Oct 262015
 

 

I’ve received lots of emails about this recently and it’s a recurring theme of conversation with my coaching clients, and so I just thought I’d put my thoughts into a post.

Along with all of these lovely choice phrases, “Why are you so lazy?” or words to that effect, might have been aimed at your recently or during your illness. This hurts…I mean, really, really stings.

Up until about x-days/weeks/months/years ago, you had it all figured out. You had a job/income, you had some form of social life, you were frequently in touch with your family and friends, you could string a sentence together and things were generally pretty good. But now you can’t move- you can’t remember the last time you opened the curtains (never mind went outside), you feel incredibly guilty for not bringing in a salary and you feel as if your friends can’t be bothered with you any more. Now, to top it all off, you’ve got people thinking you’re lazy when you have CFS!

im_not_lazy_im_sick_shirt-p235055099763546669ci54_325

Photo taken from here

Ooooh yep, I hear ya! I’ve had this and all you want to do is scream and shout, and let them know what’s really going on. You’ve told them over and over, but they still don’t get it. Luckily, there are some things you can do to make everything a little bit smoother for yourself and others.

Show them this article. If they still haven’t changed their tune, show them this one or this one. If you still don’t get a flinch out of them after this, ask yourself some serious questions.

+ Know that if you were going to invent an illness, CFS/ME would be it. It’s almost like a crazy junior school Biology project:

Teacher: “Ok, everyone- settle down. Now what I want you to do is work in groups and invent an illness. You must describe it and then present it in front of the class. You have 10 minutes- off you go!”

Student 1: “I know! How about something where you sleep for, like, 22 hours a day- like Sleeping Beauty!!”

Student 2: “Yeah, and you can’t go to work because you’re too busy sleeping and lying in bed and people have to feed you and stuff?!”

Everyone in group: “Yeah, that sounds amazing!!”

See the humour in it- it might just get you through those “I really want to break your arm right now (if I had the energy)” kind of moments.

The dictionary definition of ‘lazy’ is: “averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion; indolent.” I have never, EVER met anyone with CFS/ME who is lazy. Most of the people I’ve spoken to are Type A Personality people and we do not do lazy. Perfectionist, yes. Lazy? Nooooo. People relapse with CFS precisely because they are not lazy- that’s half our trouble. We want to contribute to the world, to our lives, and so we push on and then make ourselves worse. Don’t you dare talk to me about laziness….! (Sorry, rant over!)

+ Understand at a cellular level that there is absolutely no way they can understand what you’re going through. No way. People can empathise, but they’ll only know it if they’ve been through it themselves. This might make you feel lonely or disconnected from everyone for a while, but it’s only temporary. Know that they just want to see you better, healthy and happy- ask for their help, even though they don’t understand this craziness. You look fine, so of course, they’re a bit confused (I remember wishing I could’ve broken my arm or something instead of having CFS- at least people can physically see there’s something wrong with you, right?)

+ You are still you. You are still you. You as a person and a beautiful soul have not changed. Your body is just taking some time out, because it needs it. Once you know who you are, and really know it and own it, those lazy comments will bounce right off you.

Smile, suck it up for a bit longer and know ultimately that these comments will stop. People will see how sick you are, not lazy, and will want to help in any way they can. Show them this website, point them to my Facebook page and show people that you’re not the only one going through this ‘laziness epidemic’.

I’d love to hear your comments below- have you ever been accused of being lazy?

Love, not laziness,

Katie    xxx

Aug 162015
 

 

Over the last few weeks and even as I sit here writing this today, change and the realisation that I might  be frightened of change has been staring me right in the face. Even when I’m not looking for it, it keeps on popping up- in blogs posts, in articles on the internet, in my yoga practice, everywhere. Actually, I tell a lie, it hasn’t really been following me around- I’ve been open to accepting it into my life a lot more. This has highlighted where my limitations are- it’s incredibly uncomfortable, but I feel like I’m growing (such a beautiful feeling!) As much as we want to hold onto things around us and certain situations, the world around us and therefore our worlds are in constant, gentle flux.

When you’re ill with something like CFS for so long, there are moments when you’re going to want to play it safe (as in, pretty much most of the time). Who would want to go through relapse and the agony of starting at square one again, right? It’s embarrassing, uncomfortable and it feels like there’s now way out. You’re completely stuck and you’re pushed to the very limits of what you can handle and what you can’t…

…at least that’s what I thought for a while before I hopped on board the change wagon. Once you’re on, it becomes pretty impossible to get off.

This week, I’ve gone gluten-free and ramped up my yoga practice (I seem to have accidentally fallen in love with it, even though I wasn’t particularly mad on it before) Next week, more of the same, more reading, more catching up with friends after being a slight hermit (I blame Australian winters!) and less playing it small.

Would it really be so bad if you bought an audiobook that could change you life and committed to listening to it, instead of just buying it and putting it on the back-burner like you did last time? What’s the worst that could happen? You don’t like what they have to say and switch it off. Nobody got hurt, you saved face and at least you took the first step and tried.

Maybe you want to ditch the coffee and try a green smoothie? Honestly, it’s a completely no-brainer. You don’t have to like it, but you just might. They look disgusting, but they taste pretty flippin’ good, let me tell you.

