Risk and Reward

This week I spoke to an audience of 170 people. It felt like the start of a new career for me and it was both terrifying in the week preceding the event, as well as completely thrilling. This feels like a turning point professionally in that I’ve gone out in public to take the risk of executing new skills learnt in my new role: Author, Speaker and Workshop host. And the reward was tremendous.

Reward

Public speaking has been a skill that I’ve been working on lately, and have not spent a lot of time on in my life. I joined Toastmasters and I got to practice snippets of my talk to my fellow club members. It is a wonderful place to practice a new skill – it’s supportive and many club members are also learning. It’s a place where you can fail and try again without any career or reputational consequences.

I don’t like to fail. I don’t like to be vulnerable and it was difficult to tell my very personal story to strangers. Both in the club setting, and to the audience this week. But it paid off. In many ways I feel that my story can’t be wrong because it is my story. I worried a little before I spoke that it would be boring for people. It is just my experience of burnout, what happened and what I did to correct it. I was concerned that it might not be appealing to people.

But the response was excellent. The audience was warm and accepting and they listened very politely to my story. And once I was up there, the nerves were gone. I enjoyed telling my story and the part I enjoyed the most was when people laughed at my humour. I felt that somebody ‘got me’ and what I was trying to say. I am still amazed at how much they laughed and that they enjoyed it so much. And I’m also amazed that I enjoyed it so much.

I need to integrate the lessons I learnt from the experience. From my reading about deliberate practice in books like The Talent Code and Talent is Overrated, I’ve learnt some tips. I’ve learnt that people who are world class do very small corrections to master their craft. They practice relentlessly and they tweak. I’m going to apply these principles to my own craft of public speaking so that I can keep improving.

Next time I need to allow more time for laughter in a bigger audience because I think I did overrun a little. Next time I will try not to get so stressed in the week before, especially if I have been practicing for months. And I will also continue to apply what worked well. The stories were well accepted and the humour was a real hit. That was really rewarding for me.

Recently, I have had some worries about public speaking being part of my new role. With my adrenal glands still recovering, I worried about the impact of the stress on my health. Am I slipping backwards towards illness if I do a lot of speaking? I think the stress is short term, and as long as I build in a few days of recovery afterwards, I should be okay. I will try some new techniques to sleep better the night before the talk, because lack of sleep does affect my health and my performance on the day.

I am now so pleased to have taken that risk and to have felt the reward: a sense of achievement. Right now, it’s not about money. This talk was an experiment for me to see if I am up to the challenge of public speaking. And I feel that I am indeed up to it. In fact, I relished it. I enjoyed the experience. This is something quite strange for someone who fears humiliation. But I’m so pleased that I took the leap and tried something new. Because I can enjoy my reward – a feeling of accomplishment. I haven’t felt very accomplished in the past two years as I tackled recovery from burnout.

Reward

In a way, I put a lot of things on hold to prepare for this talk. And now that it’s done, I have a range of exciting opportunities to pursue. I want to put workshops together, I want to finalise my book and I want to build a pipeline of leads through more networking. This is a very exciting point in my life where I feel that my illness is mostly  behind me, and an exciting career is ahead of me. One that wont deplete me into a state of poor health.

Peace is Found Within?

This week my husband and daughters are away at the coast. My husband ran a marathon this weekend so the dates were fixed, and I was worried about experiencing a set-back before a talk I’m doing this month. I chose to stay behind at home for the week to work on my speech.

The first night I felt panic and loneliness like I’ve never felt before. I walked into my daughters’ rooms and felt my heart tighten. I missed them terribly. And when I called to say goodnight, my youngest cried the whole time and kept saying ‘I want to be with you, Mommy.’  My heart broke and I wondered if I’d made a terrible mistake by staying home.

Peace-within

But I am getting lots of undisturbed sleep, which is hard to come by in our home. I am sleeping for nine hours every night, eating healthy food and enjoying the quiet. I am making sure that I’m being really diligent about doing the work that I stayed behind to do. And I worked through the weekend to make sure I don’t waste the quiet time I have.

