Rachel is a UK hippie that I have the privilege to introduce you to. Rachel looks at her hip journey as something to share. Something that can allow others to benefit from her experience and to thrive. Rachel looks at the hips from two different perspectives. She is a scientist and physiotherapist. Rachel can look at the biomechanics of the hips and she knows how to help a patient. She also knows her own hips and her own hip journey as a patient.
Rachel’s “hip pain started around the age of 24 after [she’d] been climbing, it gradually got worse and worse over a 9-month period.” Just like many patients, her complaints were dismissed until she saw a hip specialist and received that unexpected diagnosis of hip dysplasia. Rachel had a pretty quick turnaround from diagnosis to surgery. With 4 hip surgeries under her belt, she is able to share that “one hip is completely pain free, but [she gets] occasional pain in the other, but compared to what it was before, [she’s] so pleased.”
One of her biggest challenges “was seeking help in the 1st place.” She had that familiar worry that many patients do. Would the doctor believe me? Would I be dismissed because of my age? Rachel also feels that getting the right diagnosis from the start really drives the correct treatment and management of this hip disorder.
On one side of the fence is the worry and the challenges. On the other side are the successes. Rachel was proud about getting the right treatment for her hips, but really, really proud of her resilience, getting through those 4 surgeries and coming out of it on the other side.
Rachel’s interest in the hips from a professional standpoint started after her own hip journey began. Her empathy with her patients was very helpful and she truly had walked a mile in their Hip Hope shoes, and she could relay that hope to her patients. Rachel acknowledges that she was lucky, but she is also equally “passionate that great treatment [should be] available to everyone, no one should have to be lucky.”
Some of what she accounts to her success was the emphasis on psychology. Something, I agree with to the umpteenth power. Rachel knows that “it has a massive impact and it’s such an important area of recovery. When you’re experiencing good mental health it’s easier to engage with your rehab as you generally feel more positive. When people are struggling with poor mental health, it can affect their outlook. [Rachel] found personally when [she] was struggling with mental health during [her] recovery, [she] felt quite despondent and [she] didn’t feel like doing any of [her] rehab.” Rachel shares that “there is some evidence that suggests pain is often worse when mental health isn’t good.” Rachel also truly believes that finding a team that can address your entire being is so important. You are not just a product of your hips, but a person who has more than just physical needs. Rachel knows this.
Rachel also knows that “getting yourself a good support network really helps with a hip dysplasia journey. People that you can talk to, that you can be really honest with. Connecting with others on a similar journey can be really helpful too, it helps talking to people who understand exactly what you are going through. [She] also thinks understanding it’s going to be an emotional journey, if you’re having a day where you feel; sad, validate yourself, it’s normal and okay to feel sad.”
Again, this is where perspective comes into play. When you feel discouraged or frustrated, there are ways to honor that feeling, but also to come out of it feeling stronger. Rachel’s "favourite strategy is to look how far [she’s] actually come.” She asks herself questions such as, What are things that I can do now that I could not do two weeks ago, two months or two years ago? She understands that being able to quantify her progress always helps encourage her with a “boost of motivation.” Rachel teaches her own patients this strategy as well. Focusing on those things they can do as opposed to what they can’t! Perspective!
Although one of her biggest challenges was being able to ask for help, it was the area that she felt was most important to learn. Rachel was frustrated, as a physiotherapist, that she could not manage her own pain. It was a real struggle, but when she learned that lesson, things became easier. So, remember, ask for help. Be vulnerable. Know that there are professionals out there like Rachel who have a passion to get you where you want to be.
Being able to ask for help is important and an area that I have struggled with too. Being okay with it has been one of the ongoing areas that I engage in positive self-talk. Rachel also talks positively to herself with her mantras. “One is ‘nothing lasts forever’ [which to her] means the pain you’re experiencing or hard times you’re going through won’t last forever. The other is ‘if you’re going through hell, keep going’.” I totally agree with both. These mantras motivate Rachel to keep plugging along. Find your mantra!
These mantras also come in to play when you, as a patient, may be “spiraling [into a place where you believe] that your hips will never improve or you’ll never get back to what you did before. Mindfulness will stop that negative thought process, it gives you space to look at how far you’ve already come and focus on the positive.” Rachel really loves to journal and practice yoga as a means towards mindfulness through this process. Again, this sounds like yours truly. She also recommends a technique call “progressive muscle relaxation” which I will definitely be trying.
So, Rachel has gone through this hip journey and has done some amazing work as a way to heal her own hips – a way to create hopeful hips for herself. But, this is where the paying it forward comes to be. She created this amazing website . “The website was born out a project called Get CreActive, it was research project run by Julie from Cardiff University. It was a wonderful opportunity to share stories/experiences with other hippies, discuss ways to get and stay active. As part of the project, [they] created a website to act as resource for those living with hip dysplasia or friends and families of hip dysplasia to show you’re not alone on this journey. [Rachel] is hoping it will provide some helpful information and guidance to aid diagnoses, getting the right help and making things feel that little bit easier.”
So please stay tuned for Rachel's story with her own pictures in her own real voice. Get through your journey, pay it forward. Be hopeful. Be happy.