Thursday, 23 May 2013

Guest Post...StoryBramble - Five Lessons I Learned From Facing Chronic Illness

Stephanie is someone I happened across on Twitter in my search for new bloggers. How can you now warm to this picture of her?

She runs the fabulous Storybramble which she describes as 'the story cafe'. It provides free audio stories and poems for children which also have follow-on creative activities.

Stephanie is a trained actor, qualified drama teacher and mother of two.  She's passionate about using stories to help children develop their creativity, have fun and build strong imaginations and created Storybramble as a resource for other parents who feel the same way. 

Here Stephanie shares a life changing story with us which gives some great advice for others...

Five Lessons I learned from facing Chronic Illness 

This time last year I was insanely busy working at my job as a secondary school teacher, taking care of my two children under five, running my own youth theatre and studying for a post grad in physical theatre which conveniently took place at the other end of the country!  I like to be busy and yes I was tired but I was confident that I could push through it.    The summer holidays arrived and instead of taking a break I went to work with a theatre company.  I had the time of my life but when the school year rolled round again I was exhausted.  As the new term started I took on the usual round of extra curricular commitments and just kept on going. Then I got sick.  It was just a throat infection and as it was almost the October Break I was sure after a week off I would be well again.  But I wasn’t.  I stayed off for another week, then another and another.  The Dr’s began to do tests but found nothing and eventually I was diagnosed with Post Viral Fatigue which after several months was changed to Chronic Fatigue.  I had gone from a full, busy and active life to one where getting to the end of the day was a physical chore. I spent hours stuck in my bed.  I often found it difficult just to take care of my children.  My whole world had been turned upside down and things felt very, very bleak. I would like to say that one day I woke up to a beautiful revelation about life with rainbows, glitter and singing unicorns.  Sadly the singing unicorns gave me a miss.  What I did get however was a painful wake up call about how I was living my life and I wanted to share a few realisations I’ve had these last few months. 

1. MOST THINGS DON’T MATTER I am a professional worrier.  I am so highly skilled at fretting that if you could get a qualification for stressing about things I would have a distinction.  Before I was sick everything felt very important.  Until suddenly I realised most of it just wasn’t.  The world would keep turning if work didn’t go the way I wanted it to, if I didn’t get something handed in on time, if my housework was never done.  99% of the things I was worrying about really did not matter one little bit.  
LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE When life throws a ton of stress your way as it so often tends to do try to step back and see the bigger picture.  If you and those you love are healthy and well then it probably isn’t as big a deal as you think.  Work, having a show home, being the perfect mum - it’s not that important in the scheme of things. Your energy is precious so save it for the stuff that really counts. 

 When I got sick one of the most upsetting  consequences of it was the sheer number of people who  simply walked away.  People who I had once considered good friends dropped me like a hot coal.  On the other side of the friendship coin however were the people who went above and beyond the call of duty to help and support me.  I saw people in a whole new light and suddenly had a much better idea of where I ranked in their lives and while the answer wasn’t always pretty I now have  much stronger friendships as a result. GO ON A PEOPLE DIET The people in your life are like food. They are either good for you or they aren’t.   Good food adds to the quality of your life, makes you feel healthy and well and gives you energy.  Bad food does the opposite, leaves you feeling lethargic, sick and low.   Take a look at your relationships and where you can limit the time you spend on sugary friendships of little or no substance.  Your soul deserves better than this.  In the same way that being run down can highlight our bad diet choice, going through a rough time in your life can shine a light on the good, bad and ugly in your current friendships.  Instead invest time in the friendships that enrich your life, you deserve no less than this. 

3. TIME IS YOUR GREATEST RESOURCE I like to be busy but being ill forced me practically to a standstill.  As my energy was limited and I had to choose very carefully how I would spend it.  Having to pick what activities I could do and which ones I would have to drop made me seriously re-evaluate my priorities.  Before I was rushing to work early and staying late then running off to classes and rehearsals in the evening.  My children, I am ashamed to admit, were fitted into the gaps.  Now that I wasn’t sure if I was going to have the energy to even read them a bed time story feeling well enough to play with them suddenly became a very precious thing.  I was in such a rush to live life that I was missing it.  SAVOUR THE LITTLE MOMENTS Today is all you have, the moment, right now is all there is.  Savour it.   Enjoy the daft wee moments with your children, the time with your family and friends.  It is the stuff that life was made for.  4. LIMITATIONS ARE NOT ALWAYS BAD I have always been passionate about the arts but after I had children I often felt frustrated when  I couldn’t get out to the theatre or to workshops as much as I wanted to.  Once I was ill however all this was out of the question, I  wasn’t well enough to go anywhere.  For several weeks I sat at home miserably watching one opportunity after another sail by.  I was frustrated and angry.  Then I thought, what am I waiting for exactly?  Why don’t I just get on with it?  Weirdly being limited made me more focussed.  I thought about the things I loved: being creative, children’s stories, writing, creating characters.  Bit by bit the idea for Storybramble began to form in my mind.  I thought about what mattered to me and how I could bring it into my life despite my circumstances.   And so I started to write, and then I started to share what I was writing in the hope that the stories I had written might just bring a bit of fun and creativity to other children. 
 MAKE WHAT YOU MAKE Whatever it is you make go ahead and make it.  Whether you are a writer, painter, crafter, cook, chef, musician, dancer, engineer, carpenter, architect, scientist or gardener go and get making! Don’t wait for the right time, there is only now.  The circumstances will never be perfect so just start and have fun with it.

 5. YOUR HEALTH SHOULD BE YOUR NUMBER 1 PRIORITY How often have you put your needs second?  It seems to go hand in hand with being a mother.  We make sacrifices, we push through, we keep going and we cut corners when it comes to our own health.  It’s a false economy. I will admit I was arrogant. I thought I could abuse my body, keep pushing it and that I would get away with it.  I was wrong.  And when I realised how wrong I was I was afraid.  What if I never got better?  What if I had ruined my health for good?  What kind of life would I have?  How would I take care of my children then?  A RADIATOR HAS TO BE WARM TO HEAT OTHERS It’s not selfish to take care of you.  You can’t look after anyone or anything else if you don’t.  So put your health at the top of your agenda.  Eat, drink and sleep well.  Take time out for you, relax, walk and rest.  It is an investment that will pay dividends for you and all those you love. 
 Dealing with a long term illness has been a huge shock but as they say every cloud has a silver lining.  Being sick forced me to stop and when I did I was able to  see what really mattered in my life.  I wanted to write this as I wish it hadn’t taken illness to open my eyes.  I hope that other people can stop, be still and value themselves and their lives today. 
What about you?  Have you had a life changing moment?  I would love to hear about what lessons you learned from it if you did. 

You can find Stephanie here:


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SAHMlovingit said...

Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring story on my blog. It was wonderful to have you guest post xx

Stephanie said...

Thank you for letting me guest blog! It was a real privilege.


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