I’m not going to lie to you, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a devil of an illness to have. It comes into your life like a storm and completely tornadoes over every part of who you are and what you live for. Although, it can also be a blessing in disguise.
If someone had told me 3 years ago that my endless amounts of energy would expire and I would be forced to live a completely different life, I would never have believed you. My life was fantastic, I had everything at my fingertips and was heading down the path I always dreamed of. Or so I thought.
Fast-track to the present day and here I am and quite frankly I would not change anything that has happened nor the onset of this supposed ‘chronic’ illness for the life of me. Why? Because it has taught me so much about myself, people and life that I could never have discovered if it wasn’t for the path I was led down by Chronic Fatigue.
The amount of wisdom and knowledge it has provided me with is beyond any book I could have read nor any amount of studying I could have done. This experience truly has provided me with so many life lessons and for that I am so very grateful.
- To live in the present Before I became unwell, I was always rushed and never stopped to take things in. I didn’t make time for others or getting to know them, I was oblivious to the beauty of the world that surrounded me and my brain was always thinking to the future rather then focusing on the present moments. I was too caught up in this busy, fast-paced lifestyle that so many of us are accustomed to in today’s society. However when Chronic Fatigue hit me, I was literally forced to stop and take notice of things. These days instead of ignoring the wonder of things around me, I take time to stop to smell the roses (literally), breathe in the fresh air of nature and talk and listen with love to the people that matter in my life. I take pride in my ability to embrace my surroundings and savour in every moment rather then being anxious about what is to come.
- To be more compassionate and empathetic I hate to say it, but prior to getting Chronic Fatigue I was very self-absorbed. I didn’t really care much about others nor did I bother taking time out to listen to their needs or problems- I was too focused on my own. It wasn’t because I was not a good person, but more because I was just too time-poor and over-ambitious. When Chronic Fatigue struck, over time my mindset began to adjust. With lower energy I found myself talking less and listening more enabling me to learn more about others and their worries or concerns. I began to understand the hardships of others and with my own personal experiences managing Chronic Fatigue, I was able to relate more to their stories and build better relationships as a result. I am thankful to say because of this I have gained some deep and loving friendships and relationships that I treasure very close to my heart.
- To be more confident When your body starts attacking you, draining all of the life out of you and robbing you of your mental and physical energy, you begin to look and feel like crap. When I first got sick I felt bloated all the time, my skin began to break out badly and I felt as though I had the flu 24/7, complete with aching muscles and horrible shivers. I had always struggled with my self-esteem and confidence, especially after having acne, freckles and being bullied as a kid, but the moment all of this started happening in my body, things plummeted further sending me into a state of deep depression. Despite it being a very cyclical journey, through the process of meditation, reading tons of self-development books and practising affirmations I have grown to completely love myself and be confident in the skin I am in. I may not be Angelina Jolie or have the body of a Victoria’s secret model but I am comfortably me and for that I am beyond happy.
- It is okay to be unwell The most challenging thing I faced when I first got sick was actually accepting that I was unwell. My body knew something wasn’t right but for so long my mind was fighting it, trying to convince me that nothing was wrong and to keep going. I knew that if I accepted it somehow it would make things real and I would be perceived as weak, incompetent or even lazy by others. I worried what my friend’s and family would think. I fought this for so long that I truly believe it jeopardised my recovery process. When I finally let myself become vulnerable and accept the illness, I began to see things from a new standpoint and created the platform I needed to enable myself to recover. These days I am able to openly talk about my experiences with Chronic Fatigue in order to educate and help others going through illness or hardships.
- That health is the most important thing I cannot emphasise this point enough! As somebody that used to absolutely thrash their body, despite eating healthy and exercising, a holistic lifestyle is the most important gift you can give yourself to retain a good quality of life. When your health is out of alignment, everything else collapses- your job or career, family and relationships, financial situation and ability to travel and do things you love. Trust me, I have been there. Treat your mind and body like a temple. Eat healthy, wholesome foods, stay active, do yoga and stretching daily, see a medical professional when you have a health concern, avoid stress, practice mindfulness and most importantly listen to your body. When you have a healthy, happy mind and body the rest of your life is harmonious.
