It occurred to me the other day whilst I was sipping coffee and watching the birds on the veranda in Antigua (hehe…couldn’t resist throwing that in) that I never really said goodbye; or if not a goodbye (as I know me, and I will no doubt be milking talking about recovery for some time to come) but at least a see ya for now; at least a hey, I’ve finished the programme.
Since I last wrote, I have completed the final couple of sessions, which as you would expect, are about bringing everything together; about guiding you on how to continue your transformation to ‘normal’ life; about how to keep supporting the areas of recovery which may need a little extra work.
I liked the fact that I hadn’t been hung out to dry. Imagine: ‘well done on finishing session 40, it’s been great knowing you, goodbye and good luck!’ The offer of continued support if needed, the ideas for continuing the healing journey, the acknowledgement that we are all different and get ‘there’ in our own time, was like one big snuggly security blanket; a blanket you can get out if you ever feel the CFS chill sneak up on you.
For me, I am not sure I am completely ‘there’ yet – not all of me every second of every day (but jeez, who is?) But I am ‘there’ the majority of the time. And my life is simply so much better because of this programme; I feel like getting my pompoms out and giving them a good shake.
Peeling away the layers
It is easy to hope for the magic pill with a chronic illness; the desperation to feel better when you are extremely poorly is all-encompassing, suffocating. But inevitably, an illness which is so complicated and multifaceted does not have a magic cure. But it does seem to respond to a measured, investigative approach; a peeling away of layer after layer of disharmony in the body and mind; getting to the root cause of each facet of your version of this illness.
And my god, I have peeled those layers away – and because I have peeled one layer at a time I think I sometimes forget how much has changed. So please indulge me whilst I show off my last year; flaunt my peeling like Jordan in a bikini, or a desperate wanna be Celebrity Big Brother contestant:
Wow, look at what has changed
I now do circuit training four times a week and yoga once a week (I think I am fitter than most of my friends); I have started a new blog, done my first paid writing gigs, and I now spend about 15 hours a week doing writing related work; I have transformed our apartment into a palace; I have been to Tenerife, Malaysia, Edinburgh, Italy, Turkey, London, Tynemouth and Antigua; I have gone out IN THE EVENING; I can drink wine – moderately; I have been to the theatre, to the ballet, out for dinner, had friends to stay…shall I go on?
Yes, this reads a lot like a normal life doesn’t it? And maybe it is not totally normal yet (I am not ready, for example, to cope with a demanding full-time job) but it is a life which is not dominated by illness. It is my normal for now, and who knows what the future holds as I continue my transformation. I acknowledge that my body has been through a monumental breakdown over a long period, and I accept that my new life is different to my old life (the one that got me in this mess in the first place!), and new is good and exciting.
And yes, I won’t lie to you, there have been a few wobbles along the way, generally when I pick up a bug or a cold, but they come and go within a few days, and I carry on where I left off – I don’t descend into a three-month relapse. Whichever way I look at it, even with the wobbles, my life is completely different now.
What I have learnt
I have learnt so much on the programme and I’m thinking I might like to share some of that with you, it may even give a little nudge of encouragement to your own recovery journey. So, for what it’s worth, in no particular order, here are my favourite take aways:
Adopt a ‘do whatever it takes’ attitude
We are all different and each of our recovery journeys will be different, but we all need the same diligent approach: the willingness to look at recovery from every angle, the willingness to have all the tests to find out what needs fixing on a physical level, the willingness to make the necessary lifestyle changes, and the willingness to face up to our own role in this situation. And Chrysalis provides the perfect, structured way to do this: nothing escapes the nosey magnifying glass on this programme!
Somehow, even when it is hard (especially when it is hard) you have to nurture the belief that recovery is possible; this is the foundation of getting better, this is what drives you to keep going. For me this was about not reading any negative information on CFS, moving away from CFS chat rooms were the focus is on living with not getting better from, reading inspirational stories of people who have recovered, and hypnotherapy to keep my subconscious from sabotaging my good intentions.
Nutrition. Nutrition. Nutrition.
You can’t ignore it – ya gotta be good to yourself. You don’t have to be a saint (Green and Blacks people) but for most of us, having a good diet and supplement regime will help (and would no doubt help most ‘well’ people).
Kill the stress
For me, managing stress is absolutely key. I am a stress head and I have worked hard to control this part of me: meditation, hypnotherapy, affirmations, writing a journal and so on. And, learning to live in the moment more has been powerful for me too.
Moving away from the CFS identity
Not talking about CFS and switching the focus of your mind is also fundamental. It’s hard at first, but it pays off – the more you can talk about other things in your life, the more your mind is distracted, and the more your life moves away from being all about CFS; being able to see myself just as Karen, has been a big part of moving forward for me.
It’s okay to rest
Don’t be afraid to stop. It’s easy to associate wellness with a madly busy life, but guess what, normal well people often choose to do nothing; they most likely call it relaxing, enjoying it, savouring it.
Be prepared to go deep
Keep asking yourself the difficult questions: you know the ones, the ones that scare you, the ones that feel too big to think about, the ones that you shove deep inside of you.
Of course, there is more: I could write a book on the last 12 months (ooh…), but I think it’s time to wind up my ramblings, as interesting as they are. But I want to leave you with this: if I can do this, if I can make these changes to my life, then so can you. Because the truth is I don’t have any secret inner strength, I am just a girl, okay woman, doing my best – just like you can.
I am not paid to write these posts, I just write my truth – I didn’t know when I started this programme that this was how it was going to turn out (nor did Kelly when she gave me unsupervised access to the GYLB blog! Or maybe she did; maybe she just had enough faith in the programme…)
I hope my truth can give you hope, maybe even help nurture your own belief in recovery. Whatever stage you are at on your recovery journey, I wish you lots of healing love…
You can read more about my new life at The Reinvention Tour.