Kirsten Rees - Fibromyalgia; a Change in Health - a guest post for Ehlers-Danlos, ME, Fibromyalgia, and Mental Health Awareness Month
Everything changed for me after 2012. I would have described myself as a healthy, active woman who loved to socialise and travel. That summer, I climbed Ben Lomond, cycled from Glasgow to Edinburgh, and completed Tough Mudder® all to raise funds for charities. Throughout my twenties, I had worked in various jobs and was fortunate enough to have lived in several countries. I had career and life plans and they were big!
When I turned thirty, I developed fibromyalgia which causes pain throughout my body. I was in the middle of a gap year after quitting a job I hated and had so many plans for my future. When my health began to change, it impacted every aspect of my life. Suddenly, it felt like I'd lost my entire identity, career, social life, friends, and my confidence and strength.
For the next few years, I was dealing with misdiagnosis, trial and error with medication, vitamin deficiencies, low energy, mood swings, and so many symptoms and side effects. Well-meaning folks suggested I quit working altogether and go on benefits. Instead, I launched a business and I’m now a full-time book editor and published author. I’ll have six books published by autumn and one of them is aimed at people just like me with invisible conditions who still want to work and feel they can contribute to society.
Family, friends, and doctors have often told me I have a really positive attitude even before I became ill. So, unless I choose to tell someone, no one ever guesses that I have this invisible health condition – which Lady Gaga also has – and it’s a “medically determinable impairment” which affects every area of my life.
The truth is, I was scared to show the real me, the hardships, and the behind-the-scenes stuff but I’ve realised that it’s healthier to be honest and share. Nowadays, I try to share the good and the bad when it’s appropriate and I feel comfortable doing so. It hasn’t been easy and I’ve had setbacks and other difficulties in my life. In the last two years, I lost my dad to cancer, was in a car accident, found a lump in my breast which thankfully wasn’t anything scary, and more recently, my mother took ill and had to go through surgery.
I’m a contributor on Medium.com where I’ve just started writing about some of these struggles - writing is my therapy! I recently wrote about dealing with loss and grief on there and shared how it felt.
I wouldn't recognise myself now if I saw me a few years ago, but I wouldn't go back to the girl I used to be. Even having gone through everything, I know I'm a fighter and feeling more confident about the future than ever. While my initial career change was out of necessity because of my health, now I have purpose.
I now work with clients who've lived through trauma, mental health issues, life-altering health changes, grief, and also losses in business and personal life. We meet or arrange a call to talk. Then I help them break through emotional walls to be able to publish a book and move forward. My aim is to empower people to write their stories!
Words are so important. Even in the way I speak to and about myself. I mentioned earlier that my health changed, but I used to say it declined. I used the word can’t a LOT in the beginning, as in ‘I can’t mountain climb, go boxing, or party in high heels anymore’. Instead, I look forward to the new hobbies I’ve discovered and my incredible friends I’ve made through these new interests. I once thought my career was over but now, I know it was simply redirected. The silver lining is that if I hadn’t developed a health condition I once found devastating, I would probably be working in a job I hated. My body changed and my mindset changed because of that but now I see it was for the better and I’m just chasing different dreams now.
I had to figure out who I am all over again. Taking up new hobbies like salsa dancing helped me feel like my body was capable again, I also spent two-hundred hours as a volunteer Teen Mentor which made me feel needed, and I made new friends who completely support me in my health issues and uplift me in every area of my life.
I’m aware of my health all the time but it’s no longer an overwhelming shadow. I’ve got a pretty intensive self-care routine which I developed over the last few years. I have a box in my desk drawer with a mixture of sensible and lovely things like ibuprofen gel, my wrist straps, photos and motivational quotes gifted to me. There’s another one under my bed with the same things and also magnesium spray, pillow spray, face masks, epsom salts, bubble bath, a sleep mask, etc. Sometimes I postpone plans and pace myself, or switch off my WiFi and read a book, or put on my favourite dress and red lipstick!
I’ve also thought about my mental health too. As I was finding self-employment quite isolating, I set up a group of women in business and we meet one day a week to work together, brainstorm, and have lunch. The group has now been running for six months and I've had so many share with me that it's the highlight of their week. All of this combined (and lots of other things) have helped me lead a more ‘normal’ life.
At the start of this year, I created a 2019 vision board with twenty-one goals for this year. One of them is to get to the top of a mountain again after six years of telling myself I can’t. I’m now saying Yes, I can. I even did a shark swim last August which was the one-year anniversary of losing my dad. I’m focusing on turning negative into positive and always looking for the silver lining! I feel strong again but it's not just a physical thing, I have strength for whatever is ahead!
Kirsten Rees is a professional book editor of bestselling books and author coach who founded MakeMeASuccess in 2013. She started out as a copywriter with almost a decade of experience in content writing and has edited and proofread over five million words.
She is also a published writer, has featured in multiple press articles, and is a winner and nominee of several awards. Her previously self-published books are currently being re-edited and re-packaged, and will be published along with her new books in a rapid release this year, totalling six books which will be available in print and as ebooks. Her YA novel has been requested by a NY publishing agent.
If you have written a book and would love the confidence to share it with the world then do get in touch. I’d love to help you become a published author this year.
Publications, thoughts and reviews
On themes of mental illness, disability and YA.