I truly believe that you can live well and thrive following the impact of a long-term chronic medical condition or serious illness/injury, but you have to implement a healthy lifestyle to move from illness to wellness. Of course initially, when it happens it can irrevocably change our life on many levels, and challenge our beliefs about ourselves, abilities, and dreams for the future. You may feel that life is over or is just an ongoing struggle.
As a former gym owner and fitness instructor as well as popular healthy lifestyle blogger I found it so difficult with my health degenerating after my retinal detachment. From severe abdominal pain, difficulties breathing, back problems and fatigue together with my sight loss and the direct problems this caused.
For over a year so much of my life was wrapped around seeing a multitude of doctors and specialists, undergoing blood tests, x-rays, scans and exploratory operations. Yet things seemed to just be going from bad to worse, no solutions being offered. I got to the point where I said ‘no more’ it’s time to fight back. What I knew was that you have to plan to get well, stay well, and grow and live to your fullest potential.
What I knew was that life wasn’t meant to be like this. A diary packed full of appointments with doctors and specialists. Empty of anything else. Every minute of every day seemingly a struggle with health.
It hadn’t always been like this. Not that long ago I was in great shape. Health wasn’t an issue. It was something I took for granted, probably abused it at times. I owned gyms and still did work as a gym instructor, as well as doing my own daily workouts, so with a strong body I found this supported great health even if at times my diet didn’t.
But those days felt long gone as I found myself quickly deteriorating following on from my retinal detachment and subsequent operation. What makes everything worse is back when it first happened you could look at me and not tell anything was wrong. I have what is called an invisible disability. But after a time its effects began to show. In fact I started to age. I’m sure you’ve seen one of those sci-fi films where suddenly somebody begins to age at a fast rate and they deteriorate in front of your eyes. That’s how things felt for me. One minute full of energy and excitement about life the next struggling to get out of bed and every step I took exhausted me.
Perhaps this is the norm when you eventually reach midlife. Things maybe had caught up with me and now I was heading fast downhill with nothing to look forward to but more struggles. But I didn’t believe this.
First of course there was my eye problems. This affected me in so many ways. With one eye being useless, seeing nothing, the other had to do all the work. After just 30 minutes of reading, my good eye would start to tire, dry out and then only see a haze. Without lenses or spectacles this one eye couldn’t see well at all. Before my retinal detachment, my original one, in 2009, my left eye had been my weak one. Well now this was the one that needed to do all the work. Some things it couldn’t do. I had no sense of depth, and lost much of my field of vision. My close to hand vision was dreadful. This made things like saving my face or cutting foods with knives really troublesome tasks. The frustrations of the things I couldn’t do grew every day, as did the accidental cuts on my hands and bruises on my body.
As someone who has always appreciated life and living it to the fullest, I couldn’t accept that I didn’t have the power to change things. The biggest question that I had to come to terms with before too much more time elapsed, was: How can I recover from illness?
The answer surely resides within me from my gym instructors knowledge. After all wasn’t I a healthy lifestyle blogger that wrote about things like this all the time. I would benefit in no possible way by just lying in bed in the dark, wondering about nothingness and being scared, giving up and just seeking comfort.
My story is nothing more than a demonstration of how at times it can be difficult to live with sight loss. I’m not talking about losing complete sight leading to blindness because that’s not what I experienced. My situation was losing complete vision in just one eye the other although weak, able to see sufficiently with spectacles or lenses.
