From about the age of 22 I suffered with regular bouts of burnout, so bad that on occasions I was signed off from my stockbroking job in the City of London for weeks at a time.
One of the terms bandied about at that time for the way I was feeling was ‘Yuppie Flu’, and believe me it really did feel like I had a bad case of flu – constant muscle aches, joint pains, extreme exhaustion and feeling very, very low.
For over 12 years, I only slept, for the most part, for 5 hours a day, going to bed at midnight and getting up at 5am. I had a 4 hour daily commute to and from my place of work, had hardly any social life and apart from one or two holidays a year, had no ‘me time’ to speak of.
For the majority of the year, I left for work in the dark and got home in the dark, and my weekends were taken up with food shopping, housework, washing and ironing.
My eating habits were erratic. I never ate breakfast before leaving home and my first drink of the day was always a latte, which I didn’t have until I arrived at work three and a half hours after getting out of bed.
I would go 9 hours between meals, having my lunch at my desk at 11.30am and my dinner at around 8.30pm, whilst snacking on sweets, biscuits and crisps in between.
I became depressed, waking up each morning with a black cloud hanging over my head, and having to drag myself out of bed after many strikes of the snooze button on my alarm clock.
One day, in my late twenties, I made yet another appointment to see my doctor, in the hope that he would sign me off work again for a much-needed rest! He had obviously started to see a pattern because this time he asked me lots more questions, not just about how I was feeling physically but also how I was feeling mentally.
Tears of despair rolled down my cheeks as I told him that I didn’t want to be at work anymore, all I wanted was to start a family and be a stay at home mother and wife. All I wanted was to welcome my husband home every evening to a calm, happy environment and a healthy, home-cooked meal.
Yet again, the doctor sent me away with a doctor’s note for a couple of weeks off work but this time he also gave me a prescription. The prescription was to speak to my husband about how I felt and to tell him that I wanted to start a family!
It worked, and within just over a month I was pregnant! Imagine how elated I felt when I finally left work for good to be a ‘stay at home mum’.
I loved being at home to keep house and after years of surviving on only 5 hours sleep a night, having a newborn baby was a breeze. My alarm clock became the happy gurgles of our baby boy, and finally, for the first time since I was 17 I felt happy all the time and so full of energy and life. My life was perfect – everything I wanted and needed.
However, on Christmas Day, just 16 months after our son was born, my husband had a seizure. A few weeks later, they discovered that the seizure was due to pressure on his brain…from a brain tumour.
He had a 6-hour operation to remove as much of the tumour as possible, but the neurosurgeon discovered that the tumour was malignant. My darling husband, and daddy to our baby boy, had cancer.
My life came crashing down around me. I was just 29 and this was not what I had envisioned for my life!
However, you do what you have to do in these circumstances and you hope beyond hope that the surgeons have got it wrong, and that actually my husband has more than a few months of his life left to live. There’s nothing else to do but just keep going!
I nursed my husband for 11 months until he took his final breath in our bed with me lying by his side. At that moment, I just howled like an animal in pain. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to carry on without him.
But I did carry on, because I had our 2-year-old son giving me the biggest reason I needed to get out of bed everyday.
Six years later, our son became my reason for carrying on again, when after a time of immense stress and many struggles, the burnout had raised its ugly head again but this time it was much worse.
There were days when I just couldn’t get out of bed. I slept fitfully all night and most of the days, and it was painful to lie in one position for more than 10 minutes at a time.
I needed matchsticks to keep my eyelids from closing as I walked down the street, and when I was able to drive the car, I had to take the weight off my arms by resting my elbows on my knees while I held the steering wheel. Blow-drying my hair took ages as I had to rest my arms every few seconds and going out to socialize left me exhausted for days and sometimes weeks.
Bright lights and loud noises stressed me out. I had brain fog, my memory was poor and I couldn’t concentrate on anything for longer than a couple of minutes, which meant I couldn’t read or even watch TV.
On top of all that, I had become intolerant to many of the foods I had previously been able to eat, and eating them caused painful cramping in my stomach and a mix of constipation and diarrhea.
It was as if my body, brain, digestive system and immune system were all shutting down!
This inability to live a normal life and having to fight against all these symptoms just to survive led to me having mini breakdowns, to such an extent that, on one occasion, I had suicidal thoughts.
It was the fear of coming close to leaving my son without a daddy as well as a mummy that lead me to finally seek help from my doctor. I needed to find out why I was feeling so wretched.
After seeing my doctor and then an Endocrinologist, along with many tests, I was diagnosed with M.E., or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as it’s now often known.
Interestingly, when I Googled Yuppie flu recently, this is what came up:
- informal derogatory term for chronic fatigue syndrome.
And an article published in the Mail Online on 27th February 2015 stated:
‘The debilitating condition once derided as ‘yuppie flu’ is a genuine illness, researchers say.
Controversy has raged for nearly 30 years as to whether the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome are real or all in the mind.
Now a study shows the condition, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME, does trigger a distinctive immune response in the body.”
When I heard the consultant’s words that day, I wasn’t really surprised, after everything I’d gone through. It was like my body was telling me that if I didn’t choose to stop abusing it like I was, it would make me, by stopping me from functioning altogether!
I took a positive acceptance of the diagnosis, in that I finally knew what I was dealing with and, unlike my late husband’s diagnosis, it wasn’t terminal, which in my mind meant I could recover from it – and I did just that! I took responsibility for my own health, with no help from the medical profession and no prescription or over the counter drugs.
It took about 4 years to get to what I considered was fully recovered and in that time there were lots of ups and downs, a bit like a roller coaster. Some of the things I did worked and relieved my symptoms permanently, and some didn’t, but I got there in the end!
In over 10 years now, I haven’t even had a sniff of burnout. That’s because the things I did back then healed my body from the years of physical and mental abuse I put on it, and also the lifestyle changes I made and the lessons l learnt have remained with me.
Life will always throw us curve balls and in the last few years I’ve had my fair share of stressful events, but I still manage to remain happy, healthy and positive. Nothing that I endure seems to affect me in the negative way that it used to. I no longer go into a downward spiral of poor energy levels or mental functioning, I never pick up colds or viruses when they’re doing the rounds, my digestive system works efficiently and I’m even able to tolerate all foods with no bad side effects.
But it really started to bother me that more and more people are being diagnosed with M.E./CFS. Researchers estimate that there are over ¼ million people, who have been diagnosed with it in the UK and over a million in the US, and only about 20% have actually been formally diagnosed. Worse still, children and young adults are being diagnosed with it – it’s becoming a 21st Century epidemic!
That’s why I decided to create the ENERGY Stress Relief System, to collate all the knowledge I’ve gained and all the things I did, which drove me to a full recovery and still prevent me from getting burnt out today.
I use this system in my one to one and group coaching sessions, as well as at workshops and in online courses.
My work and my purpose now is to show people that it is possible to recover from ME/CFS and Burnout for good, and to demonstrate how to prevent burnout before it really takes a hold and starts to shut down your body completely.
To discover more about my ENERGY Stress Relief System, click on the button below: