By Jayne Bailey
Reprinted with the kind permission of Jayne Bailey and The Daily Manic.
Rachel Gorman was diagnosed with idiopathic POTS, fibromyalgia, gastroparesis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and a multitude of other ‘opathies over a 4 year period from 2012 to 2016.
Her onset was sudden at the age of 25 and her deterioration over those 4 years immense. She went from being an active, social 20 something holding down a senior job to needing to stop work, socialise and pretty much eat!
Despite many medications, many visits to different specialists, different diets/nutrition and following a graded exercise regime nothing was arresting her symptoms.
In 2013, in part out of pure desperation, she ditched many of her medications and turned to acupuncture, Chinese medicine and yoga. These quite simply changed her life.
Whilst she still has symptoms today, she is 80-90% symptom free. Her diet is gluten free and she follows a strict protocol of eating easily digestible proteins, vegetables, pulses and grains (think stews, hotpots, soups) in smaller sizes. She is a mad yoga lover and has amassed quite the following on Instagram.
So impressed with the Chinese medicine path and its impact on her health, Rachel retrained and became a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist. She now works out of a small practice in her hometown and is helping others with chronic illness turn their lives around.
With her health under control, she is aiming to grow her practice and her business to help others. She creates individualised treatment plans for each patient based on their main complaints involving acupuncture and a custom herbal formula. Additionally, she addresses diet/nutrition, lifestyle and exercise to help people regain control of their health. She also sometimes does the occasional talk or workshop at yoga studios, support groups and wellness centres.
What's important when working with those who are chronically ill
I asked Rachel what’s important to be aware of when working with those who have a chronic illness. Her first response was everyone is different! She says most of these patients have been through hell with doctors, medications, people doubting their symptoms, all the stress of a chronic illness on top of their actual symptoms! She thinks most people need to learn how to slow down and cut themselves a break and really learn to focus on self-care first and foremost. Tuning into their body's own systems and rhythms is key.
Finding your balance
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Balance is really important yet it can be really hard to learn (or re-learn) what balance means. Many people affected by illness used to be so go-go-go, very busy and doing lots of things like exercise, having big careers etc. So learning to slow down, listen to your body, and find that new balance can be tricky.
Rachel says it's really easy to overdo it when you have a chronic illness and end up in a flare. So as important as diet/nutrition and exercise is (and it is super important) it's often worse to overdo it than to under-do it.
If you used be this active person and have suddenly become ill, the important thing is to strip it back to what you can manage and build from there.
She uses the example of an avid runner who has been struck by illness. If that’s you, it would be important to cut back, maybe even all the way to the recumbent bike for 10 minutes at a time. Setting small, achievable goals is really helpful. Maybe you do 10 minutes a day for two weeks, then slowly build up, and by the end of a few months you might be able to be running again without symptoms.
Moderation, whilst challenging, is so important
It can be a really frustrating time but she always tells people, especially in the beginning – you aren't stuck like this forever. You will get stronger and learn to adapt and you will be able to be happy again!
Rachel still manages her symptoms by careful pacing and listening to her body and, whilst for a few years, it held her back, she’s now in a much better place.
She knows intuitively what her body’s limits are, she’s nurturing it the right way and is living well with chronic illness.
So can you.
For more information on Rachel’s story, please check out her website Rachelacuyogi.com and blog post Chronically Ill to Chronically Awesome. You can also find some truly inspirational images of her on Instagram.
All the images used in this post belong to Rachel and are used with permission.
In 2015, at age 44, Jayne Bailey was diagnosed with a complex health condition. Prior to that she had a successful career in the corporate world as a change coach and advisor. She established thedailymanic.com website for people with chronic health conditions looking to live life better or for anyone needing to escape the rat race and slow down. As well as journaling her own steps in managing her health condition, she includes stories about others doing the same and also offers a coaching program to help people make important change in their lives. She also writes for Thrive Global and The Mighty.