No marathon running, no switching to a vegan diet overnight- just play it softly. Shift softly. The reality is, you can think about change until you’re blue in the face, but at the end of the day, you’ll still be where you are unless to make the change.

That’s all there is to it. Just try. Be courageous.

(These suggestions probably sound really patronising, but honestly, there was a time in my life when I was so scared of change and of doing something differently, of thinking about things a different way, that I became really, really stuck. Changing my diet or choosing to read different books were terrifying to me at the time. I would hate for the same thing to happen to you.)

Ask someone for help if you’re unsure. They’ll cheer you on as much as they can, with every fiber of their being, trust me. Ask me for help if you’re a bit lost and absolutely friggin’ petrified.  I’ve got you. We’ve got you. You’ve got you.

I just want to leave you with this picture below, which really got me choked a few days ago.

If you want to change, you have to come unstuck.

change picture

Picture and design by the beautiful freshbysian.com

What change can you make today?

Love and evolving,

Katie     xxx

Jul 152015
 

I’ve never considered myself to be a dishonest person. I’ve never told lies, and I don’t make a habit of it. When you look at the concept of honesty really closely, you’ll see that for most people, it means not being dishonest with other people. You don’t want to upset or disappoint someone else, you want to cover up for the fact that you don’t want to do something, you make over-elaborate excuses. Everyone does it and society, unfortunately, is full of it.

But have you ever stopped and thought about how honest you’re being with yourself? As ‘woo-woo’ as it sounds, this was one of the hardest things for me to deal with and it still challenges me every day. Having said that, getting honest with yourself in CFS is one of the most liberating stages on your journey.

TypographicFolio-14

Picture taken from here

I’ve always been incredibly independent, fiercely and stubbornly so, so having to move back in with my parents when I was 18 after my diagnosis was beyond all comprehension at the time. It was embarrassing, irritating and made me feel so small and defeated. My parents are two of the most wonderful people in the world, but taking this huge step was such a blow for me. Being reliant on them was even worse.

When I felt strong enough to go out, or even just go to the supermarket with my parents, I saw it as a huge achievement. I’d made it, there was no going back. I’d get stronger every day and then I’d be back to normal…until I woke up the morning realising that all my energy had been zapped in that one afternoon, leaving me with an empty tank once more. I know you know what I’m talking about- you want to use the slightest amount of energy when you’ve got it, not build up your reserves and take your time. Here is where I had to get really honest with myself. I had to pace it. I had to reserve my energy and work with it. I had to have faith.

This was a very long process. I’ve lost count of the number of times I said I was feeling fine to do something, when in fact I knew I was going to regret it the next day. My body begged me not to bother this time, but just to wait a day or two.

Here’s the thing. You have to honour yourself and be honest with yourself, especially in the early stages of recovery. You owe it to yourself and your life. If you know that saying ‘yes’ to the girly shopping trip (hours of walking  and waiting around, chatting, trying on clothes) will leave you feel wiped out the next day, ask yourself if you should really do it. This doesn’t mean abandoning meeting people all together. Maybe you could meet for a lovely green juice in a cafe in the morning, and then let them get on with it. It’s heartbreaking, I know, but even more heartbreaking is the ultimate realisation that you are not looking after or honouring the most important being in your life. You.

There’ll never be another one. You. Are. Essential. You. Are. Divine.

I still struggle with this today, and have made many mistakes by letting my ego get the better of me. I’ve taken full-time jobs when I knew deep down that I wouldn’t be able to handle it and would barely be able to manage part-time. I’ve come home exhausted and barely able to speak, knowing that I should’ve listened to the warning signs and not gone to meet people after work. These actions were usually generated by what other people might/might not think of me if I did/didn’t do something. Dishonesty is a form of fear, and man, was I frightened. Just remember, the people that matter will only care about you and want what’s best for you.

You have to be honest with yourself so you can be honest with others. 

I’m still working on this, and it’s hard and humiliating, but ultimately humbling. You need to prioritise yourself. I used to be terrible at this, but I’m getting a little better, day by day.

Love your vulnerability. Love being true to yourself. Let everything else fall away.

You.

Love-yourself-first1

Picture taken from here

Love and sincerity,

Katie   x

Jul 102015
 
brain fog

 

The whole concept of Brain Fog really touches a nerve with me. I’ve never felt so weak and powerless as when I was having a ‘Brain Fog Day’. I felt as is everything I’d ever learned at school had somehow vanished and that all my brain cells had magically disappeared. I felt like a complete idiot- why am I getting my words mixed up? Why can’t I concentrate for 2 minutes? How do I treat Brain Fog? Even if your body is having a good day, you can often be left with this horrible, numb feeling in your head. For me, it felt like there was a big heavy grey cloud around my brain, that’s the only way I can describe it.

brain fog

Photograph taken from here

What causes Brain Fog?

Although the exact causes are unknown, contributing factors include:

  • A lack of sleep or disruptions to your sleep cycle
  • If you’re experiencing pain, you might be mentally distracted by this for a prolonged period, which triggers a ‘numb’ feeling
  • Abnormal blood flow to the head
  • Depression
  • Interactions with medication

What are the Symptoms of Brain Fog?

