The Realities of Chronic Back-pain

I realize it’s going to be a bad day as soon as I wake up and try to get out of bed in the morning. A lacerating band of pain envelops my lower back as I make the movement one usually associates with getting up – bending at the waist and lifting the body’s upper trunk. I can’t do it. I have to roll on my right side, the less painful side, in order to get to the edge of the bed, and helped by the pull of gravity, slowly crawl upright.

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Then comes the next ‘step’, I push my legs off the bed, reach a sitting position at the edge of it, put my legs on the floor, and wince and groan until I’m standing upright.

It is 5.45am. I have 30 minutes to take off my clothes, shower, put on my make up, and walk down to my boyfriend’s car, in order for him to give me a lift to work.

I know I won’t be showering today. Each gesture which normally takes one second to make, will, today, take at least a minute. Preparing myself and arriving in time will be just impossible.

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I skip my shower, and start dressing slowly. The clothes I am going to wear today are already hung on the outside of the wardrobe. All I have to do is walk up to them. Slowly.

After shuffling with my back bent forwards, since I cannot stand upright anymore, I realize I am limping. It’s the pinched nerve in my leg acting up again. Figures.

I take down my clothes and realize that I can’t bend my leg to put on my skirt, so I sit down slowly on the bed again and jiggle it around until it’s around my hips. It would have been easier had I worn a dress, but I didn’t know the pain would be so bad yesterday, when I chose which clothes to wear. Walking back to the wardrobe, opening it, and taking down a dress, is too much of a hassle and would take even more time. I can hear my boyfriend finishing his breakfast, and I know he’ll shower and be ready in 5 minutes, so I know I won’t make it.

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Obviously, I have no time for breakfast. Then again, to be fair, I never do. Work starts at 6.45am and there’s only so much I can manage before that.

Done with my clothes, I shuffle to my dressing table, bend forwards slowly and painfully, open the first drawer, and reach for my eyeliner and mascara. Obviously, they have rolled at the back of the drawer again. And I can’t reach any further. Because it hurts. Fortunately I live with my boyfriend whose help is invaluable in these kinds of crises.

While he showers and changes, I manage to put on some make-up. Now all that’s left is to walk down four flights of stairs towards the door, walk to the car, and bend down to get in and sit down.

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It is 6.15am. And I am already trembling with exhaustion.

P.S That was some hours ago. I feel even worse now. I had no painkillers in my handbag at work, so one of my colleagues very nicely offered to go and buy some for me at the pharmacy across the street, since I couldn’t even walk that far…

Yes today is a bad day. Not all days are this bad. One can, at least, hold on to that.

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Dr Klown – Healing with a Smile

In 1998, the Hollywood movie ‘Patch Addams, starring Robin Williams as a doctor who uses humor to help patients through the power of positivity, was introduced to our screens. Although the movie itself received negative criticism, the idea of cheering up patients in hospitals and making them feel better emotionally, as well as physically, took hold. Patch Addams’ red clown nose, which he used as a prop to make children in hospital wards laugh and forget their pains and suffering for a moment, became iconic in that it brought to mind the feelings and thoughts expressed in the movie, that is that patients should be treated and cared for as human beings, and not just as a statistical number.

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This red clown nose is also the signature of Dr Klown – a Maltese Non-Government Organisation active at Mater Dei Hospital, which provides entertainment and stress-relief to hospitalized children through fun and laughter.

Dr Klown was set up in 2011 by Jean Paul Fabri and Jean Pierre Busuttil. The team is made up of a number of well-trained volunteers, who visit patients in their wards and give them individual attention, focusing on the adage that ‘laughter is the best medicine’. Dressed in a colorful lab-coat, sometimes sporting a wig, and with the ever-present big red nose, the ‘doctors’ finest adornment is in reality a caring and mischievous smile. Hospitals are generally negative, sad places, where one unfortunately spends most of the time thinking about the issues and problems which led him or her there in the first place. The aim of this NGO is that of bringing in play the power of positivity, encouraging laughter, warmth, and at the very least, a momentary break from one’s worries.

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The volunteers who choose to become part of the team need not have any medical knowledge or background, however they undergo rigorous psychological and artistic training, attending a course in theatre and improvisation. Calling themselves ‘clown doctors’, the members of this NGO profess that for them it is the person who matters, not the illness.

In September 2017, to celebrate its 6th year in Malta, Dr KIown organised a fun-filled ‘’Dr Klown Day” at the Sliema-St Julians promenade, with the aim of increasing public awareness about the organisation. The event was supported by: H.E. the President of Malta, the Commissioner for Children, the Director General for Education and Employment, and delegates for Catholic Education, amongst others.