As an introvert, living with two extroverts, I find the silence to be glorious. I have made sure not to play any music and to really limit the TV I watch. I’m just enjoying hearing the birds, and the complete quiet of our suburban home. I’m sure this alone time would cause many people a great deal of panic and discomfort. But in comparison with the usual chaos of our home, I’m really enjoying the peace.

I keep getting the message from things I encounter and cards I draw, that peace comes from within. So is the Universe telling me I should have gone along on the trip? I’m struggling to reconcile this with the fact that introverts don’t cope well in noisy environments. I’ve been wondering what it’s like for introverts who live in really crowded, noisy cities. Perhaps this is when people start meditating in order to find that peace inside.

peace-within

But I’m not too sure how to get there when surrounded by noise and chaos. It already feels tough to allocate twenty minutes a day to meditation. Maybe those who find peace within didn’t have children. That was a joke, of course. But seriously, in a busy house with kids playing, squealing and fighting, I just can’t imagine myself with a supercilious grin, sitting in the lotus position. I see myself shouting at them to shut up or retreating to my sanctuary where I can insert ear plugs.

I do think, however, that life is a lot better when we spend time doing what we love. I somehow feel that I have needed meditation less in the past few days. And that’s because I’m doing work I love and I’m able to care for myself properly. Perhaps we can be more at peace by being in flow as often as possible, in pursuing our passions and in prioritising self-care.

Shame of Burnout

I wrote recently that I didn’t want to be the face of burnout. And it’s because I fear the judgement that comes with it. People will think I’m weak, they will think that I can’t handle stress. Digging a bit deeper and with some help of my merry pack of healers, I’ve uncovered that these are my thoughts and judgements of myself.

Shame-Burnout

There is a part of me that thinks I was weak to have a health collapse from stress. There is also a part of me that thinks it was all in my head and that I have imagined this illness. And there is another part that wonders how on earth I took so long to collapse, and to wake up to what an unhappy life I was living. I have come to realise that it is not necessary for me to defend and to explain.

The collapse of my health has been a gift. It was the only catalyst I would have responded to, being the stubborn perseverer that I am. I have moments when I wish that things could have been different. But then I realise that I would not be where I am now if they had been. Things had to happen exactly the way they did in order for me to reach this place where I am now.

This is a place where I no longer feel shame for experiencing burnout. I look back with gratitude on the events as they occurred, because they facilitated a new life and a new me. My new life allows me to explore opportunities with a lens of wisdom – the wisdom to know if the opportunity suits me, and is best for me right now. I’m not closed to any work that isn’t aligned with my calling. There may be a few pieces of work I can do to bring in some money and to learn, and meet new interesting people. And I trust that I am heading in the right direction to fulfil my destiny.

I feel that I have overcome the shame of burnout. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt that shame. According to Brené Brown, shame loses its sting if shared with a trusting person. Well, I’m not sure how trusting and supportive this community is, but you probably wouldn’t be, or shouldn’t be, following me otherwise.

shame-burnout

So I’m naming it – I felt shame for a business that I couldn’t make profitable and I felt shame for buckling under the pressure. It’s tough for anyone to know the full depths of despair that I felt. No one else in the world will ever feel that exact thing under those circumstances in my body and mind at that time. I know that I’m not a weak person and I did my utmost to turn the business around. So it’s okay if people can’t relate or fully understand. Some people will relate. And that’s enough for me.

For now I’m willing to be the face of burnout if it helps others. I hope to help people who are approaching burnout, to not go as far down the rabbit hole as I did. I hope, through my book, this blog and public speaking to share this message. Even if I can simply help a few people to take a step back from their lives and take a good look, that would be useful. Awareness comes before action.