For anyone who isn’t clear on what Brain Fog is, some of the symptoms include:

  • Becoming easily confused
  • Lack of ability to concentrate
  • Lack of ability to multi-task due to lack of concentration
  • Inability to recall words during a sentence (this was the main one for me!), forgetting why you started the sentence or mixing words around and not noticing
  • Short term memory problems
  • Inability to carry out simple calculations or mathematical problems
  • Losing things and not being able to find them, as you usually would
  • Becoming easily lost and disoriented in places you usually know well

Brain Fog generally tends to get worse when you are anxious, worried, rushed or dealing with too much information at once. It can also occur when you’re dealing with sensory overload, for example, too many bright lights or too much noise. I used to get completely overwhelmed in shopping centres and supermarkets, and would feel panicky and closed in. Once this had happened a few times, my parents knew to only offer to take me shopping to get me out of the house if they knew it was going to be quiet.

Help! I’m fed up of this! How can I Treat Brain Fog?

Luckily there are some things you can do to treat brain fog and go easy on yourself if you wake up and realise you’re having a ‘Brain Fog Day':

  1. Recognise that today is a Brain Fog Day and sink into it. Don’t try and fight it, relax into it and let it go. Work within your limits, take regular time out and don’t get mad at yourself. Be patient and keep things simple. If you have to, tell people you’re having ‘one of those days’- they’ll appreciate and respect your honesty.
  2. Drink as much fresh, filtered (if possible) water as you can. Sometimes, you might just be dehydrated. I constantly forgot to drink enough water when I was ill, it just seemed like too much effort. Water is incredibly important for our brain and bodies. You need to stay hydrated before you are thirsty- by the time you feel thirsty, it’s too late.
  3. Avoid caffeine or energy drinks. It’s so tempting to just grab a coffee to alleviate Brain Fog and feeling tired, even just for a moment, but you’ll feel worse later on, and maybe even into the next day. Do it gradually, don’t go cold turkey all at once, but cutting out caffeine was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.
  4. Get enough sleep. Sleeping for at least 8 hours is crucial. However, and I know this is so difficult to keep to if you’ve got CFS, don’t sleep too much or rely too much on sleeping tablets. You don’t want to do anything that’ll make you feel more Brain Fog the next day. Read this article for more bedtime tips.
  5. Eat a nutritious diet, or if your appetite is a bit patchy, take a good multivitamin. Juices and smoothies can also really help when your appetite isn’t there, as well as these easy recipes. Your brain and body function on the nutrients you give it- let them thrive!

I hope these tips help you in some way. I know how terrible Brain Fog can feel and how much of a step back you think you’ve taken when you’re feeling like this. Know this this is your body’s way of healing and respect what it’s telling you. Once you accept this, you Brain Fog will lift as quickly as it arrived.

Love and lucidity,

Katie     xxx

 

Jun 232015
 

This is the big key (and mystery) of healing – how to accept your chronic illness and ourselves just as we are now- sick, ill and frankly, a little bit hopeless.

In the darkest times, when you’ve lost count of how many days you’ve been staring at the ceiling for, waiting for doctors or even family and friends to listen to you, or when you’re feeling beyond despair and anger, remember this.

The sun is always there. Clouds may cover it, rain might hamper its rays for a while, the moon might dance with it, but it is always there. It is always there for you.

Think of the moment you soar above the clouds on an aeroplane and are blinded by the sun, even though 10 minutes earlier you were caught in a blizzard. The sun and its light provide a constant source of energy and renewal for plants and animals, but very rarely do we see ourselves as being reinvigorated by this beautiful star.

above clouds

Taken from here

Just as birds soar above the clouds, effortless in flight and freedom, illness can be our gateway to a new way of thinking, even a new life.

I will always be forever grateful for having CFS. It has made me stronger and wiser, more patient and forever thankful. It has also broken me and tested me. It made me angry and resentful. It was the thunderstorm to my sunshine. But I love how the experience has shaped my reality and my thoughts for the better.

They say that you attract what you think about. I spent years, even after I thought I had recovered, comparing my health to that of others, wishing my situation could’ve been difference. I spent an embarrassing amount of hours living in my head, accepting that I was just one of those ill people. Dwelling on the past, weeks off work while it seemed to be a breeze for everyone else, worrying when I was going to pick up the next bug- in a way, it became my way of life…and I was stuck.

The moment I stopped thinking about being an ‘ill person’ and more importantly, living in fear of possibly being ill, that’s when the real freedom and acceptance took place. Illness didn’t serve me anymore, neither did the ‘ill person’ label. Worrying about even possibility of being ill is a very real anxiety if you’ve had CFS or any other life-changing condition, but if anything, by worrying, you ensure that the next day you will wake up feeling physically worse. It has been proven that the brain cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. Therefore, if you spend days thinking about illness, eventually, your body will accept that you are ill and ensure that the appropriate symptoms appear from nowhere. Square one seems like home.

For me, it was impossible to believe that and accept that this was part of my journey. But looking back, I know that by thinking about illness, I was attracting it. If I hadn’t been ill to begin with however, I would never had learnt this for myself.

Now I know that this was how it was meant to be all along. This is my journey, my gift from something or someone somewhere to ensure I lived my best possible life.

Just as I attracted illness with thought of illness, we can all attract health through thoughts of health and wellbeing.

Try to find the gift in your illness. Sit in silence and clear your mind. The answer will come to you in time, and you will feel blessed.

