Friday, 20 October 2017

I'm Whole Again!!!

I'm whole again!

I'm not going to update this blog anymore, I will keep endeavouring to grow, learn and develop, but I've got all of the weapons I need. I'm going out there to fight!!!

If you found any of my meandering thoughts in anyway useful, then it was a useful exercise.



Saturday, 5 August 2017

Desert Island Poems - part II

The point of poetry is, as I see it, to convey emotion. The rhythm of the verse, as well the words, is more powerful than prose. 

The three poems that are on my list, so far, do a good job summing up some of my values and beliefs. Other people may not get the meaning that lies behind the poems, or they derive a different meaning entirely. I’m fine with that. I’m more than fine with it.

It’s sort of a secret code, if you haven’t been through that experience, you haven’t felt that emotion, to that intensity, you won’t get it, you’re blind to it.
And that’s the point of the exercise; I’m continuing my development of self-awareness, understanding my values and beliefs by exploring poems to see they seem to chime with anything inside of me. 

The first of the list is Ithaka by C. P. Cavafy. I first discovered this poem just over 11 years ago, leaving my career of 20 years in the NHS as a nurse. That was a bit scary, going to a job in a business that wasn’t even remotely connected to health care was a leap into the unknown. The theme of the poem centres on growth, learning and stuff. The more I experience, the more I draw from the verse.

The second, If by Kipling, I’ve known about it for probably my whole life, but I’ve only really grasped the true meaning, it’s all about values, and the values that I want to aspire to. If you ignore the criticism levelled at it today, I found so much strength it those lines, written over a hundred years ago, whilst recovering from my stroke. If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters the same, helped me to cope with the ups and downs of stroke recovery, helped me to me grounded and ‘be in the moment’.

Lastly, This be the Verse by Philip Larkin. Hmmh, this one is a bit of a dark one….. Again, it deals this the very core of what it means to be human, beliefs. The central theme is just unconsciously adopting beliefs instead truths and then passing them onto the younger generation, positive or negative, usually negative....

I want to find the other three poems...

Friday, 4 August 2017

Desert Island Poems

I've been bad....

I haven't wrote anything in a while.

Life got in the way.....

That's a good thing 😁

I've been focusing on my life, instead of blogging.

However, I'm working on my Desert Island Poems, 6 poems that capture my values and beliefs.

Stay tuned......

Saturday, 3 June 2017


As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. 

C.P. Cavafy

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Poetry Wednesday - This Be The Verse

This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   
    They may not mean to, but they do.   
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,   
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

by Phillip Larkin

Sunday, 12 March 2017

We've all got choices.....

Sometimes I have choices, on one hand, I want to wallow in self-pity, on the other, I want take control, even if I can only control my emotions.

Sometimes I feel that I have no choices at all. That isn't true, I've always got choices.

I find focussing on my goals is helpful. It gives me direction and something to aim for. What do I want? In life? Today,? At work?

And then what resources do I have? What allies?

I've given up on focussing on what I don't want to achieve, what I don't have, people who disract me.

This single mindedness isn't everybody's cup of tea, stripping away the emotions allows me to focus on what I want to get done. I realise that some people need (choose) to focus on the emotions (their emotional needs) as opposed to getting the thing done.

That's why I choose to associate with positive people, people who inspire me, challenge me or people who encourage me.

Emotional choice? Can someone choose how they feel? I believe so, yes.

We are made up of our beliefs and our values, things that we know to be true, the lessons that were taught to us in our formative years.

Our emotions stem from our beliefs and values. The situation, the circumstances, the people that we find ourselves in or surrounded by, all elicit an emotional response within us. What if we can reflect on our values and beliefs? What if we can reflect on our emotions and what prompts us to feel the way that we do?

What if we could then minimise the negative emotions? We then have more choices.

Sometimes, I lay in bed, not looking forward to the struggle before me (It was a lot worse in the early days of my recovery!!!!). I have a couple of choices in front of me. Stay in bed, get up and moan about everything and how hard everything is...... or gird my loins, stick a smile on my face and sing a song in my heart! Sometimes habits help me choose, I've taken to listening to my favourite music in my car on the way to work, instead the Today program on Radio 4, frankly, I'm at least 1% more cheerful when I get to the office. The clothes I wear, how many cars I flash to let them out I front of me, I smile and say "Good morning". They are all choices. Taken in the right mind-set to achieve what I want achieve today.

