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’.