Our August guest blog is by Dr Emily Ackerman, author of a new book titled The Amazing Technicolour Pyjama Therapy. You can find a review of the book here. Emily was stricken in her twenties by severe myalgic encephalopathy that confined her to bed or a wheelchair. Below she discusses the book and her experiences of living with a long-term health condition.
By Emily Ackerman
The way I see it is this. Any decent church aims to offer hope, fresh vision and comfort to those who are suffering. Any decent medical service tries to offer practical advice and information for a sick or disabled person. And any decent patient-led group offers genuine community, complete with war stories, black jokes, useful tips, pep talks and cheer leading for those who aren’t doing so well right now.
The problem is that none of these three groups can do it all. The church lacks specific expertise – and well people often struggle to imagine what it’s like to be sick. The doctors, bless ‘em, mostly haven’t a clue what it feels like to be a patient. (I should know; I’ve been both.) And the patient support groups, while they’re great at what they do, can’t offer spiritual support in time of need.
When my health broke down and stayed down, I faced a scary bunch of practical, emotional and spiritual issues. These issues didn’t stay neatly in their labelled pigeonholes; they mingled into a toxic swamp of pain and loss. For twenty years I struggled with a mix of frustration, symptom overload, loss of hope and vision, low budget, spiritual burnout, changed relationships, guilt and poor confidence.
In the end, I got fed up with trying to pick and mix to find my answers. I decided to write a book about different aspects of living well with life changing illness. So every morning I got up and wrote for an hour, clad in my trusty dressing gown.
Over three years of writing, I took on painfully important topics such as loss and grief, confidence, vision, healing and hope. I looked at difficult emotions, wobbly relationships, unruly symptoms, harsh limits, unemployment and facing a short life span. I wrote honestly about my own struggles, successes and failures. Then I added quotes and cartoons to lighten the load and questions to ponder along the way.
Over time, I’ve found that other people facing major illness have a lot to teach me. Whether it’s depression, arthritis, cancer or ME, the type of illness is less important than the experiences we share. Health care professionals and people who care for ill friends or relatives also have plenty to offer. So I gathered useful stories, tips and insights to add to the mix.
While digging deep into the Bible for hope and comfort, I noticed the story of Joseph. His efforts to overcome loss, disappointment, suffering, rejection and imprisonment strike a powerful chord with me. I’m encouraged to find that nothing could prevent Joseph from reaching his God-given destiny, because he chose to walk with God. I chose Joseph to be my Bible hero for the sick. With him alongside, a disaster begins to look more like an adventure. Now there’s an interesting thought.
My vision for this book is to offer hope, comfort, renewed vision and practical advice to anybody with poor health. I want to give us the tools to thrive, come what may.
The Amazing Technicolour Pyjama Therapy by Emily Ackerman, with foreword by Pablo Martinez, is available from CLC bookshops and is published on 22 August. Until 20 August it will be available at the special pre-order price of £8.99 (£1 off rrp), with free postage, from Muddy Pearl Books http://muddypearl.com/books/the-amazing-technicolour-pyjama-therapy/