Tag Archives: Health

Make Time For Health

5 Feb
"no one will take care of you if you don't take care of yourself"

Image credit Mind Body Green

Health is one of life’s most undervalued things. It is so often taken for granted; not thought about; simply assumed that it will always be good.

For those of us dealing with a chronic illness, health is not undervalued. It is often thought of.

For several years, when I was at my sickest, health consumed my life. All my time and energy went into trying to get well.

Now I am a long way recovered, health does not consume all my time, which is hugely liberating, positive and encouraging.

However, ME/CFS is a chronic illness and one that my body still has. And so now more than ever it is important for me to make time for health.

In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Ella Woodward, the creator of the phenomenally successful plant based recipe website Deliciously Ella, summed it up perfectly when she said:

“This horrible disease is always lurking. If I don’t take care of myself something comes back.”

The disease Ella is referring to Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTs). For me the disease is ME/CFS. For others it may be diabetes, fibromyalgia, lupus, M.S., depression or any number of other long term conditions.

I could not agree with Ella’s statement more. This is exactly how I feel.

If I don’t look after myself and do what I know works to maintain my health, then symptoms start to reappear. This might sound hugely limiting. But it’s not. I see it as massively positive. I am in control. Provided I do what I know keeps me in balance then I maintain my health.

Keeping myself balanced and in good health are my goals. They are the ends I seek. My means are: daily yoga and meditation, a gluten and dairy free diet, regular walks, a daily rest period and working with the mind-body connection. What works for me, may well not work for you. Health is incredibly individual. But for me, this is how I am able to live a life with my health in tact, keeping ME/CFS at bay.

I remind myself though that these things, the yoga, the meditation, the restricted special diet, the rests etc are not just means to a higher end. They are ends in themselves. I try to cultivate an approach of being present and enjoying the moment when doing these things rather than just passing through them in a passive state, wanting them ticked off and completed; the end attained for that day.

It is all a matter of perspective. If you can see making time for your health as a joy and foster the belief that it is valuable and enjoyable, something to be embraced rather than struggled against, then it will be so much easier to maintain the practice.

Take Care of your body it's the only place you have to live

Image credit Live 2 B Healthy (via Pinterest)

I am no saint and it is incredibly easy to give into temptation and not be bothered to go for a walk or to sit and meditate. But I have learnt time and time again that when I let things slide, slowly, symptoms creep up on me. It can be hard to see the value in maintaining a ‘health management regime’ (for want of a softer term) when you seem to be doing okay. It’s so easy to think ‘I’m fine, I don’t need to do this today…’ but then today becomes tomorrow, and tomorrow turns into the day after and a week has gone by and you’ve not done the one thing you know will help you the most. And slowly things unravel and ME/CFS starts to regain control. It is especially hard when the consequences of actions, or rather inaction in this case, are delayed. The knock on effect of me not taking a rest for a few days is not immediately obvious and often not at all apparent until it is too late.  And so I have learnt to act pre-emptively and make time for health to keep my illness at bay.

Maintaining good health should be embraced. It is not time wasted. It is necessary and immeasurably valuable. It is not a burden and shouldn’t be seen that way. I am the first to admit that I have on more than one occasion fallen into this trap. Sometimes you just want to live and let live! And sometimes you just don’t feel you have time – ‘I have to go and lay down for 45 minutes and listen to a yoga nidra’?! Really, are you kidding? And yes life sometimes gets in the way. But if more often than not you stick to what maintains good health for you then your body will thank you for it.

It may  not be forever. Health is an evolving (both forwards and back) state for us all. What is helpful or necessary for you right now may just be a passing phase. So for now, take care of yourself, in whatever form that takes for you and your health today.

For myself, from the outside I may seem perfectly well now. The invisible element of ME/CFS has never been truer. I am able to do, in some respects, anything I want to do. But that is only thanks to me making time for my health. I only have to look back to how restricted my life was when I was so sick for a reminder of how vital it is that I do maintain my health in the way that I know works for me.

So the motto is and always will be: Make Time For Health.

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My Body & I: A New Chapter

15 Jan
Purple lotus beauty

© Jess Bruce 2016

My body and I are in a new relationship. We have started a new chapter. We’re in the early stage of just getting to know each other, learning each other’s ways. I would love to say that it has been all sunshine and roses and love at first sight but that would be a lie. And I don’t want to sugar coat it. I feel it may be a slow burn affair, we’re not quite holding hands yet; rather we are curiously prodding each other with a long stick. We are still quite wary of one another at this early stage but I am confident, my body is the the one for me, and slowly love and admiration will blossom and bloom.

