A Reflection of my chronically ill 2014

Another year has gone by, and now is the perfect opportunity to reflect and build a plan for next year.

I think whether you are suffering from a chronic illness like myself or as fit as a fiddle it is really good to look back and reflect and have some achievable goals for 2015 (Link- Coming Soon).

So I have decided to compile a list of questions to help me review my previous year, if you fancy going through and doing this exercise I would love to hear your responses in comments or feel free to just put pen to paper 🙂

14 Questions to help review 2014

1. What phrase or quote most sums up 2014 for you?

Give me the Strength to; Accept the things you cannot change, give me the courage to change the things I can & the wisdom to know the difference.

Funnily enough my last post was focused on this exact quote, unlike a lot of people I don’t take religious meaning from it (it originally was a form of prayer) nor do I use it as a pledge of sobriety like many do, as I am fortunate not to suffer in that manner, But regardless I think it is such a powerful quote.

To read more on this see my last post: 2015 the time to accept the things you cannot change, and the courage to change the things you can (Link)

 2. What is the most significant thing that happened to you in 2014

Well 2014 has definitely been one of the toughest of my grand old 25 years. At the start of the year I was diagnosed with CFS/ME which has to be one of the most significant things to happen not just in the year but in my life.

It saw me going from the person that could do anything and everything, my life was like a whirlwind (In a good way!) juggling: Work where I was training to be a chartered accountant the exams that went with it, chairing a local mental health charity, travelling several times a year a avid social life not only locally but travelling all over the country.

Always doing something to having to change every aspect of my life, it felt like I had to give up everything to begin with including going off on sick from work, but having this diagnosis has enabled me to look at my life and build up again really taking note of what is truly important.

For more info on the diagnosis of my ME/CFS check out my previous post: Getting Diagnosed with ME/CFS (Link)

 3. What do I have to be particularly grateful for?

My team me!

Maybe that needs explaining a little bit more for those of you who haven’t read my previous post, everyone has a team me it could be big or it could be small. Basically your team me is the group of people who are around you and help you in your recovery process (or if you are well are those positive people around who help keep your life ticking over).

Amongst my team me is my wonderful boyfriend, family, GP and CFS specialists (Including Toby Morrison) my manager at work, as well various online friends and groups who have offered their support and aided many of my queries.

For more information on how to draw up your own Team Me or to check out my full list check out my previous post: My Team me – No man (or woman) is an island (Link)

4. Did I celebrate all my achievements?

ChampersIt is really easy to celebrate the big achievements for example me passing my final accounting exam, thus making me a charted accountant and getting a house my lovely bf, which I can guarantee all were celebrated and with a lovely bottle of champers (any excuses for the bubbles in our house :))

But I cannot say that I have celebrated all of my achievements this year, a lot of them would seem silly and trivial to old me or to others, but in reality have been more significant to me this year than those big life achievements, this year has taught me to celebrate the little ‘wins’/achievements in life and that an achievement doesn’t have to be a huge thing but something that was challenging to you at the time which you over came.

5. What achievements are you most proud of?

Like I mentioned in the above point achievements don’t have to be huge ones, yes I am super proud that I passed my exams, but here are a couple of my achievements, that up until now I haven’t told a soul I even think of them as achievements.

Being able to:

  • Walk into work for the first time after being of sick
  • Borrow a dog every other week, and take it out for walk/ go to the park
  • Not call in sick for work since going back after my exam in August (bar one day for a non CFS/ME related back spasm)
  • Give up my position as Chair at a local charity, I know this might not seem an achievement but saying no and giving this up was something that was the best thing for me. Sometimes giving something up is the achievement.
  • Wash, dry and straighten my hair, this may seem an every day thing for a lot of people, but for a long time I was unable to do so, but after getting my hair cut into a bob this made it much easier for me to do and whilst it is not easy, I am able to do it if I really need to 🙂

6. What or who had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?

Well what a big questions so many people and things have had a positive impact on me this year pretty much every one in my team me could be the answer, but other than those very personal to me such as friends and family one name comes to mind, one person really changed my life this year : Toby Morrison.

I stumbled across Toby Morrison randomly on you tube, a video of his called Golden Rules of CFS (Link) and this really was the turning point for me, it helped me learn how to pace myself but most of all it gave me hope.

I watched the rest of his videos on you tube, then attended a couple of his free on-line seminars and there is something that really radiated hope, what he was saying was simple, easy to understand and gave me hope. I liked that he wasn’t pushing that his advice would cure you, but more that it would increase functionality and reduce symptoms, I later joined his online program which has helped me a lot, as well as having the support from the online group that is attached to the program.

I am know where near ‘cured’ but I can do so much more than I could at the beginning of the year and a lot of that has come from advice and support from Toby.

7. What was the most important lesson you learnt in 2014?

I know it is a bit of a cliché and a word that is drilled in to us with chronic illnesses, but the most important lesson i have learnt over the past year is Pacing, I am not the biggest fan of the word itself but using a slightly modified version of Toby Morrison’s credit system, I feel I have managed to get more control over my life, and slowly but surely have seen improvements in what I can manage.

My keeping a track of my daily credits in a journal each day, I can not only plan extra rest when needed into my daily routine for busy days, but also I can monitor my progress over time.