I so passionately believe that we can live full lives, enjoying our work and being happy at home. My hope is that more people take an active step towards building their lives on purpose, and not simply waiting to die. I aim to live this vision to demonstrate my point and so far so good. I am enjoying my life now more than I have in many years and I wish this to be true for many people in the world.

Surprise Flow

I have been creating a new career for myself as I recover from burnout. I see myself as a writer. I have learnt and accepted the fact that an income stream from books alone might be inadequate to support me. So, I have been making plans to supplement my income in other ways such as running workshops and possibly some consulting and writing for other people. But the writing was always a top priority and I try to spend some time each day doing at least a little writing.

The delay in completing my book is frustrating to me but I hope it will make for a better end product – something that I’m really proud of. One of the ways I want to promote my book is by public speaking. I’d like to do keynote speeches about burnout and how one could implement strategies to avoid it.

I don’t like to do things in half measures, especially as my brand means a lot to me. I got a speaking coach, I joined Toastmasters and I’m diligently applying the principles I’m learning into each new speech. I’m working on an area which I have not actively tackled in terms of skill development before. And it does feel like I’m stretching myself while I’m out of my comfort zone, and I do feel the learning happening.

surprise flow

I have never seen the speaking aspect as fun, or to be relished. It was almost a necessary part of the job to me. But lately I am so surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed this aspect of my work. I so enjoy choosing a topic for the speech and putting it all together. I enjoy practicing the speech, to see what works and what doesn’t seem to work out loud. And as much as I feel the nerves, I do enjoy delivering speeches. The feedback is the best part, however. I love to see trends, and to pick up areas where I need to improve. And I adore the positive feedback that makes me want to speak again.

I’m quite irritated if someone disturbs me when I’m busy preparing my speech or practicing it. I lose track of time and I’ve come to realise that I have found another source of flow in my life. What a surprise for something that I didn’t see as a key part of my career.

surprise flow

I chose not to tackle the speaking aspect of my work until now, because I was concerned that it would take too much out of me. The anxiety might affect my adrenal glands and slow down my recovery.  How surprising to find that it energizes me.

Many people have such a fear of public speaking and I certainly didn’t enjoy it at school. I think sometimes people are afraid to be seen, and that might have applied to me before I got sick. I was afraid of being judged, of looking foolish and of exposing my vulnerabilities. I’ve done a lot of work on myself in the past eighteen months and I’m no longer afraid of being seen. I’m happy with who I am, and I feel that I have a message to share and a right to do so.

So in exploring this new skill set, I’ve found something I’m passionate about. I’m growing and I’m loving it. How unexpected that I would find a new source of flow in something I thought I didn’t enjoy. It shows how important it is to stretch ourselves out of our comfort zones, into a space where things are more difficult and foreign. But how worthwhile it is to find something new to add to my list of flow-inducing activities.

Trigger

I’m reading a marvelous book called The Autoimmune Solution, written by Dr Amy Myers, who also suffers from an autoimmune thyroid disease. She found that conventional medicine could not offer her adequate support to improve her standard of living so she studied functional medicine. She offers her clients the lifestyle changes that I’ve been writing about recently.

Something that brought up a lot for me was how she discusses the trigger of the disease. Certainly there is a genetic component to developing an autoimmune disease but it’s not a given. There are two other aspects needed – intestinal permeability, often called ‘leaky gut’ and an environmental trigger. She mentions that on average patients take six to ten trips to doctors before being correctly diagnosed. And also, it takes on average five years from an environmental trigger until the disease is full blown.

That got me thinking about my trigger. I had a stressful life, there’s no denying it. Small children, inadequate sleep, running ultra-marathons and running a business that was high stress and that I didn’t love. But that wasn’t enough to create an autoimmune disease all by itself. Of course there were a lot of factors that are hard to go into in one blog post. But there was one event that stands out for me.