Sometimes I need to adopt a different mind-set, a different 'mask' if you like, different 'emotions', (or 'behaviours'.....) to get stuff done. Sometimes people don't like that, the behaviour, the perceived inauthenticity, the single-mindedness. And there's a danger, when you've put a mask on, can you take it off? Or have you forgotten the real you?

Thinking yourself into positive state will help you to achieve things. But it's hard. Achieving things is hard, otherwise everybody would achieving things everyday.

Can you be 1% more positive today than you were yesterday?

Sunday, 5 March 2017

It's just flu....... - part III

So, my aortic valve replacement, the aneurysm repair and the ensuing stroke. It could be worse, I could be dead or long disabled. And yet I feel resentful. I'm just frustrated with what I haven't got :-(  

 It's just the grieving process.

Me and Tracey have a fairly good life, we enjoy our lives where we can. When Tracey came home and it was clear that she was going to make a full recovery, I was determined to have a life filled with love and beauty. Not shallow, facile surface-deep beauty, but beauty that shines from within. Love that is constant and unconditional. Life is to short to have things in it that are neither beautiful or held together with love.

And I think that my uncompromising honesty and intolerance comes from, it looks a bit like being grumpy or curmudgeonly (Tracey thinks that I am grumpy and curmudgeonly.....) I try to adopt the "I'm OK, you're OK" state (life position) and it's hard to do maintain all of the time.

My recovery isn't over yet, I still want my hand to regain more sensation, I want to develop more strength in my affected leg. I want my energy to increase to a level that I can do everything that I want to do (realistically) and I want my speech to improve to the level that I can tell ghost stories to crowded pub.

If I can get half-way there, I'll be a happy man. And I know that some people who are reading this may think that I should think myself lucky and you're probably right.

The end

.......  for now......

Monday, 27 February 2017

It's just flu..... - part II

The acute stage was over with the discharge from ITU after about 3 weeks. The staff on ITU where just fantastic, truly. Not so on the general wards..... The first night Tracey's plea for being made comfortable was greeted with "You're not on ITU now you know", putting a buzzer on the side of the bed and walking off......... I was horrified when I came in the next day. I made my mind to do all of Tracey's personal care myself. The ward sister didn't like, but I asked her to take responsibility to wash her and feed her at an appropriate time and with respect, dignity and patience, 100% of the time. She couldn't, I did.

Tracey was suffering from critical care paralysis, from prolonged muscle relaxant use, it took months to recover. She wasn't able to feed herself, wash herself. Total paralysis from the neck down.

I remember at one point, on the ward, watching her this the physio, so small and vulnerable, that the fight had gone out of her. I needed to encourage her. Tracey remembers this moment, she recognised it at the same time. She realised that it was going to be really hard and she didn't know if she was capable. The care, or lack of care, she recieved was, in part, the reason that spurred her on. Doing the the stairs with the physio reached an almost mythical status, retrieving the golden fleece or cleaning the Augean stables.  She came home with a zimmer frame and a couple of alterations to our house.

She was, and 5 years on, no ill effects, morbidity or disablity what so ever.

I met some awesome practitioners, the compassion and empathy to really make a difference to people's live and their recovery. And some others that need to reflect on their career choice. I was never aggressive or rude, but always honest and articulate, Tracey's advocate. Tracey's fierce advocate.

This was my training ground for want was to come......

Sunday, 26 February 2017

It's just flu.... - part I

Roughly 5 years ago I took my wife, Tracey, to the GP. Tracey had a few days of flu-like symptoms, I knew that she wasn't right. Following a visit to the drop-in centre and a early morning ambulance visit, clinically she was fairly ok..... I knew later that she was compensating.....

The GP took one look at her and requested a blue-light ambulance. In ITU (via resus) I said my good-byes, we'll see each other in a couple days, we said. I was relatively calm at this point, the lungs needed a rest for 2 or 3 days. I was calm, the ITU staff were calm.

I got home, literally got home and my mobile rang. It was the ITU nurse, "I know that you've got home, but you need to get back to the hospital. And you need to bring your daughters.....". I knew the code.

I sat in one of the relatives rooms with our daughters, waiting for the ITU consultant. After a while, he arrived with one of his registrars in tow. "We are doing everything we can, but we don't expect her to survive the night".

