When you’re diagnosed with chronic illness, is there anything you can do to improve your health and happiness? Can you (fully) recover from persisting health problems, and if so, how? In this interview on recovery, Anne Doussan from Still Moving shares her story.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello, I’m Anne. I was diagnosed with chronic illnesses in my twenties, and for over a decade I followed the more conventional treatments. After getting little to no relief from surgeries and pharmaceuticals, however, I decided to take matters into my own hands. In February 2017 I went to an inpatient chronic pain and recovery center to get off all my medications and find alternative therapies. Since then, I’ve learned many new approaches to managing my chronic illnesses.
What’s it really like to live with chronic health problems every day? How do you deal with the physical symptoms, emotional turmoil and practical problems? In this interview series, real life ‘spoonies’ share their experiences and tips.
Carole Rey is a French photographer living in the Netherlands. Her online magazine Good Enough Darling provides serene, calming photographs and helpful stories about embracing life with burnout.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m French living in the Netherlands. I studied French modern literature and specialized myself in didactic and intercultural communication. I’ve worked as a language trainer and lecturer for about 15 years, most of the time as freelancer.
At some point I wanted to explore new paths so I started a full time course to become an Interior Designer; I needed fresh air, new challenges. To still have a minimum income, I had to increase the amount of freelance work because my husband (who is also a freelancer) did not have work at all due to the economic crisis. The combination of my study, preparation/correction of portfolio, lessons to give, two very young kids plus the worries about my husband situation was awful. Nights when I could sleep four hours were the special ones. I was constantly under pressure and had to produce a lot of work and not to mention the way too often heavy headaches and migraines.
In order to work more (because of our financial situation) and to be able to manage all the tasks at home, I quit the Interior Designer studies; it broke my heart and I felt like a looser. A few months after that, I started to suffer from my right shoulder, it hurt a lot and I had difficulties carrying my kids. The physiotherapist told me that it came from too much stress, but I ignored his diagnosis, because I thought I had no choice and that I must carry on in order to protect and care for my family.
A couple of months later, while I was giving instructions to a group, I blacked out and could not speak at all anymore. I knew what I wanted to say but I just could not manage to talk, produce sounds and articulate. A very heavy migraine started, it lasted four days when I could barely open my eyes, talk and move. When I finally managed to go to my doctor, he told me that I, obviously, had a severe burnout.
Ronald Aartsen is a practitioner of Japanese acupuncture and other acupuncture styles with classic roots in Rotterdam & Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He also gives workshops teaching Breathing and Cold Exposure after finishing an instructors year in 2014 with Wim Hof, better known as The Ice Man.
1. What is Breathing & Cold Exposure training, based on the Wim Hof Method?
It’s a method that consists of 3 components: breathing techniques, cold exposure and mindset/focus.
2. Why would anyone voluntarily take an ice bath? What are the benefits of cold exposure?
Excellent question. If you would have told me before 2014 that I (being a big fan of tropical sun and climates) would be sitting in an ice bath, take outdoor swims in the winter or be hiking through snowy landscapes in shorts, I probably would have thought you lost your mind.
But as an acupuncturist and a meditation & qigong enthusiast I am very interested in our self healing abilities and our inner power. So I read about Wim Hof and the research that was going on and decided to step out of my comfort zone and registered for a workshop.
I loved the effect of the breathing techniques and the power I felt in and after the ice bath! Me as an Indo chilling in a tub filled with ice cubes. And I loved the simplicity of it all. You don’t have to train for years and years to be able to do this.
Let me be clear, the components are not new. The East has a long tradition of similar disciplines and people know the benefits for their health. Same goes for Russia and Northern Europe for example. Wim Hof just made it available to larger group and involved science to research the combination of these techniques.
After the one day workshop I immediately registered for the instructors year including a week of training in Poland and walking up a ski slope in shorts to name one element.
I will just name a few results here without getting into the scientific details. Research has shown that cold exposure can lead to a better functioning immune system (and how to voluntarily control it), increase in metabolism and an increase in brown fat. Combined with the breathing and focus techniques it can help to reduce pain, lead to better cirulation and boost your cardiovasclular system and energy. You can find a great overview on the research here.
The Cool Challenge was a project to measure the effects of cold showering. The report can be found here.
What’s it really like to live with chronic illness every day? How do you deal with the physical symptoms, emotional turmoil and practical problems? In this interview series, real life ‘spoonies’ share their experiences and tips.
Jenny Clarkson is a 30-something speech and language therapist from Lincolnshire, England. On her blog Tripping Through Treacle, she shares her story about stumbling through life with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Jenny, a 39-year old mother of two who loves reading, music, films, food and crochet. I live with my husband and kids in Lincolnshire, UK and work 3 days a week as a paediatric speech and language therapist. I also have Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS). MS is a chronic disease of the nervous system, where nerves become damaged and unable to transmit messages successfully. Unfortunately, there is no cure and I have my down days, but on the whole I try and stay positive and am so grateful for all that I do have. I blog about living with MS at www.trippingthroughtreacle.com.
An important part of my identity is a fearless warrior that can handle (or can look like one who handles) everything in life. Good and bad. So I’m letting you in on a huge secret right now: I’ve been struggling with a chronic illness for nine years, and I’ve been struggling to accept this struggle.
I have EGPA (Churg-Strauss Syndrome), a rare auto-immune disease that attacks first and foremost the lungs, causing intense asthma symptoms, but then gradually causes all kinds of other problems in the body.
Of the many medication options, I’ve tried a few, and they’ve worked just fine, until now. With a recent heart involvement, the medical team decided to proceed to a chemo kind of drug for a more effective treatment. I feared the treatment as well as the signs of degrading health state I am in.
Why I choose to read a book about recovery
I could only think it is another milestone down the unlucky road. I was back to the old, pessimistic mental state. I was still not over the fact I’m sick forever. And I still wanted my old life back, and I would go as far as to throw a tantrum over it like a child.
I also knew this was not OK and I needed somebody (or something) to have my back when reality strikes. I needed to change the perspective.
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