Love and tranquility,

Katie  xxx

Apr 182015
 

 

One of the hardest things I had to do during my recovery and illness was explain my symptoms to people and the reasons I couldn’t do everyday things. On the surface, if you see someone with CFS, unless they’re in hospital or in bed, they don’t really look ill. This was one of the hardest things for me to get my head around and it used to really, really frustrate me when people said, “Oh, but you look great! What’s the matter with you?!”. With hindsight, I’ve come to understand that people express concern in different ways and to love that about others. But for those times when you really haven’t got the energy to speak or string sentences together, here is what you can show or give others to help explain your symptoms and situation:

CFS is an overwhelming, confusing and isolating illness which is debilitating, frustrating and feels never-ending.

Symptoms of CFS

Some symptoms of CFS include (but are not limited to!):

Tiredness

The clue is in the name, but it’s definitely more than “I’ve had a long day at work- please leave me alone” tiredness. Imagine having the worst hangover you could ever fathom, combined with flu and malaria, every single day. This is just a pinch of what people with CFS live with on a daily basis.

Feeling wiped out after a simple task

Putting clothes into the washing machine or picking up the vacuum cleaner used to be my biggest triggers. When I get inside my head too much, I clean, so I always went to cleaning when I needed to ‘do something’ (ie. aside from staying in bed and feeling useless). Despite my best intentions, I would usually end up back in bed or on the sofa breathless about a minute later.

Not being able to sleep

Now, hold on a second. Surely, if you’ve got CFS, sleep should be no problem for you! What’s going on?! Chronic insomnia and horrendous sleeping patterns are also major symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At my worst, I slept for about 22 hours a day on and off, and often I would wake up at 11pm, read until 2am, sleep for 20 minutes, then be up again until 7am. Then, when everyone else was getting up to start their day, I’d be about to sleep properly. This kind of pattern takes months to crack and get back on schedule, but to a greater extent, you really can’t help it. Imagine this every day for months or years, and you can see how frustrating it could be.

Pain, headaches and muscle aches

All over your body. I remember even moving my fingers and toes at one stage was practically impossible and incredibly painful. It’s scary and it’s real.

Unable to cope with light or slight noises

I became hyper sensitive to noise especially. Even the slightest noise would send my nervous system into a panic that I found it difficult to calm down from. This might sound like an exaggeration, but it really isn’t. I could stand some light coming through my curtains, but found it easier to rest with the covers over my head. Light interference always used to cause unbearable headaches and migraines. Hence, busy shopping centres and supermarkets had to be avoided.

head-in-hands-sculptureBeautiful head-in-hands sculpture-taken from here

Intermittent flu-like symptoms

Lowered immune system, fever, being unable to regulate your temperature, swollen glands, allergic reactions to things you used to be fine with, dizziness, the list goes on…

‘Brain-fog’ and other neurological symptoms

On a really bad day, I used to slur my words (so much so I apparently sounded drunk), forget really simple and usually memorable bits of information, forget vocabulary, experience balance problems, ringing in the ears, and so it continues.

Click here for more on brain fog.

Everyone is different, but for me, these were the worst symptoms. For a more extensive list, please visit ME CFS Australia’s website. Even now, if I haven’t been looking after myself properly, I very occasionally slur my words at night, but that rarely happens. As soon as it does, I know I have to slow things down and put myself first.

Please feel free to share your main symptoms in the comments below. It might feel sometimes like you’re alone, but you’re never alone. Please become part of our community through the Facebook page and we can help each other.

Love and rest,

Katie

Click here for more on diagnosing CFS and click here for some advice on dealing with doctors.

Apr 132015
 

 

angerImage taken from here

This is a post I never really thought I’d write, but I’ve been called to write it after numerous emails from readers and questions from clients.

“How can I move on to loving and accepting my illness and myself when I’m so angry with my body and for the way things have turned out?”

I hear you. I hear you big time. Anger and CFS have played a huge part in my healing, but I had to admit that I was angry first and foremost (which is often the hardest part).

If there’s anything I’ve learned about myself during this whole process of recovering from CFS, it’s how to manage anger and accept it as a normal part of every life. In my family, as in many families, I was told that anger was a bad thing. You weren’t allowed to be angry and you definitely weren’t allowed to express  your anger. This might be a part of the ‘British stiff upper lip’ character trait, but I know it doesn’t just apply to those from UK. Losing your temper or getting revved up in any kind of way is considered negative, ugly and ultimately is seen to reflect badly on you as a person.

angerArtwork taken from here

So, what do you do? You have 2 choices- 1) Let it out despite what people think or 2) Swallow it and don’t say anything.

Number 2 seems like a fairly easy option- it’s the least offensive and confrontational. But….it’s also the most toxic. Anger, like shame, lingers, creeps and builds up, causing a variety of illness and symptoms within the body if it is not released. For example, I was hospitalised with jaundice after I had Glandular Fever, which in energetic terms, is a clear sign of holding on to anger and feeling resentful.

Of course you’re angry that you got sick, of course there are days when you could scream out loud because you are so angry at the situation you’re in. My advice to you is:

LET IT OUT!

For the sake of your future health and wellbeing, do what you have to do to feel and express you anger. Recognise where in your body you feel the anger and let it pass.

