How I found laughter after barking up the wrong tree in hunt for cure for my illness, says Christa Ackroyd

You know what they say – in for a penny, in for a pound. Or don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. And I suppose I have always been that sort of a person. Never afraid to experience new things. So these past few weeks I have been putting that theory to the test.

I want to start by saying if any of the things I am writing about works for you, I am glad. Just because some didn’t for me, doesn’t mean you are wrong or I am right. Being judgemental has never been part of my nature

Let me explain why I am on a quest. A year ago I got a terrible case of shingles, you know that old person’s ailment which we have all heard of but few have experienced. Well let me tell you I would swap childbirth in a heartbeat for it. Never have I experienced pain like it, so severe that I did something I have never done before in my life, I passed out. We were on holiday at the time on a small boat sailing around Croatia and it just so happened there was a doctor on board. I knew it was bad when the said doctor told the ship’s captain to turn around. And so I ended up in hospital in Dubrovnik which I have to say was very good, from what I can remember amidst the pain.

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When I got back to the UK I did as I was advised and presented myself at A&E where I became quite the specimen with doctors, trainees and nurses all invited to come and have a look at the worst case they have ever seen. Deep joy. As my mother used to say ‘Christa you never do anything by halves.’

Christa AckroydChrista Ackroyd
Christa Ackroyd

Ok that was a year ago. And sadly I have proved her right. Again. The horrific rash covering the right side of my trunk back and front has gone. The pain remains, so much so that next week I have an appointment at the pain clinic.

However I write this not to elicit sympathy, but to explain why I am quite simply prepared to try anything. Anything except the sort of medication I have been on for the past 12 months. Gabapentin four times a day might work for you. It doesn’t for me. And I am not the kind of a person who takes easily to medication both physiologically and psychologically.

So it’s alternative medicine time, with differing results. During the past three weeks I have tried reiki, acupuncture, yoga, ice baths, steam rooms, swimming, hard exercise and gentle exercise, with varying degrees of success. No coffee, no tea and no alcohol. No wheat. Lean meat, good fats and no processed food. Anything to shock my body into coming through. Because it can work. I know it can.

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Twenty odd years ago when my arthritis and lupus were doing their worst I took myself off to an alternative health clinic in Austria where a complete detox reset my body and my soul to the point where I have pretty much been in remission ever since.

And if I need to I will steadfastly follow the pattern of diet and gentle exercise and it works, time and time again. Medication free, only not this time. As I say don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

And so it was over the Easter break I found myself amidst a five-hour bank holiday traffic nightmare on my way to Scotland to meet a friend and experience a day of meditation in the middle of nowhere billed as Find Your Inner Stillness. And before you ask whether I have discovered my inner stillness, I haven’t. I have in fact discovered that hugging a tree is not for me. (Apologies to tree huggers everywhere).

I was not alone in my quest. With me was a friend (we have just worked it out ) of more than 30 years. Now Kathryn is a crystal sort of a lady, a free spirit, who believes in the power of nature as I do to a certain extent. The beauty of nature is restorative in so many ways. A walk along a beach, a stroll through the woods, a quiet time at one with the beauty of the world is good for the soul and so good for the body. But talking to a tree or a fire is not my bag. Sorry.

Now it obviously works for some.

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In fact of the ten of us around the ‘heart’ fire, I would say only two of us didn’t get it when we were given drums and asked to drum and chant away as the mood took us whilst throwing our wishes into the fire along with a bunch of flowers and a stick of kindling.

Some were quite overcome. Colin drummed and chanted as the mood took him and Richard changed his name to reflect his Czech roots as he gave himself to the fire. It was at this point I turned around and saw my friend was crying. Oh no, I thought she is overcome with emotion, she gets it, while all I am thinking is what am I doing here? “Are you okay?” I whispered gently, not wanting to interrupt her awakening. “I am not,” she whispered back. “The incense and the smoke from the fire is making my eyes stream.” I tried to stifle a giggle.

Within minutes we were on our way to a clearing in the woods because “the trees were waiting to talk to us”. Well mine said nothing much, even when I wrapped my arms round it, while some lay prostrate at their roots. Don’t get me wrong. It was a lovely tree, it had lots of pretty lichen and moss on it. But no matter how hard I squeezed, it didn’t give me the secrets of the universe in my ear as promised. With two more hours to go we made out excuses and left. Not for me, not for my friend. But the others seemed to get something out of it.

Actually, I will tell you the truth, I did get something out of it. I reconnected with a kindred spirit, rekindled a friendship of many years and I laughed and laughed until I could laugh no more at my interpretation of her tears. It proved that although our paths cross rarely when they do they are vital and precious moments spent together, that we will always have a tale to tell and we will always laugh and cry together for the rest of our days. And that in itself is restorative and life affirming.

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I am a great believer in alternative medicine. Our joint visit to a herbalist proved interesting and useful to say the least. Reiki works for me, it always has done. Meditation, yoga and pilates work for me. And I am a great believer in the power of ancient herbal medicine. I have been known to cleanse my house with sage. I do believe in the power of crystals.(All other suggestions are gratefully received) and I am not alone. Latest stats tell us more than one in three of us has turned to some sort of alternative therapy in the last couple of years and I get it, I really do. I will never poo poo anything which works for others because it might work for me. Except hugging a tree.

But you know what works best ? Happy times, new experiences and good friends and family. Whoever coined the phrase laughter is the best medicine got it right. And if it’s true after events of the past few days I should feel better in no time.