It has taken me a while to share the details of my illness in my blog. I feel very exposed sharing, but know that by doing so, it may have the potential to help so many others. My illness was my motivation for choosing the vocation that I have, so consequentially, it has already helped many people whom I have since worked with.
It’s now coming up to nearly 8 years since my life slowed to a near halt. The hours, days, weeks and months passed painfully slowly, as I struggled from one bout of illness to the next, with the underlying coughs, colds, insomnia, asthma, chest and throat infections eventually being diagnosed as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) or chronic fatigue syndrome. After 10 months of trying to figure out what was wrong with me, it came as a relief to finally have a starting point to work from to start to get well and get my life back.
I’ve never been short of motivation or determination and this was a time when these really showed up by the bucket load. There I was with a baby and a toddler and I had a vision of a morbidly obese parent that was unable to play with their children at the park. I saw myself as the parent in that vision. The restrictions on my abilities and my health were going to stop me from fully enjoying my children growing up.
Currently it is estimated that some 250,000 people in Britain are affected by M.E. and every so often the media report of another suicide. It comes as no surprise to me that a new report has revealed there is a major suicide risk amongst ME sufferers.
The doctors were all at a loss as to how to help me (the medical profession poorly understands M.E.), so I decided to take things into my own hands. The realization that, as individuals, we alone are responsible for our own wellbeing has stuck with me ever since. There are many people living with M.E. and many that tell you that you can never recover. I can tell you that is just not true. It’s really important to never be restricted by other people’s thinking or opinions. Throughout my healing one quote always stayed with me “Your body’s ability to heal is greater than anyone has permitted you to believe.”
I started to research my illness whilst making connections between food, my immune system and my energy levels. I was and still am a voracious reader and so bedside reading was invariably about health or nutrition. Nutrition had become a keen interest of mine in the previous 3 or 4 years and so this seemed to be a logical place to look for answers. My research and learning continued without abandon throughout this time, as I was so inactive.
M.E. is still an illness that sadly has a question mark over it. Unless you have a very sympathetic doctor as I did, many still question whether it is real or attributed to psychological factors. As far as my understanding goes all illnesses have an element of psychological factors going on. The body is constantly changing its internal chemistry and regulatory systems from our thoughts. You just have to think of a really embarrassing moment that you’ve had and the ensuing bright pink cheeks that come with the blush.
Many studies and reports have assessed the psychological damage resulting from childhood abuse and lack of affection that have been further linked to an increased risk of ill health in adulthood. An UCLA-led study examined 756 adults who had participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. They measured 18 biological markers of health risk, including blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormones, cholesterol, waist circumference, inflammation and blood-sugar regulation. Individuals reporting low levels of love and affection and high levels of abuse in childhood had the highest multi-system risk in adulthood. Here is very clear evidence of psychological factors affecting health and certainly healing childhood abuse had a part to play in my healing journey too. Sadly abuse is more common than many realize and in the vast majority of M.E. cases I deal with in my clinic, invariably there has been childhood abuse or severe trauma.
I still find it strange that within the medical profession, there are many who think that what goes on psychologically is not relevant to what goes on in the rest of the body and that there is still so much stigma attached to anything to do with mental illness. It was hard to explain to friends and family how sick I really was at that time and as visually (initially) there was not that much to notice, people assumed that I was fine. The hardest part of interaction with people who didn’t understand were the repeated questions along the theme of ‘when was I just going to go to the doctors and get things sorted?’ As if some magic pill was going to make everything right again.
An illness has never felt so real and debilitating to me. I was chronically tired yet couldn't sleep. I had severe tinnitus that kept me awake nights, along with anxiety, depression and severe panic attacks. After my pregnancy my weight started dropping off drastically such that I was severely underweight 6 months after my son was born. I was constantly hungry and eating a lot of food that my body didn’t seem to be digesting. I hurt all over, my hair was thinning and falling out and my eyebrows were diminishing too, (a sure sign of adrenal and thyroid problems). I had heart palpitations, panic attacks and a whole list of other symptoms that do not make pretty reading. I was aggressive towards my husband and my temper would flare at the slightest thing. In one of my more lucid communicative moments my husband said he felt he was living with a Jekyll and Hyde character. One minute I would be completely fine and the next I would go crazy for no apparent reason. I felt so out of control I started self harming as it felt like I could at least control something.
We are all very different in terms of what our bodies find as easy nourishment, but determining what mine was, was key. I was so sensitive to food that once my diet was stripped right back I could easily judge how different food affected me. I removed anything that wasn't a pure ingredient. There were 2 key things to look for - how soon after eating did I feel hungry again? - how were my energy levels after eating? If I had a negative answer to either of these questions then the food was eliminated. It sounds crazy to even think it now, as it is so clear to me. Food is our fuel so the quality of it is paramount. My sole purpose was to figure out which foods gave me the greatest gain in energy without the body using too much energy to digest – it really was that simple. Feeling hungry soon after eating was a sign that my blood sugar levels had spiked after whatever I had eaten and so I became an expert on the food my body did well on and not so well on. Needless to say those energy robbers sugar, dairy, gluten and wheat were the first to go along with all food additives. My diet consisted of organic meat, fish, vegetables and nuts and seeds. Even legumes, fruit, white potatoes and gluten free grains proved too challenging initially and definitely no alcohol or caffeine.
Initially I struggled and fought against such a great change in my eating habits. I didn't have energy for anything, never mind a whole new way of eating. I really stuck at it though and started to see massive changes in my sleep and energy levels. The change in my health was so massive that I am now healthier than I was before I had M.E. It also inspired me to go on and do something I absolutely love, to help others in similar circumstances to recognize that food can be a major part of staying well and our emotions and thoughts play an equally important role too.
I admit that initially I ate this way under duress. Skip forward a few years and I LOVE eating this way. I have more energy, better skin, better hair, I sleep better, and my immune system is the strongest it has ever been. I can honestly say having M.E. was the best thing that ever happened to me, it was a much needed wake up call to make some drastic changes to my life. I no longer feel like I’m struggling through life, just surviving. My experience of life has never been so fulfilling as it is now.
If you feel you need help with overcoming an illness or just feel that your regulatory systems are out of balance then you can book me for a free 20 minute Skype consultation to discuss. Here is a link to the form where you can contact me:
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