Counsellors are human and I am no exception - I have daily struggles just like you
I was born with a healthy body which allowed me to train as an athlete and compete in competitions which was fantastic... until it wasn’t. I became very unwell during my A-Levels with Glandular Fever, and struggled thereon after with unexplained pain and fatigue. Periods of having a normal life were followed by periods of frustration as my body wasn’t doing what normal bodies should do. Life continued, I got my first job, got married and lived on this rollercoaster of good weeks and bad weeks. That was until the birth of my first child in my early 30’s triggered something even more extreme.
I began to hate my body, the life I was leading and not being able to do what I wanted to do. Many symptoms plagued me and I celebrated on the days I felt better, but it is all relative and inevitably I over did it. No matter how hard I tried to not notice it, it was there every day reminding me that I was ‘less than’. My body was weak, it made me weak, it affected my confidence, my weight, and let me down constantly, forever fighting this battle to be ‘normal’. I ignored its need to rest, I ignored the sore throats and the signs I was imminently getting a bad attack; I almost punished it and carried on despite it.
I am a very determined person and admitting defeat wasn’t an option, but I did blame it, as it didn’t allow me to be who I wanted to be. It made me weaker and vulnerable when I wanted to be strong and competent. Brain fog reared its ugly head at the most inopportune moments and unexplained illnesses, aches and pains appeared overnight.
Fibromyalgia was finally diagnosed. It gave me an answer; it didn’t cure it, but at least I knew I wasn’t going mad.
I decided I needed a career change, so I took redundancy and went to university to study counselling. Part of my course was 60 hours of therapy, and what an unexpected godsend that was. During my sessions, it became apparent that what had slowly been occurring over the years was me disowning and punishing my body for constantly letting me down. Through therapy I learnt to recognise my triggers, to appreciate what I can do and not what I can’t, what my limitations are and how I can adapt them. I started to realise I had not only been fighting my body but its acceptance (which up to that point was viewed as defeat), and my own positive regard. I had grown to hate my body inside and out with a passion, and was reminded of that every day when I looked in the mirror.
Through exploration I realised I had not identified or experienced my body as self, but had dissociated myself from it. So, during therapy we worked on holism regarding my body and mind in a hope of unifying them, and slowly I became more accepting that although I am not responsible for the circumstances I found myself in, I am responsible for the meaning I attach and the impact on my life now.
I am still on this journey of understanding and acceptance, and often battle with my own competitiveness. It has been difficult, and will forever be a journey I travel, but I am okay with that now.
I hope this blog highlights that it is possible to live a full life with a condition such as Fibromyalgia and that us counsellors are human and suffer with issues too; it’s how you deal with them that matters.
I can’t run marathons (let’s face it who wants too), and I can’t life at 100 miles an hour, but what I can do is work within that day’s limitations and not against them. I have my own private practice, I volunteer, and have a busy family life. However most importantly I do not try to live up to others expectations. Living up to my own is a challenge, why add others into the mix!
I appreciate not everyone with Fibromyalgia can live a life like me, as it affects everyone differently. Nonetheless, I have spoken my truth - yours will be different and I appreciate that.
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About Julie Easterbrook
I originally qualified as a Management Accountant and spent much of my career working for a large well-known Multi-National company. I retrained and I am now a professionally trained Integrative Humanistic counsellor and registered member of the BACP working with Adults and Children 11+. Please check my website for full details.