Why call myself the ME/CFS self-help guru (part two)

If you’ve just come to this blog for the first time, then you’ll probably want to read part one first. Hopefully you’ll still be interested in the second part of my story, If not try me again next week when I start with the nitty-gritty of self-help. I’m planning on starting with the theme of ‘Acceptance: a foundation for management and recovery of ME/CFS’.  Tell me what you think about that statement?:
My full health inspired me to progress with my career and I got a temporary contract for a year managing children’s homes. After a year though my itchy feet could no longer be ignored and I took a 6 month trip around Central America. On my return I knew I didn’t want to return to my career, well not yet anyway, so I set about saving for more travels. This time I did a 3 month expedition with Raleigh international (a youth development charity) as a staff member in Costa Rica followed by 3 months further travel. I saw it as a way of combining travel with using my career based skills, so that they wouldn’t seem too obsolete if I wanted to return to it after my trip. However when I returned I found that I didn’t. I realised that although I had found my career really rewarding I had been living a dual life: week days were very serious and I had carried around an enormous sense of responsibility for wanting to do the best by the young people in care. Although I had succeeded in switching off every night, it had seemed to require a couple of glasses of wine and some very mindless TV.  Weekends I’d let go, had a wild time or immersed myself in leisure activities. I now realised that I wanted to live a more balanced life. I wanted to be able to laugh and experience joy on a daily basis, not just if I tried hard on the weekend. Recovering from a chronic illness had taught me how precious life was, and not to put up with an unsatisfactory lifestyle just because it offers security and job satisfaction.
So then started my ‘live life for today’ career.  I worked 3 seasons as a holiday rep and ski guide in a ski resort, and as a walking guide in the summer. I spent a summer leading independent style tours around Europe. I qualified as a ski instructor and started teaching, working summers as a hotel receptionist. In between seasons I picked cherries, I temped, I wwoofed and did what I had to get by. And I experienced joy almost every day until my last season as a ski instructor.
This was the beginning of the recession, there was very little work available on the mountain and although I enjoyed myself every day, I couldn’t avoid the insipient worry of whether I’d be able to pay my rent next month. I also had domestic difficulties with a young irresponsible flat mate and was rarely able to completely relax at the end of the day at home.
On a 1 week holiday to visit family and friends between seasons, I picked up a virus on the plane. I had so little time to catch up with everybody that (against my better judgement), I ignored my bodies need for rest and rushed around seeing everyone as planned. My first day back in Spain I was horrified to realise I had those familiar symptoms again. Determined to look on the bright side I thought that if I rested and put all my previous learning back into action, it might just end up being a short term post viral fatigue. My management kept my symptoms mild but a couple of months later I suffered a nasty tooth infection requiring two courses of antibiotics, and that was the start of a new complication.
My gut flora, thrown out of balance by the antibiotics lead to me developing an intolerance to sugar. This gradually extended to wheat and gluten, then to yeast, vinegar and mushrooms. Now I had a new challenge to deal with, one I still haven’t overcome completely. It still seems to be succeeding in preventing my complete recovery from ME/CFS. I’m sure I’d be over it again by now if it wasn’t for this complication.
I continued working full time as a hotel receptionist extending my contract to 10 months a year. It was an easy, sedentary job that I was familiar with and during low season I only worked a 6 hour day. It was a relatively stress free life. I lived only 15 minutes walk away from work. I grew my own vegetables in a plot leant to me by a neighbour. I lived in a stunning valley with beautiful views from my terrace and easy access to the natural environment. I was surrounded by supportive friends although after a full day’s work I had little energy left for much of a social life, all be it an alcohol free one. I managed my illness so well that it was rarely perceivable. I just knew that I couldn’t do all the things I would normally want to do.
Then the owner of the family run hotel I worked in was taken ill with cancer and died 3 months later. The rest of the family leaned on me heavily during that period and I was asked to work a 48 hour week indefinitely. I offered to try, pointing out that we might have to reassess things if I found it impacting negatively on my health. 15 months later, after learning to meditate at a yoga retreat, in what can only be described as a flash of inspiration, I suddenly knew that I wasn’t giving my health enough of a chance working that many hours. After a disagreement with my employers about reducing my hours I resigned, having already decided that I wanted to share my self-help knowledge by writing a book. I managed to stay in Spain for another 3 months doing a bit of teaching, a bit of cleaning and a bit of gardening and living off my savings whilst I wrote the majority of my first 3 chapters. I then decided to return to my parents’ house in England so that I could afford to spend more time focused on writing.  I now work part time in the local convenience store. I have plenty of time for writing and my health is slowly but steadily improving.
Like all of the best ideas, blogging came to my through a series of coincidences: A web designing, blogging couch surfer from Romania; a newspaper article cut out by a friend; and then a chapter in a book leant to me by another couch surfer. And this is the result!

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