In February 2012 my step-mother smashed up our office in a fit of rage after a fight with my father, with a screwdriver and a hammer. She put the staff, the equipment and the business at risk. At the time I had just returned to work from maternity leave. I had a three month old baby, I wasn’t sleeping well, I was breastfeeding which is depleting in itself and I was trying to build a business. I had a great deal on my shoulders: trying to build a future for myself, the staff, the clients, the shareholders and my father. He had not saved adequately for retirement, despite much opportunity to do so. I felt a huge burden to bring the business into modern times and to make a success of it.

trigger

And then the smashing incident. Of course, it didn’t end there because we needed to move offices to mitigate the risk of it happening again. That created more costs to the struggling business of new offices, with rent, infrastructure, insurance etc. There was the protection order to keep her off the premises and how she undermined me to the staff behind my back. She scratched my car, she threatened my marriage, she verbally and electronically abused me. There were her suicide attempts to manipulate me into letting her have access to my children.

My strategy was to simply stonewall as there was no point engaging and it was clear my life was not enhanced by her presence. My health deteriorated from that point onward. My adrenal glands took a hammering and I got a string of colds and flu for months thereafter. I didn’t know that my body was suffering and I did my best to continue work and looking after my children.

But there was a great cost to my health and my life. My diagnosis came nine doctor’s visits and four years later. Exactly within the range as predicted in Dr Myers book. I had suspected that the smashing incident was a contributing factor due to the stress that surrounded it. But I have only recently connected the dots that in simple terms, it was the trigger for my lifelong illness.

In times like these, it’s really difficult not to blame. It’s difficult not to lash out in anger and launch a full attack on the person who took my health away. Thankfully by the time I’ve read this book and made this trigger realisation, I have already done a lot of work on forgiveness and letting go. I’ve done many visualisation and meditative exercises in releasing that anger and blame, not for her benefit, but for mine. I have moved on and it has been of benefit to me but this realisation has been difficult nonetheless.

trigger

It’s true that without this illness, I would not have changed my life for the better. I would still be living under a cloud of obligation and working in a really negative place. I would be happily munching on croissants and not avoiding gluten, however. But at least now I’m free. I’m able to pursue a wonderful life of creativity and hopefully making a real difference for people one day. That smashing incident set me free. I can’t say I’m grateful for it yet, but hopefully I’ll get there eventually.

Personal Growth

Personal growth is such an important thing for me. Learning is ingrained in my DNA and is one of my top five strengths according to Gallup.

growth

For those who don’t know, I suffered a burnout and I am still in recovery. My body buckled because I was too stubborn to give up. And I’m so grateful for what it has delivered for me. Without being able to work, or do much really, I’ve had to stay at home and to rest. I’ve filled my time with reading and research.

I’ve understood as much as I can about my health conditions and what lifestyle changes I’ve needed to make to support recovery. I’ve learnt about happiness and what the research-based studies show are the most effective happiness boosting strategies. I’ve learnt that support and self-care were dramatically lacking from my life. And I’ve implemented a great deal of that learning into my life in order to live the best life possible. Certainly, I’m still working on the career aspect but that’s always going to require ongoing work and refining.

I have endeavoured to heal myself on as many levels as possible:

  • Physical, by taking the prescribed medication, getting enough rest, making dietary changes as recommended by experts.
  • Emotional, with the help of a therapist, by unpacking my childhood and figuring out why I am the way I am.
  • Mental, letting my brain relax with meditation, creativity and fun.
  • Spiritual, by learning about the journey of my soul and collaborating to bring out the best in me.

The physical rest and the medication are important but by far I think the emotional and spiritual healing have had the most impact. The way I feel about myself now is completely different to how I felt going into this journey. Before my health collapsed I didn’t believe that I mattered and that’s why I put everyone else’s needs first. Now, through working with wonderful healers, I do believe that I matter and I will no longer do things that are not good for me, just to please others.

