So, let me tell you a little bit about me and my journey and what put me on this path. Most importantly, I would like to tell you why I feel I am the person who can help you to overcome your own battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, M.E., fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue, burn out or similar conditions.
My story may not totally replicate yours but even though each story of a person’s journey with these sorts of illnesses is different, they are all caused by your body saying “enough is enough”. This can be caused by many different things. It can manifest itself in many weird and often not so wonderful ways! But ultimately your body is telling you that something needs to change in order for it to be able to heal itself. Your body is a wonderful thing and when it is given the opportunity to heal itself, it does. It’s just a case of finding out your triggers and where you have got stuck and changing what needs to be changed.
One way or another I hope this will illustrate that I feel your frustration. I know what it feels like to suffer and see no obvious way out. I’m in the position of having been through severe symptoms, with virtually no support from professionals. My family and friends did their best but struggled to understand or help because there was seemingly nothing they could do and that was difficult for them. Through research and trial and error I eventually found my path to recovery. It was certainly not without its pitfalls and stumbling blocks though and I had little or no guidance. If I had had a magic wand at the time and could have wished for anything, I would have wished for somebody to help me recover. I would have wished for somebody to take my hand and show me how. I would have wished for support, practical advice, a cure, some relief from the pain, exhaustion and the added stresses of not being able to function or do the things I’d once enjoyed. I would have wished for someone who could steer me away from all of the pitfalls. I would have wished for someone who had been there, who had come out the other side, who was willing to say “come on, we’ll do this together”. Part way through my recovery, I vowed that I would help people to recover just as I did. I didn’t quite know how I was going to do it at the time, but that was all to become apparent later on.
This photo may seem like an unusual choice at first glance, but it is a reminder to me, and hopefully inspiration to potential clients, that anything is possible. A few years ago I was suddenly virtually bed bound for 18 months with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. I was unable to even put lights on or look at a screen of any sort because they triggered migraines instantly. I have since learned that this extreme reaction to lighting is a bit unusual, but conditions like chronic fatigue don’t have a strict set of symptoms. The result, however, was that I was unable to live the life I had been used to, unable to work and unable to continue a long-standing passion of mine, which is kickboxing. I’d like to tell you about my illness and how I recovered in a little bit more detail.
What were my triggers?
If I were to summarise in one word what caused me to develop M.E./ chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and severe photophobia, I would say it was stress. Although at the time I would never have admitted that I was stressed and genuinely didn’t believe I was. I was, however, living a very fast paced life. I had a stressful job that I didn’t really enjoy. I was training 6 times a week, entering competitions at weekends, only getting 4-5 hours sleep a night and I was a single mother and had been through several quite traumatic experiences during my life that I believed I had dealt with very well at the time. Looking back I can say that I was very stressed and certainly not happy.
I have learned since that stress can come in many forms. There’s the stress that most people would identify with as being stress…..the emotional type of stress which can come in many forms. However, your body can also become stressed from something physical, like an illness or injury or excessive physical exertion without proper rest, or it can become stressed from your diet – not enough nutrients or too many toxins. There are also infections that can put a strain on your body.
I went for all of the above!
Simply put, one day my body had enough and just started to break down. Firstly I developed quite an extreme reaction to artificial lighting which was quickly followed by complete exhaustion, dizziness, migraines, weakness of muscles, muscle spasms, intense tension in muscles, tension headaches, insomnia….the list goes on but basically I had to live in the dark for 18 months, often unable to get out of bed and when I did get up, I often had to crawl around to get from one place to another within my flat because I didn’t have the strength to stand or I was too dizzy.
No help out there!
I was initially told by the medical profession that I was wasting their time and I was making it up! This was also the opinion of the benefits service and the people I worked for at the time. I finally got a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and severe photophobia after brain scans, blood tests, ophthalmologist appointments and having to see private neurology consultants. I was then told by the medical profession that there was no cure and I just had to learn to live with it and it would probably only get worse and result in me being in a wheelchair.
