Scoliosis and my mental health

7 October 2020

My name is Charlotte and I am 27 years old. In 2007 I had spinal fusion surgery to correct my scoliosis. Although I felt pretty prepared physically for the operation, nothing could have prepared me for the mental health side of things.

Initially, I was ok, I just wanted to focus on recovering, but then I started struggling with extreme anxiety and panic attacks which was frightening at 15 years old.

For many years, I tried to block this out until at 22/23 I had Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Counselling. Blocking my emotions and feelings out was not good, and I found myself in an ambulance going to A&E because I suffered a horrendous panic attack.

I found that the therapy really helped, I was able to offload more to a stranger than I would family and friends.  Over the next few years though I gradually began to open up to people about how I felt. I would tell others to not be afraid to reach out to people and not to push away the ones you love, they want to help you and be there through your scoliosis journey. It’s okay to cry, what each and every one of us goes through with scoliosis IS a huge deal. Keep connected with the people who love you and lean on them for support.

DO THE THINGS YOU LOVE! Focus on the things you’re good at, take up a new hobby. Don’t lose sight of yourself. Get out walking, listen to music, learn an instrument, immerse yourself in a book – there’s so many things you can do but the most important is to keep talking no matter how you feel.

I decided to set up a scoliosis support group in 2020 so I could help others affected by the condition and ensure that no matter what, they weren’t alone. Although Covid-19 happened, I didn’t let this stop me and moved the support group online and set up a blog on Instagram. My best advice for people in a similar situation is to talk about the way you feel, to friends, family, your GP, just make sure you reach out because you’ll feel so much better for it. Don’t keep things hidden away and please remember no one will think any less of you.

Charlotte Dodd, Midlands Regional Representative

 

10 years with scoliosis, yet it wasn’t until this year that I truly felt comfortable about my journey. From countless physiotherapy sessions to X-ray scans, I eventually had my spinal fusion surgery. Back then, I felt helpless and lost.

My constant battles against body insecurities and scoliosis started with avoiding full-length mirrors and becoming anxious about what to wear to hide my disfigured body. I dropped out of classes from the physical pain yet, unknowingly, it was also down to my mental health being...well not so healthy.

Although surgery brought some hope, my hospital experience ended up pretty distressful. Plus, because of admin errors, I was only informed about my surgery just a day before! Post-surgery, plenty of challenges awaited me including adapting to physical inflexibilities and falling behind at school. Above all, my mental health deteriorated. Yet was I the only one experiencing this? Well the answer is NO! And that’s something I wish I knew back then. Scoliosis can affect your mental health just as much as the physical difficulties, and you’re definitely not alone in this!

And here are some of the things I did to help myself overcome everything:

•              Writing! I poured out all my thoughts as a way of releasing and unloading burdens.

•              Listening to podcasts about mental wellbeing and scoliosis really allowed me to understand how to manage and mentally prepare myself.

•              Giving myself daily positive reminders or small milestones to work towards, even if it means getting out of my comfort zone, such as not being afraid to wear tops revealing my scar and actively talking to others about scoliosis.

•              I attended counselling sessions (with both positive and negative experiences).

•              Joining SAUK! I met a great community where we can share our concerns and openly discuss our experiences in a safe environment.

Fast forward to now, I joined SAUK as a Regional Representative and even started blogging about my scoliosis experience. I also have a strong passion for patient advocacy and am working in MedComms to become a Patient Engagement Writer! Overall, scoliosis has become an empowering part of me and I hope my experience can help shed some light to you!

Vicky Wong, South West England Regional Representative

 

 

 

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