My illness has been a gift in that it facilitated a great deal of learning, mostly about myself. I feel far more in control of my destiny than ever before and I’m actively designing the life I’d like to lead. That’s so much better for me than passively accepting the things that come my way and finding out how to cope with them. Now, I’m in the driver’s seat of my own life. And of course there will be obstacles but at least I’m much more certain of who I am and what I want. And learning has been the key.

Not everyone is comfortable with the changes that have happened. Some of my friendships will fall away because we don’t see things the same way anymore. And it’s sad but there are new relationships to be forged. I know that I want to surround myself with people who support me, accept me and love me. I don’t have space for anyone who wants to hurt, criticise or judge me.  And I know that my life will be so much better in the future because I’m creating it myself, to meet my needs because for far too long, I lived to meet the needs of others.

growth

I am so grateful for my strength of learning because it really helps me on my journey of personal growth. I want to move forward, to open my eyes to new opportunities, and to enjoy the magic of what unfolds when we stretch ourselves. Personally I think we start dying the day we stop growing.

Are you open to what magic lies within you, waiting for an opportunity to burst forth?

Face of Burnout?

One of the few things I loved when I was running my own business, was branding. I loved creating all the brochures, flyers, business cards and a website that spoke the company message clearly with no confusion or dilution. I learnt a lot while creating a strong brand and it’s one of the skills I got to take with me when I left the business behind.

entrepreneur

We had a business that helped a lot of organisations to collect money but we were also very vulnerable to fraud. We had a few incidents that really affected me and could have damaged our brand. The process of taking money from bank accounts of people that were not our clients was complicated and risky. It was not a business I started, or ever really felt passionate about. I joined the business for two reasons: flexibility for family time, and to learn how to run a business.

Certainly I did learn how to run a business and I did it well. I implemented a lot of change that was necessary and overdue. I gained a lot from the experience, even though in some ways I feel that the business broke me. The flexibility of being an entrepreneur is a real myth, however. As a business owner it’s very difficult to take time off in fact, especially in a small business that is struggling to become profitable. Before I joined I had visions of taking afternoons off to watch my children play sport. After I left, I’ve needed two years to recover from what the business took from me. Quite a difference between perception and reality.

burnout3

At first I felt really angry that I lost so much. But from where I sit now, it was necessary for me to learn the life lessons I have learnt. Nothing would have stopped me from persevering through all the obstacles, other than a complete health collapse. I now have the opportunity to design my life to be just the way I want it to be. That includes the people who build me up and the work that energises me. That would never have happened if I hadn’t been so broken to begin with.

So I am now grateful for all that I learnt there, both the things that were difficult, and the things that I enjoyed, such as the branding. Just when the business was starting to look good, I read a book by Douglas Kruger called Own Your Industry. It is a how-to book on becoming the expert in your field, with excellent strategies to get there.

I really enjoyed the book but it left me with a sinking feeling that I didn’t want to become the expert on taking people’s money. It occurred to me that my brand needed to be about something more constructive and joyful. I was not yet diagnosed when I had this feeling and I think it must have contributed to my unhappiness in the business. This was not something I was passionate about and I was not prepared to become an expert in a field that didn’t feel right for me.

Thanks to my body for starting to attack itself, I was relieved of needing to go any further down that road. That was not my ultimate path, just a necessary detour. But what was I supposed to do with my life? If you’ve been on this journey with me for a while, you’ll know that I’ve written a book about my experiences. I wrote about avoiding burnout and the strategies to put in place to preserve oneself.

I sent my book for editing a few months ago and it hasn’t come back. I’ve come to realise that the chapters I wrote on my struggle and the explanation of how I got sick, are really depressing. They are necessary as part of the story but I wrote them when I was still grappling with what happened. There is an undertone of suffering and confusion that can’t really be edited out.

It was certainly valuable for me to write about the experiences and the confusion, as it helped me to find clarity, as does this blog. It is my process of making sense of this illness and my life turning upside down. But I think I need to rewrite the first two chapters from this place where I am now. This me, who is grateful for the experience of the business and the childhood I had. The book will read so much better and lighter as it will be full of hope. I know what I have to do and I’ve started rewriting the early chapters in the last week or so.

