As many of you who have been following my pituitary blog for some years will know, “man vs hedge” has been a theme from time to time. The basic tenet of the title was twofold, partly because it was a genuine challenge I was facing at the time….the hedge that is, and partly the struggle it gave me physically as a person with Adrenal Insufficiency (AI).
Back in 2013 prior to my diagnosis I remember being much more physically fit and able to tackle strenuous jobs in the garden and then subsequent to my recovery in later 2013 and early 2014 how much harder gardening was. This manifested itself most obviously when I set about cutting our 70 foot long 9-foot-high conifer hedge in our old garden. It exhausted me.
Therefore, I blogged about my struggles at that time and how I sought to overcome them. I feel another ‘Man vs Hedge’ blog coming on, even though we are 7 years down the line – but apart from the elapsed time, we are also now the owners of a brand-new set of hedges. I call them ‘set’ of hedges because they are very mixed. We have a hedge out the front of the house about 6 to 7 foot high and 20-25 foot long, a mix of ivy, hawthorn and various other. Then that morphs into a mainly bay laurel hedge which goes on for another 100 feet or so. The rest of that side of the garden is mainly trees as is the bottom of the garden, about 40 feet across. Then all along the other side of the garden is a privet hedge. The back garden has 6 foot fences all around, so the hedges only exist from 6 feet upwards! The privet is probably 12 feet at its highest, the other side varies up to about 8 feet. And I thought a 70 foot long 9 foot high conifer was difficult!
How is my AI depleted body going to cope with all this hedge cutting I wonder? Why on earth did we buy such a large garden with so many hedges!! (answers on a postcard....)
Part of the answer as to how I will cope, is using the correct tools. I have learned that when I used to cut the old hedge by hand with shears, I used to get a great finish on the hedge but realistically I’m just not able to do that any more. I need power tools and a good ladder, that’s my excuse anyway. So I have a good cordless long reach hedge trimmer and longarm pruner (the latter extends to about 4 metres tall). This means less time spent up a ladder wobbling about and less chance of me falling off said ladder because of being an idiot. Broken bones and AI are good partners so I understand......
But the part that is more pertinent to this blog, interesting as gardening is, is how to cope physically. That is the interesting part, and now comes an annoying admission. For years I have mentally been in a place where I was ADAMANT that I do not need to pace myself. I can just throw myself at the task in hand and everything will be fine. Sadly that is not the case, and to be honest that isn’t probably just the fault of the AI. I am not getting any younger and moving house really hit me hard mentally and physically. I got through it but I learned a lot about myself, principally the admission that I DO have to pace myself.
I’ve said before many times about my energy crashes and how they often happen late morning. Well, they continue to happen from time to time. I also had an escalating bad mood tendency with this low energy. It was because I was ignoring the signs and trying to push through it, rather than accept it was happening, take a break, and deal with it.
Added to all this learning, I stopped working in March 2021, so amongst everything else going on (you know, global pandemic), I had another change to have to deal with….yes of course it was a nice change, but a change nonetheless.
The end result of all this pondering is that rather than think “I’ll do some gardening for the next 4 hours, might nearly faint but it’ll be fine” I go out with a different mindset. This revelation manifests itself as “I’m going to do some gardening for 90 minutes or so, then pop in and have a cup of tea and a biscuit and an early Hydrocortisone tablet and a sit down for 20 minutes, then go back outside for another 90 minutes. In other words, I don’t set out to have such a long gardening session and I break that session up with a rest. It pains me to say it, but of course it is pacing myself. You’ll never guess what though, it works! (most of the time) It doesn't come entirely naturally, because I've never snacked between meals.
It is of course blindingly obviously that it would work, but a combination of bloody-mindedness on my part and a lack of wanting to see the obvious did not help.
I think it serves as a very good life lesson that you cannot blame everything on your condition, whatever it is. There are always other factors at play, not least my age….which I would rather not dwell on (I’m getting close to one of those ‘decade’ birthdays….), but it is a fact that I’m not getting any younger.
The summary…it only took me moving house, a pandemic, leaving my job of 43.5 years, continual problems with physical exhaustion over 7 years…..to finally make me come to my senses. I need to pace myself in certain activities, mainly gardening. And we certainly have a lot of that to do in our new house, so it is a good thing I enjoy it!!
Other than that, things have not changed that much. My pituitary gland will never work correctly and means I still take Hydrocortisone and Testosterone. I have lost a stone in weight for some reason (even with additional snacks), I’m only just over 9.5 stone or 61kg, this seems to be fairly constant and my consultant has done some checks to make sure nothing sinister is afoot. It isn’t.
|Couldn't very well have a blog about a hedge, without a (Stihl) hedge trimmer pic! This was courtesy of my very lovely work colleagues who got me some garden vouchers as a leaving present. The trimmer is battery operated and nearly 7ft long!!|
|Part of the hedge, this has gradually been reduced in height, but have to be careful as this is our neighbours hedge!|
|Hedge on the left is privet, fence is 6ft high, hedge varies but is 12ft high in places!|