If you’d told me twelve years ago that my life now would be like this, I would have laughed at you – except I wouldn’t – because I just didn’t have the energy for laughing – it would have been a weak smile instead…
Fourteen years ago I was in constant pain and barely had enough energy to roll over in my duvet and pillow-filled bed by myself. I was blessed to have amazing parents (and a wonderful sister!) who, despite me leaving home several years before, took me back in and took care of all my personal care needs – including obtaining a commode and all those ‘enabling’ gadgets that are so useful yet most of us so hate having to use.
But let me start at the beginning of ‘my story’. Until I was about five I was a pretty normal reasonably healthy little girl, normal life, happy family etc. When I was five I had a couple of nasty infections – no hospital, but lots of antibiotics and things that definitely left their mark.
When I was eight I had sinusitis and a flu-type illness. The symptoms of this changed and worsened and led to me having practically a whole year off school, spending much of that year in bed, often unable to walk due to the pain and fatigue and muscle weakness. Not unusually in the 1980s, I was labelled as having ‘school-phobia’ and ‘depression’ – even ending up in hospital for a week or 2 when things were at their worst. After about twelve months, when the hospital were discharging me from outpatients since they said there was nothing else they could do, one junior doctor diagnosed me with M.E. My first ‘label’ in this area.
As time went on, we learnt about pacing and avoided foods that seemed to make things worse and I gradually improved – a natural remission state I believe now. My sensitivity and stamina remained pretty low, but like many individuals with this condition, my natural instinct was determination to succeed and carry on despite whatever setbacks, so I continued my childhood and teenage years struggling somewhat, but ‘managing’.
To cut a long and very up-and-down story short, when I was sixteen I contracted another flu-type illness which transformed into severe pains of different kinds throughout my body, especially in my hands and legs. Coupled with the fatigue, brain fog and lack of balance etc, I was given a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and told it was unlikely to improve – and that I should ‘choose a stress-free career’…
I’m obviously an introverted rebel at heart, since this didn’t deter me from applying to Medical School for a career in that ‘so stress free’ field of medicine! The following years were quite challenging, with my health pretty up and down, but I did manage to complete my Medical training and pass my final exams (well, just – I was pretty unwell during finals and a couple of friends literally had to half-carry me to the exam hall).
After a year’s working as a Junior Doctor in Nottingham, I was given a place on a GP training scheme in Lincolnshire. I already knew that I wanted to treat my patients as holistically as possible, so General Practice seemed the obvious choice.
In June 2002, I woke up one day aching all over, with a stiff neck, swollen glands and a fever. This was the start of my worst period of ME / CFS. After seven days in bed with a fever and ‘proper flu’ symptoms, the fever subsided and the myriad of symptoms we have all come to know (yet definitely not love!) suddenly returned with a vengeance. The next couple of years are a bit of a blur. At my worst, I was completely bedbound, barely able to speak or communicate, with the constant diversity of pain throughout my body, almost welcoming the severe brain fog that stopped all the negative and often suicidal thoughts from chasing round my mind. After about 6 months of getting so severely ill, I remember thinking that my family was the only good thing left in my life. I’m eternally grateful for their love and support, since over the course of a few months I felt I’d lost everything else – my long term relationship (he just couldn’t cope with me being ill), my job, my career, my flat, all my savings, as well as many of my friends – who were mostly medics who didn’t really believe or certainly couldn’t understand about this weird condition I had…
As is usually the case, I had bad days and better days – bad patches and better patches.
So now to the most significant part of my story – how did I go from being so completely wiped out and functioning at minimum levels, to leading the life I’m enjoying and so grateful for today?
Like many people with this condition, I’d tried so many things by this point – various drugs – whose side effects I just couldn’t deal with, even at the lowest doses, Reflexology, Homeopathy, CBT, Chinese Herbs – to name but a few! Occasionally I received a little symptomatic relief, though often these therapies and treatments just precipitated what I now recognise as a ‘healing reaction’ or ‘detox reaction’, which made me feel even worse!
So for me the first major step came with a strong feeling that I wasn’t getting enough oxygen into my body! (I’ve since found there are numerous studies demonstrating low oxygen levels in individuals with ME / CFS – and others showing how well symptoms can improve by improving said oxygen levels. Check out our Oxygen and M.E. / CFS page here).
This overwhelming sense of oxygen being ‘key to kick starting my recovery’, led me to obtain an Activated Oxygen device (different from traditional oxygen therapies, really preferable in ME / CFS, since it avoids oxygen toxicity and worsening of the condition), which helped improve the oxygen levels within my body, whilst aiding detox and having a strong ‘anti-oxidant’ effect within my cells. The effects of this were huge (not a miracle cure, though it certainly started to turn my life around!) and included me feeling as if I was starting to get my brain back again (I felt my IQ had been halved upon becoming ill). This, coupled with increased energy levels, meant I was able to start researching why oxygen might be so important in ME / CFS – and what else was relevant. Little by little I started to piece together information from others’ research and my own intuition and experience that led me to develop a ‘model’ of the cause and development of ME / CFS – and subsequently a model for recovery – through addressing the relevant causative aspects in an accessible, comprehensive way.
It’s important to note that even once I felt I’d worked out all the pieces of my ‘jigsaw’, that it wasn’t a smooth and sudden return to health for me – I still had ups and downs and quite often it did feel like ‘two steps forward, one step back’ (NB the more I work with others, the more I observe this same pattern – so don’t be discouraged if you feel you’re not recovering as ‘fast’ or as smoothly as you’d like. It’s taken a very long time for your body to get into the state it’s come to, so it will take a long time to get everything in place for a sustainable return to health!)
Eventually though, I reached a point where I really felt I was ‘free’ of the M.E. / CFS / Fibromyalgia – and a couple of life tests that proved that to me were a throat infection in 2013 (previously would have wiped me out for weeks or months) which was quite nasty and made me feel really rough for a few days – but then I got better!! No longer term effects or relapse! The other big test to me was conceiving our daughter and giving birth, without any pharmaceutical pain relief (despite 63 hours of contractions and 24 hours of back labour). Even this did not trigger me back into M.E. / CFS / Fibromyalgia symptoms – and I am so grateful!
Over the past few years I have been honing the recovery programme that I used for myself, working with individuals in a very personalised and (safe) experimental way, to bring together all the key pieces of the jigsaw for Optimum Health. The Jigsaw is continually evolving, yet I believe we’ve now got it to a state which is clear and accessible for anyone looking to improve their health naturally, with sufficient content and options to be effective in allowing individuals to bring about their own happier, healthier lives!
I look forward to talking with you!