Having married early and raised four boys whilst enjoying a successful career as a Business Manager in the NHS for 23 years. I then realised there must be more to life! I decided to move myself and my husband over to the other side of the world on a whim and spent a couple of years in New Zealand gaining experience working with a Chiropractor in Tauranga. This set me on my internal journey to finding out the impacts that Quantum Physics, the Mind Body connection and how it interacts with every facet of our lives. Now I use all of my business and personal experience to help support people find the ‘Why’ behind chronic physical and emotional pain. This is my story, and I wrote this in 2017 when I was just entering into training to become a Wellbeing Coach.
I am a little bit nervous about reaching out to you but here goes.
My coaching buddy sessions have had a profound effect on me and given me some much-needed confidence in reaching out to people. It has been my experience to date that every time I have reached out the lack of response or negative response has chipped away at my self-esteem and devastated my confidence. Chipping away until I became frozen emotionally and physically.
You may or may not be aware that my career has been in the NHS. Particularly in Primary Care as a Practice/business manager for some 28 years in the UK and more recently in New Zealand as a General manager for a corporate company, but still managing GP practices so I understand two quite different models of healthcare. Although remarkably similar in lots of ways, the ethos being that the patient is at the heart of healthcare and the home of healthcare is the GP practice, they had very different challenges.
I have also been on the receiving end of less-than-optimal care from the NHS, both the system – how it is set up for care, from my work environment, from individual practitioners who were treating me – GP’s through to specialist consultants.
My recovery has been long and arduous, and my first crash was in 2007.whilst I was living and working in New Zealand.
I somehow managed to continue working full time despite chronic headaches, gastro problems, I just self-medicated to get me through the day, relying on prescribed medication for sleep issues, Depression, headaches and suspected IBS, through to over-the-counter medications such as stress relievers, vitamins, chocolate and coffee. Before collapsing in a heap at home falling into a stupor chronically exhausted, literally dragging myself around.
I had many health issues, an under-active thyroid, removal of my gall bladder, various biopsies taken for breast cancer, polyps removed from my colon, a hysterectomy and emotional support through counselling having grown up in a dysfunctional family environment.
Believe it or not I considered this normal!
My first experience of a less than supportive employer was in 2005 –I was working as a General Manager in a large GP practice – the job was highly pressurised, the hours long and the journey from home to work adding another 3 hours per day. Work started at 7:00 in the morning and finished at 7:00 at night. I literally worked from the moment I walked in through the door to the moment we closed the doors at night, no breaks, no lunch and relied on chocolate, caffeine to get me through.
I asked to reduce my hours but they declined preferring to find another manager to replace me – apparently my influence and management style was not what they were looking for. I left and for some reason decided that I wanted to move to New Zealand for a new start; crazy but true! I had become interested in alternatives ways to support staff that included relaxation/hypnotherapy/stress management. I trained to become a Hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner whilst holding down my full-time post in the GP practice and was hopeful that I could do this as a new career.
Both my husband and I moved to New Zealand in 2007 – I had no job and neither did he but he very soon managed to get a role as an Electrician and I as a manager for a Chiropractor which linked nicely into the non medical model of patient health.
I liked the holistic approach.
However, I started to feel exhausted and often didn’t have the energy to go food shopping even after only working for a ½ day. Emotionally I got lower and lower as did my physical ability to sustain any sort of commitment to work, or friends.
I had blood tests and at first they thought I may have Lupus. Further investigations continued and eventually I couldn’t get out of bed and I couldn’t afford the healthcare costs in New Zealand. My employer was not happy and said some very cruel cutting things – he couldn’t see the person that I was and assumed that I was just another English person who was unreliable, so he let me go.
I made a decision to move back to the UK and arrived home in 2010.
I went back to the only role I knew as Practice Manager for another GP practice and although a struggle I managed to work 3 x days per week and look after my much-loved granddaughter who had been born in the June before we came back in the August.
I was still having health issues so went to my GP who wanted to prescribe anti-depressants although I told him I didn’t feel depressed. I knew what depression felt like and this was different. He took blood tests for my thyroid to ensure I was taking the right dosage and as a last minute decided to take some markers for rheumatology as I had told him about the LUPUS diagnosis and provided the test results, I had from New Zealand.
The test came back with high markers and he referred me to a top consultant in Rheumatology. I was also referred to a sleep study clinic, given amitriptyline and ibuprofen for pain.
