In 2009 I burnt out and was diagnosed with a Functional Neurological Disorder. I would twitch and jerk in response to sound or touch. I looked like a peculiar air drummer, with no rhythm. These disorders, which in other people can cause a whole host of symptoms, including paralysis, seizures and blindness, are not structural. Tests come back normal. They are ‘functional’, that’s to say our brain’s function is affected and it sends the wrong signal to parts of our bodies. Which is ironic because we can’t function. I took six months off work and spent a month virtually confined to my flat or the nearby pavements.
There was very little information available to help me, and the diagnosis journey took several months. I found my own way to get better. Cranio-Osteopathy, Acupuncture and Counselling became my holy trinity. My practitioners and boyfriend were my lifelines, each helping me inch my body back to better health. By the time I was diagnosed, the neurologist and psychiatrist discharged me. They told me to continue with my own approach.
Living in London near the Thames, I took daily walks and set myself the challenge of taking one good photo every day. Some were manmade objects – textured rope on the dock, architecture or ‘street photography’, snapping at people sitting on benches.
More life-affirming were the small wonders of nature. I became obsessed with them, and they gave me a reason to get dressed and go out for my daily walk. Walking triggered my ‘twitches’ so this was no mean feat.
I saw leaves sparkling with perfect rain drops, verdant moss, weeds growing in pavements, swans and grebes nesting and pots full of vegetables on houseboats. On days I couldn’t leave the flat I took pictures of houseplants or gazed at the London Plane Trees filling our window with green.
My life was in limbo, but around me, plants were growing; the seasons were changing, and there were moments of pure joy to be found. Seeking out these positives played a huge part in helping me heal my body and mind. During this pandemic, when our world is forcibly shrunk, I recommend you tune into the small wonders of nature – be it in your garden, park or on your well-trodden local walk.