How to support yourself from stress becoming illness

stress becoming illnessStress becoming illness is a real thing.

Last summer I interviewed a woman called Lucy. This was as part of a series that I did on the impact that stress can have on a person’s health and wellbeing.

In all of the interview cases, situations had escalated in the person’s life and resulted in ill health. But that’s not where we left it. We went on to talk about not only about what people did to recover, but also what they currently do to support their health. You can see the whole video series here

I’m sharing Lucy’s story because it’s an important one – but also because I heard clearly heard the reasons why she didn’t want her personal details shared (which you can see at the end). Being unwell because of stress is still something rarely understood and even sadder, a taboo. It shouldn’t be because stress becoming illness is a real thing.

The truth is that we all get stressed and sometimes it leads to ill-health. It can feel as if we’re the only ones that this is happening to – but that’s not the case. There are other people who have experienced what you may be going through and there is hope.

Lucy has an extraordinary story. Her life unravelled causing her to be unwell, but she eventually figured out with the help of many different things, how to work towards being well again.

I asked: When you first started to feel unwell, what was happening in your life?

Lucy: I used to travel 90 miles a day for work. I’d get in the car at 6am and tear down the motorway. I worked in an all-male environment doing things I probably shouldn’t have purely because no one else wanted to do them. I had no support, but eventually the business closed.

Two years ago, I started to become very ill. Prior to that I’d had an active life. I used to ride horses and walk my dogs. But then I was suddenly very ill and my body was so painful from my toes right up my spine to the bottom of my head.

The body pain was like I imagine it would feel after being in a ring with a big hunk of a bloke who had given me a bit of a slap about. The other pain I had (and still get to this day) is almost like electric shocks. I get them in my fingers and up my arms.

But me being me, I kept going and thought; ‘I’ll be fine’, even though I was in pain. That’s the kind of person that I am.

The Christmas before I became ill, I booked a 4-day trip to Rome. If you’ve ever been to Rome then you’ll know that you walk everywhere. We were doing between 6-9 miles a day.

Thinking back, I don’t know how I did it because I was in so much pain. I had to ask the hotel to give me 8 pillows just so that I could get to sleep because my body hurt so much.

I asked: You were working full-time and there was nothing to indicate that you were ill. When did you make the connection that there was more going on beyond the physical?

Lucy: Thinking back now that I’m out of the environment, I realise that the working environment had been very toxic.

It started in October and I became ill the following March. In October, I broke down to one of the managers and said ‘I’m struggling, I need some help’. He brushed me off. I just thought ‘I have no choice, I have to just carry on’ and that’s what I did.

I eventually gave in after my husband was constantly moaning at me and said that something was wrong and needed to be dealt with. My doctor was amazing when I eventually contacted her. When I went to see her, I broke down and she realised that it was serious. It took a lot for me to reach out for help.

I asked: What did you think was going on when you went to the doctors?

Lucy: At the time the doctor was completely honest and said that she really didn’t know what was wrong with me. But I really appreciated that. I would rather have been told that, than be told it could be this or that.

The following month, I spent so much time in the Nuffield hospital to find out what was going on. I had a lot of tests. Then they started batting around fibromyalgia. I Googled it and I thought ‘here we go’. The diagnosis fitted to a T.

My sleep was very broken because when I move around it’s like sleeping on a bounty castle. I have to bounce around to move into a comfortable position. Normally you’d simply be able to turn over but I can’t because my body hurts so much.

I asked: What did you start doing to get better once you had the diagnosis of fibro?

Lucy: This whole thing has been a massive life change for me because I’ve never looked after myself in a way that I’ve never taken time out. My brain was always full with ‘I have to do this and that’. My whole life was just a rush. All I did was rush. Even now two years I still have to battle against what’s in my head saying ‘I’ve got this and that to do’.

I’ve made a lot of changes. I meditate every day and that’s something I’ve never done. That helps me massively.

When I’m good I can cope with not rushing around like a manic trying to get everything done but it was my life for so long. I will get there and I’m a determined person but it’s been hard, being able to give in and say no.

If we go back a bit, when I was first diagnosed I went on social (media) and joined some groups about fibro. I joined 3 groups. All 3 groups were made up of people with the condition who were complaining and had been in bed and didn’t feel well and I thought ‘I don’t want that’. I want to be able to be in a group where people say; ‘this is what has helped me’ or ‘can anyone help me’.

I now don’t listen to the news. I do go on social media but a lot of it I skim over. If anyone is moaning I say ‘I’ll see you later’ because I take on other people’s stresses. I become concerned for them, so I just remove myself. I have to, I have no choice.

I asked: How are things/is life now?

I’ve had my own business for 5 years. When I was working full time, I couldn’t work on the business. This has given me more time at home. I also work part time now and have an amazing boss who knows about the illness. He’s very good. But now, I take time out for myself. I have a lot of baths, I practice meditation and gratitude. Every morning I wake up and write 3 things that I’m grateful for. I try to appreciate life more and it helps. It’s about being positive. If I’m positive I’m much better in myself.

I went on the internet and read stuff and people who know me and who’ve known about the condition have said ‘read this book’. Also, I’ve met people who I work with via my business and they’ve helped me, as well as my reading up on how to keep well.

I’ve tried lots of different things and worked out what works.

I asked: What’s it all taught you?

Lucy: We’ve got to look after ourselves and that’s something that I’ve never done. It’s important to take time out to do stuff for me. I have a hot bath twice a week and meditate every day. I do a sleep meditation that I found, it’s amazing. I use the guided meditation and get off to sleep in 10 minutes.

That was the end of this video but you can see others here

I am very grateful to Lucy for bravely sharing her story. Lucy requested that her personal details not be shared as she felt that not everyone understood or appreciated the condition and that people could even have a detrimental outlook towards her.

I hope that reading this has helped you. If you know anyone else who may be struggling with their stress levels, please do share this with them. If you want to receive a monthly touch of goodness in to your mail box with a useful nutrition and a stress management tip and something that reminds us that the world can be a good place, then sign up to my newsletter here.


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