It took 24 weeks to get the appointment for the Rheumatologist consultant. I arrived at the hospital to a very busy clinic and told that as I had been ‘fitted in’ I would have to be prepared to wait as the consultant was an extremely busy man. 4.5 hours later I was ushered into a small side room and told to get undressed down to my underwear. There was no curtain around the bed, the room was freezing and no modesty blanket available or paper on the bed. The room was dirty and the lights didn’t work. I waited for approx. 48 minutes when a nurse came into the room to tell me the consultant had gone home and that I would need to come back to another appointment. She couldn’t give me an appointment time as these were sent out by the administrators. I refused to move – it has taken a massive effort to get there and I burst into tears. Only to be told, that this really wouldn’t do that tears were not an answer to getting my own way – the nurse would go and see what could be done. I asked for a blanket and non was forthcoming, so I put my clothes back on.
By a miracle the consultant appeared – his approach was to tell me that he had had a very busy day looking after patients who had severe issues and were in considerably more need of care than me. He saw from my notes that I was a 45 year old women, who had four grown up children and asked me if I was in menopause. I explained that I had a hysterectomy at 30 and been on HRT for 10 years so didn’t think menopause was the issue. He said I had all the classic symptoms fair, fat and over 40 for menopause which might account for my symptoms. He asked me to hop up on the bed, pressed several points in my body and then asked the nurse to give me a leaflet on Fibromyalgia. He walked out the door and left me with the nurse, who said that most people ended up in a wheelchair.
I returned home completely devastated. I had a GP saying I was depressed, a Consultant thinking I was attention seeking and I felt terrible. I wrote to the consultant and expressed my concerns. He did write back and apologise and offered me the opportunity to ring him or come back for another appointment should I deem it necessary – needless to say I didn’t.
Somehow, my diagnosis reached the ears of my employer and I was summarily dismissed – they said that having Fibromyalgia would impact on my ability to work at optimum and although we went through an HR process including lawyers we came to an agreement as by then our relationship had broken down to such a degree that we wouldn’t be able to come back from it.
I am lucky to have the most amazing friends and the lovely ‘Jo’ offered me some casual work in her HR department. Jo has known me forever so she knew that I was struggling to find a solution to my health issues and felt that the role would suit me as it was part time and would work with what I was able to do.
The role lasted a little over 2 weeks. I sat at work one day with tears streaming down my face, in front of the computer surrounded by piles of paperwork – I was drowning. A lovely lady in the department came over to see me and asked if there was anything she could do to help and started to help me with the filing. I had forgotten how to file – she had to direct me. Go and find a clear see-through plastic folder with the holes down the side, put this piece of paper into it and then go and find the paper folder under the name to file it. I couldn’t even do that, so they sent me home.
How I got home on that day I can’t remember, I arrived in the street outside my home, sat in my car with the tears running down my face – I didn’t know how to put the car in reverse to park it, move forward or even raise my arms. There was complete chaos going on outside the car of which I was unaware. Someone, I don’t know who to this day, got me inside, into bed and parked my car up and got hold of my husband on the phone. I spent the next several months in bed.
I was completely physically depleted and emotionally spent, I had no idea how much my work defined who I was and what my place was in the world as everything had been stripped away.
Not working had a huge impact on my finances and my relationship with my husband.
I remember it being a long dark time and once I started to feel a little better I started to google the symptoms and diagnosis. My doctor referred me to a programme at Epsom and St Helier hospital that focused on recovery from M.E – Remembering that I couldn’t drive, spent much of my day still either in bed or on the sofa it seemed like a mountain to climb. The criteria was that if you missed an appointment you were off the programme – considering the severity of people’s symptoms and the ability to be at a certain place at a certain time with lots of travel involved for me was counter productive – Needless to say I didn’t last the course and was discharged.
That is when I came across the Chrysalis effect and began my start to recovery.
The other part of the story that I feel is important to tell is my experience with my claim for work and disability allowance. I had been doing some retraining to become a Psychotherapist/counsellor and felt that I should try to get some part time work – to be honest I was also getting pressure from my husband and as I had always been the main bread winner not only had my health been a big shock to him but the financial issues that it created were even greater.
I went to my first interview fully intending to sign on as a job seeker. I was fortunate to be interviewed by a lovely lady who took one look at me, heard some of my story and was shocked that I was even considering doing such a thing. She suggested that I apply for disability living allowance. As lovely as this idea was the reality is that the system for this is having to attend medicals at certain times usually miles away and having to attend a fortnightly interview puts you under too much pressure and this actually caused me to relapse.
At this time my Dad stepped in. took me to the medicals – had a strong but kindly word with the attending medical physician and also accompanied me to the fortnightly return to work interviews. At no point was I able to claim any money but what it did do was pay for my national insurance contribution. My Dad also took me to the citizen’s advice bureau who were extremely supportive in helping me out to complete forms, put a case together to get the diagnosis of ME and Fibromyalgia recognised. My case went to tribunal – again a huge emotional and physical challenge.