But my problems didn’t stop there. First there was a severe abdominal pain. It was like a knife lay inside of me hacking away at the insides. Then my breathing, this started interfering with my day to day living. It would come on at the strangest times. Bending over to tie my laces, and suddenly I’d be grasping for breath. It then would wake me in the middle of the night. One minute I’d be asleep, the next lying there struggling to breath. Together with chest pains things just seemed to be going downhill. I faced up to all sorts of tests, examinations, x-rays, scans, you name it I had it. My heart, my lungs and my chest were all under examination. Then there was a cancer scare. This turned out fine thank god but did reveal that one of my lungs lay trapped due to a birth defect, a double curvature of the spine. It seems that having kept this stable all my life through exercise, ill health having stopped that had now allowed this to develop into a problem. So now it was off to a skeletal specialist and even more tests. There was more to come. In a couple of urine tests, unexplained cells were found. This eventually led to a biopsy being required in my prostrate. The results given by my doctor were promising. I didn’t have prostrate cancer but these cells were there and needed further investigation. I was unaware I was being tested for cancer a 2nd time. These were all the medical issues. Physically I was in a bad place. I weighed the heaviest that I ever had, in fact 5 stone over my norm. My body was absent of muscle probably the first time since childhood and this weakened me greatly. My energy levels were nearly non-existent, my fitness non-existent.
What a sorry state of affairs. It doesn’t even touch on my emotions. You can’t possible be in a good place mentally having gone through such difficulties with your health. Having to face up to it alone made it even more difficult. The feeling of isolation, even abandonment slowly takes away any positivity you have. You yearn for a loved one to wake up to your plight, but you can tell from their eyes that you’re making a mountain of a mole hill. Perhaps it’s because before this all started I’d been the fit gym instructor, and everyone just expected me to remain that person, and they couldn’t handle seeing me falling apart, or to allow them to accept it was happening.
When I was a ‘fit bloke’ life was indeed great, I’ve always been passionate about working out and living a healthy lifestyle. I love to lift weights, work out alongside friends, walk with my daughters, you name it. I used to do it all without thinking. I ran as easily as breathing. That was before.
Since my decline things started to unravel. My health led to a loss in confidence I became disillusioned and just could not seem to pull myself out of it. For a while I became horribly depressed. I was overwhelmed worried about everything. What I know is that being healthy is not JUST about what you eat or how you exercise. It is about the WHOLE you.
Having reached the point where I could not tolerate my poor health any longer. On a visit to a local museum for my daughters birthday I found that the slightest of activity brought about a shortness of breath which required my inhaler. To me this was just an unacceptable way for me to now be having to live.
As I wrote in a recent article Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired
“You are sick and tired of being sick and tired. You’re sick and tired of visiting doctors, tired of medications and injections. Tired of being ill. Tired of cancelling plans, of staying close to home and having the need to explain why you’re not feeling well.”
I was now determined to bring about improvement and make the commitment to myself to see things through to the point where my health was vastly better. I would no longer leave it to the medical profession. I just knew that I hadn’t yet arrived at the point where there was no possibility of improvement.
After all I have the knowledge, more than most, of what it takes to live a healthy lifestyle. If anything could now transform how things were for me, this would be it.
I have to do the right thing by me, if not the easy thing. I would have to make the right choices to help bring about improvement in my health and wellbeing. This required taking the path to wellness.
Who wouldn’t want to benefit from having more energy, good health, vitality, free from illness? Within each of us, you have the power you need to create wellness in your life. That power is your power of choice. Your power lies in the choices you make.
If you want to move from illness to wellness you need to remember this:
What we eat, do, think, and believe largely determine our health and longevity.
I wrote about 8 Changes To Improve Your Health ranging from doing a Detox and getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night, but there is far more to do if you want to move from illness to wellness.
It’s not going to be easy. Wellness is much more than merely physical health, exercise or nutrition. It is the full integration of states of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. The effort and commitment it will take will be substantial.
If you are ready to take personal responsibility to heal yourself and enhance your well-being then it’s time to take care of your wellness making a commitment to live a “healthy lifestyle.
I am going to write a series of articles From Illness to Wellness to help people explore healthy ways to manage and live with their chronic pain condition and disabilities so they can enjoy more fulfilling, satisfying lives. I’m not going to advocate doing nothing and just sit and watch TV all day. Nor will I recommend you rely on medication alone to manage your pain.
On Monday I will explain exactly what Wellness means.
Share your story of illness in the comments, and tell me whether you’ve been able to go from illness to wellness.