Between the searching and the need to work it out…
It’s three years to the day since I had the first symptoms of Guillian-Barré Syndrome (GBS)- 1095 days if you’re counting. Funnily enough I’m heading into London this morning just as I did back in 2016, only this time I’m feeling pretty much 100% - both physically and mentally. I remember I felt ‘Broken’ on that Monday morning yet somehow I drove to London, delivered a coaching session, made a short foot-taping film for folk going to the MdS that year and drove back home to Cardiff. When I say ‘Broken’ maybe ‘Crushed’ or ‘Shattered’ would be more descriptive, but I’ll let you decide – all I can tell you is I felt ‘Destroyed’.
I stop believing everything will be alright…
So, in true ‘Coleman Style’ I did nothing as I believed everything WOULD be alright. I felt my day of ill-health would pass and that in a few days I’d be back firing on all cylinders and attacking the Marathon des Sables with my usual gusto of a starving man attacking an all you can eat buffet.
Only it didn’t - and things went from ‘Bad to Worse’ and then ‘Critical’ without me kinda knowing as the GBS slowly creeps into your immune system, undetected, slowly damaging the peripheral nervous system, eating away at your very existence.
Much to my annoyance at the time, I felt totally f@cked, still believing things were going to be alright. If you know me, you’ll know I’m very determined, call it bloody-minded if you like, it’s a great strength – it’s also my Achilles-Heel as it masks any weakness or underlying issue that might prevent a negative outcome.
By the end of April 2016, I was paralysed yet I still deluded myself in thinking that I’d soon be okay and in a matter of days, I’d be back to my old self and jogging around the local park.
Instead, I was confined to a hospital bed with only one thought. I wrote about it during my recovery and it’s clear to me now I was being ‘Fixed’ physically but mentally I was in a pretty dark place.
Here’s the Extract from my next book ‘A Runner Reborn’ – at the point where I’m hospitalised for the first time.
The first thing you want to do under those circumstances is to escape. So you try your damnedest to get out of the place. But I’d convinced the medical experts that I was better in a much better state than I actually was. I simply wasn't well. And I certainly wasn't in any condition to go home.
By the end of May I could 'sort of' walk with a Zimmer frame. But at that stage, what the doctors are interested in is your functionality. Can you function as a human being? And cynically-speaking, if you are able to function as a human being by yourself with help, then in their eyes you're taking up a hospital bed that someone else might need. It got to the point where they were just administering me drugs, which I could take at home. I had a wife that could look after me at my in-laws home that had a toilet on the ground floor, so I was away. After a further couple of weeks we ventured home to our terraced house in Pembroke Road, Cardiff.
This is where I got even worse. I got to the stage where I couldn't stand up because every time I did I would fall over, I simply didn’t have the strength to hold myself up. Zimmer frame walking was disastrous, I had in fact become dangerous, especially with Baby Jack crawling around on the floor, and my wife at that time being heavily pregnant. The opportunity for a serious accident was genuinely on the cards.
Eventually, my routine became sleeping on the lounge floor at night because I couldn't climb the stairs to bed and then transferring to an armchair in the morning until 5pm, when my bum was literally so numb I couldn’t stand it anymore and needed to lie down again. When I say routine, it was more of a vicious circle. I felt so weak. I simply couldn't stand up. My knees wobbled like Bambi's. They would literally just buckle from underneath me and when I fell, it was like a puppet having it’s strings cut.
My ankles were totally useless. Whenever I lifted my knee my foot would drop. My feet were dead, like dead pieces of meat and because there was no strength in my legs at all, nor any strength going into where your hip flexors are at the waist, I had no core strength either. Then to make matters even worse, because GBS affects all the muscles in your body, I couldn’t pee and I was just completely bunged up internally. I was in a real state. So my wife phoned my consultant and explained how much trouble I was in.
He saw me the following Monday and realised that I was really ill again. They admitted me straight back onto the hospital ward, bypassing A&E and the Medical Assessment Unit all together. To be back at square one with my recovery felt disastrous and I felt I’d wasted nine weeks getting absolutely nowhere.However that's different from me accepting the scenario I was in: after all I had the GBS for some time, and I now realised that it wasn't something you couldn’t just fight. It was a process.
Broken - We are broken…
I got a bit of a cold-shiver reading that if I’m honest as I can’t believe my state of denial at the time. My Life’s ‘Key-Driver’ the determination and mindset that has brought me so much success and happiness over the years, had nearly taken me past the point of no-return.
But when your world’s turned upside down or when you wake up in the cold light of day as I did - ‘Broken’ by Illness, Addiction, Obesity or Plain Fatigue, putting the pieces back together isn’t as difficult as it first appears.
When Life takes a turn for the worse it isn’t like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle back together without knowing the picture or how many pieces are in the box. Life’s jigsaw comes with a plan and you decide what it looks like.
It might not be the ‘Old You’ but it can be whatever design you like. Complete or even with a few pieces still to place – it can be both fulfilling and beautiful.
I'm walking uphill being turned around and round…
For me it felt like being in a storm, a tornado or emotions, a time of great uncertainty but then one of great calmness as I regained control and enjoyed the building process and success that recovery brings.
In my mind's eye, one little boy anger one little man…
And am I angry? No way – I’m relieved if I’m being honest. Empowered almost by the journey I’ve had over these past 1095 days. Am I fixed – hell no. I came to the conclusion yesterday when I nearly fell off a step ladder putting up a curtain pole that my proprioception is still very flaky but who’d have thought I’d be able to do that three years ago. And if you are ‘Broken’ feel ‘Broken’ or being ‘Broken’ right now – I know how you feel. The thing is that it won’t be forever. Things DO get better and sometimes as I found out, you need to reach out for help as you can’t do everything yourself no matter how ‘Determined’ and ‘Bloody-Minded’ you are.
Funny how time flies…
Thanks to Tears for Fears for today’s Blogsong’ – it’s one of my favourite tunes of 1985 and ‘Broken’ is part of the track ‘Head over Heels’ – take a listen hereand consider whether you are a bit ‘Broken’ yourself.
1,032 Lifetime Marathons, 250 ULTRA-marathons, 9 Guinness World Records, 15 Marathon des Sables & 25 Years' Dry