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From struggle to acceptance

Updated: Mar 20

Living more flexibly with a long term physical health condition

I can just about remember what life felt like before I became ill. I remember feeling the vitality and sense of freedom that comes from just being able to get up in the morning and live.

Not having to worry about what I ate, not experiencing daily pain and discomfort, not thinking about how much sleep I needed or whether the plans I’d made would have to be changed because today couldn’t be relied upon to be a ‘good day’.

My health condition started slowly and developed from something “that would probably pass” to something that has stayed with me for 30 years – and will be with me for the rest of my life. At first, I was hopeful that I would be diagnosed and treated because, I was told, illnesses can leave just as mysteriously as they arrive. But as the years went on, this wasn’t the case.

I visited dozens of doctors, specialists and consultants and although some of them could tell me what was happening to my body, no one ever asked me how I was coping with it. No “and how are you?” I mostly got just a few minutes of focus on my physical symptoms, a suggestion of potential treatments and then off I went, back to my life to manage the pain, fatigue, shame, anger, grief and hopelessness that I felt.

Some of those health professionals were kind and skilled, while others made me feel like I was taking up space and ‘hysterical’. A body to be examined but a person to be ignored.

As someone who has worked within an NHS Talking Therapies team, I can see how much has changed – and is changing – in the way that people with long term physical health conditions are cared for and supported but there’s a way to go. That's why I offer specialist coaching support for people who live with a long term physical health condition and who want their lives to be about more than that. I've been there too.

I spent decades engaged in a struggle with my body. I wished for nothing more than to wake up one day and find that I was ‘better’. I spent many hours lost in thought about what had happened or what might happen. I was consumed with my illness and how it affected me. To many people around me I looked well. I worked, raised a family, and was a loving partner and friend. My life was full of joy but inside, I often felt lost.

So what changed? Over time, I came to realise that it was likely that my health condition might be permanent so I had a choice to make. Did I want to stay living a life of struggle with myself, lost in grief for something I couldn’t have – or could I try to see if I could shape my life around my health condition? Could I somehow learn to accept what was happening to my body and live well in spite of it?

The answer was a resounding yes. Over time, I began to learn about acceptance and self-compassion. I found health practitioners who treated me as a whole person. I had therapy and coaching and became more able to make room for some of my thoughts and feelings instead of struggling to push them away or trying to make them stop. I experienced the gentle, transformative power of mindfulness and began to shape a new way of living for myself.

I never thought that I would be able to find peace with my change in health and yet here I am. I'm someone who lives with a long term health condition but whose life is about so much more than that. I'm here to support you to find that balance too.

My specialist long term condition coaching service is a place to explore your relationship with your body and help you find a way forward. To find out more about how coaching can help you live well, even when life is challenging, book your free introductory call today.

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