But I now face the same dilemma as before. I’ve realised that people just don’t understand burnout. They think I’m weak and that I can’t handle stress. It’s not really possible to explain the circumstances fully around what led to the collapse. And I’m not sure I want to be the face of burnout. I still think the book has value but I can’t rely on the topic to be the basis of my brand.

So what now? I’m doing my best to focus on recovery and to keep my eyes open for opportunities that I’m sure will come my way. I know I’m a capable person and when I’m functioning at full speed I can deliver some magical things.

My mind is asking me, “but what things?” and I have to let my heart answer “we don’t know yet. Be patient and trust that they will unfold when the time is right.”

Empowered

My visit last week to the integrated practitioner was an amazing breakthrough for me. I am so happy that I avoided the need to do the elimination diet. The process is very painful and long and I really didn’t want to do it. But I was also really stressed about what I’m not doing to ease the autoimmune response. Now I’m really clear on what to do and eat. I feel empowered.

empowered

I have my green smoothie in the morning full of healthy green foods, mostly picked from our garden. I have a bunch of medicines to take three times a day, including buffered vitamin C to shake those viruses that I have. I need a lot of sleep – more than I am getting now so that’s something to work on.

I’m clear on what foods to avoid. Although it isn’t great to avoid any foods at all, it is better to know. So I can now move forward and stop worrying about a lot of things that could be affecting me, but aren’t.

Over the past few months I have subscribed to a range of newsletters and blog posts about autoimmune illness, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, adrenal function etc. I needed exposure to all the aspects of my lifestyle that might need to change in order to heal. I really enjoyed learning about everything that could be affecting me. But I wasn’t equipped to narrow my focus on what actually affected my body until now.

I love to learn so I am at a bit of a loss after unsubscribing to so many lists. I certainly don’t want to spend all day and night focusing on illness. That can’t be good for me. But I find much of the advice redundant now. Not because I think I know everything but rather because I know what applies to me and how to fix it. So my inbox is empty and I’m afraid of my learning drying up.

So it’s time to switch focus on topics. I have a pile of books to get through and I want to ramp up the learning so that my brain feels stimulated while my body recovers. I want to focus more on my future and my career path now that I know what to do to heal my body. I know it might still take a while to recover to full strength, but there is not much I can do beyond that which I am doing already.

Empowered

Yesterday I finished an online course I’ve been doing: The Science of Happiness. It feels good to have completed the course and achieved something concrete this year. I learnt a lot and I am applying the concepts into my life. I’m working on making my four year old more mindful because she’s very focused on what she doesn’t have and consequently she fails to enjoy the moment.  I am also wrapping up a meditation course I’ve been doing in the evenings and I can honestly say that it has had a dramatic effect on me.

I know that I will wither away if I stop learning and also if I stop being creative. I know that creativity can be a great healer, especially for a stress-induced condition. So I want to finish off the projects I’ve started and make things out of what I’ve bought. I want to write more and have some fun with mosaic, decoupage, zen tangle and anything else that crops up. I know that creativity will boost my happiness levels as I pull myself out of this slump.

I’ve completed my first speech at Toastmasters and signed up for the next one. There is more experiential learning and skills development that needs to happen there too and it’s an important part of my future.

It has been such a long road to recover from this illness. I’m at a place where I feel really empowered and that I’ve done all I can do to enhance my recovery. I know I have a tendency to push myself and I know that the setbacks are often due to that. But I also have to be true to my own nature and try to extract some value out of each experience. It’s a fine balance that I still need to get right.

I am also getting better at spotting the things that deplete me and now I need to come up with strategies to manage them. So hopefully from here I will experience fewer setbacks and more joy. Hopefully.

