The work we do on ourselves

Before psychiatrists or psychologists are allowed to work with patients, they have to undertake personal therapy to ensure they’re in the best mind to help. As physical therapists, we don’t technically have to do this. We’re just treating the body, not the mind, aren’t we?

I think anyone who works in clinic knows this isn’t true. When I talk about seeing the body as a whole, I refer not only to the way every part is integrated with the next, but the relationship between mind and body too. We have to truly understand our patient’s stories to be able to really help them, and so I believe communication and compassion are at the very heart of what we do. But that’s not to say that it’s something I didn’t need to work at.

Continue reading “The work we do on ourselves”

My Dyslexia

I do think of it as my dyslexia, for it is a part of who I am.

As one or two of you may have noticed, when I write, it doesn’t always sound right. It’s because I’m heavily dyslexic, to the extent where such a simple act of writing a Facebook post is an arduous task for me. When it comes to my blogs, I write down my thoughts and my daughter edits them together for me (hi everyone!).

I wanted to explain my story around my dyslexia because whilst it creates a barrier in many ways and is especially difficult in this modern world where we’re constantly typing rather than talking, I think my dyslexia also shapes who I am as a therapist in an extremely positive way.

Made by Dyslexia, a global charity, say the following:

‘4 out of 5 dyslexic people attribute their success to their dyslexic thinking. There are a large percentage of dyslexics in fields like Entrepreneurship, Engineering, Creative and Tech industries, and organisations like the British Intelligence agency (GCHQ) actively recruit dyslexics for their reasoning skills. 

Now neuroscience is giving extraordinary insight into the physical differences in dyslexic brains that lead to these enhanced thinking skills. 9 out of 10 dyslexics describe their thinking as “seeing past detail to gain a strategic (big picture) view of a subject/problem”. Dr. Manuel Casanova (University of Kentucky School of Medicine) has found that dyslexics have longer connections in certain parts of the brain, which explain this big-picture processing skill.’

The latter half of this quote is especially pertinent to me. It’s one of the reasons I think I am able to help so many people who can’t be helped elsewhere – a unique ability to see the bigger picture.

It’s been a long journey to get here though. Some of my first memories of learning to read actually hurt my brain. I did wonder if everyone else’s brain hurt when learning to read.

I remember watching my parent’s panic that they had in their words, a ‘retarded child’. I was always sat with children who never felt like me, I had a huge curiosity about the world, and was super interested in most things. I did get sad, as I always felt like there was a super sports person inside me and would always be surprised when I couldn’t run fast or hit a rounder’s ball.

It left me feeling quite isolated at school. But I enjoyed making things and I was even very good at it. I remember when I was 8 years old we had to make a sewing bags, and it had to be embroidered, with your name on in various styles of stitches. Mine was hailed as the best in class and it was the first time I was used as an example for something being achievable, the teacher stating that ‘even Susan Middleton understands this’. It did lead me to believe that maybe I just hadn’t been taught right! Maybe I could fix this myself, as grownups around me seemed at a loss.

I taught myself to read, finally found a way to pin down the moving letters, as they jiggled on the page. I began to realise that most new skills were going to take 3 attempts, like in all the best fairy tales. However it was hard work, and I also began to grow a desire to make a difference in the world. My parents and school told me that shop work was my best option – but I didn’t think that would meet my growing need to help others.

I talked my way into Bradford College, where I was assessed and told I was very clever, however profoundly dyslexic. For me this was the green light for having a more than ordinary life.

I learnt to be patient with myself, accepted that it would take me 3 times longer to understand any new concept, be it learning to drive, learning to write essays for my women’s studies diploma or writing reports in social work. My self-esteem was very low and even though I had a growing knowledge that I was clever, I never really could buy in to it. I knew I understood most pieces of new knowledge, but then would find it hard to articulate.

Even now my every day vocabulary is small, I can forget names – especially frustrating when leading a class and needing to refer to a muscle – and I can confuse opposites: internal or external, left or right. I can get so frustrated, which leads to feeling stressed – I even sometimes think I can sing along to songs, but then get the words mixed up (Arethra Franklin’s Respect.

But the amazing thing about dyslexia is that those who have it are often very good with their hands. So choosing to change my career at 30 to become a massage therapist was the best thing I ever could have done. I have a unique touch and listening fingers that are my gift. I went on to gain my Physiotherapist title, become UK’s only Hendrickson Method teacher, and qualify as a Polestar Pilates Mat teacher. I could have been swallowed up in self-pity. But I wanted a less than ordinary life, so I dug in and became brave. Bravery often comes when you are at your most vulnerable.

