Tag Archives: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Why from Bedridden to Bodybuilding?

af19191c-e7ab-4a12-904a-a93a61cff6d2

Welcome to summer. A week into the warm weather and everyone seems to be complaining it’s too hot. You’ve gotta love London 😉

For me, the hot weather is fantastic. The aim of my cardio workouts is to sweat as much as possible and so I wrap up in several layers, starting with thermal underwear and ending with a hoodie and extra warm fleece. In this weather I am just dripping with sweat. And yes, that’s a good thing – burning more fat to get me ready for the stage in just over 8 weeks.

Last week I gave you a broad overview of my journey ahead. Today I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about who I am and how it came to this. For that, I will have to take you a little bit back in time:
It was in 2010 that I found my energy levels dwindling. Initially it was cause to annoyance rather than concern and I did what I always do – push through. Hard.
In 2013, at the tender age of 31, I suffered a complete burnout and was bedridden for a year. Not much use while unable to get out of bed, I lost my job, ending my corporate career. What got me there was a culmination of life changing episodes including severe stresses at work, working hours in excess of 80 hours per week on an ongoing basis, multiple trauma, physical attacks (all of which were sexually motivated), divorce, rape, burglary, sexual harassment and bullying, cancer in the family.  I could go on, but I will leave it there.
In 2012 I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after experiencing cluster migraines and I was signed off work, 2 weeks at a time, for the whole year. I suffered severe pain all over my body and was chronically exhausted. Every morning I woke up feeling like I had not slept in days, even after sleeping for 16 hours straight. I’d then have to decide whether I would brush my teeth or my hair. I did not have the strength to do both. Simple day to day tasks had become insurmountable.

Previously I had felt unbreakable. Super-human. Slowing down was for other people.
And now here I was. Broken.  

As I mentioned in my last email though, I was not willing to accept living like this for any length of time. For me, this was not living at all. So I started to do research. Initially I could not read for more than 5 minutes at a time, it was too exhausting and the letters on the pages turned into indecipherable dark blobs. I had to learn the hardest of all lessons and the one that would help me the most: accepting where I was right now. That meant accepting that, right now, I could only do as much as I could do. Accepting that rest was ok. Not only that, but it was helpful. Constructive. Productive! I had to learn to stop pushing myself harder and harder, something I’d been very good at. In its place I had to learn to slow down and be kind to myself. Something I had never previously done. And I had to learn to forgive myself. For everything that had happened to me.

I slowly improved and was able to start swimming and later yoga in 2014. Roll on 2016: I am now running my own businesses to empower women and to advise other people who are experiencing signs of burnout. I am in the final weeks of preparation for my first ever bodybuilding competition. I will enter the bikini category which sports a lean but not overly muscular look yet still requires a lot of training and discipline. But more about that at a later stage.

I hope that my journey will inspire someone out there to not give up in the face of adversity. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long that tunnel may be.


He replied, “I’m going through hell!” Said his friend: “Well, keep on going. That is no place to stop!”  ~ John Randall Dunn


Thank you so much for reading, your encouraging emails and support. It means the world to me!

Lots of love
Sarah

Advertisements

Your Body Hears Everything Your Mind Says – The Power of Positive Thinking

Thank you The-Optimism-Revolution for the image

Finding out about Adrenal Fatigue has been a revelation for me. Just knowing what the hell is wrong with me has given me the opportunity to improve. Just from knowing. It has put me back in charge! Because knowing has allowed me to take a long, hard look at myself and look at what I can do better to get better. And as I mentioned yesterday, changing the way I think was the most important part for me. 

For example, before I knew about adrenal fatigue I would beat myself up when I slept until 9am. Because I thought I am such a lazy cow, sleeping through half the day and if only I wasn’t so fucking lazy and would get my arse out of bed at a normal time, I would actually get stuff done. And then I felt so tired!!! Can you imagine waking up with that mind chatter? It makes me tired just thinking about it. Huh, it just dawned on me where that saying has come from…

When I understood how important sleep is for Adrenal Fatigue and that there is some adrenal magic happening especially in the morning hours of 7-9, my thinking was now very different. If I sleep until 9 am, I have an internal celebration going on – Woohoo, well done! Only just woke up and already done some important healing work for my adrenals. Oh yeah, I rock! And I get up feeling a lot better about myself and as a result of it, feeling a lot more energetic as well.

I gave you some examples of where I have already changed my thinking or reframed the self-talk to become more positive. Negative thoughts are poison. Because as the title says: Your body hears everything your mind says. So what? Well, if you have negative thoughts, they are stressful. And if you think stressful thoughts, your body goes into a stress response. And that has a whole host of negative effects on you. Especially if you are suffering from Adrenal Fatigue. As you just keep feeding the monster that is causing the problem to begin with.

