One year later

Hello! Wow, so it’s been almost a year since my last post. Thank you for your patience during my time away. There hasn’t been any real reason for my silence apart from a lack of inspiration and when I did feel inspired, forgetting to write or not making the time to write. This post will update you on my journey since 15th December 2019: looking back on that last post, it’s clear how far I’ve come too.

I’m not going to talk about the pandemic that is Covid-19 in any real depth as it is still very much a big part of our day-to-day. We have all had similar experiences in terms of what we can and cannot do but aside from that our lives have been extraordinarily different. Some of us have lost jobs, been furloughed, worked harder than ever, caught Covid-19, cancelled holidays, really struggled financially.

I like to think that a lot of us have learned to be kinder to others but importantly to ourselves. Surveys and polls have identified a growth in people struggling with mental health as a direct result of this pandemic. I, myself have had more low moments than usual, particularly during our second lockdown. However, I’ve learned coping mechanisms that I’ve applied and been able to snap out of these low moments relatively quickly. This has benefitted my CFS as it’s meant I’ve not experienced a flare. I’ve made sure I’ve communicated how I’m feeling with loved ones as well as at work if it was relevant. Even in conversations with friends, where we wouldn’t have normally discussed our own mental health in much detail, we’d discuss it at length.

My career

But back to my journey with CFS. I don’t think I mentioned that I was looked for a career change last year. The reason being was that I found teaching was going to be a big obstacle in my recovery. I understood that timetabling was not always going to allow for me to pace: despite requesting 4 mornings a week, it was always going to be an ideal that would not be feasible, particularly if I didn’t want to share classes and wanted specific year groups. Whilst there is some compromise to be had in this situation, I knew that a year 7 class would zap my energy for example. If I shared a class, it would only take a length of long term sickness before I was planning my co-teacher’s cover lessons, and maybe even teaching some of those lessons. I had also fallen out of love with teaching, not the actual love of helping our youngsters learn, just the day-to-day stresses and strains that come with teaching. Also, if you’re not careful, you end up working a full-time timetable and getting paid part-time. Why work part-time if you’re working full-time and then not gaining any time to look after yourself?

So after a year of applying for jobs and starting a Level 5 Diploma in L&D I was offered a job (I will do another post on this). Sitting here now, writing this, I strongly believe this has been the biggest catalyst in my improvement. I work regular hours each day: I started at 5 hours per day and am now at 6. I have been working from home since March, aside from the odd day here and there, which has added to this but I’m not stressed, waking up in the night thinking about how a lesson went or with ideas to improve one I’ve already planned. I may wake up and think about an email I need to write or a something I need to find out about. All in all though, a much better work-life balance. The main part is, I LOVE it too. My colleagues are great fun, friendly, supportive and value my skills and knowledge.

Starting a new job is difficult for anyone. There is lots to learn, new processes and procedures and new people to get to know and understand how they tick. Interestingly though I did not experience a flare. In fact I haven’t had one since starting this new job. I haven’t had a day off ill either. I began to use my diary again to help me pace each day. I listened to my body and adapted accordingly. I was determined not to have a day off, nor to work from home. My new company is flexible so before the pandemic, I could work from home when I wanted and do flexi-days. If I worked 20 minutes longer on the Monday, I could work 20 minutes less another day that month, or let it accrue and have a day off when I reached 5 hours of flex time. It’s AMAZING. In my eyes, I saw working from home as failing. A bit of a negative mindset but having worked in a career where you couldn’t not be at the workplace, it is one that is hard to budge. Now I love that mix. I do miss being in the office, but it is nice not to have to commute every day.

Exercise

When the pandemic hit, we began to go for walks in the local fields and woods. Before, we would drive to the woods to go for a walk. Now we weren’t supposed to be driving for such reasons, we decided to explore. We took it slow and built up, until we started doing up to 7 mile walks once to twice a weekend. We weren’t doing much else at the weekend so I’m not sure how I would have managed if we were also socialising. In fact, I don’t think we would have gone for such long walks. I try not to think about this, but instead focus on the fact I can walk 7 miles without experiencing an increase in symptoms. I still remember when I planned my day so I had to walk upstairs as few times as possible. That was two years ago.

When the gyms shut I started trying out some new apps that were offering free membership for a limited time. We didn’t have weights so I was limited. I found one called Fiit that offered a longer trial period for Blue Light Services and stuck with it as it offered a mix of cardio, Hiit, pilates and yoga. I tried to exercise 3-4 times a week but often I’d be lucky if I managed 3 times consistently. I told myself I wasn’t sure if I was feeling fatigued or if I’d make myself feel worse. Sometimes it was just far too hot! Or maybe I was being lazy! In the summer, I began to consider whether it was what I was eating. I was tracking my food and macros but in a calorie deficit so I didn’t put on weight. We weren’t drinking much and only having chocolate at the weekends for example.

Then I saw an advert for The Body Coach 90 day plan for half price. You can guess what’s coming?! I signed up! I did convince my husband to join me though which was a big factor in taking the plunge. I also emailed the Support Heroes to see if it was possible: 4-5 Hiit sessions a week?! Mmmmm! As I expected they didn’t fully understand and replied saying that it was possible to exercise 3 times a week but I wouldn’t get as good results. I wasn’t signing up to get a six pack like you see in the pictures, I was signing up to see if it would help my fatigue and energy. Like a science experiment.

Guess what? It’s working! I have so much more energy and the best part is, I rarely feel fatigued! Most days I wake up feeling tired, or a little fatigued which passes. I am going to bed later, talking to friends in the evening (rather than the afternoon) and I’m achieving more in the day.

We started by exercising 4 times per week and 6 weeks in, upped it to 5 times per week. The meal prep takes careful planning , especially with two of you. I didn’t consider this at the time but this could zap energy as you need to measure everything out and follow a recipe whilst cooking. It has helped we’re working from home so can make lunch fresh so less preparing in the evening. We also cook bulk meals so we can just whip something out the fridge or freezer and zap it in the microwave.

Two weeks ago I went for a run. The last few times I went for a run during lockdown, I had to return to my base level a few days later. It was only a slow mile but evidently, it was too much. This time though I was fine. I even ran a little further – 1.61 miles! I have a Garmin watch so I could track my pace. I know the Hiit sessions and food were the reason for me feeling fine too. Now I know I can start building this up. I want to run a 5K, then who knows, maybe a 10K, then a half?!

I know it’s the food though. I’m eating the right amount of calories and macros to fuel my body. I believe that I am also doing it at the right time: 1 year ago I would have crashed big time doing this.

I strongly believe it’s important to listen to your body. If you know deep down that something will cause a flare, however small, don’t do it. Give yourself time. It’s always better to approach something slowly than whizz past it and have to back track. You can’t run before you can walk. The same applies here. It’s baby steps and it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s taken me two years of careful planning, pacing, a career change and being kind to myself. I’ve still not reached my goal but I’m so much closer than I ever hoped to be and thought possible.

You can reach your goal too.

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