What am I talking about? A good question.

Over the last few months I have gradually weaned myself off all my ME/CFS medication. [Pause for round of applause from adoring fans 🙂 ]

I will state upfront bold and simply right now that I do not recommend you undertake any changes in medication without seeking medical advice first.  I reduced my medication incrementally and very slowly under the strict advice of my doctors. I am not a doctor and do not offer medical advice. I merely share my experience for your interest but if you’re considering medication changes, ****speak to your doctor first****. 

© Jess Bruce 2016

© Jess Bruce 2016

Slightly frenetic medical legal disclaimer jargon aside, returning to the topic at hand, back in September 2015, I was taking 5 medically prescribed drugs to control my ME/CFS symptoms. Having come such a long way in my recovery over the last few years, and with our wedding done and our honeymoon not quite on the horizon, it was a good time to start reducing my dependency on these drugs. I wanted to see how well I actually am now. I feared the medication may be masking symptoms or conversely I hoped that in fact without the medication I would be fine, that I was actually a lot better, meaning that the medication was essentially redundant and I could move into a more natural drug free phase of health and healing.

Although it wasn’t a walk in the park, I am happy to report that the latter turned out to be my new reality. Or at least initially. The months up until Christmas when I gradually weaned myself off the first four medications from my armour went amazingly smoothly. Yes there were some bumps in the road. Yes there were some initial withdrawal side effects but overall the ME/CFS symptoms that I began taking the meds for did not rear their ugly heads. The crippling myalgia did not resurface at all – I am still, touch wood, just about pain free, woohooo! – the head-spinning dizziness did not reappear and there was no discernible prolonged increase in the exhausting fatigue. My erratic digestion and migraines both remained steadily neutral; no better no worse.

So far so good.

And then came the new year and it was time to remove the big one. My sleep remedy, magic melatonin. Ever since I was a child I had struggled with falling asleep. I would lay awake for hours after lights out, tossing and turning, unable to drift off. So when my doctor prescribed me melatonin back in 2012 it literally was a dream come true. Getting to sleep was no longer a chore. I stopped dreading going to bed. The stress I had associated with sleep was removed as I drifted off easily within minutes of my head hitting the pillow and I would wake refreshed and revived.

© Jess Bruce 2016

© Jess Bruce 2016

To be honest melatonin was the one medication I was dreading stopping. But I don’t like the idea of my body being dependent on a synthetic chemical, albeit a hormonal supplement. So having gradually reduced my melatonin dose, on the 2nd of January I went to bed alone, without my friend of the last 4 years. And that is where the trouble really started. My dread was realised. I was expecting it to be bad and so it has been, mind over matter or rather mind determining matter so to speak. I’m back to staring at the ceiling for a good couple of hours after lights out, tossing and turning, getting more and more frustrated because I am so so tired, eyes won’t stay open reading a book in bed and yet for some inexplicable reason I can’t actually flipping fall asleep. Once I turn the light off and lay down, PING, my overactive mind is in overdrive and I’m wide WIDE awake in a big messy wired yet exhausted kind of way annoying the hell out of hubby with my sighing and tossing and turning. I fear the spare room is calling me.

And given sleep is so critical to getting through the day, for everyone, but especially ME/CFS recovering bodies, life hasn’t been pretty these last few weeks. Exhausted. Emotional. Anxious. Overwhelmed. Tired. Irritable. Stuck. Yuck. The only plus side, thanks to being so tired and not really able to function, I have watched a lot of reruns of the West Wing which makes me very happy 🙂

Yep my body and I are in a new relationship. And definitely still wary of one another in our new found landscape. We’re still figuring things out. It’s definitely not a truly madly deeply thing yet. More just truly maddening. We are still learning to trust one another. But it will become everlasting love, I’m sure of it. It will it will IT WILL. I’m going to beat it, squash it, thrash it in to submission to ensure that my body agrees. I will persevere and I will win. Fighting talk hey?

In fact that’s the opposite of what I need to do but I’ll save that for my next post. Until then, sleep well 🙂

My Journey Thru M.E. Part 4: Living Recovery in 2014

8 Dec

2014 has been a good year for me and my health. Although ME/CFS is still a part of my life that requires some attention and management, I am  much more in control now and lead a much more ‘normal’ life. It hasn’t all been plain sailing but overall I am so much better. I am eternally grateful to my wonderful Lightning Process practitioner for helping me in my recovery.