8. Did I work on all the major areas of my life in 2014?

I can safely say a big fat Hell Yes to this questions.

Over the past year almost every aspect of my life has completely changed.

I have had to learn how to pace myself, to rebuild my activity from being bed bound, learning more to say no to things and most of all prioritising my health above all else.

Not to mention being diagnosed as being gluten intolerant so having to learn to live a gluten free life style on top of everything else.

9. Have I been pro-active or responsive to life?

A bit of both really. I have always been a pro-active person and I still am. But for the first part of the year I really learnt to be responsive took note of where I was, and at that time I wasn’t in a good place, I had been trying to push myself when really my body was crying out YOUR NOT WELL… REST.

I ignored it for a long time, ‘pushing on’ because that is what I have always done and very much with the attitude of I will not let this beat me! With a lot of work with my councillor/therapist I managed to learn that there are some things in life that you can not plan for not be ‘pro-active’ for and being ill is one of those times.

So I learnt to respond to my body listen to what it needed and give it what it asked for.

But that did not mean I stopped being pro-active in a different way, I made sure I could do everything in my power to aid my recovery, from doctors appointments and those at the Bristol CFS/ME Clinic (Link), Toby Morrsion’s Online Program and seminars, and writing this blog and interacting with various online groups and other bloggers.

10. What did I love doing in 2014? Why did I love them?

I have enjoyed quite a few things some big some small over the year but the one that is brand new to 2014 and has had such a big impact on my life is Blogging and getting involved with the online CFS/ME and Gluten Free communities.

I started this blog as a way to put down my thoughts, mainly so that on a bad day I could look back at the advice I had been given and it be in one place for me to come back and read it, the same went with my GF recipes and reviews. I started it as I was planning to go back to work and wanted something computer based that would help me increase my concentration and cognitive skills.

It quickly became more than that to me though, it is a time that whilst it is challenging and often the brain fog comes down, it is me time, a time when I feel I have achieved something and has given me the ability to really interact with people in similar position, I have loved reading others blogs and tracking their progress too.

11. How different are you to the person you were exactly a year ago?

Hugely. This time last year I was still pushing myself to do way more than I should, my GP expressed that she believed it was CFS/ME but we were waiting on the last few tests to come back, I was still trying to work, very few people even knew I was struggling as I was embarrassed to ask for help (as I didn’t know what was wrong with me), I even went on holiday to India to visit a friend who was working over there, whilst I had a good time I feel I held my friends back and pushed myself beyond what my body was telling me.

After India I crashed big time, and when my diagnosis was confirmed I had no choice but to come off on sick, the doctor recommended I start with 3 months but I was shocked so we started on one month although this was extended to just over 4 in total.

At the end of January last year, I was bed bound, confused and had no hope I was just told I had a chronic illness with no cure and a waiting list for a hospital appointment of 5 months.

Now I am back to work around 12 hours p/w over 3 days and gradually increasing at a pace that suits me and was advised by my NHS specialist (Link), I am able to blog and see friends and have a positive outlook on my new life, pretty much a real 180.

12. Do I take responsibility for all the results in my life both good and bad or do I blame others?

This morning one of my favourite songs popped up on my spotify, it really cheered me up and brought a smile to my face, to be honest it is less of a song and more a load of life lessons brought to you in a humorous way.

That song is ” Everyone’s Free (To wear sunscreen). If you haven’t heard it or even if you have listen to it again, it has so many amazing quotes, including:

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

But the one that made me think of it, when asked this questions was:

Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much; Or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.

And do you know what that is so true, yes there are some things in my life I can take responsibility for like:
  • Pacing myself
  • Eating the right food taking supplements
  • Doing my stretches

But hardly anything is simple and stand alone, I wouldn’t have know what stretches to do or how to pace without the advice from others.

Other people and things beyond your control will feed into both the good and bad parts, but I can safely say I don’t blame others.

13. In what ways did I contribute, and give back to help others this year?

I have always been someone who volunteers, I have been doing so since I have been in school. Up until recently I chaired a charity, but I made the right decision to step away from it I know that.

But one thing I feel I still do to contribute others, is my blog. Whilst I started it for me, it quickly spiralled into something much more, especially after I documented my NHS experience at the Bristol clinic, until I became more involved with the online community I did not realise how luck I was to be in Bristol and have access to it, once I realised many did not have the access to such services, I wanted to make sure I comprehensively documented it so that others could benefit from the advice I was given.

Whilst some have disagreed and been critical of what I have written about what has worked for me, which is fair enough as what works for one, won’t necessarily work for all. The positive comments and feedback are what makes it really worth my while, in particular a fellow blogger Suzzie who named me in a post of her’s : Make my health a priority (Link)

Because of one of my post, she discovered Toby Morrison and his CFS Health Centre in Melbourn (Aus) and starting going their, which has helped her road to recovery.

14. What advice would you give to other people about what you have learned this year?

Regardless of whether you are well or suffering from an illness, but especially those who are suffering from illnesses like CFS/ME, I think the advice I would give you is :

  • Listen to your body
  • Know your own limitations
  • Celebrate the little win’s/ achievements in your life
  • Structure is key!

I would love to hear about how your year has gone 🙂

If you have enjoyed this post you might enjoy:

Or for my full catalogue of CFS/ME related posts check out my index : here

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