The A Word: Mind Games

It’s been 2 months since my last blog, and I have lots to share.  I love to travel and both Jamie and I have been very fortunate as our work has taken us to many beautiful places over the years.  I was mostly focused on Europe and Jamie was more transatlantic, spending a good deal of time in the US.  We’ve always planned to travel more and there are so many countries we want to see before we’re too old to enjoy them 😊 but, as everyone knows, Covid has put pay to most of our plans in the short term.  However, we decided we weren’t going to let it beat us this year and we would venture out of the UK to France.  EasyJet had cancelled our flights (carried over from last year), so we took the decision to drive. 

As you all know, I write my blog to raise awareness of autoimmune disease, and this was a big decision for me as sitting down for long periods of time really aggravates AS.  It can also cause significant nerve pain, so we planned our trip to make it as comfortable for me as possible.

Leaving the UK on the Eurotunnel was the easy bit and the journey through France was beautiful.  The scenery was amazing and as most of the roads we used were toll roads they were quiet and easy to drive; Paris was a bit hairy though.  Door to door we’d calculated the journey at around 850 miles, so we’d booked an overnight stay at the halfway mark.  I was stiff and sore when we arrived, even though we’d stopped a number of times.  I’d also increased my medication in anticipation of the journey and made sure I did my stretches.  The next morning, I felt OK.

The second leg of our journey to the South of France was stunning.  We drove through the Massif Central region, peaking at over 1000 metres through mountains and plateaus.  It was definitely one of the highlights.  The holiday itself was superb, meeting friends we hadn’t seen for two years, spending days at the beach club and nights in lively bars and restaurants.

Now for the hitch!  As anyone who has braved a trip out of the UK this year knows, you have to take  a negative Covid test before you return home.  I knew this when we booked the holiday and we’d also taken out insurance to cover the costs if we needed to stay longer.  But, when my holiday is finished, I want to go home.  I want to get back into the gym and back to yoga and back to my routine. I want to mend my body from the inactivity and reduce my medication.  I want to do all these things for my mind as well as for the pain in my body.  I didn’t want to stay in France!

I was so nervous when we went to take the test that Jamie had to fill in my on-line form as my hands were shaking so much.  I was conscious we’d been out every night and was only mildly comforted by the vaccine passport used in France to get into all venues.  We also had friends who’d been double vaccinated who caught Covid whist away so I’d completely underestimated the chances that this test could be positive.

The result came through 30 minutes later as negative which was a big relief to me.  You then have the hassle of filling out the passenger locator form and attaching all the stuff for UK customs.  I’m not sure you could go away without a smart phone and the hassle continues when you get home as you have to do a PCR test on or before Day 2.  We’re waiting for the results as I write.  If it’s positive, we’ll have to isolate.

Over the years, especially when I’m away and out of my daily routine I completely understand the benefits of exercise for improving mental health.  I’m so very proud of my daughter who volunteers for a charity called Sport in Mind.  They are the UK’s leading mental health sports charity and deliver physical activity (sport, walking, dance and movement, gardening and exercise sessions) projects in partnership with our amazing NHS.  They work tirelessly to aid recovery, promote mental wellbeing, improve physical health, combat social isolation and empower people to move their lives forward in a positive direction.

If you do struggle with your mind due to constant pain like I do, I can’t emphasise enough the benefits of physical exercise.  I appreciate a lot of people with AS are less mobile than me and there are so many other horrible autoimmune diseases that make exercise difficult.  But please persevere as it will help, especially if you can get to the stage where it’s a part of your everyday life.

Finally, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who reads my blog.  I know it’s a bit intermittent these days, but it always reaches “top reads” on the blogging site so you’re really helping to raise awareness of these awful autoimmune diseases that many people tolerate daily.

Until next time, lots of love xxxx

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