* Hit a pillow

* Write your feelings down on paper, in a journal or a diary

* Stamp your feet

* Shout along to you favourite song

* Exercise if you can

* Tell someone (in a loving way without shouting) how you really feel, whether it’s about them, you or the situation you’re in- be honest

* Let yourself cry (and I mean really cry)

Expressing anger is a loving and non-offensive way for some people can take  a lot of practise, but it is possible, and it is the best thing you can do for your emotional and physical health. Once you realise that anger is just another emotion and has the same weight as happiness, for example, you begin to accept and almost welcome it into your life. It’s an incredible opportunity for growth, self-realisation and most importantly, honesty.

What are you angry about and how can you express it lovingly?

Love and authenticity,

Katie   xx

 

Apr 082015
 

 

I was incredibly honoured recently to be able to attend a talk in Sydney with His Holiness, The Dalai Lama on his recent tour of Australia. I instinctively knew that there was something he had to say that would relate to CFS and that I could bring back to you. Scribbling notes in my little notebook in the dark while he was talking was such a thrill and I’d love to share with you all some of my insights into how his message relates so clearly to CFS/ME and to our individual and collective journeys.

The one thing I was left with above all else after the event was the incredible spirit, kindness and love radiating from this amazing man. He is incredibly witty, has an amazing sense of humour (click here for further proof!), but most of all he truly speaks from his heart, unafraid of what anyone might think or of other people’s agendas. His message is one of love for all, and he sees himself not as any kind of Guru or anointed messenger , but as a simple Buddhist monk. His humility and kindness of spirit were seen through the whole talk in the way he interacted with everyone around him. He truly is an incredibly special human being and I’m eternally grateful to have been able to hear him speak in person.

dalai laughing

Photograph of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, taken from here

4 Lessons from The Dalai Lama

Lesson 1:

Everyone wants to be happy with no problems at all in their lives, but people create their own problems- they become a “slave of emotion”. Wow- this was definitely me throughout my illness, even towards the end when I knew it was all coming to an end. I kept obsessing about my health, and made my fearful thoughts into self-fulfilling prophecies. If you’re constantly thinking about CFS and all the ‘what ifs’ that play a huge part in it, then you end up being caught in a vicious circle that it’s incredibly hard to get out of. I know, I know- how the hell are you supposed to think about anything else when you’re feeling like this, right? You need to get out of your head and into your heart. Meditation is also amazing (trust me, I know people talk about meditation all the time, but it really is unbeatable).

Move away from the fear that you’re going to get worse if you go for a walk outside when you feel like it. Get someone to go with you- what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll come back to bed and give yourself a huge pat on the back, or you’ll get outside, discover that it’s too much and come back inside. Most of all, if you take these steps, you’re ever closer to cracking that fear barrier- what’s stopping you? 

Lesson 2:

Relating to lesson 1, check in with your emotions frequently- are you actually causing negative emotions by beating yourself up about your illness? Are you being too hard on yourself? CFS is an illness where I’ve found to my detriment that the more you fight it and deny what is, the worse it gets. Acceptance is key. Mindfulness is key.

Lesson 3:

“Your happiness is my happiness. Your suffering is my suffering”- I wish I’d heard this when I was very ill and to a certain extent, took my anger out on my family and friends. All they wanted was for me to be happy, healthy and well. At the time, I interpreted it as them not accepting my illness and accusing me of being lazy. Cut your loved ones some slack, cut yourself some slack. As The Dalai Lama says, “Do not let anger develop- this is the real meaning of forgiveness“.

*(This is also the main reason I set up this website, so you can connect with others in a similar position to you and know that we share our dark times. You are not alone.)*

Lesson 4:

“Fear eats away at the immune system”- wow. This is something we all need to hear right now. When your body is in a perpetual state of fear, there is no room for love and your health suffers. Most of the time, you are not doing this consciously- your illness was not deliberately and consciously brought on by you. But perhaps the fear that led you into CFS caused your immune system to suffer and not let your body do its job properly. It’s far from easy, but learning to lean in to love and away from fear, is a life practice, but one that will reward you greatly.

dalai

Photograph taken from here

Let me know what you thought about these lessons- did any of them ring true for you? Comment below!

Leaning into love, Katie    xxx

Mar 202015
 

 

As many of you know from my Facebook page, I decided a few weeks ago to try going Gluten Free. There wasn’t any particular motivation around this aside from the fact that a friend encouraged me to try it for a week just to see what happened, as she’s been gluten-free for a while. I thought it’d also be great to encourage me to think a bit more creatively about meals and to be more mindful about my food. If you’ve been following my newsletter as well, you’ll know that I felt so great after week one, that I decided to keep on going with it!

gluten-bread-caution

Image taken from MindBodyGreen

Many of you have probably heard or read things about gluten, and “Does Gluten Free Help CFS?” is one the questions I get asked on a regular basis? It seems as though in every article I’ve written recently (such as this one for MindBodyGreen), someone mentions the link between CFS and gluten. I must admit, I hadn’t really looked into it too much while I was ill, and many of you might be wondering why I’m bothering to write this in the first place if I’m completely healed, right?! Well, sometimes, it’s good just to mix things up a bit. I do sometimes experience digestive issues, especially when stressed, so I thought going gluten-free would be a good way to monitor my digestive system and general wellbeing.

What the hell is gluten?

