Tag Archives: NLP

Growing In Confidence

2 Jul
Standing tall, (sycamore not an oak) tree © Jess Bruce 2016

Standing tall, (a sycamore not an oak) tree © Jess Bruce 2016

I seem to have more pregnancy related symptoms creeping in this week, namely heavy feeling wrists, calves and ankles and a numb bum when I sit for any time! All part of the normal course of pregnancy according to my midwife, who I saw this week for my 25 week appointment. Both bump size and baby’s heartbeat are doing well. And I am now toting a step stool and tri-pillow around with me as apparently sitting firmly upright and with your legs at a right angle to your hips helps combat the butt numbness. And, I have to say, it does seem to be working which is good.

On to today’s topic, self confidence….

As odd as it may sound for someone who writes a blog, I’ve always been someone who has struggled with self confidence and valuing my own opinion. It is an issue that has plagued me for most of my life and has caused me a great deal of stress and anxiety over the years. It probably won’t come as any surprise that pregnancy has brought a whole world of new possibilities for feeling stressed by other people’s opinions. When it comes to pregnancy and baby bumps, everyone seems to think they’re an expert and to want to share their experience and advice with you; often in a fairly dogmatic way. Or at least that’s how it can come across to someone who takes what others say as fact at the expense of her own feelings and desires a lot of the time.

Now I know these friendly comments are only shared with the best of intentions. But it can be quite anxiety provoking. Take one trivial example, I went for a pregnancy massage, which was lovely and I can’t wait to have another, but the therapist commented more than once how small my bump was and how she couldn’t believe I was 5 months pregnant. Cue me then spending hours examining my bump in the mirror comparing it to pictures on Instagram; worrying that I was too small for my stage and that the only natural conclusion must be that baby wasn’t growing correctly and that something was wrong.

The apparent smallness or otherwise of my bump, except when measured by the midwife with her special tape measure, is merely a matter of opinion. It is a belief.  And not, most importantly, a fact. Every woman carries their unborn child differently. The massage therapist was merely expressing her opinion which does not, and should not, be binding or persuasive to me. It is merely her perception and I can take it or leave it depending on whether it is helpful to me.

I try and deal with other people’s opinions and advice in two ways: 1) remembering an opinion is not a fact and; 2) by building my self confidence so my own opinions carry more weight in my mind.

Remembering the distinction between fact and opinion has been important as I have felt at times a bit bombarded by negative messages from well meaning friends and medical professionals alike. Just because a friend wanted an epidural to reduce the fatigue of labour does not mean I will necessarily need one. Just because a doctor thinks breastfeeding and ME/CFS are incompatible, does not mean I shouldn’t breastfeed (which incidentally is not something I am willing to give up on without trying). Here I give just two examples, there have been many others. All these nuggets of information – negative messages so to speak – clog up my brain and rapidly eat away at my original thoughts and desires, demoralising me and stressing me, which of course does nothing to tame my ME/CFS.

I don’t pretend to know everything and I don’t flippantly disregard the advice of others and especially not those of medical professionals, but as fellow ME/CFS sufferers will attest, so often the medical profession is found lacking regards care management of our condition leaving us feeling that we know our own bodies best. I am not arrogant and believe I know best. In fact I think that the fear of coming across as arrogant (fear of what other people think) has worked to quash my self confidence for so long.

My aim, now more than ever, is to cultivate a mindset of quiet confidence so that I can internally review advice that I receive, do my own research where necessary and ultimately make a choice, that feels right to me, with a cool calm head rather than acting out of fear or in a haze of self doubt.

And so I have worked to build my own self confidence using simple techniques. The easiest for me is a visualisation. When I become aware of a negative voice reverberating around in my head I stop it by pausing and breathing. I make a conscious choice to change the voice.

When I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and disheartened by other people’s comments, I have felt the need to exert myself – not literally in their face, they are nowhere near at this point, but instead I want to radiate a calm confidence and to me, confidence is about standing tall with your head held high.

The image I create in my mind that encapsulates this tall confidence is a wise, old oak tree in a forest. He who stands so tall, strong and sure of himself. I see myself standing so tiny at the foot of the tree, looking up in awe at its great height; the breeze fluttering its green leaves, the sunlight filtering through its canopy way above, its rough trunk so strong and safe, its roots burrowing deep into the earth holding it steady. I can smell the crisp fresh dewy air of the early morning forest, leaves crunch under foot as I walk and the oak tree is cool, calm and confident.

I see myself grow and morph into the tree, taking on all its characteristics, feeling myself grounded by deep roots and enlivened by the sun’s energy on my face as I stand tall above other trees in the forest. I am strong and steady as birds fly by and perch on a branch but I remain true to myself. I am strong and confident, yet open to possibility.

I use this in the context of the Lightning Process, but visualisation is powerful and can easily be used on its own and it definitely works for issues other than pregnancy. It can be used any time you feel you need a little boost in confidence and self esteem; to stand a little taller as it were.

