Tag Archives: mental strength

30/365 – Some time the hating has to stop

Those are the final words in the ‘The Railway Man’ – a film about war hero Eric Lomax’s experience of living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Lomax went on to develop MG in his later years and, while watching the film last night, I couldn’t help wondering if he was able to forgive his own body during his battle with the illness.

From 1942 onwards, Edinburgh-born Lomax was forced to work on the infamous Death Railway, between Thailand and Burma, by the Japanese after he was captured in the fall of Singapore. He was brutally tortured
after Japanese troops found him to be the ring-leader of a group with a transistor radio. Rather than documenting the tortures he faced, the film focuses on how PTSD affected his life following those three years in captivity, about how he eventually found the strength to confront his torturer and even managed to forgive him.

After the credits rolled, I have thought a lot about the power of forgiveness and letting go. We all have events in our lives that shape us and, although I’ve been blessed with a loving family and friends, I’ve had both wonderful and painful moments that have made me who I am today. Getting the diagnosis of myasthenia is just one of those events, and the film made me question whether I have truly forgiven myself for it?

While watching Lomax’s struggle on screen, I couldn’t help wondering if the connection between nerve damage and the condition has ever been investigated. The beatings inflicted on the brave soldier were severe and, viewing those scenes, I wondered if my short-lived career as a university boxer might have played a part in triggering my MG. While I only boxed for about two years, the rigorous training and sparring used to leave my nerves twitching for hours afterwards.

Then there is the malnutrition – I have read in several places online about prisoners of war in WW2 developing MG due to the lack of nutrients in their diet. While I’ve not been able to trace this to a reliable source, it has made me consider how poor my diet was in my formative years.

These amateur ‘explanations’ are what I did in the beginning and I’ve found them to be mostly destructive. I say this because I always end up attributing blame to myself, which can very easily become self hatred. The truth is I probably wouldn’t do anything differently even if I did have a time travelling device – my moments in the boxing ring gave me an adrenalin rush that I’ve been unable to match to this day and my diet is healthy now because my palate has changed over time.

While it would be fantastic to have a definitive reason for the condition’s appearance, it probably wouldn’t make a difference in my attempt to live fully alongside the MG.

As Lomax says:

Some time the hating has to stop

Not much has been written about Lomax’s battle with myasthenia – other than misinformation about MG being a ‘muscle wasting’ condition. I have contacted his daughter via Facebook with the hope that she will be up for a chat regarding her father.

If you’re looking for a good movie to stick on, I’d thoroughly recommend The Railway Man.

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15/365 – The Theory of Everything

If you are having a woe is me day over the next few weeks, I’d recommend going to see The Theory of Everything at the cinema.

In case you haven’t heard, it’s about Stephen Hawking and is truly inspiring. We’re all familiar with Mr Hawking as he is today, but the film shows his journey, together with his first wife Jane, from being diagnosed with motor neurone disease as a 21-year-old post graduate student in Cambridge.

Motor neurone disease, like myasthenia, is a rare condition where parts of the nervous system become damaged. Unlike myasthenia where antibodies attack the muscle and nerve junctions, MND affects motor neurons which control voluntary muscle activity including speaking, walking, swallowing, and general movement of the body. So similar muscle activities are affected but usually the muscles waste away with MND which leads to disability and eventually death.

Stephen was given two years to live when first diagnosed but rose to every challenge with courage. At 73, he is still working and has no plans to retire.

While the film does show the psychological challenges of having such a condition, and the strain it puts on relationships, what shone through for me was his determination to find happiness and the fact that he never lost his sense of humour.

Some people think being happy is something that is out of their control but I have long disagreed. It’s about attitude – deciding that you are going to work hard at being happy by being content with what life offers and, most importantly, not comparing your circumstances to others. I cannot know what goes on in someone else’s life – I’m lucky to have people who love me, to have had opportunities in life and to have the excellent NHS staff to help keep me healthy.

Today’s image was me cycling to get blood tests before going to see the film. My doctors make sure I get them regularly to monitor the immunosuppressants.

I leave you with this quote from Stephen in the film when describing his theory about life:

‘However bad life may seem there is always something you can do and succeed at. Where there is life, there is hope.’

For more inspiring quotes from him, follow him on twitter @stephenhawking_