Symptoms are a sign: they help you back on track
Even positive thinkers go through some tough times, and I don’t mind admitting that I’ve had a pretty crappy several months. Everybody has them, the key to being positive is to think, “So what can I learn from this to help me move forward?”.
My energy level dipped so low, and I have seen and felt this reflected in just about all areas of my life: health, home, finances and personal relationships. I have really beaten myself up even further at times because with all I have learned the last few years, I tell myself I should know better. “It’s easy Di, just keep laughing,” I tell myself, but then the laughing stopped, until I hated myself for feeling so self-pitying.
Many people feel low over the winter months, and I have come to realise by my own experience how much more this can affect people with chronic pain and illness, for whom the cold and dark winter months become so much more isolating.
I have made so much more effort during the summer months to build up my energy levels – eat well, socialise as much as possible, take meditative time out in nature – that it came as a shock to me just how far my energy dipped this winter. I was doing really well until September when, for medical reasons, I lost my driving licence for a few months, which led to me being confined to the house much more than usual. It took some much appreciated effort from my doctor to retrieve it. However, the stress did me no favours and I felt the downward spiral, from which I didn’t recover too well. I have written about these downward and upward spirals previously and how they work in our lives, but even I was really struggling with it this time. My pain levels were sky-rocketing, sleep pattern was non-existent (lots of it but erratic and non-refreshing), and depression was smothering me.
About six weeks ago, just before I went to Spain, I told my doctor I felt I had really lost my grip. I’m fortunate to have a doctor who supports the more holistic and natural methods I have discovered, even if she doesn’t completely understand them. She thought it a good idea to do some blood tests, so I asked if I could have the full lot done, including vitamins, which aren’t routinely tested here in the UK.
On my return from Spain (part of which holiday provided further evidence of my low energy frequency), a letter informed me I needed to contact my doctor about the blood tests. After chatting about my holiday and how I could not get the pain and sleep back to a manageable level, she told me that the blood tests showed me to have severely low iron ferritin and vitamin D levels. I had to have been running low for several months for the levels to become so severe.
The low iron would account for the increased fatigue and low energy, and the low vitamin D would be causing increased pain and many other symptoms. Anyone with fibromyalgia knows that increased everyday pain is not good. By the way, vitamin D is not strictly a vitamin but is a hormone.
This really made sense to me. Not going out so much would deprive my body of natural sunlight which provides the vitamin D. Not shopping for the fresh food that is more available in the summer, and not paying enough attention to dietary requirements, eating much more convenience food over the winter, was depriving my body of much-needed good nutrition, including iron. These are factors which I imagine would affect many people restricted through disability or infirmity. As energy levels dip, it becomes even more difficult to take care of oneself properly, and so the downward spiral begins and propels itself.
Ordinarily, I would listen to these results and say, OK I need to get out in the sunlight and need to do something about my diet. However, I had to recognise I am not strong enough to do that at the moment, and have appreciatively welcomed the intervention prescribed by my doctor of a 3-month supply of iron and vitamin D tablets – a relief to my doctor I believe as she does know my level of reluctance to take medications, as I see many as a band-aid over a deep wound. As a precaution, we’ve also added in some magnesium supplements as that helps the body with absorption of other vital nutrients.
My message here is one of taking notice of the symptoms. Symptoms are not meant to make you stay where you are. Symptoms are a sign that you need to do something different, change direction. They tell you when you are not treating your precious body correctly. If left unnoticed, they can cause permanent damage to the cells of your body, and store up further problems for the future, not only physical damage but emotional damage in the way you start mentally treating your body and mind too with negative thoughts.
Fatigue, pain and low mood are not always something you can cure with positive thinking, and are not to be taken for granted. They should always be checked out. As mine was, your body may be crying out for some loving nourishment.
Personally, I am still a reluctant pill-taker, I believe nature provides everything our bodies need, and we’ve got to feed ourselves properly. However, for the moment, I’m going to stop beating myself up that I should be able to positive-think my way out of it. I’m going to be kind to my mind, as that needs emotional nourishment too.
I am looking forward to feeling physically healthier, and I have given myself a task for this year, to build a collection of some simple recipes, with easily-accessible natural, nutritious ingredients that will fulfil all my dietary requirements to keep me healthy in winters to come, and ensure I go for some time outside, no matter how cold the weather is.
Symptoms are a sign: they help you back on track