Relief

My health has been deteriorating lately and it’s evident in how I feel and the blood test results. I’ve been doing so well up until now, and I’ve been coping with going out more and juggling more. So this setback comes as a huge disappointment, knowing that my recovery has already taken so long.

I saw an integrated medical practitioner this week and it brought me a huge sense of relief. An integrated practitioner is someone who looks at overall health and tries to prevent health problems before they become serious. They work with diet and lifestyle as well as with medication and ensure that everything is working well together.

I have done a lot of research online and have watched and listened to videos, summits and podcasts as well as reading blog posts, articles and newsletters on thyroid and adrenal health. I’ve accumulated a great deal of knowledge in terms of appropriate lifestyle changes to make and ideas for dietary changes. The bottom line is that there is no cure for most chronic illnesses so pills are not the full answer. I take all the medication prescribed but that’s only a tiny part of being well in my view. But I didn’t know which changes were needed for me in particular.

I’ve learnt that many people with thyroid disease have parasites in their intestines and/or viruses which disrupt the hormones in the body. None of my doctors to date have screened for this so it was comforting to have some insight into what was happening in my body. I have no parasites but I do have three active viruses having an ongoing battle with my immune system. The doctor gave me some buffered vitamin C to combat these and it’s just what I needed I think.

I have written before about the effects of gluten on autoimmune thyroid disease and autoimmune conditions in general. So keeping off gluten was a no-brainer. But I’ve also heard that many people need to eliminate all dairy, all grains, soy and legumes in addition to gluten. Many people go on the elimination diet to figure out what allergies they have by process of elimination. It’s a long and difficult thing to do, especially if you have a veggie-hating husband and fussy small children. So I was quite stressed about having to undergo such a process on top of my existing dietary changes. I already live without gluten, alcohol and caffeine which, alone would be unthinkable for some people.

Thankfully the integrated practitioner was able to show me exactly what products I have an allergy to. So I only need to avoid yellow cheese, cow’s milk and yoghurt in addition to those mentioned already. That brought me a lot of relief. I’m not a big dairy fan anyway so that was not the end of the world. And I don’t have to eliminate a bunch of other foods when there’s no need. Phew!

relief

So now I can live my life happily, knowing exactly what MY body wants and needs. I can heal my digestive system and allow my body to stop attacking itself.

I’m aware also that getting more and more despondent was not good for me. I was slipping into a very negative space where I felt that I could just never get well and I know that it wasn’t serving me. It’s hard to break out of it at times like that. And I kept thinking I must be kind to myself and not get bogged down with things like admin because I know that admin is not good for me.

But I didn’t know what to do so I thought I’d clear out my crazy inbox full of newsletters on illness and health, and unsubscribe to the ones I found were not applicable anymore. I captured a few expenses and did a few small things that had been bothering me. And to my surprise, I felt better. Sometimes we avoid the horrible stuff because we’re scared it will make us feel worse but clearing the clutter actually helped a lot.

Relief

Even though I’m not on top form, tonight I am doing my first formal prepared speech at Toastmasters. They call it the ice breaker and you have to talk about yourself. Not too difficult I think. Hold thumbs for me as I embark on an exercise to hone skills needed for my new career path and hopefully I don’t need too much recovery time in the next few days.

Worth it?

I’ve been in victim mode lately. I’ve been feeling really sorry for myself. I’m aware that my antibodies are still very actively attacking my thyroid and I want to save it. I don’t want it to collapse totally. And from what I learn online there are many people who have had to eliminate dairy and soy from their diets too – not just gluten. I think it’s the thought of further adjusting my diet that is creating this crisis for me. I’ve already lost so much through this illness. I lost my income, my health, my running, my father, my trade and identity. I’ve had to build myself up again from scratch. And now this. How much more do I have to lose before I get my body to stop attacking?

Worth it

I have a lot of resentment that my life is so difficult with this illness. I’m just starting to feel better and winter has arrived. Our house is very cold and we’re not turning on the heating so that we don’t eat into our savings even more than we already are. So I’m cold and I’m getting sick a lot and I’m miserable.

