Hi, I’m Emma.
I might look ‘normal’ on the outside but inside there are titanium rods and screws, repaired disks, muscles that don’t work when they should, muscles which overcompensate and chronic pain.
But do you know what? I wouldn’t change the amazing journey that I’ve been on. So don’t feel sorry for me – it drives me mad when people say ‘poor you’. Instead I hope to inspire.
In 2000 I graduated from the University of Central Lancashire, with a BA (Hons) in Public Relations. I had a couple of jobs before becoming a press officer for a government-funded organisation. During this time I was fit and healthy, went to the gym regularly, and even ran the Great North Run.
2007 was a significant and busy year. I moved house, was promoted to PR Manager and also got married. I’d had a few twinges in my back but thought absolutely nothing of it. Then in the November my back went. And I could not move.
Tests revealed I had the spinal condition Spondylolisthesis, something I had been born with but typically only becomes symptomatic in your twenties. I was 28.
One vertebrae had slipped over another giving me a dent in my back, a prolapsed disk, muscles that were constantly in spasm and leg symptoms. This was never part of my life’s plan.
I was off work for a few months, determined that all would be ok. After I while I returned to work, but struggled to drive, I could not sit for long and was in constant pain so the following August I left the office and never went back.
In 2009 having tried every type of spinal injection, physiotherapy and acupuncture, I had my spine fused. I WOULD make a full recovery.
But I was still in serious pain, still walking with a walking stick and then I had a tear in another disk. Anger and frustration led to depression, which I failed to recognise until everything seemed to go ‘bang’.
I can remember crying solidly for 12 hours and my mother-in-law saying it was time to go to the doctors. Of course as soon as I saw the doctor I started crying who said to me ‘I’m surprised you’ve not been earlier’.
He was right I should have gone earlier – I was very depressed.
Part of the reason I had not wanted to admit this was that my father had taken his own life nine years earlier and I didn’t want to admit to being depressed as some say it can be genetic.
I look back now and think how totally stupid this was, my whole world had fallen apart and I was living in constant pain. Like so many I was being far too hard on myself. I should have asked for help earlier.
In 2011 I had further surgery and was determined to make a full recovery, but like many other people, unfortunately I have gone on to live with chronic pain.
But yet, I’m determined to make the best of things and 2014 IS going to be a great year.
I have finally met a fantastic NHS physio who is treating me as a ‘whole’ person. We are getting to the route of my remaining pain and I am becoming physically stronger every day.
My key phrases throughout my experience have been and remain to be ‘Everything happens for a reason’ and ‘Things always work out in the end’ – I truly believe these words and so should you.