Gluten is the substance found in cereal grains that basically makes bread doughy and elastic-y- the gluten is the protein part of the grain. Although gluten can very sneakily be found hiding in many unsuspecting things (seriously, this article is scary!), wheat (also in the form of rye, barley,bulgar, spelt and durum – pasta!) is probably the main culprit. It’s incredibly surprising if you actually look at labels to see how much gluten or gluten-containing things are hidden in things we eat- seriously, after a few weeks of cooking gluten-free, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about! Things like chocolate, soy sauce and even vitamin pills seem to be riddled with the stuff.

What are the symptoms?

Funnily enough, many of them seem to be exactly the same as those that CFS/Fibro sufferers get! (Lovely!) Often, there might be more skin rashes or digestive issues if you have gluten troubles, but this is why it’s so hard to recognise. Click here for more information on symptoms and complications.

What does the research say?

As it stands (as with so many things in the CFS/Fibro arena), the small amount of research done suggests that there isn’t any clear overlap between celiac disease – the autoimmune disorder caused by gluten- and CFS/Fibromyaglia. Some people have claimed that cutting out gluten alone was enough to get rid of their symptoms completely, whereas some people say it really didn’t make that much difference to them. However, only 1% of the population have an incredibly severe reaction to gluten, so you can probably breath easy.

The gluten thing on further research is all a bit complicated. Lots of people have food sensitivities which come with their own host of symptoms or which can make CFS/Fibro symptoms worse. Some people might even have been misdiagnosed as having CFS when they actually have a severe gluten intolerance.

gluten

Image taken from here

So, what can I do about it?

If you’re not sure whether you’re intolerant to gluten or whether it’s worth investigating further with your doctor, keep a food diary for about 3 weeks. Do you notice your symptoms flair up the morning after you’ve had pasta for your evening meal? Do you feel incredibly sleepy and dozy after eating bread? Do you have digestive issues or discomfort after eating gluten? (If you have IBS, then it’s possible than gluten might makes things a little worse for example. Also, consider whether or not your IBS is a possible gluten sensitivity.) Write it all down and play around with things a little bit. If you can see a clear pattern, maybe it’s worth requesting an allergy test from your doctor. Unfortunately, if you’re severely gluten-intolerant, you can’t just do it 95% of the time- it’s an all or nothing job, as your symptoms will return and you’ll feel ill again.

What can I eat if I’m going gluten-free?

There are actually a few options, but triple-check the labels on things! Anything with flour in it, such as cakes, sauces and dough/pastry bases, also contain gluten. As I mentioned in this article, things like quinoa are supposed to be gluten-free, but aren’t as squeaky clean as most people first thought! (Boo!) Also, I found that some of the gluten-free substitutes just tasted absolutely awful. I found going to health food shops to buy gluten free bread and pasta a lot better in terms of taste and nutrients. You can eat:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • lentils, rice, quinoa (in theory!) and legumes
  • nuts and seeds
  • dairy products and eggs
  • lean meat and fish

However, always make sure you look on the labels of things if they say ‘gluten-free’. Gluten-free is a huge health craze at the moment, and even though the products might be free from gluten, there are sometimes lots of nasty chemicals and additives thrown in instead!

The Results of my Gluten-Free Experiment

After about 2-3 days, I didn’t feel as bloated as I sometimes used to and my stomach felt a lot calmer, like it didn’t have a huge stone in it. I didn’t have many stomach upsets, but I once accidentally ate a wrap made from wheat, and I really felt the difference afterwards! Going GF makes my stomach feel a lot lighter and even though I’m not gluten-intolerant, I definitely think cutting back on gluten is going to benefit me. So…I’m sticking with it!

So, over to you! Have you heard the reports about CFS/Fibromyalgia and gluten? Have you tried going gluten-free yourself? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Love and light,

Katie    xx

Feb 272015
 

First, let’s start with a confession…well, it’s not really a confession. The thing is, I’m not a great cook- never have been. I used to hate Home Ec classes at school, much to the despair of my Mum and Grandmother who are amazing cooks. I’m a ‘follow the recipe’ kind person and I never really focussed on getting nutrients from my food. However, all this changed for the better when I started changing my diet and realised just how creative you could get in the kitchen, and most of the time, what I make turns out ok!

Let me just say that I know cooking, even eating sometimes, is really difficult with CFS. My diet after I returned to Uni, and probably for a lot of time during it, was embarrassingly awful. Anything that was quick and easy was always in my mind’s eye. My diet during Uni mainly consisted of toast and cereal. Yep, there we have it- quick, easy and absolutely zero nutrients. When I went into my last year a group of friends and I made a big deal of having two nice lunches a week, just to keep ourselves sane and have a chat more than anything. But I realised that nutrition and enjoying your food really does make a huge impact on your energy levels and can really help you without you having to really think about it.

Here are some great recipes you can make, or have someone else make, along with a few easy ways to get nutrients into your diet (and no, they’re not all veggie/vegan!):

1) Juices and smoothies

These are everyday essential for me. I usually have a smoothie for breakfast and a juice as a ‘snack’ in the afternoon- more recipes here! Adding spirulina gives them an extra nutritional kick.

juice

2) Soup

I absolutely love eating soup, I could eat it all day- so I’ve become pretty good at making it (if I do say so myself!)! This is great way to use up leftover veggies you have and to pack as many nutrients into a meal (an easily digestible meal) as possible. Two of my favourites include:

* Broccoli soup from Lee at the amazing Supercharged Food website- it sounds disgusting, but I started making it  in batches for friends, I got so many requests!

