I developed disabling symptoms of FND after being knocked over by a car. I had many symptoms including difficulty walking, speech problems, noise sensitivity and problems concentrating.
Prior to the accident, I was independent, worked full time and enjoyed an active social life, volunteering for my local litter picking group, watching the rugby, running and obstacle racing.
When I developed FND, I spent months feeling isolated from the world, becoming reliant on my wife. I was unable to walk more than a few metres without the use of a wheelchair, unable to watch television or listen to the radio due to problems with sound sensitivity and difficulties with concentration. Performing tasks I had taken for granted like chopping an onion and changing a pillow case I could no longer do.
With no treatment for FND being available on the NHS in Wales, I was very fortunate to receive treatment privately through a medicolegal claim. I had access to a neurophysiotherapist and a psychologist.
Working with the psychologist, I found Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), learning self-compassion and mindfulness techniques particularly useful in my recovery. What was crucial for me, was understanding the way my brain was responding to perceived threats with a reduced window of tolerance, shutting my body down to try and keep me safe, causing all sorts of neurological symptoms.
I also learnt to experience a full range of emotions again, I hadn’t really felt anger, anxiety or sadness since the accident. I am still learning to allow myself to feel these emotions rather than to push them away.
With the gentle encouragement and non-judgemental approach of the neurophysio, I am now able to run again! I have regained some self-worth by running to help others in my local community with the charity Good Gym (@GGCardiffVale) and I am ready to begin a phased return to work.
I am one of the lucky ones, I didn’t have to wait years for my diagnosis or treatment. I ask you to spare a thought for those who have been isolated with FND for many years. During the Coronavirus outbreak, I turn to people like them for strength, they know how to survive through difficult times.
During my rehabilitation I learnt to focus on what I could do and not want I couldn’t do. No longer taking small things for granted, like being able to make a cup of tea and savouring it! I learnt the power of online support groups for reducing social isolation and knowing that I wasn’t alone. Harnessing the power of online platforms and focusing on what we can do, will help give everyone the strength to get through this outbreak.
My hope is that one day everyone with FND will be able to access treatment on the NHS and without fear of stigmatisation.
By Sarah, Cardiff, Wales