This post is dedicated to the lovely and fabulous Sonia- I hope it helps in some way, my darling.
Recently, I’ve been receiving lots of emails about why I decided to call my blog ‘Conquering Fear Spiritually – CFS’. You all know that the reason I started blogging was to support CFS sufferers in their journey and recovery and build up a community, but there’s also another big reason.
I realised last year, and have been having random realisations ever since, that my illness may well have been triggered by fear. I know this probably sounds like absolute rubbish, but please hear me out. Around the time I came down with ME/CFS, there were a lot of crazy things happening in my life. On looking back at this event, I can pinpoint almost to the date exactly when I became ill with CFS and in the same vain, when I felt I had more-or-less recovered from it. Unfortunately, the period of recovery spans about 10 years, but please remember that everyone is different and everyone has their own specific needs during recovery.
My CFS Recovery Story
I was always one of those people at school who was involved in everything. A straight ‘A’ student, homework always in on time, member of the athletics and netball teams, member of the choir, orchestra, chamber choir, member of the debating team, school play, school council- you name it, I was probably involved. I often look back at this time and feel absolutely baffled by the amount of time and energy I must have been using, but I never thought about it. However, when I was 17/18, I had a constant colds. My nose was dripping, I had a scratchy throat (not so great for a singer) and never felt completely well. My English Literature teacher convinced me to try some echinacea tablets and I have to say they did the job. But the moment I stopped taking them (apparently, you’re only supposed to use them for a few weeks at a time), I was right back to square one.
Another incredibly emotional and stressful experience of my life was when I was choosing what to do at University. Music was my favourite subject, I loved singing, I love playing instruments, I loved Music history- Music was my life. This was always what I was going to go on to do and all my friends knew this. When I spoke to my parents about it though, my choice wasn’t welcomed as openly as I’d thought it would be. In the interests of wanting to ensure my security, my parents thought that studying French and German (another of my passions) would open up more avenues for employment. After debating with them about this, and realising that not only did I not want to teach Music, but generally had no clue about what I’d do with it, I decided to go with languages. However, I knew deep down, that music was my calling. I knew it. I actually think my parents knew it too, but wanted me to be financially secure and have employment opportunities.
So I applied for Languages and pushed all thoughts of studying Music to the back of my mind. I still performed, but I’d resigned myself to the fact that Languages would be the safer choice. The summer after I finished school, I kept blacking-out, ended up in hospital on drips (in Italy!), had terrible insomnia, had low blood sugar and was generally pretty unwell. To be honest, I think my body was done-in. But I kept going, because when you’re just about to start a new life experience at University and all your school friends are doing the same, that’s what you do.
3 months into my course, I woke up one morning and literally couldn’t move. No finger twitches, no toe movement- nothing. I couldn’t even open my eyes. Passing it off as flu, I stayed where I was for the day, thinking that I’d be better in the morning. The next morning came however and I was the same. This happened for weeks, and I genuinely thought I was going mad. I truly believed that something had flicked in my brain and I needed counselling or help of some kind.
When I was forced to leave Uni because I couldn’t go to class and was incredibly ill, I went home with my parents. The day they came to pick me up, I was still lying in bed. I’d barely managed to pack and I was so ashamed to be leaving. Little by little, over the next few months, my Mum got me a job in her school on reception two days a week and I was so proud of myself for managing two days.
Fast forward a few months and I went back to Uni- a fresh start. I managed to attend about 40% of my classes in the first year, but it got better in the second year. I refused help from the disability office due to my never-ending need to prove my independence. I was pretty pleased with how things were progressing, I made some great friends, but then at the end of my 2nd year, I came home for the summer only to contract Glandular Fever. This was so bad that I had to be hospitalised and I supposed to be spending a year abroad in France in a few weeks’ time. I was so excited and was madly determined to get there.
I’m so pleased to say that I did, and went into 4th year raring to go, attending 100% of my classes. I thought I’d left CFS behind me, until I started working as a high school teacher. I was so completely involved in my work that I forget to take care of myself. I would have barely nothing to eat for dinner because I was working, had lunch on the run, did no exercise and found myself ill and off work with CFS…again.
After this I knew I had to change my agenda a little bit. I still taught but did some casual work, meaning I could sleep in in the morning and work in the afternoon. This really suited my body and this is when I really learned how to listen to my needs and put myself first.
Why I was scared
After lots of soul-searching, here is a list of the reasons I think my illness was triggered by fear in the Autumn of 2001:
* I didn’t choose Music or didn’t stand up for myself because I was frightened of disappointing my parents.
* I was frightened to follow my passion because I didn’t know what career to expect at the end of it and wanted to do the sensible thing
* I didn’t take any time out to recover from colds and flu when I was 17/18 because I was frightened of falling behind, frightened of what my teachers and classmates would think, and frightened that anything I’d miss in class would suddenly appear on the exam, and I’d fail it. Because I didn’t take time out, my immune system was shattered and I was therefore more vulnerable to CFS and flu.
* I was frightened to take time out for fear of being/appearing selfish or letting people down.
* I was petrified of what people thought of me after I had to come home from Uni and didn’t want to be branded a failure.
* In my early career, I was frightened of what my students and colleagues thought of me, and was constantly paranoid that I was a terrible teacher.
* I was terrified after University that I’d missed the boat with the Music thing and could never get it back, so anything that wasn’t Music made me feel drained, angry and resentful (ie. pretty much my whole teaching career to date).
* I used to focus far too much on the past- what if I’d done…..?, I should’ve…., How can I change my situation?
* Ulimately, I was terrified of being me. Absolutely terrified. Would anyone like me? Would anyone accept me? Who was I without Music and my story of CFS? Most importantly though, I was petrified of being ill. I avoided going out with friends, just in case I got ill, sabotaged job opportunities in case I got ill, didn’t go to yoga in case I got ill, didn’t want to go to bed too late in case I got ill. Ironically, I was in perfect health this whole time, but was living a half-life and was virtually stuck because of self-limiting, seemingly ridiculous fear.
For years, this has been my story and I’ve finally let it go. You are not your illness. The past is just a story, and once you realise this, you can move forward with your life. As soon as I realised that I had the power to control my own journey, my healing rapidly sped up, and I began to live a pretty much normal life again.
I now focus on the present moment as much as possible. Looking back at the past with regret is in many ways useless, as you cna’t change it. I am so, so grateful for my past experiences and my illness. I am completely comfortable with myself and my life choices. I still have wobbly moments (I’m only human!), but generally I’m happier than I’ve ever been…as me.
Now: My fiancé and I moved from the UK to Australia just over two years ago and we’ve never been happier. My thirst for knowledge on all thing spiritual has led me to where I am today and I’ve learned so much recently. My health has been much improved by sessions of Energetic Healing (which I’ll tell you about next week) and I can honestly say, I love my life. I don’t think about illness, and therefore I do not attract it. I still teach, but rather than worrying about what others think of me or the fact that ‘it’s not Music’, I focus on what I can do for others
A Word of Advice
The process of healing for me has taken a lot of work, 10 years worth of work. Everyone has to follow their own path, take each day at a time and do what is right for them. If you are following medical treatment, please keep going with it- I am not a doctor and just because I realised that fear was rooted in my illness doesn’t mean that it will be the same for you. I have written this post in the hope that you might be able to reflect on your own experiences and share in mine. Recovery takes work and it is not easy. I still have days when I have to step back and realise that going to visit someone (for example) might be a bit much for me today. Be patient with yourself and love yourself every day, the good bits and the bad bits.
I hope this has helped you in some way. I’d love to hear your comments below.
Love and many blessings,