In the early days when I was feeling run down and experiencing flu-like symptoms, but I didn't know why, my crucial mistake was not resting and sleeping enough. I pushed myself for the sake of my job, and that got me nowhere. I stayed up late to see my boyfriend after his shift work, and that got me nowhere either. I tried to exercise because I hated the thought of not doing anything physical, and that made me more poorly. My body was struggling to keep going and I didn't keep still or sleep for long enough to give it chance to fight off the virus. My self-care routine was non existent. My stress levels were what can only be described as chronic, after the 6 months previous which had involved moving house twice, calling off my wedding, moving to a new city and starting a qualification on top of a full time job. This was the IDEAL time for me to start taking care of myself but I did the opposite; pushing myself further and further into a black hole of doom!
Then when I got my blood test results which showed I had the Epstein Barr virus I made the mistake of relying on information from the NHS website which says most people get over it in a few weeks. In the last two years I have come across a dozen people who have had glandular fever and not one of them got over it in a matter of weeks. It was more like years of recovery. My GP didn't advise me to rest or explain that other aspects of my life (stress) could prevent me from getting better, but I really believe that if I had fully rested and relaxed my body and mind in those early stages of the virus I could have potentially saved myself from developing CFS. Seriously, if you're reading this and you've got the flu or GF then just get yourself to bed immediately. Drink 3 litres of water a day, force smoothies and soups down you, have lots of bubble baths, listen to audio books, meditate, stick your head into any patches of sun that appear, and be kind to yourself. I wish I could go back in time and show the old me this blog post.
After I had been ill on a daily basis for 6 months (think of it like having the flu and a hangover simultaneously, not knowing when it will clear off, never feeling rejuvenated by sleep, and having to battle through a 35 hour working week) I was going out of my mind with worry. I took to the internet to find out if anyone was in the same boat as me. Instead of finding motivational stories of recovery I found forums full of people who had been experiencing CFS for 10 years+. I would spend hours and hours reading about these people and how they were in wheelchairs, stuck in bed, and felt like prisoners in their own bodies, and it made me massively depressed. In those delicate early days of my CFS diagnosis I should not have been reading those forums, but they have a way of sucking you in. I became obsessed with googling my different symptoms and each search I made pushed me further and further from my path of hope and recovery.
When I was living with my ex partner I felt like such a burden to him and a let down in general. We should have been going on holidays and days out, saving up for our next house and all the things that you do in your early 30s. My illness meant everything was on hold until I got better. This meant that I was constantly heaping massive amounts of pressure onto my shoulders to speed up my recovery. I would go to bed each night, praying that I would wake up and feel human again. Then each morning when I woke and my symptoms were still there I would feel upset, and so the cycle went round and round. As my mum frequently and quite rightly reminds me, I didn't get into this pickle overnight so I'm not going to get out of it overnight. It's going to take time, patience, and avoiding additional stress by not worrying about things that are out of my control.
For a long time I hated my body. I would literally tell it that I hated it. It had let me down by failing to function like everyone else and I felt trapped. It took me a long time to realise that actually I had let my body down by not taking good enough care of it. And even though I felt poorly, my body was doing everything in its power to recover, fix itself, build up energy, and I had to be thankful for that. Once I changed my way of thinking I started to love my body. I even love all my lumpy bumpy un-toned bits, because it's the only body I have got and I am never going to take it for granted again. Everything I eat and drink and do for my body now is to serve it, and not to abuse it.
I used to focus on all the things I couldn't do. I can't work. I can't go for long walks or exercise. I can't hold a book up for longer than 15 minutes. I can't do anything strenuous unless I schedule a full 48 hours of rest afterwards. Negative Nancy, that was me. Now I focus on all the things I CAN do. I can manage gentle yoga sequences and that also makes me feel relaxed, double whammy! I can do as much meditation as I want from the comfort of my bed and that makes me feel fantastic. I can go on short walks with the dogs and, because they're so slow, stop to take in my surroundings as often as I want to. I can do jobs around the house which I definitely couldn't manage this time last year. Progress is progress, no matter how slow.
Whether you're long term ill, post viral or maybe you're just feeling run down I really hope this helps you to make some positive changes.