There’s no better way to feel closer to our town than getting to know our neighbours
Originally from West Bromwich, local lady Sarah Diane Caddick moved to Felixstowe and despite suffering from ME she has mastered the ability to make the most out of life and staying active with all the things she’s passionate about.
We met Sarah to find our about her new poetry book, how she copes with ME and two new kittens!
Tell us how you came to Felixstowe and what you love the most about the town?
I moved here in 1988 when I was in my 20s, to start teaching at a local school. I love Suffolk; the flat countryside, the estuaries, the pretty little villages, and especially the sea.
Felixstowe is a lovely friendly town. So many good plays you can go to, Music in Felixstowe, just so many things. And Susan Hawkes’ amazing plays. So many drama groups. It’s a small enough town to be friendly but just so much going on as well. It’s so lovely that the sea has so many different areas and sections to it that have their own feel to them, like the ferry and the Spa gardens.
You’re a teacher, tell us about your career in teaching?
I studied in York for my BA Hons in Drama and French and later decided to train to be an infant teacher. So I got my PGCE in Northampton and specialised in one of my greatest loves, music.
When I arrived in Felixstowe, I taught in a local school for a total of 14 years. There I taught all subjects but was mainly in charge of music, playing piano and flute. I also read poetry to my pupils and encouraged them to do their own creative writing.
I particularly adore working with children because I love how they’re in the moment and have a fresh view. I also love playing and having fun. When I was very ill with ME, my friends’ children used to sit on the bed with me and we used to share and read books together. It was always lovely.
Why did you stop teaching?
After struggling with ME for several years I sadly had to take medical retirement.
It must be something for someone who is so used to an active lifestyle, how did life change?
I began writing poetry at an early age and was always encouraged by my parents. I won my first poetry competition at 5 years old. I find poetry is a wonderful therapy for expressing feelings and encouraging healing through finding your own truth. During the last 25 years there have been some periods when the emotional ups and downs of my relationships and my health have inspired my poetry more than ever. For several years when I had to spend a lot of time in bed, unable to walk or even read more than a few lines, poetry writing became even more important to me. It was one of the few hobbies that I could still pursue. I find that it helps me to express my frustration and transports me to another world, inspired by the beauty of nature, love and my spiritual beliefs.
Can you tell us about your poetry book?
It’s called Loving from the Soul and is full of poems that are a journey though some of the highs and lows of my life and my illness during the last 25 years. Some poems are factual and others are fictional, inspired by someone or something, whether it is the thrill of falling in love, the pain of separation or jealousy, the frustration of illness, or the feeling of spiritual peace.
For all of us, life is a roller-coaster with its ups and downs, but I decided to turn this into poetry. When we open our hearts to love, we become vulnerable. We can be hurt and feel intense pain, but it’s only by opening ourselves to love that we can experience wonderful magic of intimacy and closeness with another. Maybe the answer lies in the connection to the deep spiritual love of the Universal God. When we experience loving another from this vast sea of unconditional love, maybe we are loving from the soul?
I hope that my poems resonate with my readers’ experiences of love and life. I hope they bring comfort or inspire someone, or maybe just bring a smile to their face.
My dear cat, Pebble, died a couple of months ago at 21 (nearly 100 in human years), a loyal faithful companion and I’ve dedicated the poetry book to her.
That’s lovely. You have two new kittens now!
Yes, now I’ve got Roman and Sparkle my two new black kittens. I’ve named them as such because I met them on 5th November so they’re firework names. In recent months my health has improved considerably so I felt I could take care of Roman and Sparkle with the help of my partner, Brian and my family. It’s very physical work to have these two! No regrets though. The house doesn’t feel a home without a pet. And with ME I find that they’re a positive distraction.
What is ME?
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) as it is often called is a long-term condition characterised by a whole range of neurological symptoms and signs. You can feel like you haven’t slept for days and you have severe flu. It’s like an all-encompassing exhaustion with wooziness, brain fog, nausea, digestive problems, headaches, burning muscles… But different people have different symptoms and combinations of these symptoms. The fatigue in ME/CFS is post exertional, often delayed and quite unlike fatigue experienced by healthy people.
