How chronic fatigue changed my life
People who’ve met me recently might think that my whole life basically evolves around music. They’re not completely wrong, but what they don’t know is that I had another passion (obsession) before. A completely different life.
8 years ago
I was studying ‘electronic dance music production’ in the Netherlands and I was struggling, because I was the only girl in my class and I didn’t have any friends there. So every day after school, you could find me in the gym getting rid of all the difficult emotions I was experiencing. Admittedly it turned into an addiction. The owner of the gym saw me every day, sometimes twice a day working on my physique. He thought it would be an option for me to become a ‘bodypump instructor’. Bodypump is a group lesson with strength exercises that follow the rhythm of the music.
I decided to do it. After a lot of practicing I started teaching groups twice a week besides my own training schedule. Now I was working out even more and it started to pay off. I got strong, muscled, lean and I even got a job as a fitness instructor in another gym. I gained experience and started to like this “healthy” lifestyle. Music always felt uncertain, but fitness made me money effortlessly and people were appreciating my knowledge.
Physical therapy & personal training
After graduating in music I decided to study physical therapy. I’d tried for many years to get noticed for my music and I felt close to reaching my goals, but obstacles kept coming and I assumed I was not on the right path. Or maybe I was just scared and didn’t really believe in myself. After my decision to leave the music industry behind, I couldn’t listen to music without feeling sorrow. For years I did my best to forget about the existence of music.
I felt like an outsider in the company of other students, because I wasn’t as passioned about physical therapy as they were. I kept forcing myself and even started to work as a personal trainer while I took a course ‘vitality coaching’. From the outside it must have looked like I was doing really well. Sports had always been important to me and my family. I love playing any type of sports and it’s one of the few things people notice me for, because it comes naturally to me. But there was this constant subtle underlying feeling of dissapointment that I kept pushing away.
I started to develop physical problems. The doctors told me I had ‘irritable bowel syndrome’, a vague condition that is often linked to oversensitive nerves and stress and causes pains in the bowel area. They gave me advice for a specific diet, but it didn’t help and the daily pains got worse. Because of this I skipped classes regularly, but somehow I managed to pass the tests in school. I also got sick after every workout and I had to accept that my body wasn’t capable of doing the things I was used to. Being sick involved sneezing, a high temperature, long-term muscle pains, being very tired, and having brain fog. At first, I didn’t take it seriously, but it got worse over time. At some point, fitness just wasn’t an option anymore. I had to quit my job as a personal trainer and I gained a lot of weight, since even riding a bike became too much for my body. During the last year of physical therapy, I was working in a clinic to gain experience in the field. Most days I was struggling with my energy therefor I couldn’t do any social activities as that would drain me even more. Some days I could only sleep and lay on the couch. This went on for at least a whole year.
During this time I was in a relationship with my ex, a great guy whom I’m still very thankful for. We lived together with our dog Bommel. My body was so exhausted that I had to ask him to walk the dog when it was my turn, to get groceries, cook etc. It was horrible to feel that I was disappointing him and everyone else, even though on the outside I looked fine. No one could possibly understand how my body was feeling on the inside. My social life was unexisting, as I basically lived on the couch playing video games and I ate way too much unhealthy foods, because I felt sorry for myself. This didn’t help obviously, and I remember saying to my partner if nothing would change, I didn’t want to live anymore.
Those years building my fitness career were thrown away. I felt so alone when people would say: “Just go to the gym, you will feel better after.” They ment well I’m sure, but it was so hurtful to notice that they might have thought I was just being lazy and needed to push myself a bit more. It truly wasn’t that simple and now I understand the opposite was true. I had pushed myself way too much for such a long time. Physically and emotionally.
Finally being understood
My mother-in-law at the time told me about a doctor who’s specialised in these types of problems. He was very expensive and the treatment could take over a whole year, but because I had no other options and nothing to lose I decided to give it a try.
It was amazing to talk to someone who understood what I was going through. He believed I wasn’t simply a lazy person, on the contrary. He explained I’d probably done too many things that didn’t serve my highest purpose for the sake of others, because I was scared of being authentic.
He treated me with acupuncture, herbs, and advice on how to change my life in a way that doesn’t drain me. After just a few weeks of taking the herbs, my bowel pains were almost gone. It took a whole year though with many ups and downs to feel more energised and I don’t think I ever fully recovered, but I can’t express how grateful I am that I’m able to do my daily things again. At the moment I’m even doing sportive activities again, just not at the same level I used to. I’m learning now to listen to my body and to accept that I’ve changed as a person.
What I’ve learned from this is that suppressing who you are sometimes seems like the easiest or only way to deal with life, but it comes with a prize and I realise now what the consequence can be.
Most people believe sports are healthy, and of course, in many ways, that’s true. We seem to forget though that sports increase the stress hormones in the body because we mainly focus on the fact that it gives us stress relief mentally and it makes us stronger. I’m not saying we should stop doing any types of sport, not at all, for me it just means finding a balance instead of going for extremes.
Guided to my path
Now, about 2 years after recovering, I look back and see things from a different perspective. If I hadn’t gotten sick, I would’ve probably ignored music for the rest of my life, and I would’ve become a physical therapist who wakes up every day with a feeling of regret. The reason I’m living my authentic life now is that making music was one of the few things I was able to do during my days on the couch. Ones I started making music again, there was no way back. I fell in love more than ever.
After graduating as a physical therapist I knew what to do. I turned down every job offer I got and started my own music business instead. There was no doubt in my mind, even though I was scared to take this risk. I’m still working on my goals every day, and it’s not easy, but at least I’m waking up everyday with butterflies in my stomach instead of pain.
What I believe about chronic fatigue syndrome
From what I understand, chronic fatigue syndrome is a complicated syndrome that causes more than just being extremely tired. The symptoms are both physical and mental and they don’t improve much with rest. You can sleep as often as you want, but you’ll still wake up feeling exhausted. Besides tiredness, it can give flu-like symptoms and cause memory problems.
Why people get chronic fatigue is still not quite discovered. Some say there is an underlying virus or disease like the Epstein Barr virus that for some reasons causes longterm problems in some cases. Others say it has everything to do with stress and is similar to a burnout.
In make case I believe there was an underlying physical problem, because as a child I was already struggling with similar symptoms. By putting so much pressure on myself and not being authentic, I believe this is life’s way of making me aware that I needed to take a look at myself and be honest about what I truly want.
Keep in mind that these are not facts, I’m only sharing my personal experience and thoughts on it.
Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences in the comments below.
A very relatable story. I’m glad you found music again!
Thank you for letting me know Laura, always nice to realise we can relate to people. Yes, I’m very happy about it too! Wouldn’t change a thing.