What I got out of the 8 steps group coaching program

When asked about how the group coaching program went for her, Rhoda discussed it in such detail that I felt that it deserved a whole blog post! Thank you for your reflections Rhoda, it fills me with joy seeing how much you got out of it!

What thoughts do you have about how the 8 steps group coaching program went for you?

I have had ME for 6 years now – although only diagnosed four years ago after being told I was depressed for two years. I have been on numerous courses supplied by the NHS and by ME and FMS specialist units, and have paid privately to see a counsellor, and read loads of books, but this course has been by far the most helpful of them all.
It covered the physical and cognitive aspects (such as pacing, lifestyle, sleep) in as much detail as any of the courses and books but was adaptable and could start at whatever level you were at.

The other courses I have been on mentioned spiritual and emotional issues but less emphasis was placed on these. Doing this course I realised that these are the parts of me that are not impaired by ME, (although they have been damaged and exhausted) and that I can make these parts better – not just to as good as they were before I had ME, but to focus on them develop them in a way I never had the chance to when my practical mind and body were in charge. I’m almost at the point now where I can say that despite the cognitive and physical restrictions of ME I am happier, more contented and appreciative person than I have ever been.

What were you hoping to get out of this program?

I was hoping it could ‘unstick’ me as I knew I had improved greatly on how I had been (no longer bed bound or even house bound) but I seamed to make the same mistakes time and time again. I took advantage of the free half hour one to one sessions Julie was offering and she confirmed what I knew – as I improved my expectations and pressures I put on myself increased far more quickly than the recovery could sustain – so back I’d go to do the whole circle again…..
From reading some of Julie’s blogs I expected to have relaxation and mindfulness techniques encouraged.
I was hoping it would help with my acceptance of the illness.
I was hoping it would make me feel that someone cared enough to give ongoing support and that this support would make a difference. I would be doing something positive to ‘work’ at getting better rather than just trying to survive the frustrations of each day.

Has it meet your expectations?

Yes, yes and a thousand times yes!
I am a scientist at heart and was a GP before I was unwell – so I have pretty high standards. The 8 Steps approach gave me a structure I felt confident with. Once I had worked through the fact that the communication platform Julie uses (The Spirit Centre at Learn it Live) looks pretty ‘hippy dippy’ and had reassured myself that the course is pretty much all sensible, evidence based, helpful advice I didn’t look back.
The course reinforced the things I had learned in other courses about pacing, lifestyle changes, sleep hygiene, mindfulness and acceptance; but because Julie has been and is going through living with an energy limiting illness and has worked with and spoken to many others who are too, she has the empathy, understanding and experience to tailor advice to individual circumstances.
However the course went so much further than that – opening fresh windows of insight and understanding. I feel confident now that even if my ME doesn’t improve physically/cognitively I can still become more happy and contented with life and truly make the most of where I am at. The 8 steps have filled my ‘what to do to beat ME’ toolbox with so many new tools I no longer feel nothing can be done.
Many practical things exceeded my expectations too: the warmth of communication that can be achieved via an internet link, the free meditation course included, the Facebook support page with input from Julie which made me know I could ask any thing any time, the support and help of the other participants, the amazing workbooks full of hints, tips and exercises, and the follow up support offered.
I think everyone needs to do this course – not just those of us with an energy limiting condition!

Please tell me about anything good that has happened since starting the program

The values I live by have truly changed in the last 10 weeks.
The values I grew up with served me well when I was healthy (put others first, do the work then you can play, finish what you start, work twice as fast and you’ll get it done in half the time, if its difficult work harder at it) but they certainly don’t help when you have ME/FMS/depression. I’d feel guilty about not living up to them and often crashed after trying to do so.
Now my values are changing and seem to be coalescing around things like, put your health first without feeling guilty about this, love and be loved (and people do love me even though (or maybe because!) I can’t ‘give out’ like i used to, and have some quality time every day to doing what is truly you.
I feel like I am living for me now without being selfish instead of living for what I thought other people’s expectations of me were; more importantly my expectations of myself have changed and are now supportive and affirming.

If you think that the coaching program helped you manifest any of that please tell me how

The coaching program has explained these things to me in ways I can understand and actually believe.
For example – when I was physically well, successful and busy all the time it would take something pretty big to get my attention. I loved things like sea kayaking, a mixture of nature, physicality, mental effort, sociability and adrenaline that made me feel truly fulfilled and happy. Even so my ‘drive’ made me go further, play in rougher water, train as a sea kayak coach and guide, write magazine articles, run a club, build my own boat. Even the thing I enjoyed most in life wasn’t enough in itself. I would have said that the sea kayaking was one of the biggest joys I lived for, so when this was taken away, and my medical carer, then my whole life felt like it had been taken away.
The little satisfactions and joys of life were swamped and drowned out in the busyness. Now I have learned how to appreciate the every day good things and get pleasure from the seemingly mundane and life feels worthwhile again.
I am well enough now to do the occasional short sea kayak trip with lots of support from my husband and friends. I can now enjoy each minute of each paddle for itself – and I do – grinning from ear to ear the whole time, but I don’t have the drive to do it better in order to enjoy it, and I know there will be so many other things to enjoy before my next kayaking trip that i don’t have to wish the intervening time away.
I loved the concept of getting the ‘essence’ of the things we enjoyed or hope for and finding ways to get that essence now in new ways.

What has been the best part of the coaching program for you?

Understanding how I can WORK to get better – every time I tried before I would overdo it and crash because I pushed the wrong things (e.g. trying to exercise more and go out more).
Learning I am allowed to sleep in the day.

What has worked about having me as a coach?

You really care about us getting better and that care permeates the whole course and its participants.
I was amazed at how well you were able to sum me up even after only a 30 minute chat over the internet.
You have been there and are being there with chronic fatigue, and have amalgamated the experience of other people, so all the advice you give is tempered with practical experience and the emotions that go with it.
You are organised and do what you say you will. You set a good example by explaining that something is going to be delayed due to your own health needs – a reason, not an excuse – a model for us to follow.

What new skills, tools and attitudes (ways of being) are you taking away with you?

New values which help.
The confidence of a bulging tool box,
I’m so happy to be spending an hour of my best awake time each day doing the things I love most (making things) without feeling guilty.
Enjoyment of the little things.
Know there are things that can be done.

Is there anything about the program or the way I coach that you would have liked to have been different?

There was always a push to get people to volunteer for coaching but once discussion started everyone appeared comfortable to engage. Maybe you could suggest coaching topics that fit with the current step of the programme which we could sign up to.
The Learn it Live site had various technical problems but when it worked it was good. I now get my email folder full of stuff from all sorts of alternative practitioners – not my scene at all.

What would you say to a friend who was considering this program?

Do it – don’t even stop to think….

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