If you want to read my back story and the years of illness that preceded my recovery, then you can find them here (how it all began), here (2012) and here (2013, when I turned the corner towards recovery).

January 2014

‘Funny turn’ whilst out shopping with my Mum. Suddenly very hot, dizzy, nauseous and achy. Had a week of relapse with bad ME/CFS symptoms again. But pulled myself out using Lightning Process techniques. Continued over the next few months to test my boundaries, learning what I could do without triggering ME/CFS symptoms.

In addition to the restricted diet I had been eating since July last year I decided to stop eating meat to see if that helped my digestion and energy. It did.

Started having counselling through the rehabilitation company which has helped tremendously with sorting through my thoughts, fears and emotions of having been ill for so long.

April 2014

Mr B and I went to the US for a three week road trip from Las Vegas to Seattle. Mr B high -fived me on the first night as we basked in our amazing Vegas hotel suite saying ‘it was thanks to all my hard work and persistence that we were able to be there’. I was less tired than Mr B when we arrived, despite an 11 hour flight! It was an amazing 3 weeks not least because Mr B proposed! We interspersed sight-seeing with rest times and quieter days. Happy, full of life and energy.

May 2014

I turned 30 in Seattle. Mr B and I celebrated the day with a swim, a nice long walk, shopping at the amazing Pike Place market, cocktails and dinner. So very happy and relieved to be well enough to be able to do it all. The next day was our last day in Seattle. We spent it chilling out in our joggers, I was tired (and a little hungover for the first time in several years!) after the excitement of turning 30. I realized it was okay to feel that way and having a lazy day on our last day was also okay.

I flew to Philly to see my sister as Mr B flew home. My first week in Philly was a bit of a struggle as my body caught up with itself from a busy few weeks. The second week was better. My sister and I shopped, cooked and hung out like two normal healthy sisters, no wheelchair in sight. Very different when compared to my trip to Philly the year before.

June 2014

After a busy few weeks of engagement celebrations with friends and family when I got home from the US and a flurry of wedding venue visits and arrangements I was running pretty close to empty. Tried to take some time out for rest and routine. But life was just so busy (a good thing!)

My consultant and the rehabilitation company came to the decision that a return to my old job as a corporate lawyer would be detrimental to my health. I was deemed medically unfit to return to my old job. The long hours in the very intense pressured environment was one of the triggers for my ME/CFS in the first place and it was felt that it was highly likely the same would happen should I return.

July 2014 & August 2014

Mr B and I decided to put our flat on the market with the aim of moving out of London to the suburbs. We sold quickly but our buyer then dropped out. Lots and lots of stress with estate agents, uncertainty and busy times being out for viewings on our flat and also travelling to view potential new homes.

The stress got the better of me and I crashed big time.  Fatigue, headaches and myalgia back with vengeance. Went back to my parents to rest and recover. After a week or more I had a session with my Lightning Process practitioner who helped me pull myself out of the relapse and bounce back.

A change in my Cipralex medication saw me suffering a week of severe constipation, bloating, lethargy and a bad migraine. I stopped the medication at fault which resolved things but triggered withdrawal symptoms from abruptly coming off the medication.

September 2014

A month of nausea, dizziness, diarrhoea, lack of appetite and emotional rollercoaster as my body went through the ringer of abruptly coming off the medication. Thankfully, other than a bit more fatigue, there was no real spike in ME/CFS symptoms.

October 2014

Mr B and I went to the Caribbean for ten days of rest and relaxation in the sunshine. We had a wonderful holiday and I coped fine with the heat and long flights only suffering jet lag on the return flight like any ‘normal person’.

Struggling with what I’m doing with my life now I’m so much more in control of my illness. What’s my purpose, what should I be doing?

 November 2014

We finally sold our flat. House hunting began in earnest again but was thankfully over quickly as we fell in love with a house and had our offer accepted. Having learnt from my mistakes in the summer of getting far too stressed and suffering with a relapse as a result, I’m determined to stay calmer this time. Making a concerted effort to put rest, routine and recovery first.

First night out in 4 years for Mr B’s 30th birthday. Didn’t get home until 2am!

Started using the Lightning Process to reintroduce, one by one, foods that had been identified as intolerances for me. Eating eggs, meat and coconut again successfully. Almond, soy, cod, grape, dairy and gluten still to tackle.

Began blogging again after a 5 month absence.  I am so much better but still have limits that remind me that ME/CFS is still a part of my life that needs attention and managing. I hope by sharing my story it will inspire others and give a glimmer of hope. People can, and do, recover from ME/CFS. I’m living proof of that 🙂

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