I am sharing this with you today because as with all things that need healing, we begin by repressing them, ignoring or refusing to accept them, pretending everything is OK to everyone else and sometimes to ourselves, and only when we’re fully ready to face it head on and heal that part of ourselves do we let it come fully to consciousness, and that’s where I’m finally at. Although I’ve not had an official diagnosis from a Specialist (hopefully to come soon), I recently attended a first step recovery presentation for people suffering with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I feel sure now that this is what I’ve been suffering with.
Living with an un-diagnosed health issue for at least 6 years, I’ve been fortunate to have knowledge of Yoga practices which in addition to making other life style changes, have helped to bring it under control in the last two years. And dare I say it, my quality of life might actually be better than it ever has been! In some crazy way, Chronic Fatigue has forced me to start living the kind of life I wanted all along.
Chronic Fatigue is not the same as being tired, it’s absolute physical exhaustion. For a time everything from getting out of bed, to walking up the stairs, and teaching a Yoga class was done with enormous effort. There was no space in my life for anything enjoyable, I was simply coping. Because I didn’t know what was wrong with me or how to manage it, it’s been difficult to explain how I felt, even to loved ones. Though I have some caring friends who knew I was suffering, I felt as if I was always moaning and lived with constant guilt and frustration. Guilt that I am not doing enough to contribute at home, or participating fully in a relationship, guilt that I am not earning more money, fear that I appear lazy when really I’m trying to conserve enough energy to teach a 75 minute Yoga class in the evening. Frustration that I wasn’t enjoying my life.
I left my day job three years ago which was most certainly in part prompted by how I was feeling. I then spent seven months recovering from the worst of it. But I was still limited in how much I could do. Eventually I started to gain enough additional energy to start doing something I’ve always wanted to, and that’s to learn to dance. I also now had the time to commit to it. So I learned to Swing dance, but then spent the first half of the week recovering from a few hours of dancing at the weekend. I’ve since learned that physical activity can trigger a ‘crash’ in CFS.
In the Spring of this year, I felt so well, I danced as often as possible, and ran practically everywhere. I was making a habit of legging it across London to catch my last train just because I could. I felt reborn. And then in June I crashed! Recovering from the worst of it took about a month and though I am much better now, I’m still not up to that same speed that I had in the Spring.
But here’s where it gets better because as a result of this epic journey, I’ve had to realise and give up some of my conditioned thinking about what I should be doing or achieving. For example I’ve dropped feeling guilty that I am not working a normal working week, and I’ve stopped feeling bad that I’m not the kind of Yoga teacher that runs retreats all over the world, or teaches in big studios, or in my spare time is posting on Instagram. And since I’ve quit creating all that unnecessary anxiety, I realise those things are not important to me anyway. I just thought that’s the way to success and as we all know success by way of achievement is the goal in our culture! Getting to that little awakening, led me to a further realisation… WHAT I’VE GOT IS ENOUGH.
That doesn’t mean I’ll never desire to grow or change, but the incessant yearnings for certain improvements to my life have dropped away. I see what I do have which is a great community of Yoga students who I enjoy teaching and feel comfortable with. I have established classes and a growing one to one teaching practice which I find truly fulfilling, I get to be creative when I want to be in my own way, I live with a life-long friend who I am blessed to have, in a nice home, and I have Swing dancing which makes me smile from ear to ear. And all this brings me happiness and improved sense of health and wellbeing!
So whilst I’d prefer to not have to live with the limitations of Chronic Fatigue, if that is indeed what it is, I can’t deny that where it’s stopped me in my tracks, the reality is, it’s caused me to seek another path and create a pretty stress free and balanced existence along the way, including time and space for things I love, and to experience the freedom that acceptance brings.
In her book ‘Radical Acceptance’ Tara Brach, Buddhist teacher and Psychologist explains that acceptance doesn’t mean becoming passive or resigned. That is a great misunderstanding. She writes “Radical acceptance acknowledges our own experience in this moment as the first step in wise action.” In other words accepting where we are and all that we feel as opposed to fighting it, is the first step in moving forward.
While I am so much better than I was, I have to be attentive to keep myself on track. We all have our challenges, and there are no quick fixes – breathing in the light, or pretending it doesn’t hurt or that you’re not angry about it, will only make it more painful. However, being mindful and approaching yourself compassionately under all circumstances might be the key to transforming it.
If there is somewhere in your life where you are struggling, can you bring some attention to it and ask…
For anyone suffering with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or any life changing health issue, I’m not underestimating how hard it is. I was really fortunate to know about mindfulness and relaxation which are a core part of managing CFS. I don’t know what the answer is to a full recovery, but this is what I am working with right now, and I should imagine that all of these can only help with any condition…
Remember that mindfulness and finding the gold amongst all the muck is a process and is not about fighting what you feel with positive affirmations. It’s much deeper than that. If you’re not sure how to go about it then look for a teacher or therapist that can you support you on your journey.