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7 Things I Wish I Could Tell Myself When I First Became Ill

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Dear Mandie,

Here is a letter that I wish I could have written to you in 2012. By then you had been ill for one year and a doctor had just told you, “Mrs. Holgate, that until you accept your life is over there is very little we can do for you.”

I know since I was there with you that you collapsed over the breakfast bar sobbing your heart out on a regular basis… the children were all gone to the school for the day, hubby was at work and you had many hours to try and fill with nothing because you were too exhausted to move, let alone try and function. I know that it felt like a lonely endless hell and I want you to know that this is what I would have said to you, to help you through this:

1. There is no such thing as an illness that just affects “this part of your body.” I wish more doctors would appreciate how damaging it is to say to someone that the tests are all negative.  I wish doctors would understand that they make their patients feel like failures and fakers – and Mandie, I know you are not.

I know you couldn’t get up the stairs without crawling. Doctors seem to forget that the mind greatly impacts on the body and vice versa, so the first thing to do is remember not to listen to all those doctors say. They don’t live your life, they can’t feel your pain. If you get a doctor who dismisses you and doesn’t seem to care, fight for a new one. They are over worked and under appreciated people within our health service and they too can become disheartened and disillusioned. Don’t expect them to have miracles, cures or the ability to communicate in the powerful way that I’m going to share with you.

2. Fight for you. And when you feel like you can’t fight any longer, look to those that you know you can lean on. Don’t head to the social media platforms full of moaning and groaning – how will that help you get your mind in a good place to fight on?

Fight for the right medication. Fight for the right support. Fight for the right specialists. And when they say there is nothing that can be done, fight that too. If I hadn’t you would still be in bed, in a dark room, instead of being the author of a book that is selling around the world. You wouldn’t be the winner of awards for your business success. You wouldn’t be sharing your ability to motivate, inspire and empower with people around the world and making a difference… so fight on!

3. Listen carefully to what your head and body are saying. It is not weak or lazy to watch a box set or hide under the duvet. If you really need that extra rest or sleep then take it. But it will be pointless if you cover that rest with guilt and anxiety about the things that this time could have been used on. If you rest now, just think of the things you can get to enjoy later. Cherish the little things. Yes, you couldn’t make tea, however, you did cut the carrots up and you listened to every word your children said. Concentrate on what you achieve – not on what you don’t.

4. Deal with stress. Stress will hurt your body and your mind. Learn mindfulness, mediation and what makes you smile. Know on a good day how to handle a bad one. Who? What? Where? What sounds? What smells? What music? Learn to breathe deeply, enjoy aromatherapy and care for your mind as much as you care for your body.

6. Remember that nothing stays the same. I know you’ve the heard the saying, “Every journey begins with one step,” and just remember today all you have to concentrate on doing is putting one foot in front of the other. Not the mountains or the valleys, not the obstacles and the difficulties, just get this foot to move in front of the other one. One small step.

7. Remember to be nice to yourself. If you wouldn’t say it to your best mate or mum then don’t say it to yourself. I know you would swear at your ineptitude in putting on a pair of tights and needing a sit down when you had achieved getting dressed, and I know you learnt that instead of cursing your lack of function, you learnt to say, “Today I achieved this.”

Never forget to love thy self and deal with that stress. You are not alone, people genuinely do care.

There will be better, grander, wonderful days to come.

Love always,

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Originally published: August 29, 2017
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