Feeling vulnerable

At work recently I have been looking at Thriving Places Wales, an index released last month that integrates 55 different measures to provide an understand of overall well-being in each local area. It is based on the Thriving Places Index, developed by Happy City (what an awesome name for an organisation!) for England. The idea of both of these tools is to shift the focus from traditional metrics like economic output and instead enable local decision-makers to understand and improve well-being.

All very cool stuff! But on a personal level, I was very interested to check out their Happiness Pulse tool. Everyone loves a good quiz – and this one comes with a promise to help you to ‘find ways to boost your happiness now and for the long term’. I don’t want to spoil it, so if you are interested go and take the quiz, and then we can discuss together.

For me, the area with most room for improvement was the ‘Connect’ section. I guess not surprising given I have recently moved to literally the opposite side of the world from all my closest family and friends. That’s not to say I feel totally isolated here, I have wonderful work colleagues in two cities and I have met lots of people through social netball and other events. The ‘Connect’ section asks about things like helping out your neighbours and feelings of closeness, which are all very important when something like this happens…

I fell awkwardly during netball and assumed I had sprained my ankle. The next day when I still couldn’t put weight on it, I tried to get a physio appointment, but turns out that is quite difficult here without a referral from a GP. I called the GP (thank goodness we had gotten around to registering with one a little while back!) but they said I would have to wait 4 weeks (!) for an appointment. I guess I sounded pretty distressed because they offered for the GP to call me back. Based on what I told her, the GP recommended that I take some paracetamol (umm…but I can’t walk?!). The GP also told me they have a limited number of walk-in slots, so I called at 8 am the next morning and nabbed one of those. I called an Uber to take me two minutes down the road (which felt ridiculous, but I had already fallen once that morning hopping and really didn’t fancy hopping half a kilometre down the road). I also didn’t even have a bandage (so you can see my lovely improvisation with a scarf above).

To cut a long story short, the GP sent me to the hospital Emergency Department where I had an x-ray and turns out I have fractured a bone in my foot (at least that explains why it was so painful!).

So what is the point of this long sad story?

I have felt homesick before, but never felt so isolated and overwhelmed. I cried on the phone to about five different health professionals on that first day, and then again at the GP, and then again at the hospital when getting across the waiting room to the toilet seemed just too hard. They all asked ‘is there anyone with you?’, ‘is there anyone that can help you?’, ‘is there anyone you can call?’. And that just made it so much worse, because everyone that I could think to call for help (including my boyfriend) were all at least a 24-hour plane ride away.

But! It could have been so much worse!

  • My job is pretty computer-based, so between medical stuff I was able to work from home while I couldn’t walk. For the next 6 weeks, it will be a pain to get around but at least I can still work.
  • Even though I am in a foreign country, I can at least speak the language. I think people get very used to their own context and assume that others will know ‘obvious’ things (I know I do this all the time with matters relating to sustainability). But when the GP directed me to go to the hospital, at least I could ask which hospital and how to get there (sounds like there’s only really one big hospital in Cardiff, and I guess everyone must know where it is).
  • I have people I can call (even if they are on the other side of the world). For example, when the hospital let me go without giving me any instructions on taking care of a broken foot, I was able to call my sister (who is a doctor) and double check with her what my internet research had told me.

On the weekend following this debacle, I was lucky enough to head along to the amazing TEDx Canton held at a pub just half a mile from my house (took me an hour to walk there though…). One of the speakers was the amazing Stepheni Kays, who spoke about her experience coming to Wales as an asylum seeker. You can see a short clip of it here (and check out the other speakers too!). I felt very humbled listening to her speak, and also slightly embarrassed at just how overwhelmed I had been in the previous two days when all I had to deal with was a fractured foot. It was something that I had already been thinking about anyway, but her talk really emphasised the importance of community and a strong social network in enabling individuals to thrive.

As it turns out, gadding about for the last few days with crutches and a massive plastic boot has been an excellent way to feel more a part of the community. Luckily we live just around the corner from some shops, so I was able to buy bread from the bakery and some fresh fruit and veg to eat (incidentally, I haven’t bothered make it to the supermarket so I have just been eating a lot or fresh produce which is very good from a zero waste perspective). On my little outings everyone is very helpful and friendly, I have had multiple people ask if I need assistance and lots of sympathetic comments.

​An old man with a walking stick even asked me if I wanted to have a race. He definitely would have won.

Related interesting links:

  • Alternative measures of prosperity are nothing new. Bhutan has been using Gross National Happiness for years.
  • The New Economics Foundation has suggested five indicators that would be more useful than GDP at measuring success in a national scale.
  • Action for Happiness is a global movement which ‘helps people take action for a happier and more caring world’. There are local groups in Australia and around the UK (and lots of other places!), you can find them all through the main site.
Back to Top