“Only Perfect Is Good Enough” Vs. “Perfectly Good Enough”

I recently came across a wonderful article on the Huffington Post on perfectionism. I found it interesting because, well, I suppose I have to admit that I am a bit of a perfectionist myself. Everyone always used to tell me that I am, but I have spent many years denying it. Because in my head, perfectionists are the ones that do things perfectly. Whereas I never quite got there. Try as hard as I may, I always fell somewhat short of getting it just right. But of course that is exactly it with perfectionists. No matter how well you are doing, you never give yourself any credit because instead of seeing what went well, all you can seem to see is where it could have been that little bit better.

Another good example is my approach to exercise. How much exercise is too much very much depends on your fitness level. Going for a half an hour run can be barely achievable for some, especially if they have never run before. For me it used to be nothing. A half hour run is what I did when I had no time for a real workout. But of course now I cannot do that any more. And running for only 15 minutes seemed like failure to me. But the more I felt like failing at my workouts, the more fatigued I had felt. Because my body was listening! And as I said in my previous post Working Hard For Your Health – Not A Good Idea: Overdoing it will result in you doing nothing. And doing something is a hell of a lot better than doing nothing!

If you are interested, I would recommend reading the Huffington Post article on perfectionism, which you can find here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/06/why-perfectionism-is-ruin_n_4212069.html?&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000070

Say A Great Big “Fuck It” To Perfectionism

I did mention that I like to swear. But actually, in this case, I am merely using a quote. One of the best things I have read in a long time was “F**ck It” by John C. Parkin. The idea behind the book is that if we stop attaching meaning to things, life gets so much easier. In the words of Hamlet:

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

I have been wanting to start a blog for weeks before I actually did it. I was so worried about getting it right, about finding the right subject to write about and what if I was not writing well? But then I thought What is the worst thing that could happen? That nobody reads the blog? Maybe. And then I read another blogger saying If you enjoy writing it, your blog is already a success. So I decided FUCK IT! I am just going to do it. And now I am and the world has not come to an end. In fact, I do enjoy writing my blog.

Can you imagine if you said Fuck It to all the things that are holding you back? If you felt the fear and did it anyway? You would be UNSTOPPABLE!!! Imagine if you said Fuck It to everything that is bothering you. How much more mindspace would you have if you did not have to worry about it any more? Your husband leaves his socks in the sink all the time? Every time you get annoyed about it, you go through a stress response. The cost of that is paid only by you. Imagine if you could just say fuck it and get on with life. So what there are socks in the sink? In the great scheme of things, what does it really matter? I mean REALLY? Bigger picture, people.

Look at me talking… Truth is, I read the book about a year ago and I am obviously still not quite there. It is a work in progress. But isn’t everything? And every improvement is a success. Instead of trying to make today PERFECT, why not try to just make today better than yesterday. And if you do that every day, you get a little further every time.

If you want to read more about saying Fuck It and learn how to do it and where to apply it, read the book or have a look at John’s Fuck It website http://www.thefuckitlife.com/

 

I like that little story of the old Cherokee and the two wolves. The good thing is that if you keep feeding the good wolf, not only will you starve out the bad one, but as the good one gets bigger and stronger, it will fight the bad one for you and before you know it the good one will be there to respond before the bad one gets there. And in the meantime it can harm to just tell the bad wolf to go fuck himself!

A Bad Day Allows Time to Consciously Appreciate The Good Ones

Yesterday I missed publishing my blogpost. I already had an idea of what I wanted to write about. In fact, when I write a post, I usually have the idea for the next 3 or 4 which I briefly outline to myself in a few bullet points. That allows me to keep some kind of flow going between posts. At least that is what I aim to achieve.

So yesterday’s blogpost was outlined. I already had the idea. I just needed to write it. But yesterday was a bad day . I only managed to drag myself out of bed around 11am and spent the rest of the day on the sofa or eating on the sofa. Adrenal rest days are characterized by cravings, insatiable hunger and lots and lots of eating all day long.

Where did the day go? What did I do all day? Apart from eating… Well, mainly I spent the day staring into space. I was back to being so desperately tired, I could not even be bothered to sit up straight and type a post for my blog. It just seemed too much to ask of me or anyone who feels that way. And I did have a little “here we go again” thought creep into my mind. But I took a long hard look at that “thought gremlin”. Do you know “thought gremlins”? Those little lying fuckers that tell you all the shit you don’t need to hear, like you are useless, you cannot achieve something or you are not good enough.

Since I was not going to do anything but sit on my arse all day, I decided to reflect on the last couple of weeks since I found out about Adrenal Fatigue and the improvements I have made since then to help my adrenals back to good health. And immediately I did not feel bad about being so “lazy” any more. Because for one, I was being quite productive by thinking about all the good stuff that has been happening. And I realised that things have improved so dramatically over the last two weeks. I now had one day of lying around incapable of doing anything, yes, but after I had spent two full days over the weekend helping to facilitate training sessions and having spent a full day working on various things on Friday. Three full days in a row. How amazing is that? I have not managed to do that for about a year!!!

I would not even call yesterday a set back. Just a logical conclusion – a day of necessary recharge. My adrenals are getting noticeably better. And going from having a productive hour 2-3 times a week to 3 full days of doing things, being active and productive and after having hit the gym 3 times as well last week, I think that is quite an achievement.

