The Power of Mental Health

In Chapter 1, I ended with an Xray of myself after the operation and as soon as I posted my blog, I was pleased to see that a few of my friends read it and one of their questions was: “So what happens if you cannot afford a scoliosis operation?”.  I am not going to lie about it, the operation was a very costly exercise, but fortunately for me, I had a good medical cover which paid for most of it.  Prevention is better than a cure. Had I taken care of myself and done all the right things when I was in my teenage years and twenties, I probably would not have had to choose the operation route.   But what I did find out was that the operation was not going to solve everything, as with the instrumentations and fusion of vertebrae, came all sorts of other issues! I realised soon after the operation that my journey to recovery and good health had only started.  Re-aligning a spine from the curvature of over 60 degrees in 24 hours brought in new challenges to the body, I had to: 

Re-educate the cervical spine (which was used to be in a certain position with scoliosis)

.         Get used to the spine weight, which was now considerably heavier

.         Re-educate all the back muscles 

.         Learn to sit on a chair again, to name a few! 

I have to admit that the first six months after the operation were some of the darkest in my life! I could not control all the fearful thoughts that crossed my mind, while I was going through rehab. 

  • How would I get accustomed to this heavy spine which weighs a ton (my perception of course!)
  • Would I ever get rid of this constant cervical muscle pain?  
  • Would I ever be able to bend down again? 
  • Is my body going to accept all these alien instrumentations inserted in my spine?     

“I became my worst enemy.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not help all these fearful thoughts to filtrate and linger in my mind. I was terrified of not getting through this“ 

During that time, I remembered going through several self-help books on the power of positive thinking and affirmations, trying desperately to find a way of getting out of this rut I was in and hoping for a positive mind shift.  The mind is not easy to tame!  It did not really work for me…. I hobbled along with the physio and rehab exercises but my mind was not in sync with the body and my progress to recovery was slow …

Robin Sharma’s Daily Inspirations

A few months later, I came across Robin Sharma’s book called “Daily Inspirations”;  the book consisted of daily quotes. The one for the 25th of January is one I’ll never forget:  

“The best antidote for fear is knowledge”

I cannot explain it, but this one line resonated with me completely and I proceeded to act using this. I started to rationalise my anxious thoughts and started to look for information on scoliosis spine recovery, checked out blogs on other people who lived with scoliosis without operation, the exercises that were good for scoliosis and so on.  The mind shift was subtle but was there nonetheless, and slowly, the tide started to turn. 

The Beginning of a Change in Lifestyle

A year after my operation, I was in a far better place emotionally as well as physically. I began monitoring my progress and started a diary focused on my everyday routine exercises, the food I ate…etc.   I also started reaching out to other people with scoliosis and parents of children with scoliosis. I found out that often the parents of teenagers with scoliosis were the ones that took the most strain mainly because it was a constant battle to getting their children to cooperate in doing their exercises, wear their brace..etc. I also had the opportunity to meet and speak to a few teenagers and felt myself go down memory lane, remembering very similar feelings.   

  • Resistance and denial of one’s condition are governed by fear.  As mentioned above, the best way to overcome fear is by educating oneself on the subject. There is so much information these days on scoliosis that it can also be very intimidating! Find the ones that resonate best with you. We are all different! 
  •  Join a support group, be it at a health centre, or online. Find one that you feel comfortable with. Nowadays, there are support online groups for young people and parents as well.   
person's hand

“Reaching out to other people really helped me in my journey to personal, good health. It gave me a sense of comfort that I was not alone out there and that if you reach out, you will be surprised as to how many people have similar or far worse challenges than you!”

Road to Good Mental Health

Before I end this chapter, I would like to share with you my top list of things to do for mental health:  

  • Start a NEW activity that resonates with you, from dancing classes, a book club, learning a new instrument, joining a cookery class…etc.  A new activity that will stimulate and empower your mind. For example, I started playing the piano in my forties (better late than never!) and joined a Tai Chi class    
  • You are what you eat.  Eating well is one of the keys to mental health. Research the food that you like and find ways of adapting them in new healthier options. In forthcoming chapters, I will be sharing with you some great food tips and recipes 
  • Reaching out. If you do not have strong family connections, then join a club, a support group where you can meet people, remember you are not alone 
  • Help others. By volunteering to help someone gives you a sense of value and purpose
  • Break your routine.   Although routine instills a sense of comfort and security, from time to time it is good to do something different. Simple things such as taking a new route to go somewhere, trying a new restaurant, shuffling furniture around in the house or re-decorating. It is as good as going on holiday! 
  • Silence your mind. Easier said than done! I must admit that I still battle with this one, no matter how many articles or books I have read on it.  I find that by doing an activity and focusing on it works better for me than lying down and meditating:   
    • Bake a cake. I find the action of concentrating and measuring the ingredients, focusing on the methodology of baking the cake relaxes me and forces me to channel my thoughts on one activity, which is the essence of meditation
    • Going for a walk. While walking, try and focus on the pace you are walking, your environment, your breathing, and be aware if thoughts creep in your mind while walking, acknowledge them and re-focus again on your walk  
    • Go for a long swim. I find the action of swimming, focusing on your breath and the laps are a great way of calming down thoughts
    • Watching a sunrise or sunset. I am fortunate to live in a place where we have amazing sunrises and sunsets. Nothing better than focusing your mind and watching the sunrise or set
    • Join a meditation class.  If you would like to try a meditation class, it is advisable at the beginning to join a class rather than trying to do it alone. It is also a great way of meeting people
    • Power of Music. I find music an amazing therapy. I personally prefer classical music with a preference for the piano (maybe because I play the piano!). Create your own personal compilation of your top relaxing pieces, and listen to them while cooking, or walking or simply while relaxing with your feet up 
  • Log your efforts and progress by starting a diary. Record your activities daily so that you can monitor your progress.  It does not need to be an elaborate essay every day, start just with bullet points, highlighting your activities of the day and the time spent. After a month, you can go through it and then start setting bolder goals for the next month and so on!      

I wish you all good mental health and see you soon in the next chapter of Thanks to those that are following! 

“I take care of Me, and my two best friends, Myself and I”