I ached more than I ever thought possible. In places I didn’t even know existed. As I lay there, wondering if moving would stop or increase the pain, I was pulled from my thoughts by a small voice: ‘Mumum up’. I opened my eyes and caught my youngest sliding his hand down his chin, signing “please”. How could I deny him?
He took my hand in his tiny one and pulled at me to walk with him. The answer to my earlier question presented itself abruptly. Moving definitely didn’t help. I eased my legs over the side of the bed and braced myself for the pain. First thing in the morning was always the worst. I put on a brave face as I stood and tried to distract my little one so he would stand still for a while longer. Standing was one thing; walking was an entirely different proposition.
Eventually I took a step, and another, and stumbled out of the bedroom; each motion punctuated with a wince. The pain slowly eased as I got me feet moving and the rest of the aches now seemed dull in comparison. That was a blessing, I supposed. Master 4 charged at me with his usual cheer and gusto, asking me to sit and read a book with him. I know if I sat down, I would have to get back up at some point. There would be more pain. I will not let this defeat me, I thought to myself, and snuggled up with my son in the chair. I read slowly and answered all the questions he peppered throughout the story. I revelled in his wonder and longed for that moment – like all such moments with my children – to last a lifetime.
The story had drawn all my boys to me. When I finished reading, I wrapped all three of them in a giant cuddle and tried to let the love distract me from the pain.
My youngest asked for milk, but I couldn’t open the bottle. It wasn’t an unopened bottle, nor did it have a particularly awkward lid. I just didn’t have the strength in my fingers to grasp it. My 6-year-old came to the rescue and opened it with ease. I will not let this define me, I thought to myself as I poured the milk.
This is a true story. My norm, just 18 months ago. The pain was crippling. The frustration and overwhelm from not being able to do normal things was debilitating. A simple thing like wringing the face washer out while washing my boys or writing a note or typing a document caused crushing pain. I couldn’t stand up without nearly toppling over and my walk was more of a hobble. Every joint screamed at me and I had so many doctors telling me they didn’t know what was wrong.
Becoming pain free
Fast forward five months and I was still frustrated. The string of doctors and specialists I’d consulted fell back on “some form of arthritis” as an explanation. A guess, really. They knew nothing; they could not pinpoint the issue. Despite this, I was actually – finally – pain free.
How? I had taken matters into my own hands and taken back my health through a lifestyle change that helped my body regain its strength and fight for its own wellness.
Fast forward another 18 months to today: I am still without a diagnosis, but also mostly without pain. I have completely overhauled my lifestyle using a combination of keto, exercise, and essential oils. I have taken back my life and the vitality and freedom that comes from having body, mind and soul in a state of wellness.
I have been living Keto for 15 months now and my body and mind are loving it. I don’t miss anything. I have found so many different alternatives to my favourite foods and, to be honest, sugar is way too sweet for me now anyway. Keto has been a game changer in my healing process.
Did you know keto was never intended to be a weight loss diet? It was originally introduced to help children minimise their epileptic seizures. Weight loss was just a happy side effect, so it has become quite popular as a dieting approach. But it is more than weight loss – it’s a way of life.
But like everything there is clean Keto, as well as “dirty” keto. Eating bacon wrapped haloumi cheese dipped in butter every day is technically Keto friendly, but obviously not good for you. Just because you CAN eat it, doesn’t mean you should.
If you are looking at a change in lifestyle as way too big a step right now, start small. Reduce (or, if possible, completely remove) your sugar intake and see how you feel. For most people, refined sugar isn’t an easy thing to give up; but it is also one of the biggest culprits for a lot of issues, including inflammation which can aggravate pain.
When I said I was pain free, I meant free from the relentless ache in my joints from the “arthritis”. Obviously, I am not immune to the occasional tension headache or cramp when I have my period, or the occasional pain in my jaw when I am clenching my teeth from the kids being jerks, or the burn in my legs when I am smashing out another round of lunges, or squats or bench dips.
But it is all temporary, “normal” pain. Pain I can totally live with.
I had never exercised or worked out before this year. A friend and I did a few trips to the gym for a couple of months in uni, but the novelty wore off quickly. I didn’t think I needed to exercise and would find every excuse in the book to avoid it. I know most of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The thing is, exercise is not just about losing weight. It’s about looking after your body AND your mind. It’s about keeping everything moving so you have strong muscles and free-moving joints, and keeping your energy levels up.
Being too tired or not having enough time were always my biggest excuses. But did you know how much extra you can get done when you have so much extra energy just from moving more every day?
I want to challenge you to move more today. Go out for a walk, use the stairs rather than the elevator, park further away than you have to – anything to add a little extra movement in your day. Then do the same tomorrow, a little extra the next day, and more the day after. Create an exercise routine you are comfortable with – one that challenges you just enough – and watch for those small but steady changes in your physical body and your mental wellbeing.
Exercise is not about losing weight, not really. It’s about loving yourself enough to taking control of your health.
Of course, exercise is so much more than just “working out”; and should not just cater to the body but to the mind. In January last year, I went to my very first yoga class and it was definitely a turning point for me. My instructor, Susan, has an amazing way making you feel comfortable and welcome, safe and secure. She doesn’t force you to do more but motivates you want to push yourself. She has transformed the way I think about myself and given me the ability to see that I am capable of so much more.
Yoga is so much more than just movement, exercise and breathing – it is a way of being. To be in the present moment; to be one with your breath; to stretch yourself to new limits, to build your core and strengthen the foundations of mind and body; to be curious and not pass judgement; and to find yourself within your true self and let her shine.
I challenge you to check out a beginners yoga class. If you are local definitely come down to Susan’s classes and if not, then I am sure there is one near you. Be open to the experience and surrender to the process. It may not be for you and that is okay. But what if it is!? What if it is that one thing that has been missing? You will never know until you try. I am a yogi for life!
For me, exercise is always about mind, body and soul. It’s a question of balance, and you can’t achieve that if you focus only on the physical body. Training the mind is the first step for so many different journeys. Yoga absolutely helps with that, as do other modalities and tools, such as essential oils which are so versatile and support the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of our lives.
If you have been following me from the beginning, you would have heard me preach about that quite a bit. I even started a NLP practitioner course to go alongside my aromatherapy degree. Something I have not talked about much but it’s all starting to come together.
Along my learning and healing journey I met the beautiful Emily Smith. She not only reinforced everything I was learning and teaching, but also gave me space to put it into practice on myself. The key is to understand that your thoughts impact EVERYTHING. Your emotions, your actions, your worth (or at least your belief in your worth), the amount of self-care you engage in, your relationships, your work, your passion, your ability to keep to a routine… I could go on and on, but your thoughts create your future. You are worth spending time on creating positive thoughts.
If you see yourself in my story, I want you to ask yourself a question: What if?
What if you didn’t have to live with debilitating pain?
What if you didn’t have to feel guilty because there IS NO PAIN to limit the things you want to do in life and with your loved ones?
What if you weren’t defined by your condition, but by the things YOU CHOOSE?
What if you could change your story, like I changed mine?
You know what? You can.