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As an NGO, Dr Klown is dependent on sponsors and donations to fund both the training of its volunteers, as well as sundry expenses such as the buying of necessary props, transport, hosting of activities, etc. Some people choose to donate to Dr Klown as part of their marriage celebrations, opting to share their happiness by purchasing Dr Klown donation cards and presenting them to the wedding guests, instead of the traditional wedding souvenir. A small gesture, but one which makes a difference to the thousands of children who each year, are visited in hospital by Dr Klown. 2018 is also the 4th consecutive year that participants of the Miss World Malta competition are officially raising funds through red noses for this NGO as part of their “Beauty with a Purpose” challenge.

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The moments Dr Klown members get to share with hospitalised children and their families are special and unique. Be it the self-stylized Dr Buttons, Dr Big, Dr Funny, Dr Happy, or any one of the many volunteers, you can be sure that wherever there is a red nose, a funny smile and an endearingly positive attitude, there will also be laughter, good cheer, and a willingness to get better.

For more information about Dr Klown activities, or if you are interested in donating, or becoming a volunteer, kindly visit – http://drklown.org/

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This article was written by me and originally published on LivingInMalta.com

Herbs for Healing – Thyme

This winter’s spate of people suffering from the flu has definitely led to a surge in the purchasing of antibiotics. Primarily used to combat viruses and infections, antibiotics come in all shapes and sizes, but are generally prescribed by a doctor and bought at a pharmacy or hospital in the form of pills or pastilles.

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The use of antibiotics revolutionarized medicine in the 20th century, however what did people do before these started to be discovered and used? Before the onset of modern medicine, there were other, more natural means of affecting cures. In fact, many people still prefer to use these natural cures even today. I am of course talking about the beneficial and medicinal use of natural herbs and spices. These plants, which may have so many uses, both culinary and medicinal, are found in the wilderness and are, therefore, unlike modern medicine, free or very cheap to purchase from your local apothecary or health store.

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One of the most common local herbs which can be found around the Maltese countryside is Mediterranean thyme (Sagħtar). Being an indigenous plant, that is a plant which originates from the Maltese islands, not one which was imported. Thyme is generally to be found in rocky arid places, such as the garigue and the tops of valleys. Being a perennial evergreen herb, it can be found growing throughout the four seasons.

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Thyme has been historically used for a number of purposes throughout ancient times. The Egyptians used the oil extracted from this plant for embalming, the Greeks used it in incense form to lighten the spirits, and the Romans used it to purify their rooms and linens. Christians in the middle ages often burned thyme leaves during funerals and memorials.

Thyme can be used both fresh and dried. In Arab countries, it is very popular in culinary dishes, as well as to brew hot invigorating teas, since thyme retains its original flavor when dried better than many other herbs.

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Scientifically speaking, thyme is a natural antiseptic, since it contains ‘thymol’, which, when prepared as an essential oil contains a range of compounds normally used in mouthwashes and disinfectants. In fact, thyme was generally used to medicate bandages, before the modernisation of medicine. A tisane or tea brewed from thyme can be a gentle remedy for coughs, colds, arthritis and upset stomachs. It is a natural diuretic and appetite stimulant. Due to its antibacterial properties, it can also be used to help treat acne and fungal infections.

Thyme also contains Vitamin A and Vitamin C and can also help to boost one’s immunity system. A 2014 pharmaceutical study on thyme put forth an explanation of how this herb lowered blood pressure, and reduced the heart rate. Its fragrant perfume can also be beneficial in boosting one’s spirits, as well as refreshing the air – in fact thyme is used in a number of disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and washes. My favorite way of consuming thyme however, is by garnishing a nice plate of pasta with it, or using it when preparing fish or poultry in order to maximize its taste.

 

This article was written by me and published on the online magazine Living In Malta. To access the original article, please go here.

PERSONAL – December Ups and Downs

This has been one roller-coaster of a month. Plenty of highs and lows. So, in a nutshell:

During the first week of December, me and my boyfriend went to Sicily for a short 4-day break. You can read the first part of how that went here, but I’ve still got to continue writing about the rest of the trip. You might ask yourself – why is she taking this long to write about a mere 4-day long trip? The point is, I love travelling – I am simply enchanted by the plethora of emotions, new thoughts and ways of perceiving the world which open up whenever I set foot in a country different from my own, with ‘exotic’ mentalities, colors, history and trends, SO I actually don’t find it that easy to describe it all when I come back, because there is just SO MUCH TO SAY! In fact, if you look through my past posts, you’ll realize that I’ve never actually sat down and documented each and every one of the places I’ve traveled to – simply because there are so many of them. However I told myself I’d make an attempt with this 4-day Sicily trip just to see how it would go. Anyhow, there you have it, still to be continued. And don’t worry, it WILL be, all in its own good time.

