Your Age



large photo by Beverly Couper

I’ve been doing some writing for another publication. I can’t publish it here because it’s exclusive to them, but if they choose not to use it, I’ll be popping it up for you to see. I enjoyed writing it so much!

It’s all about curves and confidence, and the circuitous path it took my soul to find a way for both to exist simultaneously in my world. When I was younger, I had no idea that curves would eventually be such a useful part of my self-esteem. I had no idea that the things I hated about my body would become things that I celebrate. How did that happen? How did I get from self-loathing to self-loving?

I had a massive reality check in the experience of living with Pandysautonomia.  A gift of sorts, in the way that all the most memorable life learning can be simultaneously painful, difficult and uplifting.

It made me realise that there are body issues which transcend the petty concerns of comparison. It made me feel the sting of all the time I had wasted on self-criticism, there in front of the mirror, thinking about all the ways people would disapprove of my dimensions. So ridiculous. Mum used to tell me when I was a teenager, that most of the time, other people wouldn’t even be thinking of what my body looked like. That it was a kind of vanity to assume they were. I was convinced there must be others like me. That they were studying every other like-aged-girl to see what was ‘normal’, hoping that they could become it by studying it in all its minutae.  Hoping to find the magic code for ‘cool’ so we could programme ourselves to be so.

I couldn’t be. I was far too tall and generous of beam to ever fit the narrow-hipped, slim legged archetype of the eighties fashion teen; those oversized tops and legwarmers only looked good on petite little things. I didn’t yet understand that being a six foot tall woman required a certain level of bravado. That you need to own your height, your wiggle.  That the most uncool thing of all isn’t wearing a home-made dress, but being a mouseling in a giantess’ body. I had no idea that confidence and ease are the symptom of a simple choice you make. To accept your unique self, no matter how different you are to the established norm. Being free within your own expression of DNA to be your own kind of beautiful.  I wish I’d known that back then.

I could have done a lot with my gorgeous young self that was left undone, all because I didn’t understand. No amount of wishing, dieting, exercising, hoping, slouching, yearning or moping was ever going to change the facts.

I am a giantess.

Fast forward to my middle age… I’m so proud of being built this way. My size has become a bankable commodity since I started plus-size modelling last year. My confidence comes from finally getting it. I’m this person. Who you see is me. All of me. I wear my love of cake in my curves. I wear my love for people in my smile and the wrinkles around my eyes. And I wear my heart on my sleeve, because that is just who I am. No filter. No problem.

Some people love these things about me, and others don’t… and that’s no problem too. I can’t change a thing about it.  I’m happy, at last, in my own skin. Happy to be who I am, in a body that functions. Happy to be surrounded by people I love and to know that above all things, that’s the most beautiful thing of all. He tangata. Happy to be the age I am. To know the things I know. To leave behind me the pointless self-flaggelation of living to the standards of others. It’s a kinder, freer way to live. It makes space within my noisy head for more useful thoughts… the sort that create and feed and nurture me. Building me up to do the same for others.

I’m starting a hashtag across my social media, because I think we don’t celebrate nearly enough, all the ways that age can be ‘becoming’ to women. I’m all about the notion that beauty is relative to your soul, and sometimes, that takes a long time to understand. How are you letting age become you? What are you noticing about yourself that you finally GET, that you didn’t appreciate about yourself when you were younger?


Give it a crack, Jack. Part two: Dealing with Dysautonomia

Today I am interviewing Glyn Flutey.  Glyn is an Osteopath.  I credit the work he does with me for keeping me more mobile; for making it possible for me to still drive, climb my stairs and walk short distances.  If I ever skip an appointment with Glyn, my body becomes so much harder to live in.  I don’t know a better way of describing it.

Earlier this morning I was waiting in Glyn’s beautiful little waiting room.  It always smells divine.  I like to arrive a little early so I can enjoy the space.  He always has a stack of interesting magazines, there is good music playing and the muffled sounds of laughter under the door from his treatment room. I have never seen a patient come out from a session with Glyn without giving him a warm hug of thanks, laughter and a breezy farewell.  He is one of those practitioners who makes everyone feel special.  Not just because he does a good job at making your body feel better. Somehow, through the generosity of his personality, his time, his energy; he makes all of you feel better. He’s a thoroughly lovely person and seeing him feels like a mix between seeing a friend, seeing a therapist and having a body tune up. He’s just lovely. He agreed to do this interview so that those of you who don’t know about the benefits of osteopathy can have an inside view.

Me: Glyn, can you define the practise of Osteopathy for me?
Glyn: It’s a manual therapy approach where you use your hands to assess, diagnose and treat the body. It’s a holistic approach to wellbeing.  Everything is assessed and considered; body, mind and spirit.  We aim for a balance between the three. The practitioner takes a careful and responsive approach to the needs of the patient on the day, whilst taking into account the longer term plan.

Me: How does someone become an Osteopath in New Zealand?
Glyn: There is only one pathway in New Zealand. It’s a 5 year course (three year Undergraduate and two year Masters of Osteopathy) at Unitec.  Once you’ve finished that you need to register with the Osteopathic Council of New Zealand. It’s an annual registration and requires compulsory continuing professional development.

Me: For patients with autonomic dysfunction, what can Osteopathy provide?
Glyn: Support. Your body is struggling with so many facets of dysfunction. It is understandable that you will have aches and pains, tight muscles and tension. When your musculoskeletal frame is under pressure, it is harder for the nervous system to get messages where they need to go. Osteopathy irons out the wrinkles and promotes healthier function within the body as a whole.