The next days a bit of a blur..... I remember taking our daughters in to see her, intubated and ventilated, and they burst into tears and they didn't want to stay. We got home and they went to their rooms. I realised that I needed to talk to somebody, but I didn't need to cope with somebody elses emotion...... Steve, the very person. He knows what emotions are, but he doesn't let them get it the way. The conversation went something like this.....

"Steve, it's Matt, shut up and listen. Tracey's in hospital, ventilated on ITU."
"Want do you need?"
"Nothing at the moment, I just needed to tell someone"
"Ok, let me know if you need anything"
"Cheers, bye"

I then went back to the hospital, on my own. Tracey was in multi-organ failure, for some reason, her body was compensating, but it isn't anymore..... Her ventilator pressures were high, she couldn't maintain her blood pressure, she needed dialysis etc

That evening was New Years Eve, the most surreal New Years Eve ever, me and our daughters watched the fireworks on the telly, in the back of my mind waiting for the phone call.

I didn't sleep much, I went into the hospital, the consultant said that she's survived the night, but we don't expect her to survive very long.

The next 10 days went from death being a certainty, to an possibility, to a life of severe disability. Day 10 was the day when Tracey was trialled without her ventilator. I wanted her to not cope, I wanted my memories of her to be happy memories, not sad, painful and frustrating. I didn't want to look forward to the rest of our lives together as anything less than happy and wonderful.... but I knew that surviving a physical insult this big won't be a walk in the park.

Part 2 is coming......

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Well formed outcomes

I've been using the Well Formed Outcomes tool of setting goals at work, personally and with staff, for a number of years now. It's been more pertinent now, with my recent predicament.

In short:-

1. State your goal in positive terms.
- What do I want?

2. Self-initiate and maintain your goal.
- Am I doing this for myself or someone else?
- Does my goal depend solely on me?

3. Ensure your goal is appropriately contextualised.
- Where, when, how, and with whom do I want it?

4. Describe the evidence that will emerge from the procedure.
- What will I be doing to get my goal?
- How will I know I’m achieving it?
- What will I see, hear, and feel when I have it?

5. Identify the resources you need.
- What resources do I have now?
- What resources do I need to acquire?
- Have I got evidence of achieving my goal before?
- What happens if I act ‘as if’ I already have it?

6. Check that your goal is ecological.
- What is the real purpose behind why I want this goal?
- What will I lose or gain if I have it?
- What will and won’t happen if I get it?
- What will and won’t happen if I don’t get it?

7. Describe the first step.

I've found it a powerful tool in terms of a holistic approach to goal setting. It takes a while to get your head around it.

I'm currently using it to work out what I want at the moment.

On the way in to work this morning, I listened to New Model Army's Green & Grey, I've just realised that it has metaphorical element...... pertaining to the problem that I am wrestling with.....

Thursday, 16 February 2017

My productive week!

I'd planned a work trip on Monday this week, up the M1 to Leeds, about an hour and a half. I haven't done any motorway driving since the stroke, a little bit nervous. On top of that, the meeting was with people who I haven't met before, on an exploratory subject..... a recipe for disaster......

Since the stroke I like routine, excepted outcomes, I like knowing where I'm going, physically and mentally. I like familiarity.

I was armed with my trusty SLK, my phone (Google maps and Spotify), an agenda (in my head) and faith in myself!!

My meeting was at 11am, I left at 9am to give myself plenty of time (if your always early, your never late..... ). The meeting was good, I got what I wanting.

Now, I don't know whether to say that I've had a stroke, or not. People say that my speech is fine, but I don't feel that it is. In my head I feel that I sound drunk or a bit slow. On this occasion, I went with the open disclosure. And it was ok. I think that I'm going to dive in to any conversations and see want happens from now on......

This has had a massive positive impact of my confidence. My week has been great!!!!

On Saturday I had first sparring session since the stroke. Gentle contact, but my confidence increased during the session. My word, my fitness is down in my boots. I was gassed!!!

On Tuesday, Tracey gave me my Valentine's card. She's been looking forward to giving it to me all week.......

I love my wife.....

See you soon blog fans......

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Just listen......

When did you last listen to somebody. Really listen.......

Listen without thinking what you are going say next, or waiting for your turn to speak.

Really listening is difficult to do if you are on your agenda. Have a go. The next time that you talk to somebody have a go at being on their agenda. Why are they talking to you, you specifically. Do they need something? Are they asking a question? Are they just letting of steam?

Sometimes it's usefull to be aware of their feelings, how are they feeling right now. Use your eyes and ears in terms of those cues and clues; voice (volume, speed or intensity), breathing, complexion (are they flushed, pale or red?). These clues could help you to work out what's going on for them right now.

