5 years ago my world took an unexpected turn and as a result my life will never be the same again. On Monday 13th August 2012, I woke up with a mouth full of ulcers, all over my tongue and the back of my throat. As the day progressed it got worse and worse until it became hard for me to talk (something I think my husband was secretly delighted about!). Over the next few weeks my symptoms worsened, I would black out and collapse – I had such a high temperature I remember hallucinating in an important client review. I developed a rash, had pins and needles in my arms and legs and my whole body ached continuously.
Over the next 2 months I was in an out of hospital having various tests but nothing abnormal showed up, so it was decided I must have a virus.
Then one day I collapsed in the middle of Old Street roundabout – when I came around I was shaking violently. I went back to the doctors and it was suggested I needed a holiday, although sadly he wasn’t able to put one on prescription for me! So, under this expert advice, I duly went on holiday, however, when I came back I was worse. I was so exhausted I cried each day. My head was constantly fuzzy and it felt like I had a permeant hangover. I couldn’t remember simple words and I’d forget mid-sentence what I was saying. I went back to the doctors and was diagnosed with Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome. No, I’d never heard of it before either!
I was signed off work and was told to report back in a fortnight. However, when I went back I actually felt even worse so I was signed off for another 3 weeks, and then a month at a time after that. At one point, my doctor told me I was only allowed to do a maximum of 3 things a day for the good of my health. I was allowed to have a shower, walk up and down our stairs and I could also walk to the post box and that was it! I remember one occasion I was so ill I genuinely couldn’t get out of bed, and do you know what I’d done that caused this? The day before I’d written 15 Christmas cards which had proved too much for me and my body to take, so it’d rebelled against me. I then spent the next 11 months of my life on my sofa.
Eventually, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which is part of the ME family. When I asked my specialist, “How long do you think it will take me to get better?” he shrugged his shoulders and proceeded to tell me that although in time I may improve for a while, I would always have relapses and there was nothing I could do to help myself. Now, I’m quite a determined person so didn’t like the idea of giving in to illness and so tried various things to get myself better. Nothing worked, that is until I came across The Thrive Programme.
Overcoming Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
I’ve got to be honest, I was very sceptical of how a psychological training programme could help me get over a physical illness – but I was desperate. As I went through the programme, I started to get better and slowly but surely, my energy came back, as did my mental clarity. My physical symptoms began to subside and over the coming weeks, I started to feel like myself again. Basically, what had happened, was that before going through The Thrive Programme, I’d been suffering from extreme stress, even though I hadn’t realised it at the time. It’d become so normalised to me, I just assumed everyone felt like that way all the time.
In fact, it turns out I’d made myself so stressed I’d managed to ‘break’ my immune system – which even for a slightly clumsy person like me, is quite an achievement! That’s how strong our mind body connection is. Or to give it its proper ‘fancy name’ Psychoneuroimmunology. Now, for anyone who plays scrabble that would give you a pretty damn good score!
Fast forward 5 years and I am absolutely fine. I’m Thriving! I’m 100% fit and well. I’ve never had a relapse and I know that I never will, as I now have the psychological skills in place so I’m no-longer making myself stressed and anxious. In effect, I’ve turned off my body’s stress response which was previously turned on permanently and working on overdrive. My mind isn’t busy ‘whirring away’ with all the noise of my worrying and over analysing everything. I feel great!
So, am I feeling like this because I’ve been living a charmed life over the last few years, so haven’t been under the pressure I used to be? No, not really. Not unless you count numerous unsuccessful rounds of IVF and setting up your own business as relaxing pastimes! Yes of course I still experience pressure in my life, everyone does. The difference now is that my thinking and beliefs are working for me, rather than against me.
Thanks to Thrive, I now have the necessary psychological skills which give me the ability to take life in my stride – whatever it may care to throw at me. And importantly I know that stress doesn’t just “happen” to me. Previously I’d been creating the stress I was experiencing myself by the way I was thinking about and interpreting the situations I found myself in. So now I just don’t create stress anymore. Why would I?!
I now absolutely love my life. Don’t get me wrong, in the ideal world given a choice would I turn back the clock and wave a magic wand so I didn’t get so ill. Hell yes! However, I’ve learned some incredibly valuable lessons from the experience, that I wouldn’t want to trade them for anything!
So, what have I learned…?
I can pretty much do anything I set my mind to: If I can get over a crippling illness that left me out of action for a year, then I really do believe if I put persistent and continuous effort in, I can do anything I want.
I have choice in my life: Before the programme, although I may have talked a good story, I had very little belief in my ability to affect the outcomes in my life. I used to think it was very cool and bohemian to have an attitude of “well let’s just see what happens and wait for fate to take its course”. Well, oddly enough that didn’t really deliver me my dream life! The truth of the matter was, I just didn’t believe I could determine my own life as I had so little faith in myself or my abilities. I now know that I’m the master of my own destiny, rather than the unwitting victim of my circumstances as I was before. Yes, I know it’s a cliché, but if life was a book, finally I’ve realised I can be my own author! And do you know what, it’s exciting to know I’m able to get on with scribbling the next, new, happy, healthy and successful chapter!
I’m someone I can be proud of: Although I may’ve come over as being quite a confident person in the past, the truth of the matter of how I felt inside was very different. I had incredible low self-esteem before Thrive. The definition of self-esteem is how likeable, capable, worthy and deserving you think you are, your opinion of you. And mine was very poor. Having gone through Thrive I’ve learned I’m someone to be proud of. Yes, I can be a little bit clumsy and I’m never going to make it onto ‘Strictly’, but I’ve now finally realised I’m a good person. I’m kind and I’m generous, capable and bright. I’m good company and thoughtful, and I think I’m quite funny (well I make myself laugh and that’s good enough for me!) For the first time ever, I trust in myself and my decision making. And I now categorically know 100%, yes, I’m deserving! Oh, and that inner voice that we all have? Mine’s turned from being my biggest bully to being my very own built in cheerleader.
Although I can’t always choose my circumstances, I do have a choice about how I think about them: As the saying goes, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it” Life’s a rich a varied tapestry. Some good and some not so good. But now I finally know that on the odd occasions where life’s challenging, I have the ability to chose how I react to it. It’s down to me how I interpret what’s going on, and I’m the person who determines my thinking and beliefs. And knowing that’s incredibly liberating.
I did an interesting little exercise last week in preparation for writing this blog. I asked a number of people who know me, including friends, family and clients (I’m now a licensed Thrive Programme Consultant and I get to help other people change their lives for the better), for 3 words they’d use to describe me as I am today. Here are the most common words they said…’Energetic, Happy, Relaxed, Confident, Together, Motivated, Positive and Enthusiastic’, a world away from the woman who lay on her coach for almost a year.
I’m living breathing proof that it is possible for anyone to learn to Thrive. I’m no different from anyone else out there, I don’t have any special powers there’s nothing magical or super human about me, but what I do now have are the psychological skills and resources that allow me to live a much happier, healthier and more successful life than I ever thought I could. It’s truly amazing what you can do when you really put your mind to it!