This was published on the Counselling Directory Website Dec 8th 2017
I was diagnosed in 2009 with Fibromyalgia and it wasn’t until retraining as a counsellor that I realised I was not at piece with my body but at war. I have daily struggles just like you.
I was born with a body that was healthy, allowed me to train as an athlete and compete in competitions which was fantastic, until it wasn’t. I became very unwell during my A-Levels with Glandular Fever and struggled thereon after with unexplained pain and fatigue. Periods of having a normal life were followed by periods of frustration as my body wasn’t doing what normal bodies should do. I gave up my sports as I seemed to lose something vital overnight affecting my ability and stamina. Yet I never questioned it, I just carried on. Life continued, I got my first job, I got married and lived on this roller coaster of good days and bad days, or good weeks and bad weeks. The birth of my first child in my early 30’s triggered something even more extreme and yet I just tried to carry on.
I began to hate my body, and the life I had to lead as I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I couldn’t exercise to the level I wanted, insomnia was my ‘norm’, I ached like I had flu most days. I celebrated on the days I didn’t ache from head to toe and inevitably over did it. No matter how hard I tried to not notice it, it was there every day reminding me that I was ‘less than’. My body was weak, it made me weak, it affected my confidence, it affected my weight, it betrayed me and let me down constantly.
As much as I tried to love and live my life, I was fighting this constant battle to be normal. I ignored its need to rest, I ignored the sore throats and the signs I was imminently getting a bad attack, I almost punished it and carried on despite it. My body betrayed me, its effects on my life were apparent at every turn, and it was to blame for all the things in life I couldn’t do.
I am a very determined person and admitting defeat wasn’t an option, but I did blame it, it was my body’s fault. It didn’t allow me to be who I wanted to be. It made me weaker and vulnerable and I wanted to be strong and competent. Brain fog reared its ugly head at the most opportune moments, unexplained illnesses/aches/pains appeared overnight, I lived on 3 hours sleep, I couldn’t regulate my weight.
Then one day I couldn’t function or get out of bed and struggled for 6 months of existing and not living. The guilt that ensued regarding its effects on my husband and children was my driving force in seeking medical advice yet again. Over the years it had been put down to a virus, stress etc yet this time I found a consultant who listened and Fibromyalgia was diagnosed.
The diagnosis gave me an answer, but didn’t cure it. I still had to carry on, but at least I knew I wasn’t going mad.
One day I woke up and decided I needed a career change, so I took redundancy and went to university to study counselling. Part of my course was 60 hours of therapy.
During my sessions, it became apparent that what had slowly been occurring over the years was me disowning and punishing my body for being a traitor and letting me down. Through therapy I learnt to recognise my triggers, to appreciate what I can do and not what I can’t, what my limitations are and how I can adapt them. I started to realise I had not only been at war with my body but at war with its acceptance and my own positive regard. Acceptance up until this point has been viewed a defeat and letting it win. I had grown to hate my body inside and out with a passion, and was reminded of that every day when I looked in the mirror.
I realised through exploration that I had not identified or experienced my body as self, but had dissociated myself from it. So, during therapy we worked on holism regarding my body and mind in a hope of unifying them, and slowly I became more accepting that although I am not responsible for the circumstances I found myself in, I am responsible for the meaning I attach and the impact on my life now and working with my limitations, not against them.
I am still on this journey of understanding and acceptance, it can be hard to say ‘no’ that’s not what’s best for me, emotions such as guilt are triggered and battled with as is the internal battle with my own competitiveness. Learning to take each day and its new battles has been difficult. Not being able to lift the same weight at the gym as the previous week for example is not viewed a weakness now, but as a strength, I am here working out, I may not be lifting as much, but I am here and not giving up. It is and will forever be a journey I travel and I am okay with that now.
I deliberated long and hard about this Blog, as I wondered whether it would dissuade clients from wanting to see me. However, I wanted to highlight that it is possible to live a full life with a condition such as Fibromyalgia. I work out at the gym, I have achieved a degree, I work, I volunteer and I have a full family life with two teenage children and a husband whilst running my own business. I can’t run marathons (let’s face it who wants too) and I can’t life at 100 miles an hour. But what I can and do, is go to the gym for self-care, and work within that day’s limitations. I work the hours that suit me and therefore I can ensure I am present for each and every client I see and I can live a full and happy life, by understanding and accepting my limitations, and working with them and not against them. Most importantly I do not try to live up to others expectations, living up to my own is a challenge, why add others into the mix!
I appreciate not everyone with Fibromyalgia can live a life like me, as Fibromyalgia affects everyone differently. Non-the-less, I have spoken my truth, yours will be different and I appreciate that.
I just wanted to show that even counsellors have our own issues, we are all human, it’s how you deal with them that matters!