A Cat With 9 Lives

12 Dec
Photo credit Flickr User علي الحسين

Photo credit Flickr User علي الحسين

A cat, we are led to believe, has nine lives. I’m beginning to think that I have more than one life too:

1. my original live before I got sick with ME/CFS – 1984 – 2010

2. my second life when I was sick – 2010 – October 2013

3. my third life of recovering from ME/CFS – October 2013 and continues on today

It seems to me I have been given more than one chance to live. I was given a second chance to live by becoming ill. It was my wake up call and taught me infinite valuable lessons. It showed me that I wasn’t really living life, more coasting through it, not engaging with it. I wasn’t living a healthy life. Being ill for so long made me sit up and listen.

The ‘what if’ game is a dangerous one. But I do occasionally wonder what would have happened if  I hadn’t got sick. Would I be the high flying corporate lawyer that back then I dreamed of? Would I still be with Mr B? I would never ever have chosen to become sick and have 4 years (and counting) of my life swallowed up by illness and recovery, but in an odd way I am actually grateful and thankful that my life did take the turn it did. I think everything happens for a reason. If I hadn’t gotten sick when I did, would I have crashed in an even bigger way later in life? A heart attack or nervous breakdown from the stress and long long hours of my job and fast pace of my life? It doesn’t bare thinking about, the possibilities are so horrible.

If I had to get sick, then December 2010 was a very good time to do so. I had qualified as a lawyer, no one can take that away from me, I had achieved that. Both financially and in terms of self esteem and personal satisfaction that was a very good thing. I had finished school, Uni and law school. The nightmares I still have where I am back at school doing my A-Levels age 25 due to many years out sick can not become my reality. And for that I am immensely grateful. I am also grateful that I didn’t get sick later in life, at a time following having children. Being a mother with children to care for whilst having ME/CFS would be impossibly hard. I am grateful that I got sick at a time when Mr B and I were long established and I was able to lean on him for support. My illness actually brought us closer together. It made us grow up and our relationship matured as a result. Nothing like coping with a chronic illness to stoke those romantic fires and show you that he very much is a keeper (with a capital K)! My parents had just retired when I got ill which meant they were able to look after me full time when I needed it. I doubt I’d have made the progress I have without their support.

Of course I haven’t always been able to see my illness in such a positive light. For large parts of the first year I ignored it, too ashamed to admit I had it and too terrified and ill to comprehend it. But gradually over time I came to terms with it and I have been able to see it as a blessing in disguise. Not constantly. I definitely had my fair share of emotional meltdowns over it but ultimately it is the card I have been dealt and I have always been determined to overcome it. And for me that means taking notice and learning from it. I am not willing to go back to my previous life, putting myself back in harms way as it were, with all the potential triggers and wind up back where I started, too ill to get off my parents’ sofa.

Hence, my cat analogy. My first and second lives are over. I am now into my third. I really was given a second (and third) chance to live. Each previous life has shaped me and continues to do so. From my first life I know that high pressured London life working as a corporate lawyer is inherently unhealthy and un-fulfilling for me. My second life was genuinely really rich: meditation, yoga, relaxation, walking, diet and nutrition, therapy, happiness, mindfulness, calmness, writing, neuroplasticity and NLP….the list, of what being ill have given me, goes on and on.

Being ill for so long really has given me so much. Most importantly it has helped me to take stock (you have no choice when you are physically too weak to do anything) and re-evaluate my priorities. A high powered career is no longer top of the list. Having children and being at home to raise them is now my aim. Having some kind of creative and caring outlet is also on my list now, be that as a yoga teacher or therapist or nutritionist or writer. I think perhaps simply getting older may have something to do with the shift in my priorities. I was 26 when I first became ill. Now I’m 30. Not old at all. But a good age to be considering the future. But the biggest influence is without doubt having been ill with ME/CFS.

Realizing, with my third life, I have a chance to start over is both wonderful and daunting. I have to fight all my natural (and ME/CFS ‘triggery’) perfectionist tendencies of wanting to get it absolutely right first time around. That mentality can be a bit overwhelming and counter productive as it freezes me into action.

Ultimately what my three lives have taught me is that, you have to take each day as it comes. The present moment is all we have and that is all that matters.  I’m just going to keep on learning, listening to my body and making the most of my current life. I will leave cats to have their nine lives; three is quite enough for me.

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4 Responses to “A Cat With 9 Lives”

  1. Su Phillips December 12, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more. You expressed a life with cfs/me perfectly. I too was awake this morning thinking similar thoughts, how I loved my old job. Really loved it. How this is an opportunity to re discover myself, the creative things I’d always thought that I could do but didn’t think would pay may become a reality because as we know, money helps but if you don’t have your health you have nothing. So no health, no money. So little job, money. Win, win I say! I’m in recovery post one year, my second bout of cfs/me. In no way shape or form do I think that having had it once it will return for anyone else. It did for me after 13 years because I felt it, I ignored it, I worked more. I won’t be making the same mistake again. No one wants to become a reclusive bed ridden wreck if they can choose to. So thats what I would say to anyone reading your lovely blog. It’s not a quick fix. Theres no simple answer, but rest, time and most of all I think be kind to yourselves. As the doctor said to me, be selfish is the only way forward for me. Not in a horrid witchy way, but I will say no more when im fully recovered. Keep that little stock of energy just for me. And lastly laugh, smile and love xxx Happy Christmas xxx

    • myjourneythrume December 16, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

      Thank you for reading Su and for such an insightful comment. I literally agree with everything you say which is so nice. It’s reassuring to know we are not alone in how we feel isnt it? I hope by listening to your body and being ‘selfiah’ you are able to recover and move forward. Like you say, i’m all too aware of how easy it would be to fall back into old ways (out of seeming necessity or otherwise) which would just most likely put me back where i started. If we dont watch out for ourselves no one will. Take care and i hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy healthy new year xxxx

  2. thehomeschoolingdoctor December 12, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    Good post and reflections!

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