A brief introduction to my health recovery story and coaching process
My M.E./CFS and Fibromyalgia recovery story and journey to NLP and becoming a Mindset Coach
MY STORY /
FROM A WHEELCHAIR TO ROCK CLIMBING TO COACHING
If you were to meet me today you would most likely assume that I am fit, healthy and fully living my life and you would be right to assume those things. I have just spent the last seven years holding down a full-time management job in hospitality whilst living in my camper-van (by choice!) in amongst the mountains of Snowdonia and have spent every moment of my spare time rock climbing, mountain biking and fully living. It’s been a blast.
If you had met me prior to May 2016 however, you would have met a currently unrecognisable version of me. In 1992, I was diagnosed with M.E./CFS and Fibromyalgia and went on to spend the following twenty four years chronically ill. I was predominately bed-bound, often in a wheelchair and from time to time, on morphine and valium for chronic bone, muscle and joint pain. It was unquestionably my most challenging of years.
The shift from ‘healthy’ to ‘ill’ was fast, traumatic and literally, an overnight shift. One day, I was a healthy teenager at the start of my A-Level studies with a dream of one day becoming a rock climbing instructor. The next, I was bed-bound with chronic pain throughout my body and it was fast clear to myself and to my family that I was not going to be going back to school for the foreseeable future. And so began our journey of endless Doctors appointments and endless medical tests to find out what was wrong with my body.
At this time, there was no blood test that gave a definitive diagnosis of M.E./CFS and Fibromyalgia. Instead, you were thoroughly tested and if those tests all came back negative but you were presenting with the symptoms of chronic muscle, bone and joint pain, extreme fatigue and cognitive processing struggles then, you were given the diagnosis of M.E./CFS.
The lack of a blood test that showed something was clearly wrong within the body meant that the label of M.E./CFS left the patient with a feeling that it must be all in their mind. This feeling was compounded at that time by a lack of belief in this diagnosis by many in the medical profession and society. It was known for a long time as ‘Yuppie Flu’ as many high-flying professionals in the 1980’s were given the diagnosis after ‘burning out’. Many Doctors believed that the patient was ‘just depressed’ and there was also a belief that the patient was ‘opting out’. From a personal perspective, this was deeply demoralising. Previous to becoming ill, I had intended to become an outdoor pursuits instructor. Spending twenty-four years house and bed-bound was never part of that plan.
I’d had a virus six months prior to the illness and I’d also experienced nasty side effects from having tried Cannabis with had left me with some bizarre and concerning after effects. While I was continuing with my life and school work during this time, I realise looking back now that my body was gradually breaking down. It all came to a head one evening after saying ‘goodnight’ to my Dad. As I climbed into bed, the symptoms of intense chronic pain hit my bones, joints and muscles hit me and along with a variety of other hideous symptoms, then stayed with me for the following twenty-four years.
I was blessed to have family and friends who understood and cared for me but my reality was beyond grim and at no point, could I see a time ahead that would be full of health and vitality again. The more the years passed by me, the further into the distance any potential for a healthy future drifted.
Over the years, I tried every form of medication appropriate for the diagnosis (which often resulted in side effects and the worsening of symptoms) and every alternative therapy that I could access. From Nutrition to Reiki to various other types of healing. Nothing touched the sides of the daily chronic pain, extreme fatigue, intense light sensitivity and exhausting cognitive struggles. That was, until the 24th May 2016 which was the day that I attended the NLP based course called the Lightning Process.
Prior to going on the course, I had been in a four year relapse that consisted of endless bed-bound days with chronic pain throughout my body, intense light and sound intolerance and a daily demoralising inability to fully fend for myself. I had finally reached a point of being now past twenty years of living with this illness and I’d hit my limit.
In a moment of sheer frustration (and inspiration!) one afternoon, whilst alone in my bedroom and expressing out loud ‘I am done’, I heard my brain ask myself the exact question: ‘What the **** have I not tried?’. It was in that moment that I realised that the Lightning Process was the one option that I knew of that had positively impacted the health of people with M.E./CFS and yet was the one thing that had somehow passed me by. I quickly picked up the phone, made a series of investigative calls and within twenty four hours had booked myself onto the next course with my local practitioner for two weeks time.
I knew very little at the time about the course and what it entailed but what I did know was that nine friends of mine who had also been living with the same illness for various lengths of time had each attended the course and made significant recoveries to one degree or another. I made some investigative calls and discovered that the course would teach me how to rewire my neural-pathways. This was exciting and intriguing to me, as I had just spent the previous bed-bound year rewiring my overly anxious and fear-filled brain to a space of peace and calm with a daily practice of meditation and living mindfully. Through my research of Mindfulness practice, I had discovered the word Neuroplasticity and more importantly, what it meant. So my response to the practitioner when she asked ‘Do you know what Neuroplasticity is?’ was ‘I’m in’.
WHAT IS... 'NEUROPLASTICITY'
Neuroplasticity describes our brains amazing ability to rewire and re-shape the 100 trillion neural connections (aka neural pathways) that live in our brain and continually create and re-create the structure of our life experience. There was a time not so long ago, when scientists believed that our brains stopped growing and changing in our early teens. We now know that this isn’t the case and that humans are constantly re-wiring their neural pathways, usually without knowing it, throughout their life-time.