I now see dyslexia as a gift. It might cause me problems, but equally has given me so much. I just see the world differently than most folk. It’s take some time to manage, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My journey to become a Pilates Instructor

Pilates Class

I’m thrilled to say that this year I have qualified as Pilates Polestar Mat teacher.

6 years ago I started my journey into greater movement, and standing taller. I had found a system that would enable me to finally undo a life time of dealing with my kyphotic spinem and am so excited to be able to offer this to others. In much the same way that a doctor gets sick and psychiatrists have their own
demons to battle, I had struggled with chronic movement problems myself for years. When I began Pilates, a consistent practice each week which worked on fixing these issues through accessible movement which strengthened the body and helped rewire neurological function in the right way, it was a game changer.

I soon realised this could be the same for patients in my practice. I pointed them in the direction of various classes, until I was asked one day why I couldn’t create a movement plan for them myself. It was an excellent point!

From there I enrolled myself in the Polestar Pilates Mat Teachers programme, which this year I completed. Whilst training I was able to offer classes as a trainee and the results have already been fantastic – I’ve seen it help a wide variety of problems.

One of the most significant areas we have worked on is the lumber spine, looking at dysfunction and injury that causes chronic back pain. I’ve seen Pilates help by create natural rotational movement through the thoracic spine, allowing the lumber spine to function fully within its own role, to bear weight for the body, aiding in flexion, extension, and lateral movement. It’s incredibly satisfying to have seen how this reduces back pain significantly and without causing further problems, as gentle movement ensures the spine is not overworked.

My classes are quite unique. I’ve been working as a physiotherapist for over 25 years, and the way which Pilates allows you to create movement in the body speaks to me in an exceptional way that is really practical and functional. When I started practicing it, and learning to teach it, everything slotted
into place in the map of the human body that is hardwired into my brain. The Pilates I offer reflects this.

We not only focus on conditioning and improving flexibility and suppleness, which is an essential part of Pilates, but also on working the body in the right way to enable greater, even life-changing, levels of mobility.

As a physiotherapist, I feel uniquely positioned, and privileged, to be able to offer these classes. Whether you’re simply looking for a way to test your body each week, strengthen a certain aspect to aid a sport or hobby, or want to aid the recovery of an injury, these Pilates sessions will be able to help you.

I teach two class groups a week, or 121 sessions with in the clinic. If you’d like to find out more about them, just give me a ring and we can see what works for you.

I can’t wait to start the journey with you – here’s to a more mobile future!

Who inspires you?

I have just finished making my way through Jenni Murray’s A History of Britain in 21 Women, a rather fitting read given the fact that incredible women are dominating our news currently, moving and shaking a sadly still unequal world.

Murray chooses twenty one women who changed the world with their extraordinary achievements.

The first two in the book are Boadicea and Queen Elizabeth, which made me smile as these women were my inspiration as a 10 – 12 year old young girl.  They had determination in spite of life’s circumstances, and they stood for what they believed in, in spite of what would have been easier for them.  They dug deep within themselves so that even when people around them chose not to believe in them, there they were anyway, standing strong and staying true to what they believed in.

The women in Jenni Murray’s book were ‘change makers’ and the thing they all have in common is that none of it came easy – but they knew it was their right to be full and true versions of themselves. I always wanted that for myself, so I modelled those qualities – in many ways I pretended that I was who I wanted to be already, which made me believe it could come true.

When studying with Judith Lowe on a NLP Practitioner Course, I realized that I have used ‘modelling’ all my life. In Joseph O’Connor & John Seymour’s book Introducing NLP, they say ‘Modelling can be simply defined as the process of replicating human excellence’. They go on further to state ‘By using our mind and body in the same way as a peak performer, we can immediately increase the quality of our actions and our results.  NLP models what is possible because real human beings have actually done it’.

Modelling is a way of practicing success by imagining it; by holding it in your mind’s eye, it becomes so much easier to reach your aims and achieve what you want. Life is to be lived, and being brave in the face of long-term pain or a sport injury that stops you from reaching your pinnacle isn’t always easy.

We often ask people when they visit the practice ‘Who inspires you’?  Could you imagine those qualities in yourself? Sometimes, if this feels too difficult, we ask simply what makes you feel good? Can you ‘dance it out’ to lift your mood, or walk your dog, listen to music? Next time it feels your doubts are defeating you, have a go at imagining how brilliant and brave you actually are – start by making one step on the right direction.

We can all get to where we want to be with the right kind of support, and that’s what we aim to give at Flexible Healing.