Got sidetracked there. Sorry.

On our last day in Sicily, I woke up suffering from some serious back-pain. Sciatica to be precise. The pain extended down to my left leg and I could hardly walk. Needless to be said, the last day was the climax of our trip, as we had planned on going for a jeep-trip up Mount Etna… you think I flunked that? AS IF! I still went. Hopping and wincing and dragging my sorry carcass up the whole mountain. And boy, was I glad I did!

More of that in future posts relating to the actual holiday.

We came back on the 12th. Tuesday 13th was a local Public Holiday so I didn’t have to go to work, and spent the whole day in bed resting and hoping my back would get better. It didn’t. On Wednesday, I went to the doctors’ who gave me pills, painkillers, and the advice to get MORE rest. So, that was the second week of December – which I spent in bed sleeping off my pills.

Luckily for me, the pain retreated, and I was okeyish for the weekend. This was important since my birthday was on Saturday 17th, and I knew that my boyfriend had planned the whole weekend with events for me. That is what we do – I plan stuff for his birthday and he plans stuff for mine. We spent some days meeting friends and family, and I really enjoyed that. Kudos luv! Not to mention that one of the pressies I received is a nice voucher from Ryanair to be redeemed by November 2017! Yay!

On Monday I felt a bit better and so went back to work, taking a large cake with me for my colleagues in celebration of my birthday. The cake was in fact so large, that we are still eating from it (we are a small department). And today is the 27th! During the third week of December we also had our ‘official’ Xmas party at work. The food, I admit, wasn’t anything spectacular, HOWEVER I did make up for it with alcohol consumption… enough said. Unfortunately this also meant that I was too tipsy and suffering from a hangover to actually do my Yule ritual. Ah well, I’m sure the Gods didn’t mind all that much since I celebrated with libation anyways.

On the 24th I cooked and slaved the whole day to prepare an enormous family dinner. Family members came late, and I was quite angry about that, but it was ok in the end and the food was a huge success. We still have our fridge packed with delicious left-overs. On the 25th we ate an enormous Indian buffet, after which Aunt Flo came to visit, and actually floored me. I had to stay home and rest to cope with that, so I missed another family gathering in the evening.

I’m so so tired of eating… AND YES my weight has gone up again! Frankly after noticing the first 3 kilos, I stayed away altogether from the bathroom scales… they scare me.

January will come soon enough, and then it will be time to face the music all right!

 

The Female Orgasm

It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is much harder for a woman to reach orgasm than it is for a man.

It’s a fact – nearly all men climax without difficulty, and yet women seem to need more attention and more effort on the part of their partner to reach the pleasure peak of the so-called Big-O. So much so in fact, that until a few decades ago, doctors even believed that it was scientifically impossible for most women to reach this sexual climax at all. In certain cultures, those who actually did were sometimes even considered to be unnatural by their husbands or partners.

On the other hand, nowadays we get a totally opposite yet still wrong picture through porn and the media, which portray women orgasming vociferously and vigorously multiple times as a matter of course. Unfortunately, reality is quite different!

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Not all of us are automatically turned on every time we’re confronted by an excited male, nor is it so easy to reach sexual gratification just because someone squeezes our booty or jumps up and down on us a couple of times. Yes, women can reach orgasm too, but no, they do not reach this sexual target as automatically and easily as men do.

Why? Because apparently while men only seem to need a visual and physical stimulus for them to reach a certain state of excitement, women also need a mental and/or emotional stimulus.

There are two types of orgasms. These are vaginal orgasms and clitoral orgasms. Sigmund Freud, the father of psycho-analysis, used to believe that older women had vaginal orgasms, while younger and more immature women had clitoral orgasms. Experts no longer believe this. However, Freud was right in thinking that there were two kinds of orgasm. This was also maintained in a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2013, which showed how ultrasound tests revealed that the two kinds of orgasms – clitoral and vaginal – differ in blood flow and sensations produced.

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French gynaecologists Odile Buisson and Emmanuele A. Jannini tracked blood pressure and patterns as it flowed through the female body and organs, and they saw changes in blood flow during different types of stimulating contacts…

This article of mine was published on EVE.COM.MT – Please click here to read the rest! http://www.eve.com.mt/2016/11/29/the-female-orgasm-fact-vs-fiction/