In 2010 I was diagnosed with a collection of 3 Auto Immune Diseases that have been a driving force in my life to get out and do all the things I have always wanted to do. Being a type A, OCD incredibly driven business women, I spent a lot of my life working and focusing on my career. I have always travelled and have tried to go somewhere new every year since I was 18. For the past 7 years I have been unable to travel due to these challenging illnesses which has meant I have missed out on a lot of what is going on in my friends lives around the world.
In November last year after another major set back with my joints I made a decision to live every second and every moment in my life with gratitude, humility and appreciation. I made a decision to do everything possible to assist in my healing that I could and to simply do my best everyday. I decided that it was time to take control of the things I could control and let go of the things that I could not control.
This was a major decision and has meant that some friendships and relationships in my life have changed dramatically and some have ended as a result of my decision to only surround myself with people who live their lives authentically at all times. I no longer have time for people who are not authentic. “If it doesn’t serve me it doesn’t deserve me”. I spent a lot of my life being a crowd pleaser and trying to keep everyone happy and that is just not the best approach to life. If you as a person are not focused on your personal wellbeing as the foundation to life, you will always be second or third in line and that is simply not sustainable or healthy.
Over the last 7 years I had gained in excess of 55 kilograms due to medication and lack of exercise. For the first 3 years since my diagnosis I had been in a depression of sorts and was extremely angry. I was angry and kept playing the same song of “why me” in my head. I tried every diet and eating program under the sun and every time I started to get weight down I would have another health set back and I would gain it all again.
Living with constant Chronic pain has been the greatest challenge of my life. I have always been a positive upbeat person, but had never experienced anything quite like Chronic pain. It is frustrating and debilitating. Most of the time you can’t tell people you are in pain as they simply don’t get it. You don’t want to complain all the time as you are bored with it so can only imagine what someone else must be thinking.
It is hard to explain it to anyone who does not live with it as you simply can not understand what it feels like until you live with it. If you have to imagine the pain you feel when you accidentally burn yourself then multiply this to every joint in your body and never switch it off, it gives you some idea. The next challenge with these diseases is that they are sometimes known as invisible illnesses as you look fine externally, however internally there is a huge amount going on and therefore people tend to be less understanding when you say you are fatigued or unable to do something.
In November 2016 after suffering another set back with my joints, I decided I was NOT going to give in and land up in a wheel chair. I chose to go on a VERY strict diet and began doing focused Stand Up Paddling. I have been paddling on and off for the past 4 years but had never been able to get into it properly as was always in and out of hospital with some infection. When I made the decision to get up and just do it everyday if possible it became easier.
I was welcomed into the SUP community in South Africa with no judgements and the people I met were incredibly supportive and offered to train with me to help build strength in my body so that I could get some pain relief.
The challenge with these diseases is that often the pain is so bad that it is difficult to get up and get motivated as all you want to do is curl up and scream. the The support from the community has been incredible. I put out a message on a group forum asking if there was anyone who would like to paddle with me every morning. I told the group that I needed to get my fitness and strength up and that I was a beginner. I wanted to have someone to be accountable to besides myself. It helped me knowing that meeting someone on the water every morning was my responsibility and made it easier for me to push through the pain.
You see when you have these diseases, the hardest thing often is to get up and get motivated as you are in such pain, however the BEST thing for the pain is to keep moving and get the blood flowing to your joints. It has been the greatest mental challenge of my life as I have had to talk to myself constantly and remind myself to just keep moving. Being highly competitive and generally tough on myself has also been a stumbling block at times as mentally I can push myself a lot further than most people, however I have had to learn what the healthy balance is for me.
Understanding balance and focus is essential. It is essential to focus on a balanced approach and work within your daily boundaries to achieve the best results. I am always reminded of a quote from the Four agreements when I consider this:-
“Always Do Your Best”
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.”
― Miguel Ruiz
This incredible journey I have been on for the past seven years has taught me a number of lessons. It has allowed me to connect with my spiritual journey through the Red Road Teachings, it has taught me to be humble, grateful and understand how truly blessed I am every day. And it has allowed me to look deep into myself and audit what does and does not ultimately serve me.
In this day and age we spend way too much time worrying what people may or may not think about us without putting enough emphasis on what we think of ourselves. Every thing in life starts from within and until you look inside and take a look at your belief systems and messaging you are giving yourself you can’t really grow and heal. It is not an easy journey and it is one that requires complete honesty and self reflection and believe me a lot of the time you don’t like what you see, however it is the most rewarding journey I have had the pleasure of walking in so many ways.
In closing to understand why I began this blog and what Positive Grapery is, I have included a brief introduction to conception. Positive Grapery as a phrase was something that I created in 2009 when working at Cape Town Stadium with the most incredible team of people. We worked extremely hard for months getting the Stadium ready to hand over to FIFA and at the end of the day we would get together for what I called “Positive Grapery”. It was the after work glass of wine and conversations that we had to inspire us for the next day ahead.
Positive Grapery my blog is now about sharing and inspiring people to do whatever it is in their life that they want to do to be a better version of themselves and inspire others to do the same.
I am now currently 40 kilograms lighter and am paddling between 7 and 9 times a week. My joints feel better when I paddle and I have incredible support from friends and family in my life as my communication has improved dramatically. I am currently on a trip of a lifetime as I chose to make it possible. It has not come without difficulty and some days have been extremely tough when my pain is high, however I wouldn’t change a second of it.