Yesterday I was in tears because I tried to take my kids to the movies and it was a disaster. I delayed going because I didn’t want to rush myself or them in order to keep my stress levels low. And then I mustered all of my strength feeling really weak and found there to be no seats left when we got there. The disappointment on my girls’ faces just pushed me over the edge. I’m not able to be the kind of mother I’d like to be until I’m well and I’m not sure I’ll ever get there. I’m losing hope and I just want to give up.

At first I was really upset about having to eliminate gluten but after a while I came to accept it. After a lot of research I understand how it important it is to eliminate gluten from your diet if you have an autoimmune disease. No, I’m not some gluten-hating zealot who wants to be difficult. I’m not some hippy weirdo trying to follow some health kick trend. I miss pastry, I miss eating out without worrying about every bite I put in my mouth. I miss being able to just kick back and relish food. I love food. I love eating out and sharing a meal with friends and loved ones.

But now it’s so DIFFICULT. Gluten is hidden, yes I say hidden, in all sorts of meals from fish to gravy to Milo and Lindt chocolates. To think that I’ll never again in my life eat a Mars bar or a croissant, is actually quite devastating to me.

I didn’t do this blindly or easily. I knew gluten was not good for me because I could tell that I became bloated after eating bread. I thought that a bit of intestinal discomfort was not a big deal. I only gave up gluten entirely when my endocrinologist insisted. And no, he’s not a tie dyed trend setter. He’s a doctor and one who has studied for a very long time. He’s intelligent, cautious and meticulous. He’s educating me and helping me to overcome this illness. I can’t help hating him a little bit for this piece of advice that has wrecked my meals ever since.

I see some of the people around me with the same illness as I have, and they are happily munching on gluten to their heart’s delight. And sure, if their thyroids have completely collapsed, they just take the pills. Easy, right? But there is still an autoimmune attack going on inside their bodies. Their body is still fighting itself and there is inflammation, and inflammation leads to other autoimmune illnesses. I certainly don’t want diabetes or arthritis and I want to get on top of this thing but boy, I’m struggling.

I don’t want to go to anyone’s house for dinner because it’s so hard. I am scared to eat out because I need to know all the ingredients of everything I’m eating. I don’t want to go away on holiday because I’m scared to be away from my pantry which is safely gluten free. I don’t like being ‘difficult’ by insisting that all meals are centered around my needs.

But what kind of existence is that? I don’t want to spend my life being hyper vigilant. Isn’t there another way? I’ve met people who are intentionally not taking their thyroid medication and they munch on cake regularly. What’s going to happen to them in future? Is their health going to deteriorate or am I the idiot living in misery for nothing?

And maybe I’m overdoing it or not resting enough and that’s why my antibodies are still high. But there is also only so much rest you can get as a mother of small children. We don’t have any support from family and I care for them every day, around the clock. Making juice, feeding them, caring for their colds and keeping them warm. It’s so hard to care for myself and for them at the same time. It doesn’t feel viable to create a new career and to get well. I don’t think I can do it.

I’ve done so much work on myself in the last eighteen months. I’ve healed many emotional traumas from the past. I’ve worked on so many aspects of myself. I’ve found flow and am aligning with my life purpose. And yet my body is still in attack. I don’t understand why. I’ve rested and frankly I don’t want to sleep every afternoon anymore. I’ve taken all my medication, supplements, vitamins and I’m eating healthy foods. I feel close to giving up on all the productive things because I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Worth it?

I am going to see an integrated medicine practitioner on Tuesday to get some advice. I’m concerned that he’ll put me on an elimination diet or tell me to eliminate eggs, dairy, sugar and soy in addition to gluten. I already live without alcohol, caffeine and gluten. I’m not sure this kind of existence is worth it. Perhaps it’s better to live to age fifty and eat a chocolate croissant everyday.