That's where the empathy builds, the rapport.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Being present.....

I started writing this in my lunch break on Thursday, I'm not sure what the theme is, but I feel a bit frustrated :-|

I'm roughly 20 months post stroke and a year ago I would've given anything to be where I am today. But I want more! I know that I should grateful, lot's of people haven't got what I've got, stroke or not.

Maybe that's the conundrum..... my drive for getting better is a double-edged sword, the route of my frustrations.

My frustrations are ....

1. My right hip and lower back.
2. The decreased of dexterity and sensation in my right hand.
3. My speech and accompanying aphasia (or the other way round....)
4. The fatigue.

1. The pain in my right hip is always there. It doesn't stop me from doing anything, really. Although when I'm training it makes me a bit slow. The pain saps ones energy and increases the fatigue. I was doing exercises twice a day but I stopped them over Xmas as I was intense pain and discomfort (no training over Xmas), and surprisingly, the pain decreased ...... I'm still doing stretching exercises. Since going back to training, my right shoulder is in pain....   :-(

2. My dexterity seems to have got worse. I'm not sure that it has...... but I feel that I've taken a backwards step. However, my sensation seems to be .... more sensational.....  I'm reasoning that the returning sensation is heightening the sense of clumsiness and klutziness. I also haven't painted for a week, maybe that's a factor as well.......

3. My speech is better, I want it to be more fluid and faster. And to think about other threads whilst coaching.

4. I'm really, really frustrated with levels of fatigue. I got got home from work yesterday at 6pm, got changed and put my feet up for an  hour and then I did some modelling (an awesome church that Tracey got me for Christmas) for an hour and then watched teĺly with Tracey and that was that....... I feel that I want and need to do more. My energy levels can't keep up with my daily goals, so I feel unfulfilled and frustrated.

Now that I've got that off my chest, time for a bit of perspective.....

20 months ago it was a different story.

1. I needed help to transfer from the bed to the chair or wheelchair. I needed pillows in the bed to keep safe, confident and comfortable. I could barely stand, let alone walk.

2. Dexterity, don't make me laugh. My right hand would stay where I put it (using my left hand) it was a piece of useless meat. Sensation, what sensation?

3. Speech? A stream of guttural noises. Reflecting back on this as I type, it brings a tear to my eye. Verbal communication is what separates us from beasts, and that is how I felt. :-(

4. My head was so full of fog, I felt semi-conscious at best. Even thinking wore me out.

Those first 3 weeks in hospital seems a blur to me now. I was so determined to get home, doing the the stairs with the physiotherapists took on an almost mythic proportions, like Frodo casting the One True Ring down into the Crack of Doom.

Once I got home, more work. Exercises, three times a day; physio, OT and speech as well as sessions with the respective visiting therapists, and some exercises of my own devising.

Now that I compare the present and the past, it doesn't seem that bad now......

You can't change the past.

The future? That's up to me, based on what I do in the here and now, being in the present.

Being present.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Oww, it hurts ..... :-(

I went training yesterday morning, first session of the year, it felt great!!!!

It doesn't now...... it hurts! I went to bed last night in pain. Part of me wished that I hadn't pushed myself, the other part me had a word with the first part. I won't get to where I want to be unless I push myself! And that involves pain and discomfort. Physical, mental and emotional. I'm going to go training next, and the next week etc. Until the spring, when I go twice a week. My goal is to get up to three times a week.

My whole right is tingling as I write this. I tend to look on this a good thing, sensation is returning, neural pathways are re-routing as I type. I'm recalling in my mind what I did in training yesterday, emotionally as well, reinforcing the the positive feedback loop of forming good habits.

But it still hurts :-)

Saturday, 7 January 2017


I'm getting really tired again :-(    it's my first week back at work, we planned a quite Christmas, we weren't going to visit anybody and minimal visitors. So why am I so tired.....?

I came across an article explaining Neurofatigue last week, it didn't really tell me anything new, but it did allow me to reflect on what is on with my body, my brain in particular. You can read the article here on the Brain Injury Explanation web-site.

My perspective has changed, for the better, following reading that article and the reflection that I've done since.

I'm still really tired, I'm getting up in a minute to go training, I'm still not going to take easy. But I am going to give myself a break, if I need a rest, I'll take one. I don't need to beat myself up about it.

Have a great weekend!