Having just entered another decade, I’m looking back through times past. To long ago, when I was a lone parent, sole earner, and fulltime carer of a seriously ill child.
I worried all the time about everything. And I mean everything. About shoes, electricity bills, packed lunches, hospital emergencies, school trips and… In fact there was so much to worry about all the time, I didn’t know where or when to stop.
Life could easily have become too much.
In this sea of troubles, one thing kept me afloat: the world outside.
Suffolk is simply so beautiful that there isn’t a season when there isn’t something to look at and love and cause your heart to soar. From snowy days and the murmuration of starlings, to spring flowers and swallows nesting. Faint echoing cuckoos along the Deben – and then elderflowers with promises of cordial and champagne and days lengthening… followed by all the flowers and fruit and fun of summer, sea-swimming and late nights watching for meteor showers. The rich joy of autumn next, as you trek alongside fresh-cropped fields – revelling in golden tints and harvest moons and hints of frost. Then back to winter, with Orion ramping overhead, broadshouldered and brilliant in icy black night skies.
These things were – are – wonderfully there, all day every day; however lonely, or desolate or desperate I was feeling. A cycle of support and happiness on my doorstep. And all for free.
I walked weekly with kind friends and poured my heart out. In turn they too poured out their hearts to me. If my child was well enough to get to school, I might rush into the weather of outside, whatever it was, and walk alone as fast and far as possible, or get on my bicycle and make for the sea. If school sent her home as ‘too ill’, I took her with me and we shared joys together, bluebell woods, and blackberries and (one memorable rainy May) several nightingales singing in woodland down by the Deben.
She never once was the worse for it. More, these delights held us up when we might have fallen.
And, of course, in time life became much better.
There are many conditions for which medicines and medical intervention are – necessary, crucial, critical. But for many more, they may not always be the best answer. The difficulties I faced could have been addressed with pills, but for me the best prescription was – is – walking and being outside. To this day, I do my GP’s Health Walk (every Friday, Ufford Park, 9am. Open to all).
Others find their stress is diminished, or joy of life renewed by learning a new skill or language. Helping others. Dancing. Joining a group to campaign or raise funds. Singing their heart out. Gardening… (the list is endless).
‘Social prescribing’ is a matter of realising that while our NHS doctors are invaluable, the answer to some of our problems lies elsewhere. And often in our own hands.