Yes, yesterday was not a good day. I was tired. I could not think. I just wanted to sleep all day. But I am no longer hopeless. No longer accepting that this may just be how it is now, this is what life has become. Having those thoughts bashes your adrenals even more and feelings of being helpless and hopeless.

So my top tip to anyone who suffers from Adrenal Fatigue is: Be conscious of the good times and know that those can become permanent again. But not over night. So cherish them when they come along and be conscious and grateful for them when the bad times come knocking again. Cut yourself some slack. You won’t go back from 0-100 in a day. But while acceleration may be slow, it is also steady. When I started two weeks ago, I got a productive morning followed by a day in bed. But wow, I had a whole morning of feeling awake. Then last week, two weeks into the changes I have made, I had 3 whole days.

Yesterday’s bad day was not a reason to be distraught. It was a reason to celebrate. I had 3 full days. And I am feeling really good today. So after 3 days I needed 1 day rest. So what? Soon I will get 4 days and 1 day rest. Eventually I will only need half a day rest. And over time I will be able to do more and more without feeling exhausted while my body will be able to recover in shorter periods of time.

One thing is for sure, I will now always make time and space in my schedule to rest and recharge, even though one day I won’t feel the need for it any more.

The Leverage of Knowledge

Knowledge

 

I was talking about knowing your starting point to determine your route to your destination yesterday. Earlier last week, I discovered my own starting point.

Remember when I suggested that you do not stop looking for the answer just because a medical professional ran a test and did not find anything? You know your body best. You know best how you feel. If the test did not reveal what the problem is, it does not mean that there isn’t a problem. It just means that your GP ran the wrong bloody test.

When my blood tests came back and were all ok, I did have a long hard think about what on earth is going on. I even considered that maybe I was making it all up. So I tried to pretend as if I was not feeling tired. But that didn’t work. And it almost went pretty wrong when on a day out I felt very unwell, became dizzy and couldn’t even see properly any more. That freaked me somewhat out, which you may understand, and so I decided to start looking for answers myself.

I had been working with Jayne Morris, a Burnout Expert, just a couple of months prior, as I had been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after my work abroad and despite receiving Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at London’s foremost Anxiety Clinic, I had not been able to quite let go of what had happened. Working with her was a tremendous experience and it helped me greatly. I barely worked since January this year and was signed off by my GP for most of this year. Finally, in September, after a long, drawn out process, I decided to move on from my employment as an IT consultant.

I fully expected that with this chapter of my life being over I would now be unstoppable in the pursuit of a new life. Except it did not quite work out that way. While Jayne had helped me to greatly reduce my anxieties and opened my eyes to new ways of thinking that are invaluable to start a new life, I was still awfully tired all the time. And I don’t mean the “I’d fancy a wee nap” kind of tired. I mean desperately tired. The kind where you sit on the sofa staring into nothing contemplating if anyone would notice if I wet myself because I didn’t want to get up to go to the bathroom. I NEVER actually did wet myself. Having that thought on a recurring basis is on it’s own alarming.

So I spent most of my day either asleep or on the couch in a somewhat vegetative state. I used to cycle to the stables, clean out the horse boxes, ride for a couple of hours, then go for a 10 mile run only to still be able to tear up the dancefloor in a salsa joint later that same night. Now I needed a nap after just having had a shower because it took so much out of me. All I did was eat and sleep. Needless to say, my food choices were not ideal for the most part and certainly nowhere near my usual standards. I was just too tired.

I spoke to Jayne about this in a follow up and being a Burnout Expert, she threw a few leads at me which gave me something to work with. Looking into different things, I came across a great book “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome™” by Dr. James L. Wilson. It has been a REVELATION. It all added up. The symptoms, my stress history, everything. You have to understand, stress has an accumulative effect on the body. Especially during times of prolonged stress the adrenals take quite a bashing and if there is no recovery time in between, well, it only gets worse. Having suffered post traumatic stress disorder, working 60-80 hours a week, going through a long drawn out grievance process with my employer which resulted in me leaving eventually, all of that had been eating my adrenals, chewing them up, spitting them out and dancing a particularly stompy version of Flamenco on them. In short, I had shot my adrenals to bits.

You might ask “Why self-diagnose?” A good friend asked me this unhelpful and discouraging question when I told her about what I was going through. But here is the thing: I do not need a doctor to tell me how I feel. I know that how I am feeling right now is not normal – FOR ME. I cannot speak for anyone else. Maybe some people are comfortable in a borderline comatose state on a permanent basis. I wasn’t and I knew that my body could do better. I knew that something was wrong. And as I have followed the advice given in Dr Wilson’s book for almost 2 weeks now and am seeing significant improvements, I don’t really care if anyone thinks that only a doctor can make a diagnosis. I used common sense, read, researched, tried it out and made an executive decision – I have finally found my starting point. And I AM ROCKING IT!

If you would like to know more about Jayne Morris and the work she does, check out her website on http://www.jaynemorris.com/

For more information on the medical site of Adrenal Fatigue and to take a test if you may be suffering, visit Dr James L Wilson’s website http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/