There are many patients with features of various illnesses for whom the dots have not yet been joined. If you have autonomic dysfunction, you may not know the whole story about why.  It is necessary to sit down with your osteopath and put everything on the table.  You need to establish where the osteopath can meet your needs.  What is happening with your body? What are you thinking would be helpful? How do you feel about it all? Dysautonomia can be a fluctuating health scenario as the body strives for homeostasis.  So the patient needs to establish fairly early on with their Osteopath, what they are looking for.  

For example, I help you (Rachel)  by making sure that areas of musculoskeletal restriction are reduced.  I remove any impediments to normal musculoskeletal control.  Such as tight muscles, muscle imbalances, reduced circulation due to reduced physical activity.  When you feel sluggish, I can reduce that feeling.  Patients with autonomic dysfunction or any number of other health issues report feeling invigorated after a session.  Lighter.  Musculoskeletal problems can creep up due to postural demands, physical undertakings or the amount of time patients may need to be in bed. These problems can create pain and discomfort.  Pain and discomfort can trigger the sympathetic nervous system. In turn, for you, exacerbating the symptoms of Dysautonomia.  Osteopathic therapy can reduce the stress load.

And I listen to you.  You catch me up with what is happening on your health journey, we discuss the big picture, we talk about your family, our mutual friends.  We laugh a lot.  If you are particularly tired, I adjust the way the therapy will work for you that day, keeping in mind always, the big picture.  I aim for you to feel better when you leave than when you came in.  I help to maintain your structural, visceral and mental frameworks.  And then you are more able to cope with your illness experience.

Me: I notice that I can see better after a session.  Why is that?
Glyn: Your vision can be impaired by your reduced capacity to breathe, which is due to the fatigue. You can’t fill your lungs so well which reduces the oxygen to the brain and oxygenation of the body in general. So after osteopathic treatment, your breathability improves. Secondly if there are any restrictions in the neck this can give a localised reduction in blood flow.  You’re not alone, this post-adjustment vision improvement is quite a common phenomenon in many patients. 

Me: Tell us about the Visceral Massage?
Glyn: Visceral massage is a way to release tension in and around the internal organs.  Patients report increased motility and a sense of lightness after visceral massage. Part of the work of osteopathic therapy, is about making sure you have adequate nerve conduction/communication to the organs that support bodily funciton.  It’s all well and good to have the motor nerves functioning, but increasing the efficacy to the viscera is an important part of the therapy.

Visceral Massage is a massage-like release of tension in the abdominal area.  The osteopath works on the diaphragm for maximising breathing capacity as well as the muscular tension in the abdominal muscles.  The intestines are formed of smooth muscle which can hold tension which leads to restriction of movement.  Perhaps you have postural compression of the abdomen from prolonged sitting, that can reduce blood supply and some capacity to function. You might feel an uncomfortable pulling and a tightness in your tummy. Visceral massage addresses this imbalance.  These methods have been promoted mostly by the French. 

I think not enough of the osteopathic profession in this part of the world do visceral work.  

Me: Glyn, I am conscious that your approach is very holistic.
Glyn: Yes, this is usually the more difficult aspect of being an osteopath.  Some osteopaths are technically proficient but lack the empathy required to offer a comprehensive support to patients. They don’t get it.  Understanding that an ever changing balance is required. On a visit by visit basis.   Listening is the start.  Not telling them that they should be feeling this or that but drawing out from them what’ going on and using that to formulate your approach.  Everyone has their own opinion and approach, but one of the criticisms I have is that Osteos sometimes do what they like doing most, with regards to techniques, but this doesn’t reflect the needs of their patients as fully as it should.

Me: So is that what it takes to be an effective Osteopath?
Glyn: You have to like people.  Part of that is, you have to like yourself. To be grounded enough to then be able to help someone else.  You have to be in a good space to be able to offer perspective and relevance to help others. That’s a strict responsibility but also, a relief.  You have to look after yourself, to not be hypocritical in your therapy.  People don’t respond to hypocrites. And it’s about valuing your patients.  When they know they are valued and listened to, you can be responsive to what they need to achieve.  I aim to keep my patients going.  Not just maintenance, purposeful and directed therapy to address their real needs.

Me: What sets Osteopaths apart from Chiropractors and Physiotherapists?
Glyn: Osteopathy, done properly, is more comprehensive.  It just is. Other disciplines don’t always spend long enough with their patients to garner enough information to provide a comprehensive picture, nor are they interested in that. Only when you know the patient you can treat them effectively; the whole person.
Physios treat symptoms.  It is symptom abatement.  As is most western based medicine, whereas Osteopathy is more holistic.  We follow the Osteopathic Principles.  We consider prevention, symptomatic relief, and maintenance.
In my opinion some osteopaths and chiropractors can be too superficial with their approach and express more interest in making money out of their patients than should be socially acceptable.  Some  charge more than $400 per hour by seeing as many patients as they can in short order. That’s expensive treatment that doesn’t always balance well with results and reasonable access to health care.

In my practice, If a visit is not covered by ACC it’s $150 per hour.  All properly registered Osteos are ACC approved and can also work with private health insurers.

Osteopathic Principles

Me again: Osteopathy has become a mainstay therapy in my fight against Dysautonomia.  I’ve tried almost every complementary therapy there is.  But Osteopathy addresses the practical aspects of how to cope that are so often overlooked by conventional Western Medicine.  Without regular osteopathy, I would not be functioning as well as I am.

I am very grateful to you Glyn, for your professional, caring approach to my wellbeing.  My body, (my mind and my soul) thank you!  Thank you also for giving me the time it took to do this interview.   🙂