A Year of Growth – Week 7 – What Holds You Back

The problem is, if I never let myself reach the boundary of what I CAN do, then I’ll never know when I can push that boundary a little further and so recovery slows and slows until it feels like I’m barely making any progress at all. 

My mind holds me back constantly. I know, dangerous topic to get into when you spend your whole life trying to convince health professionals that it’s NOT all in your head. But, hear me out here. In a sense, this illness IS in our heads. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real. And it most certainly doesn’t mean that there aren’t physical symptoms, or causes or whatever you want to call them (I’m no doctor). But our heads are responsible for a whole lot of shit, and I know for certain that my mind has a tendency to overthink. And when I overthink, I stress, or worry, or get excited, or just basically express any kind of emotion in hyper drive. Sound fair? So in other words, I overexert. And what’s the number one way to bring on a flare? Well I don’t know about you, but for me it is most definitely overexertion. And yes, I believe that more often than not, that comes from my head.

There are other ways to overexert for sure, I’m not saying it’s ALL in our heads. All I’m saying is that our heads are part of us and they feel this illness too. So now that I’ve explained myself, let’s go back to that main topic… what holds me back? My mind. My mind holds be back aaaall the time. The main reason? There is no damned way to know what I’m capable of. It’s trial and error, I know I’m better than I was last year, and I know last year I was better than the year before. So the general trend is that I am improving, but HOW MUCH? How am I supposed to know how much I can do? Will this 10min walk mean I’m shattered tomorrow? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe if I go for the 10min walk right now I’ll be fine, maybe if I wait and go after dinner it will be the worst decision I’ve ever made in my life. But the actual physical incapability of the walk isn’t what stops me and quite often isn’t what makes me feel ill afterwards. It’s this nonsense swirling around and around in my brain stressing me out that stops me. I can’t even tell if it WAS the walk that made me sick because my brain is so over reactive and stressed that it’s entirely possible it’s the mental exertion and “fear” of what MIGHT happen after the physical exertion that actually made me sick.

A Year of Growth - 52 Writing Prompts for Chronic Illness Bloggers

It’s built on habit, and habit tells me that last week this walk was too much and I suffered, and so this week my mind thinks the same is true. But that isn’t necessarily the case! What I can and can’t do changes from day to day, hour to hour, and calming my mind enough to listen to what my body can handle only seems to get harder the healthier (fitter? I don’t know the right word…) I get. I guess you could say that my mind feels that there is more to lose now than ever before. I’m much better off now than what I have been in the past and I will do anything within my possibilities to never be back at that level again. The problem is, if I never let myself reach the boundary of what I CAN do, then I’ll never know when I can push that boundary a little further and so recovery slows and slows until it feels like I’m barely making any progress at all. The truth is, fear of the consequences can hinder me in more ways than one when it comes to boundaries and this is something that I desperately need to work on if I want to continue to improve.

My goal at the moment is based around focusing on what I CAN do more and what I can’t do a little less… watch this space, as I’m sure there’ll be a blog post on that exact topic soon enough.

How do you stop your mind from hindering your recovery? I’d love to hear your techniques for quieting your mind and focussing on what your body CAN do!

This post is Part 7 of 52 in the series – A Year of Growth.

The series is a celebration of the first anniversary of The Truth About M.E and is designed to help me grow through my illness throughout my second year of blogging. I look forward to having you along for the journey! 

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5 thoughts on “A Year of Growth – Week 7 – What Holds You Back

  1. Barbara Gleed

    And again I say thank you for sharing your thoughts so clearly.
    You remind me of my daughter in law who suffers with CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome) She tries not to let pain stand in her way. She knows she will pay the price after but she also pushes herself to stretch the boundaries. Like having travelled to Scotland for New year celebrations last year. Nearly killed her but she’s so glad she did it.
    I also do this but in a much smaller way. My goals are not that big. Just to knit an item without unpicking the mistakes over and over again is one of my aims.
    You are so right when you say our minds play a big part. I just wish the medical profession could read your blog. Maybe then they would see further than ” it’s all in our heads” and “depression is the cause” when the illness has many facet’s and the mind is controlled by all of them.xxxxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You and your daughter sound like amazing people 🙂 it’s not so much about the size of the goal but more about actually having one! Good on you! You’re so right, chronic illness is such a complex thing and most doctors seem to simplify it (maybe so that it is less threatening and more manageable?) If only they would see it for what it is… xxx


  2. I can so relate to this. There are many similarities between MS and ME. I’ve found the mental gymnastics one of the most difficult aspects of being chronically ill. I either over exert and pay for it or rest and feel guilty that I’m not doing more. It is getting easier to read my body and to accept the limitations of this new life, some days easier than others, for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mental gymnastics is the perfect way to describe it! That’s exactly it right, there’s such a fine line between over exertion and guilt especially when you’re trying to hold friendships and other life commitments together. Can only take each day as it comes and know that we have to do what’s best for our health.

      Liked by 1 person

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