The photo (of course) is me and, though the picture might not look like it, I’m a woman in my forties with fibromyalgia or, I prefer to say, one in recovery from it and well on the way. This photo was taken in Spring 2015 – ten years exactly since my health started to cascade floorwards in so many diverse and simultaneous ways that I could hardly keep track of what was going on at the time. Even as you see me today, I am someone who experiences episodes of intense debilitating pain, twitching-shaking peripheral neuropathy, brain fog, chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, multiple chemical and food sensitivities, hypoglycaemia and many more bizarre symptoms too numerous to list. More importantly, I am someone with an absolute relish for life and huge passion for so many things (nature, art, travel, food, music…), someone who is resoundingly joyful, creative, humorous, irreverent, loving, eccentric, surprising, determined and, above all, optimistic.
Perhaps that’s one of the reasons for showing a picture of myself, apart from enabling you to relate to the person behind this blog – its to front up to the misnomer that to have a serious, chronic heath condition you need to look a particular way, that the toll you are taking physically needs to show in your face, in your posture, in your very attitude to life; not so – at all! Fibromyalgia is sometimes referred to as the invisible illness because it really doesn’t present in many ways that enables others around you can see what’s going on or how challenged you are feeling – and this can be both a blessing and a further challenge in a world that often fails to even begin to understand this kind of chronic illness (a word which comes from the old Norse word illr = difficult; because I refuse to call what I have a disease). Difficult – yes, fibromyalgia can be that, in so many ways, and yet – in time, if you allow it – it can deliver so many gifts of better understanding…of yourself, your body, your relationship with your broader environment, your very purpose in being alive and so very much more.
For exactly four years now I’ve been writing a blog about, well, everything really. Its called Scattering the Light and it charts my journey as a writer, a painter, a philosopher and an explorer of life. Yet right at its very core has been an account of that other journey I’ve been on for these last ten years as I steadily recovery from fibromyalgia.
During those four years of Scattering the Light, I’ve written some really meaty, all-encompassing posts about my recovery experiences, my health epiphanies and my progress and I intend to repost some of them here for ease of reference and to keep them all in one place where people are more likely to find them – but this blog is going to be ALL about health and recovery, nothing else. So why start a new blog about health right now (so close to full recovery), you might ask; why draw attention to the part of my life that I am working so hard to put behind me? Well, where I am in my journey right now feels like somewhere between 80 and 90 per cent recovered (depending on which day you ask me) and steadily inching towards some sort of ideal I carry in my head but I have also come to realise this:
- Whenever I refrain from thinking of myself as broken in some way (or being treated as though I am by others), I recover at lightning speed, holding those recovery milestones for the most consistent periods of time and feeling the most complete in myself.
- Whenever I stop to appreciate all the MANY gifts that I have received along the road to recovery, I realise that – with all my heart – I don’t regret a single step I have taken and wouldn’t change a thing as what I have been through has catalysed the most spectacular evolution.
- Whenever I act as though I am already holding this holy grail of a thing called RECOVERY, rather than holding it out and away from myself as the idea of a place that is far ahead on a long weary road that I have yet to travel, I am instantly AlREADY THERE; there is nothing missing from my world in this moment.
So, what is recovery? Just think about that word for a second – “to recover” is to gather all the parts that have become scattered and isn’t fibromyalgia that very thing, as though all the many parts of yourself blew up and scattered far and wide like the cargo of a crashed aircraft? So, after the blast, you shake yourself down and you set off on that recovery journey, reaching out first for the parts that seem most important to you, the so-called essentials, and then – slowly, surely, fragment by fragment – you start to pull back to yourself all those other bits and pieces that lay scattered, many of which you never even realised you even had, to lose, in the first place. Gradually, you realise that some of the most seemingly trivial things are the most precious to you, only you didn’t know that at the time you lost them; so you appreciate them anew. At times its as though the light pours in at a whole new angle, arresting you on your quest, to take pause and appreciate at all that you have gathered so far and you smile, you laugh and you weep with the joy of discovering you now have far more bundled in your arms than you ever had before in your earlier life, or than you thought it was even possible to gather together in any one lifetime – such are the new gifts that come with seeking answers to a puzzle of this magnitude.
Because fibromyalgia is so more than just pain, is much more than just crashing exhaustion or a myriad of physical foibles that make everyday things a challenge; it is also a gift because it pushes you to look deeply into yourself, to what motivates, what brings joy and purpose, what creates experience and what then flags up one experience over another when life forces you to choose. It throws you deep inside your own consciousness and, probably then, into long periods of isolation; it tests out friendships, loyalties and familial relationships, it checks out your strength and determination to go it alone when the world outside fails to understand or offer solutions that resonate. It makes a researcher out of you, a follower of clues, a conundrum-solver extraordinaire as you piece together all the seemingly arbitrary clues of your experience until great patterns of coincidence start to form in a landscape of a life that bears no resemblance to the one that you used to lead. And step by determined step, you head your way toward the light of far better, far more balanced, more stable, more complete and more reliable health – and you sigh with the appreciation of a life more rich, more colourful than you every remembered it being before the supposed tragedy of the health crash that you once experienced.
To anyone that has been through Fibromyalgia, ME, CFS, MS or one of the many chronic illnesses out there or even through the trials and tribulations of menopause, hormone swings, diabetes…the list goes on and on…you will be familiar with the feeling that ill-health can feel like you are scattered, blown on the wind in many directions; your system no longer feels cohesive or like its all marching to the same tune. As you strive towards recovery, it can feel like, just as you get one thing lined up relatively neatly again, another thing goes completely wrong. If you are like me, you will have spent a lot of time researching and trying to understand how all the different parts of your body work, how they are connected, how one thing happening in one part of you can apparently trigger-off a completely different thing happening somewhere else entirely (Myofascial Pain really teaches you that one). You will, very likely, have delved into the complex subtleties of hormones and the endocrine system, honing a layperson’s expert grasp of the see-saw effect these can have upon one another that would leave most conventional doctors standing. You will have realised there is an emotional component to your health issues; that without the inner work you make only surface-level improvement but that nothing really sticks. You may well have stepped into the realms of energy-healing, seeking solutions from acupuncture, Reiki, Bodytalk and many other (still considered ‘fringe’) yet highly effective healing modalities. Better still, you may be working with this energetic aspect of your health yourself through the practices of visualisation, affirmation, meditation, movement and yoga. If so, you are, very likely, noticing that the more you work at reuniting all these aspects of health into one big picture, the more you are feeling – well – recovered!
More than all that, you will have – hopefully – begun to glean that it doesn’t matter how broken up into parts you feel, there is always a wholeness that underlies it all, even at your worst moments; a blueprint of perfect you that never left and which cannot be damaged or mislaid, however ‘bad’ things may seem; an aspect of you that is holding that space of recovery for you, just waiting for you to become one with it again. That part is REAL you, it is the intrinsic Self at the core of it all, having the wonderful sensory experience of all that it is to be alive…pain and all…through the vehicle that is your human body before welcoming you back to the place that you never really left. Tune into that aspect of Self and you are well on the way to that place and the grand reunion with your own healthiest blueprint!
Because to be recovered is to be whole; to reunite is to heal – which is what Health Reunited is all about.
Another thing that can felt terribly dispersed at the beginning of any recovery journey is the kind of information that can help you gain a foothold and some traction so one of my aims is to share all those tips, learning-curves and anecdotes that have fuelled my own journey, with a view to lighting others along the path. Bringing all of this dispersed information together into one coherent space is a big part of the reason I have called this blog Health Reunited. May you find much to assist and to encourage you on whatever recovery journey you happen to be on.