“18 years of cumulative persistent chronic pain in my neck, hips, back, knees, buttocks, right ankle and right thumb. Nothing alleviated the symptoms for more than a couple of days, even surgery. Since following the SIRPA Recovery programme I am pain free, living an active life, feeling so much younger and wish that I had known about Stress Illness last century!”

I am 54 years old and have had a life history of stress illness, but didn’t know it.

I bit my nails from a very early age. I attempted to take my own life over my mock A levels. I had sham surgery on my back when I was 18 years old. After my hysterectomy in 1992 I started binge eating, and in 1993 I had a bicycle accident which started 18 years of continual medical intervention. I have one of the largest collection of orthopaedic pillows in the country (should be in the Guinness Book of World Records).

Doctors will typically treat one set of symptoms at a time. I had cumulative persistent chronic pain in my neck, hips, back, knees, buttocks, right ankle and right thumb. I had seen a neurosurgeon about my back, a neurosurgeon about my neck and an orthopaedic surgeon for my hip. I have had surgery, numerous cortisone injections, acupuncture and physiotherapy.

In early June 2011 I booked myself onto the Forward Ladies Positive Women’s Day in Leeds to enable me to focus on the sales and marketing strategy for my business, and when I received the details of each of the various workshops I was drawn to one entitled Stress Management/Illness.

The day before this event I had been to see my consultant neurosurgeon and was told that my MRI scan showed good alignment of the two cervical discs he had replaced in 2007 (on my 50th birthday – now that was a day to remember!) and that the nerve conduction studies didn’t show any nerve damage in either arm. He told me that further surgery would be a last last last resort to resolve the pain I was feeling in my neck-arms-shoulders. This left me feeling crestfallen. I had a cocktail of symptoms including chronic pain in my neck, constant headaches, tingling sensations down both arms to name but a few of my bodily pains (I hadn’t told my consultant about the pain in my right sacro-iliac joint, the tendonitis in my left thigh, the pain in my right ankle, my knees or my left thumb).  That night I was thinking the worst (that I had a brain tumour, or MS) and I looked into becoming a member of Dignitas.

Next day I drove to Leeds and the workshop on Stress Management/Illness workshop was run by Georgie Oldfield. At the start of the workshop Georgie asked us to form a circle and for each of us to say something about our initial impressions of each other. One lady said that I looked wistful. How so very right she was. I was feeling maudlin. My thoughts were all over the place; all of these symptoms and no cure.

After the initial introductions I sat listening to Georgie speaking about stress related illness and in my head I kept hearing yes that’s me…and that…and that ….it was a huge Eureka moment in life and I suddenly realised that my consultant neurosurgeon had only been treating the pain/symptoms arising from my neck and not ALL of my symptoms.

Afterwards, Georgie emailed me a copy of the SIRPA recovery cds and I made pages and pages of notes whilst listening to them, as what Georgie was saying struck many chords and triggered many thoughts/memories.

I booked an initial-2 hour pre-assessment with Georgie – my symptoms were stress induced and were also triggered by my personality (including having high personal expectations, being a perfectionist, being overly analytical, being overly responsible and reliable). The following day the chronic pain in my neck started to ease.

I signed up for the SIRPA Recovery Programme, which has fantastic one-on-one support from Georgie with weekly reviews and email/telephone support and guidance. After 4 weeks of the SIRPA Recovery programme I am pain free, living an active life, feeling so much younger and wish that I knew about Stress Illness last century.

I still have the same personality, but by recognising the pressure this can cause me I have been able to continue to reap the benefits of the advice given and tools learned on the SIRPA Recovery Programme to moderate this and I continue to remain fit and well many months after I completed the programme.