Kevin-Chunisingh-The Smile Files - Mental & Physical health

AN INTERVIEW WITH

Kevin Chunisingh

My name is Kevin, I live with my wife Becky in Burry Port, about five minutes away from the harbour. We moved to Wales in 2007 so we could spend more time outdoors, especially single track mountain biking at Afan Valley Mountain Bike Centre, kayaking and walking along the coast path. 

Since the age of 6 I have always been very active and fit, becoming Caribbean karate champion at age 10.

I consider health and movement two of life’s greatest gifts so when in 2009 I had an accident that left me paralysed from the chest down, my whole life changed.

I work for Carmarthenshire County Council part time, these days are long and exhausting  but I am lucky to work with supportive people and be able to earn a living. 

The rest of my time used to be spent exercising at home and my local gym. Despite being severely paralysed with no hand function and minimal arm movement, I was able to use specialist equipment to enable me to complete my exercises which are beneficial for my health and mobility.

Kevin painting in his living/dining/good times room

In 2014 I took up painting after I found a way to strap a paintbrush to my hand, having never painted before, and now I have my own Facebook page, Kevin Chunisingh Art  and one of my paintings was selected for exhibition in Caerphilly.

I have to choose weather I exercise or paint as both take a lot of time and effort plus I need a lot of hands on help.

In the last two years I have been spending more time painting and less on my exercises as I have progressively moved towards what I enjoy more.

One of Kevin’s paintings

Things that make me smile

I still enjoy being outdoors and exploring new places and Becky and I get out as much as we can. Discovering new places, especially accessible ones is always exciting as they are difficult to come by.

Finding paths through trees, a view point overlooking the ocean, an ancient oak, a wildflower meadow, anything that can spark a story or an idea for a painting and even if it does neither of these, just being present in an inspiring environment is always a good thing.

I also enjoy simple things; good food, a story, music, being safe and warm.

Kevin enjoys adventuring on the accessible beaches

Symptoms and triggers of decreased mental/physical health

Being paralysed I need help doing everything, so I am constantly surrounding by people, together with this I have constant pain, restricted movement, muscle tightness and then I cannot do the things or go to the places I really want to, so that is how my day starts. 

This can cause depression, irritability, anger, all the negative things that you could think off, you could easily be swept off into a dark world.

At the end of a work day, when I can barely sit upright, that sort of exhaustion can easily bring on negative emotions.

What can really trigger the mental battle is surprisingly, a bright warm day. These are the days I find the most difficult to cope with.

When I should be getting my paddle board out in Newgale and having a few hours in the water then going for a walk along the coast path to Solva, I have to sit in the car park and watch everyone else walk past me towards good times.

Every time I am out and about I could see many things that could trigger a negative reaction. Someone on a bike, someone running or even walking or how about this, eating an ice cream. As I do not have hand function, I cannot hold an ice cream cone.

When I first became disabled, I spent a lot of time being angry and depressed but I have found ways of coping. It does not always work, I still have a wobble every now and then but I am in a much better place.

Kevin on mountain bike and adapted chair/bike on Grizedale Forest Sculpture Trail

How I manage my wellbeing

Firstly and most importantly I have an extraordinarily supportive wife, without her I would be a mess. Together we are always looking for ways of enhancing and enriching our lives.

We changed our diet a few years ago to a plant based diet which I believe would benefit anyone wheelchair bound. 

Spending as much time as I can in or observing nature always calms mind chatter and relaxes me.

I have become more relaxed in my way of thinking

Being more present, enjoying now. I am still finding my way with this technique as I can get distracted.

I have always been ambitious so I use my painting as way to achieve. In the past I would never be satisfied with my paintings but recently I am recognising and appreciating my work. This has made me more relaxed and it makes the process more enjoyable. Having any kind of joy is a win so when I find it, don’t matter how small, I celebrate.

Being grateful for all the things that are good in my life. I find when you start to list the good stuff the list always gets longer and that helps when dealing with a negative situation.

I like to spend quiet time burning incense or using essential oils to relax. When I am relaxed I have more positive thoughts which leads to positive action.

To cope with the emotion of depression,the first thing I do is not to fight it. I look at it as a passer by, not react and let it run its course. This works well for me as I do not feel depressed often.

Finding support

If I had a considerable downturn in my mental health I would use whatever resources I had available to get help. I believe that having a healthy mind gives anyone a better chance at a good life.

3 things I feel are essential to sustain a positive level of wellbeing

  1. I have always believed that proper nutrition is the foundation of all aspects of health.

2. Being in a clean, safe positive environment, including being around positive people.

3. Expressing yourself, through music, art, dancing, writing, shouting or singing, just any vehicle that gets feelings out.

Many thanks to Kevin for taking the time to share his personal experience about physical and mental health with the West Wales community. We hope these stories will provide you with food for thought and inspiration to take positive action for your own wellbeing.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in The Smile Files interviews please click below for mental health support services in the UK and Wales

About The Smile Files

It’s a common misconception that those living a ‘happy life’ have been rewarded in some way. A large section of society experiences some form of physical or mental health challenge during their lifetime and we are keen to show our readers (via interviews with individuals and business leaders), that we ALL have the ability to manage and improve our wellbeing, through choices about how we think and the things we do.

We hope these stories provide food for thought and inspiration to instigate positive action in your own life.

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  • Heather Bullock
    February 9, 2019 at 10:20 am

    My sister in law sent me the link to read all about life seekers in Wales.
    I live inCambridge.
    Thankyou for writing about your life the things you can do the things you can’t.
    I have a friend who is coming to have supper with me tonight who has been suffering from depression and terrible anxiety.

    I will let him read the positive things you do to help yourself.
    I really think it will help
    I would love you to bring your paintings to Cambridge so we could come a view them.
    Thankyou Kevin you are an inspiration to us all.
    Love Heather

    • Life Seeker
      February 9, 2019 at 11:03 am

      Hi Heather, Thanks for taking the time to comment and we’ll alert Kevin of your feedback. He’ll be very pleased to know his story has had a positive impact on others. Note the link to his Facebook page where you can contact him directly. Thanks for following Life Seeker 😉

    • Kevin Chunisingh
      February 10, 2019 at 5:36 pm

      Thank you Heather for taking the time to comment. I appreciate your support, and maybe one day I will bring some paintings to Cambridge! All the best to you and your friend.
      Kevin

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