When we are learning to walk, speak a new language, learn and practice a new skill and engage in communication with those around us our neural pathways are busy firing and wiring connections in our brain that embed that learning and experience within us. And as you know, the more you practice anything, the better and more skilled you become at it. This is because each time you repeat an action, the neural pathways associated with it fire and create stronger and faster connections which will enable you to access the skill or memory quicker and become even more efficient at recalling that new phrase that you are learning in Danish. And of course, we engage, create memories and can choose to learn a new skill at any age.
WHAT IS... 'NLP'
NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) was created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California in the 1970s. It comprises various psychological models that each call upon the plasticity of our brain, the use of verbal language and body language and the more subtle elements of the mind in order to create positive and resourceful states within the participant. These states are the foundation upon which the participants newly imagined reality is wired through techniques and then lived.
Imagine your brain is a computer (which essentially it is). NLP techniques allow us to hack our inner computer and re-code (re-wire) our brain with the version of reality we most desire. We first design the new reality in our imagination and then code it into our neurology with language, movement and clear and congruent intention. In short, NLP is an empowering process that shifts the participant from a place of challenge and struggle to a place of self-power and living one’s best life.
THE LIGHTNING PROCESS
The Lightning Process was created by Dr. Phil Parker PhD in the 1990s. It is a three day training program during which the practitioner teaches a technique that is based in NLP and self-coaching. They also teach various other NLP and coaching techniques that each serve to support the Lightning Process and the client’s journey back to health.
The technique harnesses three of our physiological processes that can each have both positive and negative impacts on our physical and mental well-being – Neuroplasticity, Allostasis and the Physical Emergency Response (P.E.R).
The P.E.R. is the physiological system that enables us to fight or take flight when faced with imminent danger. For our prehistoric ancestors the threat might well have been a bear or a tiger in which instance the P.E.R. would have served them well and likely have saved their life. In order to get us moving when faced with a threat, our body will activate a sudden release of hormones that include adrenaline and noradrenaline and this release gives our body the boost of energy needed to get us out of danger. With short lived threats the body is able to return to its normal state quickly once the danger has passed. This means that the effects our P.E.R. produces in these acute stressful moments, such as a rapid heartbeat, fast breathing and muscles tension have little chance to negatively impact the body and instead enable us to hopefully stay safe.
Modern threats however, tend to be less imminent. Of course, there will be moments when we will need to take a quick course of action but more often than not our P.E.R. is now activated by stresses such as chronic medical conditions, confrontations, divorce, moving house, stressful work situations, giving a presentation or sitting an exam. These types of stresses tend to be more long-term in their nature so this means that our system stays in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’ and is therefore consistently producing adrenaline (along with other hormones). Allostasis is the process by which our bodily systems adapt during change such as the stress symptoms experienced when in ‘fight or flight’ mode. The physiological effects produced compound over time and create what is known as an allostatic load and this can have a detrimental effect on our physical and mental well-being and lead to chronic medical conditions.
The good news however, is that along with Neuroplasticity (explained above), our P.E.R can be managed, our allostatic load reduced and our neural pathways can be hardwired to our advantage. The Lightning Process skillfully enables us to use our verbal language, body language, ability to visualise and create a clear intention for positive change to move ourselves from negative states to positive states. We can in essence, turn off the neural pathways that no longer serve us and instead create a clear vision of the future we want and turn on neural pathways that will move us in that direction.
Whilst the Lightning Process was originally designed in response to the work Dr Parker was doing with clients who presented with M.E./CFS and Fibromyalgia, it has since been found to work to varying degrees of success with many other medical and mental health conditions.
I felt change within myself by the end of the first day of the course. I had been taken to the course in a wheelchair and that was the last time I ever sat in that chair. Everyone’s journey with the Lightning Process is unique as it is with any treatment or technique undertaken and the extent of each recovery is determined by the person who is practising the process. If you don’t put in the practice then your neural pathways won’t know in which direction health lies and therefore, in which direction to re-wire. The outcome is within one’s own brain.
My recovery was steady which is preferable when you are turning twenty four years of chronic illness neural pathways on their heads. After the course, there were no more relapses (which took me time to trust as being a reality), daily shifts and clear improvements, each one giving me hope and spurring me on to continue with my practice of the Process and other techniques which I went on to discover through my own research of NLP. It was approximately a year before I felt I could confidently commit to a job and from that moment on, there was no looking back. That year of hardcore brain re-wiring gave me the following five years of a regular pay check, travelling, rock climbing, mountain biking, running and endless hill walking. Quite the pay off!
The six years since attending the Lightning Process course have been both magical and hard to believe as real. Therefore, each day has been lived with gratitude and an acute awareness of how lucky I am to finally, have found my way into the wondrous world of Neuroplasticity, NLP and most importantly, into my beautiful and so very brilliant brain.
I have told my story countless times in person over the last six years but this is the first time I’ve written my story down and shared it publicly. The reason that it’s taken me this long is because on some level, I don’t believe it can be true. Both how unwell I was and how healthy I now am. But it is true. And it’s about time I shared it beyond the odd random conversation in the queue at Tescos as it might just resonate with you and hopefully help you or someone you know in some way.
HOW I CAN NOW HELP/COACH YOU
I am a certified Master Practitioner of NLP, Coaching and Hypnotherapy and work with clients from around the world via Zoom so if you’d like to find out how I can help you, then please do get in touch.
I offer a free coaching discovery call so that you can ask questions about my coaching process and get a feel as to whether I would be the right coaching ‘fit’ for you.
I am also always happy to answer any questions you might have about my recovery journey.