My mind can be my greatest ally through this pregnancy journey, in the same way as it became my greatest tool in combatting my ME/CFS. But it’s not easy and it will take awareness and perseverance.

For now, I will simply go back to my oak tree.

My Journey Thru M.E. Part 2: 2012 Some Ups, More Downs

3 Dec

Here is the second installment of My Journey Thru M.E. If you missed part 1 you can read it here.  2012 was not a good year for me. It was the year I really began to understand my illness but also saw a lot of boom and bust and mismanagement of symptoms as well.  I was so desperate to find a way out. Although it made me sad to think about this tough time of my life in writing this post, more importantly it made me see how far I’ve come. Things did get better for me. Much much better. Stay tuned for my next post which I hope will give you hope and inspiration.

January 2012

Saw a hormone specialist who asked me a lot of embarrassing questions, took a lot of blood and scanned my bones for density. He put me on Hormone Replacement Therapy as a method of kick starting my body from the ME/CFS. All that happened was that my savings dwindled to cover the cost of the treatment, I had to slather myself in estrogen gel daily, I gained unwanted weight and my skin erupted into very bad acne that took nearly a year to clear. There was no identifiable improvement in energy. Persevered for 3 months with the treatment and then decided enough was enough.

April 2012

Decided (in hindsight wrongly) that I was well enough to return to my life with Mr B in London. Mum came down every few weeks to cook and stock my freezer with meals so all I had to do was reheat food. I could not have survived ‘as well as I did’ (all things being relative) without Mum’s help. She did the laundry, cleaned and generally kept me afloat.

July 2012

Having come across an ME/CFS NLP Recovery course in Wales, Mr B, my family and I went off for a very wet week in Wales. Felt hopeful and buoyed that there was light at the end of the tunnel. I learnt huge amounts about the science behind ME/CFS, neuroplasticity and autonomic stress responses in particular.

Returned to my parents having worn myself even further into the ground with trying to be back in London. Spent the summer on the sofa watching the Olympics on TV, using the NLP techniques I had learnt on the course with varying success. I drove for the first time in a year. I cooked dinner and could go out for a longer walk. I seemed  a lot better initially but it sadly didn’t last. A friendship I made on the Wales course did last though. Every cloud…

September 2012

Mr B and I went to Greece on holiday. After much persuasion by my family I agreed to using a wheelchair in the airport and getting special assistance with boarding the plane etc. A wonderful week at the time but left me with severe post exertion malaise for weeks when we got home.

October 2012

Went to Centre Parcs (holiday and leisure resort in England) for a long weekend with Mr B and his family to celebrate his Grandad’s 90th birthday.  Too unwell to cycle on a bike around the resort like a normal person I hired a mobility scooter to get around. I very acutely remember the pain I felt from trying to swim in the pool that weekend. I remember crying in a corner of the pool and ended up sat with Grandad watching everyone else have fun in the pool whilst I shook with exhaustion and pain.

After pushing myself too hard for too long over the previous months I ended up back at my parents in a severe relapse very ill and very sad. It wasn’t until the following July that I went home to London for more than a few days.

2013 was a better year. Stay tuned for my next post where things eventually started to improve for me.

A Trip Home in a Life I Love

18 Jan
Just a chair? Photo credit Pennywise via Morgue File

Just a chair? Photo credit Pennywise via Morgue File

This weekend I am travelling up to Lincolnshire to visit my parents and the house I still call ‘home’.

This is a big step for me. I haven’t been at home since last July, at a time when I was doing ME/CFS in a very genius way and suffering really badly with it.

I have spent large chunks of the last three years at home, too ill to fend for myself in the flat that I own with Mr B, the place that I also call ‘home’, in London. So there is a strong link between my home in Lincolnshire and doing ME/CFS for me. At home in Lincolnshire was where I was first diagnosed with ME/CFS, it was where I spent the first three months of the illness horizontal and mostly asleep. It was where I cried tears and tears as exhaustion and pain racked my body after simply trying to take a short shower.

Prior to ME/CFS entering my life, since leaving home at 18, my home in Lincolnshire was a place I loved to return to. It was a place to retreat to when I needed quiet time, be that to revise for University or Law School exams or for a restful weekend in the countryside with wonderful home cooking after a hectic work week in London. It was a place of solace that I loved.

And despite it being strongly linked to doing ME/CFS for me, it is still home and a place I love and I am so looking forward to returning to. It’s been six months since I was there, the longest period of time I think that I have been away in a long time, perhaps ever.

