August 28th 2013 was the day I was told I needed to reconsider the directions of where my life was going. I'm not sure I really had any directions except work to get the bills paid and survive while doing it. I didn't have much of a social life as I spent my non-working hours sleeping. This was the second visit with the specialist I had started seeing while living in England. I was on sick leave from work and I had already made a bit of an improvement and he bluntly told me that if I was to go back to my job, I would most likely revert back to where I was before I came to see him. Besides the usual homework, he had given me some serious food for thought. I was on another week's sick leave so I had some time to think it through and decide.
We went to visit Mike's parents that weekend to get away a bit which was a much needed break. I was always a little scared to go out while on sick leave in case I would run into any of my managers or colleagues. Because why could I go out but not be at work?! And honestly I didn't have the energy to explain in case I did run into any of them. By the time we got back we had decided the best solution for me was to quit my job, so I built up my courage and called my manager. I got a 4 weeks sick note from my doctor so I didn't have to go back to work at all. And I tell you the elephant which had been sitting on my back for so long had gone!! I felt so much lighter and I suddenly slept a little bit better at night.
With any big loss in your life whether it's death, serious illness, break up etc you go through different stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. It isn't an easy route and often goes back and forth. Even today over 3 years later, I still have days where I am in the anger and depression stage. Those days I fill with good books, my favourite TV-shows, cuddles with Felix and happy music but also allow myself to feel sad as long as I don't stay there too long.
However for the most parts I try to stay positive and be grateful for what I have and what I have learnt. I remember Tony, my specialist in England, said that I should take this as a blessing; a time to decide where I wanted to go with my life. At the point I honestly had no clue. I was lucky if I could stay awake for 2 hours at the time. But I made sure to take care of myself, get plenty of rest, hang out with great friends. I also did a lot of research on not just my illness but also on symptoms, food, pacing, being a spoonie (check out the Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino) and lots more. It soon become clear to me that not only was living with an invisible illness tough work but so many were going through similar things as me. I joined a Facebook support group and I'm so grateful for having found people who just get it! I can sit and explain for hours how I feel to other people but it's really hard for most to really, like really, understand it unless you are living with it or have gone through it.
"You never know how strong you are until strong is the only choice you have" - Bob Marley. One thing I never wanted to do was give up! I had days (still have) where I was ready to throw in the towel but it quickly turned around. I kept and keep fighting! Day after day after day! I know a lot have it worse off than me but not a lot truly knows how hard it's been and is and how strong I have had to be to get through this. One is because I don't share everything - some days it's just easier to put on a smile than try and explain what's going on. It also feels like a broken record having to give the same answer day in and day out. But I'm very grateful for my friends and family who stood by me during a difficult time; who sent me info to read; suggestions to try out and generally just lend me their ears and was there for me in one way or the other. It's meant the world to me!
This illness also gave me a deep interest in self-care and healthcare. I had to learn to say NO and listen to my body. It's okay to miss out on things and it's okay to cancel plans or say no. Just no! It's okay to be late! That's a tough one for a Dane and a perfectionist. My naturopath was the one to say this and funnily enough I was late for my next appointment with him! I tried hard not to feel bad about it! It took some practise and now I don't beat myself up if I'm late. I'm never late on purpose because I don't want to waste other people's time but I don't beat myself up about it in case I do run late.
When you have so many different symptoms and an illness which even some doctors don't know of or don't believe exist, you get a bit of extra work on your hands. It's a jungle out there with information but I learned a lot on the way about the nervous system, gut health, fight or flight response, thyroid health, oral health and the list goes on. I have become a big fan of gut health as mentioned in an earlier blog post and it's a subject I will go into details later on. We need to take our health in our own hands and not just trust the doctors want what's best for us. It's so important to educate ourselves and let our voice be heard and make decisions which are good for our bodies.
To not be able to work has taken a big piece out of me as I have always earned my own money and it's a part of my independence being able to take care of myself/contribute to the finances. It brings a lot of guilt with it and it's a struggle on many days. I gave it a go again last year but sadly had to admit defeat and come to terms with having a regular 9-5 job just isn't possible. I need more flexibility and a job where I can work around my bad days. Fortunately doTERRA allows me to do so and I'm so grateful for the people I have met through it. I keep learning and growing from some amazing people around the world; I get to do something I love by helping and listening to others; finding solutions for their problems whether it's health or financial issues and creating communities around the world. Oh and did I mention the products are amazing! It's a win-win! In September I'm heading to Salt Lake City for a week of learning and socializing! I'm so excited! How can I not be grateful for this experience and opportunity!
What are you grateful for today? I challenge you to write down 1-5 things a day/week which you are grateful for - focus more on people and not things. You will pay more attention to whom/what you have in your life and be grateful and happy for them/it. Studies have shown it to have some great benefits such as better sleep and more happiness. Why not give it a chance?