* Vegetable (and chicken) soup with old-school soup mix (full of lentils, legumes and nutrients- it’s too easy!)

Broccoli-Soup

Photo taken from the Supercharged Food website

3) Vegan desserts

Now, before you tell me that you don’t do vegan- try this recipe for Raw Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake, courtesy of The Detoxinista. It will blow your socks off! My other half is in no way vegan and can’t get enough of this. Lots of gorgeous raw nuts, raw cacao (bursting with antioxidants), lemon juice, lots of goodness. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

SONY DSC

Photo taken from The Detoxinista’s website

4) Herbal Teas

Go for it- camomile, chai, dandelion (a great coffee substitute), rose, green tea (my personal favourite), peppermint, lavender (I know!), liquorice, fennel, nettle, lemongrass- the list goes. I would now much rather have herbal tea than coffee any day. It’s cheaper and you’ll feel more cleansed and lighter in the long run.

tea

Photo taken from here

5) Add flaxseed oil and chia seeds to recipes

Flaxseed oil is my nutritional secret. I put it on salads and take in in capsule form (1000mg a day). This is the supplement that really helped with brainfog and aching joints. Chia seeds also have amazing omegas (good) fatty acids in them which your body needs to work at its optimum level and are amazing for creating lasting energy. See this post by Jess at The Wellness Warrior for more chia seed inspiration.

chia

Photo taken from here

So, there we have it. I’ve just given you a few to start off with, but I just wanted to say again how important good nutrition is while you are recovering. As I mentioned in this article here on MindBodyGreen, junk food is a hell of a lot easier, but the nutrient content is zero. Do what’s right for your body and yourself and think about the nutrients your body needs.

Let me know if you have any more recipes you’d like to share!

Love and more of that Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake please,

Katie      xxx

Feb 262015
 

 

I’m sure that if I told you you were courageous right now, you’d probably tell me I was mad. But, you’d probably say something, then slowly turn back towards me, curious as to why I’d given you that now oh-so unfamiliar label. How can someone who feels so weak and helpless demonstrate outrageous courage and strength? How can strength and courage in CFS possibly go together? How can you, when you’ve been ill for so long, even begin to get your head around the fact that you’ve actually come a lot further than you realise and that you can cope with more than you know?

13-courage

Image taken from here

You’re stronger than you know because….

  • ultimately, you kinda have to be- you’ve got no choice.
  • you take comments like this and this, and just roll with it. It might be unpleasant, but you’re as gracious as always. As Wayne Dyer once said, “What other people think of me is none of my business.”
  • you are bearing such a huge physical and emotional burden right now. If other people knew how much you had to endure, they’d be in awe of you. However, even the warrior needs a break every now and then, and it’s always ok to cry.
  • in the midst of all this s#@* going on around you, you know deep down that you are still you. You are still here. Take strength and comfort from that, even if brain fog tells you otherwise.
  • finding the means to carry on with all of this ‘not-knowing’ will set you up great things in your big, bright future and you’ll be better for it.

You’re more courageous than you know because…

  • you’re hunting around on websites like this for answers and things that might help you heal. If you were scared of your illness, you wouldn’t be here.
  • you’re open to take your healing into your own hands.
  • you’re willing to try new things, even if this pushes you massively out of your comfort zone and you’re incredibly scared that anything you try’ll make you worse.
  • you’re willing to look at the root causes of your illness, even a tiny bit at a time. It’s unpleasant and you don’t like asking yourself these questions, but you might just discover something you didn’t know about yourself.
  • you know that this innate courage inside you is the one thing that’s going to carry you through the darkness and into your healing. Love it, look after it and remember it when the road gets bumpy. Only you can really heal you.

You-Gain-Strength---Eleanor-Roosevelt-Magnet-C11750665

Quote taken from here

Trust me my darling, you are stronger and more courageous than you think you are. You put up with so much rubbish day in, day out for days, weeks, month and years at a time, all the while questioning who you are, your self worth, your relationships, your career, your body, your past and your future.

Just know in the here and now, that I admire you for your courage, determination and strength. No-one ever told me this while I was ill, so I’m telling you now.

I’ve got your back. I know how hard it is. Everyone reading this knows how hard it is. Let it out….let it out….and trust your courage.

Remember, as Paulo Coelho once said, “An act of courage is always an act of love.”

Love and courage,

Katie     xxx

If you enjoyed these inspirational quotes, there are plenty more in my new (FREE!) e-book! Click the green book image at the top of the page or below for instant access!

A little book of quotes and inspiration for the journey

Feb 092015
 

 

This article was reblogged for my article featured on health and wellbeing website, MindBodyGreen.

Illness affects most of us at one point or another, whether it’s from an allergy a cold, or having to stay in bed for months — if not years — on end. I was in the latter category, having being diagnosed with M.E. (commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS) when I was 18. When we’re sick, we find ourselves automatically looking for ways to feel better. Spending so much time in bed gave me a lot of time to think, and I’ve definitely learned a lot from this experience.

