My name is Melanie McLean and I have lived with Rheumatoid Arthritis since 1986, when I was aged just 8 years old.
I am also the founder of The Wellbeing Revolution.
For over 35 years I’ve faced many challenges throughout childhood to now (nearly!) middle-age, including two total hip replacements and knee replacements in my early 20’s, being involved since childhood in most of the drug trials of the now leading treatments, being schooled mainly in hospital and being a wheelchair user until my teens. I also endured infertility and needed IVF, due to what is believed to be a combination of my disease and the early on-going exposure to toxic trial treatments, particularly during my body’s development from childhood to becoming a teenager. I am a believer in taking what fate deals me, re-framing it and doing what needs to be done in order to live my life the way I want to.
Despite everything I had already experienced, I was at the lowest ebb of my life in 2018, as a new mum, working in a pressurised management role, trying to balance everything and being everything to everyone, putting myself and my health last, when I was struck down with sever burn out. In addition to the extreme pain and fatigue of my RA, the running on an empty tank in motherhood, the feeling of failing at a job I’d loved for 8 years, cutting myself off from everyone I loved, I was also experiencing severe anxiety and related depression. I couldn’t stand up without feeling dizzy, I couldn’t focus my eyes on anything and my body felt completley empty.
I was really sick. In over 30 years of living with my disease and experiencing terrible trauma (those stories will be told in other posts!), I had never, ever felt so unwell, so alone and unsupported with healthcare, despite trying my best to be proactive. What followed was two years of disconnected, inaccessible healthcare, where the ‘patient centered approach’ to healthcare clearly wasn’t able to be applied.
Rheumatology couldn’t help me as we had explored all avenues for treatment and I was advised that any mental health issues were to be “discussed with my GP”. My GP prescribed anti-anxiety meds, a long term sick note and the news that it would be at least a year and a half until my referral to mental health services would be put into action. Physiotherapy told me there was really nothing they could do as I was now ‘just at that stage’ in my life where I had to do my best to live with things. Occupational Therapy couldn’t support me with any aids and adaptations to help me physically with my daughter, because, well, there weren’t any.
It was clear. It would be down to me alone to get myself through this. As always in my life, where there has been accessibility barriers to my education, medication, employment, or anything else, I always find a way to take control and break down the barriers my way.
Certain relaxation, meditation, breathing and yoga techniques have transformed my life over the years. I decided it was time to open my toolbox and use those methods again. I was already a qualified instructor in some of these methods, but my sickness had gotten the better of me and I hadn’t used any techniques since before becoming a mum. It then took months of using these techniques, long term sick leave and eventually redundancy, finally accessing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy via the NHS and the anti-anxiety medication kicking in to finally make a positive difference.
My passion in life is taking what I’ve learned about living with this illness throughout each life stage and sharing it with other people with long term conditions and disabilities. Enabling connection and sharing lived experiences can be so helpful in managing your life with a disability or condition – just knowing you aren’t alone and that others have had similar or the same experiences as you can really help your confidence and empower you.
I knew that there would be thousands of other people living with long term conditions and disabilities, just like me, who also weren’t experiencing joined-up-care or had no access to services to help them live with the realities of life beyond their medical diagnosis. The co-existing stress, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, overthinking and worrying about trying to live and cope with daily life weren’t catered for beyond medication and a referral to an already overwhelmed NHS mental health service.
So enough was enough. The Wellbeing Revolution was born.
I am a fully qualified instructor in the methods and tools I use for managing my condition and life. My real life, lived experience has allowed me to try and test the myriad of wellbeing methods that exist, and now in my 40’s, I not only deliver classes in the ones I have found really make a difference, but have I have also blended them into specific programmes that really target and help living with long term pain, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, stress and other issues that go along with living with long term conditions and disabilities.
As you will read from my first post, this blog was initially about the reality of being a disabled-made-of-metal mama, but with the birth of The Wellbeing Revolution, it is now also about my tentative steps starting the new business to help others (launched 3 weeks before the Covid 19 lockdown!), my passion for raising awareness of all the issues aforementioned and contributing where I can to help the lives of people just like me.
There are many stories I have yet to tell.
Thank you for joining me in my bionic journey.
I hope my words (and programmes!) can help you.