How Thriving helped me pass my driving test…

I started the Thrive Programme initially to try to conquer my driving test nerves. I had failed several times and I had gotten myself stuck in a vicious cycle. I was so frustrated as, during my lessons, I would be fine but on my test I would fall apart. I decided I needed to do something. I was recommended the Thrive Programme by a family member. I decided to too give it a try.

During my first session with Sue we talked and I underwent some questionnaires. Looking back at it now I’m not surprised that my social anxiety ratings were very high. I didn’t realise it at the time as I had become to accustomed to feeling anxious but I realised that the Thrive Programme could help me in a lot more ways than just to pass my driving test.

A large cause of my anxieties is a rare medical condition I have which is called Bronchiecstasis. I have had this since birth. When I am well I live a relatively normal life with it. However, I can be taken seriously ill very quickly with this condition. It was great to be able to talk to Sue about my condition as at the time I was working with her she was a Paediatric Oncology nurse. Whilst my condition was different to her patients there was some overlaps and it was nice to be able to speak to someone who could understand some of the medical terms I was referring to.

After a few weeks of work with Sue, I gradually started doing more things which I had been letting my anxiety and my medical condition stop me from doing. I hadn’t realised it but I had been stopping myself doing a lot of things because of my condition. I had thought “I can’t do this because of my condition” so often that it was limiting my life more than it should. I realised I needed to challenge myself more. The first big thing I remember doing which was out of my comfort zone was going up to the top of Lincoln castle and walking around the top of the medieval walls there. I had been there previously and refused to walk up to the top. This time I decided to do it. Initially I was very anxious but as I started to slowly take steps forward I looked out over Lincoln at the amazing views. After a while I started to relax and enjoy it. This was a huge step for me I knew that if I could do that then I could do anything.

This spurred me on to get my driving test booked. I decided to not put it off anymore and just do it. I managed to book one for the next week. I met with Sue the day before to discuss the day and she helped me to plan the day in my head.

The next day, I found myself sat in the waiting room with my Dad. The driving examiners came out in to the waiting room and called us up. I waved by to Dad and went of with my examiner. As we settled in the car she said to me “your Dad looked more nervous than you do!”. 40 minutes later I returned to find all the other cars already back and the students stood looking very unhappy with their instructors. They had all had their tests abandoned early and failed. I parked up and she said “I’m pleased to say that you have passed!”. I was so delighted and I felt like a huge weight had been lifted of my shoulders. Passing my test opened up a whole range of new opportunities as it was much easier for me to travel around now.

The next few months were great as I set myself goals of what I wanted to achieve and I did achieve them. I started getting myself out there and talking to more people. I traveled to France with my boyfriend for our first holiday abroad together and I got stuck in to my studies at my last semester of my second year at University. I even started a part time job around University.

However, at the end of the year I started to become very unwell. I developed a narrowing in my throat which made it difficult to breathe and consequently I was always tired as my body was using up so much energy just on breathing. I no longer had the energy I had a few months before and I needed an operation to fix the problem. As well as the breathing problem, the narrowing made it difficult to swallow and I lost weight rapidly which did not help with my energy levels. I was in and out of A and E all the time whilst I waited for my operation. I could no longer work or attend University due to my health. As I was so weak I became prone to infection and I ended up picking up a serious flu virus. This laid me up in a hospital bed on a high dependency ward for a few days. However, my body quickly responded to antibiotics and I recovered. The doctors were very surprised at how quickly I fought off the infection. My doctor even said to me “a lot of people wouldn’t survive the flu let alone someone with your condition. I think your sheer determination helped you to recover so well. If you can beat this infection then you can beat anything”. It amazed me that my doctor understood that a strong mind = a strong body as many of the other doctors I had seen simply couldn’t explain it. It didn’t make sense to them. They didn’t understand just how truly powerful our minds are.

After I recovered I was discharged again to go home to wait for my operation date. During the waiting I did have days where I became very upset and angry, it was only natural but I think that if I hadn’t have done the Thrive pProgramme I would have been depressed most of the time during this period. One thing I learnt from Sue was perspective. Whilst I was very sick and it was life limiting, it was a problem which could be fixed by an operation. I kept telling myself this and this is what got me through the bad days. This was all happening during the time when Addenbrookes was cancelling all operations often and mine was postponed. I ended up waiting a few months in the end but when it finally came to the day of the operation I couldn’t wait. I wanted to get back to some normality.

I woke up from my op and immediately my throat felt clearer. I didn’t feel the need to cough or huff for the first time in months. My breathing had become quieter. I felt so much better instantly after the operation. The operation allowed me to get back to a normal life again gradually. An important thing which needed to happen to aid my recovery was that I needed to put weight back on. I was asked to go back in to hospital to have naso-gastric feeding to help me put the weight back on. I had spent so much time in hospital I didn’t want to be there anymore if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. I told my doctors no and that I would do this myself by feeding myself up. They were dubious about my decision but they gave me a dietician to set up a strict set up of what I needed to eat. I had become so thin that I was told I needed to consume 5,000 calories a day! I set up plans and researched high calorie meals and snacks. The weight gain required serious dedication. I had to force myself to eat even when I felt full. As I had lost weight my stomach had shrunk so I felt fuller quicker. It was hard to force through the full feeling after not eating much but I knew I had to power on and that it would get easier. I successfully managed to start getting to 5000 calories a day and I felt the benefits. I felt more awake and I started seeing myself become fuller looking in my face and arms. Once I did start feeling more energetic I decided to start getting some exercise which is very important for me to do with my condition as I need to keep my lungs working well. I decided to take up swimming. I started setting myself small goals – to swim so many lengths etc and I started going every day. It was so nice to be able to do something normal again.

After a few months of swimming daily and making sure I was eating enough every day my weight stabilised back to a normal weight and I didn’t feel tired like I used to. I graduated from University and I am now in a part time job. Whilst I know that my medical problems could always come back in the future I know that I am able to deal with them and overcome any issues I may face with them.

I am so glad that I did the Thrive Programme.