- The simple things in life are the most important ones When you are completely stripped of everything in your life, you truly do come to value what is really important. When I got Chronic Fatigue I lost the ability to work my dream job, study at university or do any of the things I once enj0yed doing such as exercising or socialising. Consequently not only was I stripped of my energy, but my financial freedom and the things that once defined me, which didn’t leave me with much. Or so I thought. In the process of my recovery, and through the power of mindfulness and daily gratitudes I came to find that I was in fact infinitely rich in what really mattered. I had a wonderful, supportive network of family and friends, a bed to sleep in at night, fresh, clean water and food and some money for the necessities, there wasn’t really much more that I needed. Material things could never compensate for how whole I felt when I realised this fact.
- It is okay to ask for help Asking for help definitely sounds easier then it is. As a self-confessed independent woman, losing my ability to be self-sufficient and work was definitely a feat to get my head around. Eventually though I was left with no choice. I had to suck up my pride and reach out to both my mum and my dad for support and at times had to lean on my partner to help get me through the hard times. I realised that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness or loss of independence, it is simply depending on those you love when you need them and in turn doing the same for them when they need you. It is the test of any true relationship.
- You don’t have to be perfect at everything This is coming from a former type-A perfectionist, so you best believe it. As someone who has always strived to get the absolute best results in everything and nothing less, I essentially burnt myself into the ground with this mentality. I wanted to be the best personal trainer, the best salesperson and get all high distinctions in my university course all while trying to be the best girlfriend, have the perfect body and having the most presentable and cleanest apartment. Eventually, my OCD and perfectionist ways backfired and instead of being able to be the best I had to learn to prioritise where to focus my energy. I learned, with the help of a specialist that I worked with, that it is okay not to be the best at everything and to just settle for what I can do with the energy and stamina I have got. In this process I also discovered that perfectionism was a way of trying to mask my lack of self-worth and when I worked on building my self value, I was able to let go of my perfectionist habits.
- To be patient Patience was never my strong point. I always wanted everything and I wanted it to happen now not later. Instead of completing one thing and then moving onto another, my impatience caused me to do everything all at once. Of course, this is another contributing factor which led to my eventual burnout and Chr0nic Fatigue Syndrome onset. It became more obvious when I got Chronic Fatigue as instead of just letting my body slowly work through healing, I tried to force myself into getting better by taking a plethora of different supplements and following many different treatment regimes. It wasn’t until I spoke to a specialist that I realised the only way I was going to get better was one factor: TIME. After it’s extreme burn out, my body needed time to heal back to a level of normality and a journey that would require a degree of patience from myself. These days, I am much more stable and tolerant, enjoying taking each day as it comes in my recovery process and focusing on slowly working towards my goals and ambitions. I know that great things will happen in time.
- The importance of self love Self love is so important and it wasn’t until my recovery from Chronic Fatigue, I realised how much I lacked in that department. For years prior I had subdued myself to self-criticism and low self-worth to the point where I felt the opposite for myself- complete self-hate. I lacked confidence and had poor self-esteem which subjected me to avoiding many great opportunities in life and constantly quitting things instead of following them through. It also drove me to the point of perfectionism. It wasn’t until I consulted with a Psychic that I truly realised what I needed to get better, complete and utter self-love. Instead of sabotaging my recovery telling myself how hopeless and unworthy I am, I began knuckling down to the root cause of my issues and practising positive affirmations to overcome these limiting beliefs. Particularly after the break up from my ex-partner of 3 years, I was able to completely focus 100% on me and showing myself all the love that I usually had given out to others and deprived myself of. Together with my affirmations, healthy eating and regular meditation, I reignited all of my passions, going to the gym, playing cricket, writing, enabling me to find the self that I loved so much. Now I can happily say that most days, I love myself immensely. Sure I still have that niggling bit of criticism or self doubt that sometimes appears but the majority of the time I feel happy, loved and comfortable in the skin I am in.
Whatever journey we are going through in life, I am sure that we all have valuable lessons to take away. In my personal experience, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was not imposed upon me because I was being punished or had done something wrong, it simply happened to teach me some amazing things that I had previously been too ignorant to see.
I now understand with more clarity why this happened to me and despite the hardships I faced suffering from this chronic illness, would not change what has happened nor what I have learned for the world. I am a wiser, more valuable and loving person because of it.
There are still many lessons to be learned in life, but for this chapter I am coming out the other side with a whole new wonderful perspective on my own life and the world. I have so much to look forward to in the future and am completely enthralled for what lies ahead.
Sometimes life takes us down the path we least expect, but in doing so teaches us the greatest lessons in life. It is these lessons that define us and transform us into the greatest person we can be.
Love to you all on your journey of learning and self-discovery.
Peace and love
– The Soulful Wanderer