The additional issues
I was extremely isolated. Not being able to go anywhere that has artificial lighting is incredible restricting. It wasn’t something I’d ever had to think about before then. Even all of my appointments that were supposed to help me were adding to my stress. Not only was I feeling exhausted, dizzy and in pain all of the time, but just getting to these appointments would push me to the absolute limit and then I would have to go into a public building which without fail would have artificial lighting in it! I would have to have complete bed rest in the dark for a week after each appointment. I was often having to spend weeks in bed following the latest prescription medication that I was given. Needless to say, I wasn’t that keen on going to these appointments! Especially when every time I went it was the same things…..either “there’s nothing wrong with you” or “this is what’s wrong with you but we have no idea how to help you”. I was even less keen on going to appointments with occupational health or the benefits service where I was consistently told that I was fit for work despite not being able to walk unaided both a) because my legs felt like jelly, I was extremely dizzy and I had no energy and b) because I had to keep my eyes firmly shut behind dark glasses for the entire duration of being in a public building and had to be guided by a friend or family member as if I were blind.
What did I try?
I was absolutely not going to accept that this was my lot for the rest of my life. I was determined to get better. I just didn’t know how yet.
Having exhausted the medical profession and come to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to get any help from them, I then turned to the holistic health professionals.
I was unable to watch TV, look on the internet or use a mobile phone due to the screens but I did have a very supportive brother who did a lot of researching and printing and ordering of books for me. I read and read about the causes of chronic fatigue and the different paths to recovery. I made it my mission to try everything until I found my cure. This was not an easy road and I had to pick myself up and start again, sometimes on an hourly basis.
I tried homeopathy, nutritional therapy, supplements, herbal remedies, osteopathy, chiropractic treatments, reflexology, sports massage, aromatherapy massage, lymphatic drainage massage, physiotherapy, I had allergy testing done and I even removed all chemicals from my home and diet.
After more research into the effects of stress on your health I moved on to acupuncture, yoga, meditation CDs, a training program designed to help you recover from chronic fatigue and hypnotherapy. I believe all of these things had a benefit on my health but it was quite unpredictable whether I felt the benefit and it was often very short-lived if I did. I felt I was missing a vital connection between the obvious benefits of all of these treatments and me actually feeling those benefits on a more sustained basis.
The turning point
One day, I was having a hypnotherapy session with a wonderful woman called Jane. It was about the 3rd session that we had done and I had felt massive benefits from the previous sessions, but they had been very short-lived. At this point I had been living by candlelight for about a year because any exposure to artificial lighting would send shooting pain through my eyes and trigger an instant migraine. During this session, she said something to me that triggered a whole chain of events that eventually lead to my recovery. She said, “Sarah, it isn’t the lights that are hurting you, it’s your thoughts about the lights”. , that sentence was a turning point for me because it made me realise some vital points:
I realised that I had to take full responsibility for my own recovery and that included my thought pattern. I also realised that I had been doing all of these wonderful things to improve my health, yet I hadn’t been experiencing the benefits of them because I had the wrong mind set. I was getting stressed and frustrated about my condition and I was having so many treatments that were costing me a fortune and then getting stressed and frustrated again when they didn’t provide the instant results I wanted. That day I began to understand that it was that very stress and frustration that was hindering my progress and I had to find a different way of approaching my recovery. A determined, yet relaxed approach.
I actually I went home that night and turned on the lights without too much pain at all and within a couple of weeks I wasn’t even giving it a thought….No thoughts about it meant no stress about it and eventually no reaction.
Now it was time to apply the same principle to my other symptoms.
How did I recover?
Hypnotherapy dramatically changed my life for the better in many ways, not least by helping me back to full health and allowing me to get back to doing what I love. Over several more sessions I changed the way I looked at my recovery, my life in general and my beliefs about myself and the world around me.
Knowing how powerful hypnotherapy can be with the right therapist, I decided that this was my true career path. Having worked in schools for most of my adult life as a mentor/counselor and having taught kickboxing for years, I had gained valuable people skills. Re-training as a hypnotherapist was the ideal way to combine these skills with an effective tool for helping others to overcome anything that was preventing them from achieving their goals and reaching their full potential.
