like an antibiotic, or something to help repair damage, I didn’t know. But of course I was then told “always”. So I soon learned to adapt, I modified my daily routines for the tablet-taking, including when I was going out or away anywhere. I am very much a ‘computer’ person, so I found an ‘app’ for my iPhone, I tried a few in fact but this particular one that is called Medisafe keeps a record of the number of tablets I have for each drug, it prompts me to take the medication at the appropriate time, it also allows me to set a minimum order quantity so I know when to order more of the medication. It works for me. Having said that, senior staff in this Care Home look after all medication and they give me my tablets as required as well as ordering supplies. I still look though when I am given my tablets, as I know exactly what I expect to receive. Keeping calm can be quite difficult at times, but that too is something which we can achieve by not allowing others to affect us negatively. As well as that, our spiritual healing may be done in a few different ways and there are a number of therapies available nowadays. One which has been and continues to be good for me is a particular relaxation therapy called Arka Dhyana. It has been taught to me by Srinivas Arka, a man who is also well-known around the world as an author and philosopher. Some healers use their own hands to heal those they are caring for, but Arka Dhyana uses a combination of ones own touch, sound and breath. The sound is a unique one and the breathing is done in such a way as to make each person more aware of it, as under normal circumstances our bodies have an automated system so that our breathing adjust to our requirements. In the same way that some other healing techniques work, it is known that there are certain energy centres in the body. Using the Arka Dhyana technique, by simply touching these centres and making a particular, unique sound the healing is energised. I will say again at this point that this has nothing to do with any religion, I have not altered in any way my belief or faith in God, nor have I been asked to do so at any time. But what I have found is that this healing technique works for me and for a great many others in many countries all around the world. I have found that I have become a much calmer person, learning to adapt to all of the changes that have occurred in the last few years and most notably those in the last few months! My body is getting healthier, my mind is clearer and I am now much more at peace spiritually.
This week I am reminded of…
The lovely television series ‘Countdown’, which features Susie Dent as the person who confirms which words are acceptable. She also talks about the unusual but interesting words, along with their meanings. So it was that one day she said about a ’mumpsimus’ and this is a person who obstinately adheres to old customs or ideas, in spite of evidence that they are wrong or unreasonable. I am sure we have all met one of those, but we may not have called them a mumpsimus.