Even during the horrible horrible time of severely doing ME/CFS, I still enjoyed home. It was a bitter sweet time in a way. I loved that I had the opportunity to spend time with my Mum and Dad, which, had I been well and working, I wouldn’t have had. But on the flip side being ‘stuck’ (which is how it felt at the darkest times) in Lincolnshire served as a bitter reminder of my illness; I missed Mr B terribly and felt like I was missing out on life. Who would expect at the age of 26 to get the flu and become ill to such a bad extent that  3+ years later you’d still be recovering from the consequences? Certainly not me. It wasn’t exactly what I had planned for my life…

But I’ve always tried to see the positives in even the dreariest moment and so it is the same with my time doing ME/CFS at home. My parent’s house, my childhood home, was where I started a yoga practice of my own; which has been one of the biggest joys to emerge from me doing ME/CFS. Home was where I was looked after 24/7 without me even having to ask. It was where I watched the birds eat in the garden with snow on the ground; where I played the piano to relax; where I started this blog. And it was where Mr B’s love and care for me became ever more apparent as he week on week, month after month, made the 3 hour drive up the motorway on a Friday night to see me for the weekend;   even tho all I had the energy to do was to lie on the sofa and perhaps go out for a 10 minute walk round the village.

Yes being at home for so much of the last few years definitely had its up moments as well the downs. Looking back at it all now and contemplating returning there this weekend is slightly overwhelming and I do, if I’m on honest, have tears in my eyes as I write this.

Now I am so looking forward to being at home. After a while living in London I get a yearning for the countryside, clean air, trees, open space. I’m going for a week and it’s going to be so nice to be there and to be able to enjoy it; to be able to watch a film with my parents without having to stop it after 40 minutes because I’m doing very tired; to be able to pop to the local market town for a coffee and a wander (on my own two feet not in a four wheeled chair) without it breaking me and leaving me exhausted and with a pounding headache for the rest of the day; and to be able to go for walks in the countryside with my Mum without having a timer running ready to tell us to return home to comply with a highly limiting pacing protocol – tho admittedly I am still pacing to some extent but my boundaries are much greater, especially where walking is concerned – last weekend Mr B and I walked 2.5 miles! Not something I’m able to do everyday at the moment but just to be able to do it once without any adverse consequences other than tired legs in a good way (legs telling me ‘wow we’ve not been used like that for a while, need a little time to adjust!’) is still utterly amazing to me and something I don’t think I’ll ever come to take for granted, and if I do, you have my permission, someone slap me please.

I have been using the Lightning Process pretty intensely on going home to Lincolnshire. I have been breaking the old associations of being at home and doing ME/CFS and replacing it with me being at home and doing good energy, doing wellness and doing calm and happy. Each time one of the old associations has popped into my mind I have paused and done the LP on it. This way I’m interrupting the old  neuro pattern and building new much healthier patterns and neural pathways instead. And so my overriding mindset about going home this weekend is now one of positive calm and optimism. I am looking forward to it and doing things with good energy and wellness whilst I’m there. I don’t have that many plans for the week as resting and routine is still a big part of my daily life and necessary in continuing to rebuild and rehabilitate my body. But my Mum and I are going to a local spa for a day of pampering which will be wonderful. I’m looking forward to playing with my new camera with my Dad and letting his photography wisdom rub off on me (aim for the week: take camera off automatic mode! Start small hey?) and cooking with my Mum rather than sitting and watching.

The kitchen stool, an ME/CFS nemesis! Photo credit Jade via Morgue File

The kitchen stool, an ME/CFS nemesis! Photo credit Jade via Morgue File.

One final thing I’m particularly looking forward to is sitting on a kitchen stool and not a chair….this may sound very peculiar and trivial but it’s something that keeps popping into my head. I’m clearly still doing some stress about it so will be doing the Lightning Process on it lots in the next few days to brain rehearse me doing wellness and good energy and strength sat on a stool. When I was at home doing ME/CFS I was too weak to sit on one of the stools that sit under the kitchen table. So Mum and Dad moved a dining room chair into the kitchen for me. This eased the pain in my neck and shoulders as I had back support and it didn’t require me to have the energy to keep myself upright like the stool did.

In the very worst times of my ME/CFS I remember sitting on that chair and laying the top half of my body over the table as even sitting in a chair was too much; I needed to be horizontal. That is still a very vivid memory for me, but that’s a story for another post. The dining chair in place of a stool was the same scenario that played out in the latter years of my Nan’s life. In her late 80s and into her 90s Nan definitely deserved a chair! I’ve said before that doing ME/CFS has taught me new found sympathies for the plight of older people and so it continues.  Am I talking nonsense? Perhaps! Seriously though, very few aspects of life remain untouched and unaltered when you have ME/CFS, I guess that’s the significance of the chair instead of stool situation. It’s just one more example of how I am slowly regaining control of my body and my life rather than being ruled by ME/CFS. And it’s all thanks to the Lightning Process. At 29 years old I’m just very glad that I’m well enough to sit on stool!

I’ll be back later in the week reporting from hopefully a sunny Lincolnshire, until then hope you all have a great weekend 🙂

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