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Am I there yet?

Anxiety, new music, new projects, and a pain in the leg... It's been a crazy few weeks and it's been a pretty crazy journey but I think I'm going the right way!

The last few weeks have proved to be very challenging thanks to my anxiety and a constant pain in my leg! But there's been amazing times too, including; releasing a new music video and starting a new project in Liverpool!

3 weeks ago my anxiety came back with a vengeance. My anxiety stems from tough experiences I had at school and similar experiences reoccurring in some work settings the last few months.

My anxiety manifests itself in different ways, I have a lot of physical symptoms. When the combination of my disabilities and anxiety collide, it's horrible. My body goes tense, causing pain in my CP side. My jaw clenches which affects my speech rapidly. My twitching increases so I can't lie still causing disturbed sleep. It's a viscous cycle that seems never ending.

Then comes the panic attacks where my heart feels like it's about to come out my chest, my breathing is tough. I have difficulty controlling my speech breathing anyway. I dread these moments and that makes things worse. My anxiety is sporadic. One moment I'm in control and then I'm not. I don't like it I but I'm determined for it to not get the better of me!

Luckily I had a week off from work where I totally chilled out and focussed on my music. I recorded my new composition - New limits - I've been working on the last few months. I made a video to accompany it too. It tells the story of the development I've made since my splints and speech therapy. The response has been amazing and I'm so thankful for all of it! Playing music allows me to completely escape and focus on what matters most to me. It really is my life saver - cheesy I know!

After a chilled out half term I started to feel like my old self again and I was ready to start my new project in Liverpool with Drake Music teaching music to young musicians with disabilities.

My first session started with a mid morning train from Newcastle to Liverpool Lime Street. A nice 3 hour journey went by where I arrived in Liverpool just after lunch. Then I had to try and say the location of the sessions to the Liverpudlian taxi driver! I said "music hub on GreatHolmer street", unfortunately he heard it as music pub! (guess I still need to work on my speech therapy!) After clarifying the destination, I made it and found the venue for my new project!

I met the project leaders (I know one already!) and got a sense for what the project involves. Then it was straight into a jam session with everyone! Hearing all the youngsters play together was amazing. They are very talented!

Once the jam came to an end we gathered round and updated everyone on our week. I introduced myself and didn't stutter or block at all which gave me a real boost in confidence for the rest of the session. It's really great when I can see the difference my speech therapy has made on my speech.

I joined one group for the majority of the session who are working on writing their own songs. I listened and added some ideas before jumping in and riffing on piano with everyone.

I briefly shadowed the other two groups; lpads in one and a rock group in the other. It was amazing to hear how talented the young musicians are and you'd have no idea they have disabilities listening to the music they produce. Amazing!

After a reflection and debrief it was a taxi back to Lime Street then a quick bite of food in Wetherspoons before travelling 3 hours back to the North East. Followed by another taxi home where I made it back just after midnight. It was a long but amazing day and I was buzzing to return the following week!

Throughout most of February and so far into March I've been suffering with a pain in my right leg, (my good side) every time I put weight on it. I thought it was a pulled muscle or a trapped nerve at first but after weeks of resting, ice packs and painkillers the pain was not subsiding. I booked an emergency doctors appointment where I was assessed and put on strong painkillers and referred for an x-ray.

After getting used to the new painkillers over the weekend it was back to Liverpool for my next session! With the combination of all my medications I take for all my disabilities and strong painkillers I was feeling a bit spaced out but I made it! And again had a very productive session where we started to write lyrics for our new song we will be performing later this term!

Back in the North East, on Tuesday I was off for my first therapy session for my anxiety. After suffering from anxiety this time I decided it was time to ask for help, so my doctor referred me to therapy. I'm sort of looking forward to these sessions to hopefully develop techniques I can use to help cope with my anxiety, especially in my work settings. Let's see what happens!

I also had my physiotherapy check up that afternoon which went really well and my physio is very happy with the progress I've made with my finger splints and medications, so it's back in for review in a few months.

This was also the start of the arrival of the 'Beast from the East'. By Tuesday, up on my hill in Gateshead we had had a good level of snowfall that seemed to be determined to stick around!

Wednesday was another day of train journeys back off to Liverpool for meetings about my show Twitch! I was not prepared for the day I had ahead! Despite the snow in the North East, my train was one of the few that was running and departing on time! I was feeling hopeful! We set off for Liverpool but as we headed out of Newcastle southwards we started to get delayed. Arriving in Liverpool thirty minutes after the arrival time seemed like no big issue though and I made it to my meetings on time.

The meetings were very productive, getting more details for bringing my show Twitch to Liverpool in November this year! Exciting times ahead knowing that I will be able to share my story at other places across the UK.

I made it back to the train station, there was currently no snow in Liverpool so I was pretty confident trains would be running fine. I made my way to Weatherspoons where I asked some nice ladies if I could sit on the end of their table as there was nowhere else to sit. I ordered food and had a lovely chat with three ladies from Birmingham! It was great to pass the time and we had a great laugh altogether!

At six o'clock I checked the train times after a message from my parents saying 'I think your train is cancelled', to find out that yes, my seven o'clock train was cancelled.


So off to the ticket office to find out how the hell I was going to get home! The six o'clock train to Newcastle said it had departed so I was all ready to book myself into a hotel, when there was an announcement saying the last train, the delayed 6 o'clock to Newcastle was on platform 5. I hobbled to the platform, along with multiple other people and waited. Two trains then arrived at the same platform and there was a massive commotion to figure out which train was which! After again hobbling to the far end of the platform I made it onto the train and we finally departed an hour after it was due to depart.

As we headed more and more East the snow outside was getting higher and higher and we were getting slower and slower! At most stations we arrived at we were held and the delay time was accumulating. We got to Durham and just after this we stopped. There was an announcement to say that the two trains ahead of us had both failed and lost all power. We didn't know how long we would be waiting for until we moved again. The train guard handed out bottles of water whilst we waited. After around 45 minutes we were finally on the move! We made it to Newcastle where it was snowing very heavily. I called a taxi company but they were fully booked due to the snow and lack of drivers. So I had to join the queue for the station taxis. After standing around for 20-30 minutes, completely freezing outside, I finally got a taxi to take me home! Due to the snow however, he was unable to get onto my estate so I hobbled the last 10 minutes home in the snow! But... after six hours of travelling from Liverpool, I had finally made it home!

I had a day off the following day which I spent wrapped up warm, resting my leg and working on my funding bid for Twitch. I also received a message to say that my session the following day was cancelled due to the 'Beast from the East'. I felt like a little kid again, I finally had a snow day although I had no intention of going outside!

I did have to venture out though; to the doctors,for a check up on my leg. I gingerly limped in the snow and ice to the doctors, it took me almost 20 minutes! Usually takes me around 10! But I saw my doctor who asked how I'd got on with the painkillers. Unfortunately they hadn't really reduced the pain so I was prescribed even stronger painkillers this time in the form of morphine! I've also been referred to a specialist and have my x-ray on Tuesday and a follow up the week after.

I've spent the rest of the weekend at home and am getting ready to head back to Liverpool for another session, hopefully the journey will be slightly less adventurous!

It's been a crazy few weeks and I've experienced some very tough times. Anxiety sucks but I will never let it beat me! Having this pain in my leg has been pretty hard going too, as I've had to put weight onto my left side (my bad side) to ease the pain slightly in my right.

I may only have one limb that works quite well at the moment, but for as long as I can, I will always, as my new t-shirt says... keep on smiling! I may not be there yet... but I'm definitely headed in the right direction and I'm not letting anything stop me!

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