The training I received in hypnotherapy cemented my knowledge about the mind-body connection and the impact that our belief systems and have on our health and well being. I actually recovered rapidly from a lot of my symptoms during the time that I was training to be a hypnotherapist myself. This got me to the point where I knew I was able to manage my own symptoms and reduce my stress levels most of the time, but I still found it difficult when other people or circumstances beyond my control seemed to create stress in my life. It was at that point that I remembered seeing Sandy Newbigging doing a talk on his new book at the time, “Thunk”, about a year previously. I had really enjoyed the talk at the time and bought and read the book, but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to pursue it. I decided to take another look at it. I looked him up online and discovered that he had published 2 new books since I saw him that day. I bought both of them and read them cover to cover, unable to put them down. One was “Mind Calm”, a modern day meditation technique, and the other was “Heal the hidden cause”, a book about his Mind Detox therapy. I was so convinced by the books and my consequent chats with Sandy himself that I booked onto both of the courses to learn to do it for myself. The benefits were incredible. I immediately signed up for the practitioner level courses and I’m now qualified as a Mind Calm coach and a Mind Detox practitioner. I absolutely loved every minute of it and it has given me the skills that I needed, not only to recover myself, but also to be in the very privileged position to be able to help others to recover from similar conditions while feeling fully guided and supported.
I had tried various things diet wise throughout my recovery path, but had felt little benefit because I was too stressed mentally and, as it turned out, there was an internal stress going on from my diet. I was intolerant to dairy and hadn’t realised. This was causing a massive stress on my digestive system and while your digestive system isn’t functioning well it is very difficult for your body to recover. I had been doing all of the right things…juicing vegetables daily, I’d tried cutting out sugar, I ate organic, all my water is filtered, everything is cooked from scratch….but all of this goodness wasn’t being digested properly because of the dairy intolerance. It had caused leaky gut syndrome which meant that my small intestine was too permeable and small particles of food were leaking out directly into the bloodstream and causing havoc. Time to heal my gut, so I could experience what it really feels like to be healthy and happy. Did you know that 90% of your serotonin is in your gut, not your brain. I worked hard to eliminate everything that was hindering the last of my recovery. I added probiotics into my diet. I used the right food combining. I cut out sugars. I suddenly found myself smiling all of the time. My body started to heal itself as soon as it got the opportunity. My hormonal imbalance that was causing chaos in my body reduced dramatically. I felt much better, but still not right. The first morning when I woke up without a headache, I had to check that my head was still attached because it felt so alien to me to be pain free. It was, and still is amazing. I learned absolutely everything that I could about nutrition during this time. It is second nature to me now. My diet was pretty perfect, but still there was something not quite right.
Parasites – The last piece of the jigsaw
I’d had various digestive complaint for a long time. Probably 10 years or more. The doctors had diagnosed IBS. Until this point I had not made any connection. I decided to get myself checked properly and a gastro-intestinal screening revealed that I had Blastocytis Hominis and Dientamoeba Fragilis. 2 microbial parasites that cause havoc with your digestive system, leaving me malnourished and placing great strain on my digestive system and therefore each and every system in my body. I also had a substantial imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in my gut. This was caused by the parasites.
I sought advice and taught myself everything I needed to know in order to rid my body of these parasites and rebalance the gut flora.
I treated the parasites with herbal remedies such as oregano oil, cloves and garlic. After several weeks of rotating the herbs I suddenly felt well! A feeling that I don’t think I’d felt for 15 years, but this time around I appreciate it. Really, truly appreciate it.
I find myself waking up in the morning feeling refreshed and excited about the day ahead. My remaining hormonal imbalance has just faded away. The remainder of my muscle pain from my fibromyalgia has disappeared.
I am now fully recovered and I am living a life that I didn’t think would ever be possible. I wouldn’t change any of my experiences because they have lead me to the place where I am today. I love what I do and I’m passionate about helping others to recover from this debilitating condition and live the life they fully deserve too.