If you saw Paula Matthews* walking down the street, you would have no idea that she was in pain or battling a range of medical conditions.
“I’m aware that someone looking at me probably couldn’t tell I’m in pain,” Paula notes.
“I try to stay positive as I don’t want anyone’s pity, just their understanding. I guess it’s the resilience in me.”
Paula, sadly, is suffering a number of serious conditions. She has Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract, which causes her to feel fatigued and nauseous throughout the day.
Paula also has Spondyloarthritis — a subsidiary condition of the Crohn’s affliction — that causes pain in her back and peripheral joints, such as her hands and feet.
Joining the list of conditions is small fibre neuropathy, which affects the peripheral nervous system, and Iritis, an inflammation of a portion of her eye.
She often wakes with the feeling that her body has “set like concrete overnight and it's about to implode”.
“This is when the mindset of positivity is really put to the test,” she says.
All things considered, Paula could be forgiven for wanting to climb into bed and not come out again.
But, crucially, she doesn't. A beauty therapist and hairstylist by trade, Paula is self-employed and continues to see a range of clients through regular mobile visits, managing the pain as she goes.
“I know things can turn quite quickly for me so I have learnt over the years to listen to my body and to respect it,” she says.
“I often will come home in between appointments and rest up.”
Paula is on a range of medications to help ease her pain, which she uses in conjunction with aromatherapy oil blends and walking.
“Walking can help ease some of the pain, as it clears my head and also helps me to stay focused,” she says.
“There are days where you feel you can do more than others, however, your body does very quickly let you know if you have overdone it.”
Then there is the power of positive thinking, which Paula regularly draws upon to help manage the pain.
“I never call it a bad day, I call them bad moments, that's my coping skill,” she says.
“Your mind is the most powerful tool you have, and it helps if you are in a positive mindset.
“There is a famous quotation I think of often: ‘What you think, you create. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, is what you become’.”
Paula also uses the MedAdvisorapp to keep her busy life on track.
“I can order a script at 10pm at night and I love the convenience of that,” she says.
“But not just for me, for the pharmacy staff and for my GP, as well. I like the fact that it doesn’t waste their time either.
“I see it as an excellent time-management tool.”
Working so hard clearly takes a toll on Paula, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It‘s a lot for someone in my condition to take on, but if I didn’t work, then I would quite easily go into a downward spiral,” she says.
“My clients are the most beautiful of people, and it's their understanding that keeps me going.”
* Name has been changed.
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This story was written by Johanna Leggatt. Johanna is an Australian journalist with more than 15 years’ experience in both print and online. She has worked across a wide range of subject areas, including health, property, finance, interiors, and arts.