ME is still a misunderstood condition. I’ve been very lucky and my family and friends have really supported me. Some people don’t have that. My mum and step-dad live nearby and I’m very lucky that they give me a lot of support physically and emotionally.
At it’s worst, I was severely ill with it about 3-4 years. I couldn’t stand and I couldn’t even hardly sit up in bed. I had to be fed. I could only talk for a few minutes. I was like that for a few months.
It took two months before I could stand. It was 18 months before I could live on my own and then I had to have 3 carers a day. There are some people who have had ME so much worse. There are so many levels of it and so much in between. My friends and family know how bad it can be as they’ve known me when I’m fully well and at my worst. So they understand. It’s a fluctuating disease. Every day is different and it’s a hard condition to manage and pace.
How do you cope with the condition?
There are many things I do to help me. A while ago I wrote an article called, Capturing the Essence, which was published in the ME Association magazine. It’s all about how you can still find and re-create the ‘essence’ of an activity that you love. Find those things that you love about the activity, the things that make you feel happy, and recreate this in a way you can physically do. For example, I loved teaching, but not being able to do that now, my friends will bring their children over and we’ll read together. Or I love to performing drama and poetry, so I’ll read plays and poetry like a performance to my family and friends.
I used to be a keen swimmer and now I can do it again with a hoist. And in the sea floating about rather than swimming. There always ways you can adapt what you once loved to do. I’m very lucky to have a beach hut which makes it possible for me to stay out several hours as I can rest inside on a sun lounger.
I have a lot of interests like being part of the Felixstowe Community Choir, it’s wonderful to do that. I play the piano and like to play duets with friends at home when I have the energy. Flute takes a little more energy so don’t do too much of that. When I’m able I like to help with toddler singing in a local toddler group in Felixstowe.
I adore the theatre. Sometimes I only go for half the performance if I get tired. It’s the same with meals out, I have to leave halfway and ask for my meal to be packed for me to take away. But that’s the thing of capturing the essence; it’s all about adapting
everything so I can still do what I love. Many activities I love I have at my house, like poetry reading, plays, piano and Bridge. This way I can rest when I need to.
Pacing is so important with this condition. I have at least four rest/ relaxation periods a day. When I rest, I don’t tend to sleep but instead I focus on breathing and calming the body. Also I visualise the next activity I’m going to do, going well. I also use mindfulness meditation and Reiki.
I’m a very spiritual person and belong to a few spiritual groups. I was brought up Christian but I have a wide view of spirituality. I met some really lovely people from all over the world. None of these people have ME but it’s just being part of such a wonderful group and so supportive. Despite the ME, I actually have a very rich life in many ways.
I use Emotional Freedom Technique, an alternative treatment for physical pain and emotional distress. It’s also referred to as tapping or psychological acupressure. I’ve found that EFT works really well for me. Any long-term condition pulls you down so all these different techniques really really help. I also have Perrin technique from an osteopath and I use supplements and have a gluten free diet.
That’s really interesting. How have local people and services been to help support you?
Amazing! Felixstowe is truly amazing in this way. FACTS, (p.100) are absolutely brilliant. I don’t know what I’d do without them. I use them so much to meet friends on my powered wheelchair for a meal or going to the toddler group to help. They’ve even taken me to choir and also appointments. My life would be very different without them.
I also go to Positive Pals (p.104), the local Felixstowe support group. They meet once a month to support people with ME. And the Optimum Health Clinic which is London-based but are great at provided holistic treatment etc. The Optimum Health Clinic facebook page is a support group. There I get some great advice about handling ME.
I do hope that in reading this article, that people can get to understand ME more and those who might have it, can see how much more their life can improve despite the condition.
Absolutely! Finally, before you go, how can we get our hands on a copy of your book?
Loving from the Soul will be out by Christmas and if anyone would like to buy a copy, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
A contribution from the sales of this book will go to the Optimum Health Clinic Foundation which works to support, fund and lobby for research in ME, CFS and fibromyalgia.