Several months and several appearances at the court the diagnosis was found in my favour.
By now we were in 2013 – a couple of months into 2013 my father was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, my wonderful Dad, who believed in me, and supported me through recovery passed away in the October of that year. Within a few short weeks my mother in law passed away too. As devastating as this was it brought me and my estranged brother really close and we put together a round the world trip using the money that Dad had left to us. I suggested to him that perhaps as it would be over several months it would be good if I could get some work in New Zealand as we moved around to help financially.
Surprise, surprise I ended up being offered a 3-year contract for doctor’s surgeries in New Zealand. I guess the reason I accepted this position was because that it was something I knew, it gave me the opportunity to prove to myself that I could return to full time work, and it would also give me and my husband a much-needed opportunity to rekindle our relationship and start to get some much needed financial stability.
Needless to say a few months into it I realised this was not the right thing for me to do. It started off with two frozen shoulders – I couldn’t move and was once again reliant on someone helping me to dress, wash and cook/clean for me. Because I had no choice but to work as I was the only one that had a job I continued, doped up on medication, full of steroid injections. The role was not what I came to do – the 2 practices that I had come to manage had been purchased by a corporate and they were expecting me to manage a 3rd surgery. I continued to work for them but started to rethink my purpose – why am I doing this? what are my options?
One day quite out of the blue an email landed in my inbox from The Chrysalis Effect, I re-joined the online recovery programme and went back to basics looking at physical and emotional health and saw that there was also an opportunity to do the foundation course for Wellbeing Coaching. I had an ICF qualification in Transformative Coaching although not really putting it into use other than for the teams I managed, and I also had qualification as a Psychotherapist/Counsellor and Hypnotherapist. I had many tools in my toolbox that I have accessed over the years but knew that somehow, I still wasn’t on my life path and didn’t understand my life purpose.
I continued to have health issues having more polyps removed of which two were discovered to be pre-cancerous. You will be pleased to know that this time I listened – the message is in the relapse. My role as a manager is just the shadow self of who I am – I wanted to be in healthcare but involved in a different way.
In 2017, I made the choice to move back to the UK from New Zealand and decided to make my health the most important thing and to be at the heart of my decision making, The longer term plan to work and live between the Uk and New Zealand and have an online clinic that would support people just like myself who had gone to the depths of despair to find a way back to living a life that is meaningful for them. Our bodies do truly keep the score of all that has happened to us, if we are unable to or don’t have the tools to deal with the traumas and stressors in life they come back to us as symptoms, it is our bodies way of sending a message that eventually we have no choice but to listen to.
I had also discovered the work of Dr Sarno and this gave me a big light bulb moment, I still had some residual issues in regard to the Fibromyalgia and fatigue and I discovered SIRPA based in the UK and read the book Your Key to Recovery by Georgie Oldfield. I contacted Georgie and we connected immediately, I took the online programme and within weeks my residual symptoms all disappeared. The more I learnt the more I could see how it complemented my own work with clients. I had often felt frustrated by the traditional counselling sessions that I had myself and wanted and felt that a much more agile approach would have helped, so, I completed my SIRPA training with the view that one day I would have an online clinic that would enable me to live my dream of working from anywhere and sharing my time between the Uk and New Zealand.
I continued to work in a school this time as a PA to a head teacher, he was a Kiwi and we got on famously. Colin knew of my background as a manager and a psychotherapist, and we used some of those skills in supporting teachers in the school in there wellbeing. And then Covid hit in March of 2020. Life for everyone was about to change. I was lucky enough to be furloughed and encouraged by Colin I volunteered for an online support role for NHS employees. It was about this time that I was introduced to two lovely ladies from Evelyn and Ford who were virtual assistants, by my lovely colleague Bev. And from there the germ of an idea of having an online clinic that supported people to find the ‘Why’ behind there symptoms started to take root. And the rest as they say is history!
I guess what I am saying is that if my story can help in anyway anyone who is going through stressors and challenges then don’t feel you are alone, there was a point that I contemplated ending it all after my Dad has passed away. I didn’t listen to what my gut was telling me, and I realise that the message was in my relapse. I am now well into my recovery journey, with no symptoms and working in a role that I love, supporting other people through there journey to wellbeing from chronic pain.
All the challenges that I have faced and overcome have got me to this point in my life, and hopefully my recovery story will inspire other people to know that anything is possible. I am strangely grateful for all my experiences, and know that only I have the ability to change myself internally, by challenging my thoughts, my beliefs, my mindset, I have changed my life so now ask yourself what else is possible?