Now that I’ve been CFS-free for three years, I often think about all the time I spent in bed. I used to hate being stuck there; I felt like I was wasting my life and missing out. I was in the same spot, staring at the same four walls, with the same thoughts I had yesterday.

sick in bed

Picture taken from here

But every cloud has a silver lining. Although being ill in bed is incredibly frustrating, here are a few things to remember while you recover and some ways to feel better when you’re too sick to move:

1. Don’t feel guilty for one moment.

By taking the day off sick, you’re prioritising your health and well-being. Give yourself a huge pat on the back. When I first started working full time, there was no way I would take a day off for anything. I thought that by dragging myself in when I was on death’s door, I was doing my colleagues a favour. It turns out that I really wasn’t, as not taking that single day off actually meant eventually taking another four days off because I was so sick. Prioritise your health and you’ll feel glad you did it further down the line.

2. Let other people help you.

This was a big one for me. People would volunteer to do my shopping for me when I was ill or run me to the doctor’s office. But in my complete haze of stubbornness, I was determined to do everything on my own. The last thing I wanted was for people to know I was ill.

Let others help you if they offer. You get no extra points for being a martyr. You’ll be doing others a service by accepting their help — people just want to know you’re OK.

3. Take each day at a time.

I know this is incredibly difficult, especially if you have a chronic illness. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is incredibly difficult when you have no idea how long the tunnel is. The only way you can do this by living in the moment. This term often gets thrown around a lot, but trust me, after years in bed, reliving the past or throwing yourself into the future is not giving your body what it needs.

4. Don’t push yourself.

If you have CFS or a chronic illness, you’ll hate those words, but this goes for anyone who’s had to take time off sick with the flu. Even if you think that going out for a run will make you feel better, tune in to your body and listen to it. Are you really going to feel better after running, or do you really need to just rest up? The little energy that you do have is for your body to repair itself. Your body can’t do its job if you’re completely ignoring it and pushing it. It took me years to learn this lesson once and for all.

5. Enjoy your recovery.

I know, I know — you feel awful and I’m telling you to enjoy yourself. Crazy, right?! I don’t mean throw a wild party; I’m just talking about really sinking into your recovery. When I work with clients, this is the main thing that gets them. They feel guilty for enjoying a DVD or for diving under the duvet with a book and not surfacing for a few days.

Stop the guilt. Your mind sends signals to your body that cause stress and therefore really hinder your recovery. You want to lie in your pyjamas all day? Do it! Slap on a face mask? Go for it! But whatever you do, do it with your whole heart and really enjoy it. As soon as you feel guilty, all of your good healing work goes to waste.

 

Do you feel guilty when you’re ill? I’d love to hear your comments below.

Love and guilt-free healing,

Katie   xx

Feb 012015
 

Speaking about Energetic Healing and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is something which I am really, really passionate about. I love reading about it and researching it. It all started with Caroline Myss’ book, ‘Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing’, in which Caroline, a Medical Intuitive and Healing expert, talks about chakras, blocks in our chakras and why some people don’t heal because of this. Chakras are an intricate part of our energy anatomy and need to work together in order for us to have healthy and happy lives. (For more on chakras and what each one means, please see this interactive diagram on Belinda Davidson’s page.) Before you go running and screaming, I was hugely sceptical about it too and had no idea what was going on. I just knew I was intrigued and wanted to know more.

chakra

Picture taken from here

However much I read, however, I knew I could only experience it to know for sure what it was all about and whether it worked for me. I was having terribly stomach trouble at the time, but was eating the same stuff, and I was pretty anxious about something I couldn’t put my finger on. The lady I saw said that my solar plexus chakra was blocked, which would explain my stomach troubles, and my third eye chakra was in overdrive (I’m a very visual person who thinks all the time- well, I was!) After my first treatment, much like the White Light healing sessions, I felt lighter, had next to no physical ailments and the world felt lighter and brighter. The lady I saw warned me not to go too crazy with this new found energy (I think you all know exactly what I’m talking about here!). So, what did I do?! You guessed it! I used up all my energy and was back to square one.

The next time I saw her, I knew I had to be sensible and went straight home afterwards and rested. During my sessions, I also uncovered lots of things I didn’t know about myself. I think I was holding on to a lot of anger from being ill and from my past decisions, which showed up in my liver (I had glandular fever a while ago and had jaundice as a result- something was definitely out of balance with my liver!). I would never consider myself to be an angry person, but our bodies store pent up emotions, and I’m a huge believer in mind-body medicine- that certain attitudes and thoughts can sometimes show up in our bodies as illness. After having a few sessions on my liver, I felt a lot better, even better than after my first session!  After my sessions, I’ve continued to improve- I still have the occasional off-day, but so far, so good!

Sessions usually involve being in a very relaxed state. Sessions vary from person to person, and according to practitioner preferences, but can include meditations, aromatherapy, Reiki and affirmations- going in with an open mind is probably the best way to get the most from a session.

*Please note, as with all my posts, what works for me might not work for you, and I’m just sharing my story. Medical advice should be followed and I’m not claiming that Energy Healing will completely cure you in any way. I just know it’s absolutely fascinating!*

Have you ever tried Energetic Healing or know someone who has? I’d love to hear from you! This is just a brief introductory post, but I’ll be going into more detail soon.

Love and healing,

Katie     xx