Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Daily Healing Routine - Part 3 of 3

This is the third post in my series exploring my journey living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME, where I share my daily healing routine to help my recovery.

Part One explores what CFS is, what it is like for me, how it first developed in my life and the journey I have been on since. Part Two walks through all the things I’m doing to recover and to help manage life with CFS (encompassing mind, body and soul), as well as the improvements I’ve experienced since implementing this advice a year ago.

This post (Part Three) is best read in conjunction with Part Two, which provides more detail on why I’m doing these things.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Daily Healing Routine - Part 3 of 3


As you will know from Part Two, I’m incorporating a lot of different practices in my life to help with my healing journey. Quite a few of them have to be done in a specific order, some before food, some after food, some with a certain time gap between them, etc. It was a lot to get my head around at first, so I found developing a routine that I followed every day really helped me. It meant I didn’t have to give up precious energy thinking or worrying about it all, and could just get on and do it. I’m also someone who loves routine - having a plan comforts me and puts me at ease, and reassures me that it is do-able. I’m constantly tweaking it and it has evolved along with me. Over time, I’ve dropped things off the list and added new things in, and I expect this to continue as my needs change.

I’m always fascinated to see other people’s daily healing routines. In the beginning, especially, it really helped me to figure out what order to do things in, how to fit it all into a day, with ideas to save time. So I thought you might be interested to see what I do. But it goes without saying, of course, that we are all different, and what works for me, might not work for you. You will very likely have different priorities and issues and circumstances. I’m not able to work at present due to my health limitations (hence the reason I am focussing so much on my healing routine) so I have more time than most. I also don’t have children. I know my routine will have to shift as I start to incorporate more work in my life - but that will hopefully be balanced with more energy and the ability to do more in the evenings, for example.

I follow the routine below on weekdays. I like to keep weekends fluid, so I can spend more time with my husband, work in the garden, rest and read or go out on small trips and do things just for fun (as well as the inevitable chores and house maintenance!). Whilst I still try to follow most of the routine that relates to food/drink/supplements, I don’t do yoga or rebounding at the weekend.

I should also say that on low energy days when my fatigue and aches are strong, I don’t do everything on this list. I try to stick to the food/drinks/supplements and some gentle yoga and meditation if I can, but will drop the work at my computer and take this as rest time instead. There are usually several days a month when my energy is severely impacted by my period and I need much more rest than usual. I don’t do rebounding or practice yoga when I have my period and I try and be extra kind to myself and generous with rest time.

My Daily Healing Routine (Monday - Friday)

  1. My alarm goes off at 7am. I keep my phone in another room so I’m not disturbed by the EMF overnight - this also means I have to get up to turn it off!

  2. Oral healthcare routine. I rinse my mouth out with a brushing rinse (a weak solution of food grade hydrogen peroxide with essential oils) to remove the bacteria that have built up overnight. I then do some tongue scraping and brush my teeth. You can read more about tongue scraping in this Instagram post by @holistichart

  3. I make lemon water (900ml filtered water, juice of 1 lemon, spoon of honey) and drink it all to help flush out the toxins that my body has processed during the night.

  4. I take my dog for her morning walk - about 30-40 minutes.

  5. When I get back from my walk I take my empty stomach supplements: liquid B12 and then a few minutes later, liquid Zinc. I also air the house and make the bed and put a wash on if I need to.

  6. I make celery juice and drink it (2 bunches of celery juiced by themselves).

  7. Whilst I have the juicer out, I then make my ginger, garlic, turmeric, orange juice. This is incredibly potent and a wonderful natural anti-viral. As my celery juice is still digesting, I put this in a glass air-tight container and store it in the fridge for a few hours, so I can drink it later.

  8. I clean my juicer - always best to do this straight away!

  9. I rinse all of my sprouting seeds and harvest any that are ready. I usually have 4 jars on the go.

  10. I make my second lemon water (another 900ml) and sip on this throughout the day. When I finish it, I’ll often make another one, or sometimes some water with lime juice, or just plain water. Staying hydrated is really important.

  11. I do 10-15 minutes of rebounding, whilst talking through my healing affirmations and visualisations about my future happy healthy self. I describe this in more detail in Part Two.

  12. I do my yoga practice. I usually do the standing sequence of the Ashtanga yoga primary series, as this is what I know and what feels good (I have modified poses to suit my energy levels). This usually takes me about 35 minutes or so.

  13. I lie in Savasana (corpse pose) for 15 minutes and do my meditation practice with Headspace (I use the semi-guided meditation most days). My plan is to slowly increase this meditation time by 5 minutes a week until I reach 30 minutes.

  14. I drink my ginger, garlic, turmeric, orange juice.

  15. I dry skin brush and then shower.

  16. I have a piece of fruit (usually mango or papaya).

  17. I make the Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie and drink it. I have my vitamin C (Ester C) and herbal tinctures at the same time.

  18. I clear up and make a pot of Raspberry Leaf and Nettle tea (a great tonic for the reproductive system). I also snack on some dates and a banana to supplement the smoothie.

  19. I get to sit down at my computer and do some work for a couple of hours or so. Often it is 1-30-2pm by now, depending on how many chores I have squeezed in as well. On Mondays and Tuesdays I focus on household management and life admin tasks (weekly shopping, meal planning, finances, sorting emails, to do lists, laundry, cleaning etc.). Wednesdays to Fridays I focus on my blog, photography, and soon, my Etsy shop.

  20. I make my “lunch” salad (often at 3.30pm!) with lots of spinach, other lettuce (Romaine, Butterleaf or mixed leaves), a decent bunch of coriander, half a cucumber, lots of sprouted seeds (usually Red Clover or Alfalfa plus some kind of Radish), fresh herbs from my garden (Lemon Balm, Oregano, Sage), a small handful of raisins (or fresh grapes if I’m lucky), and a grapefruit. I make a dressing with the juice of half a lime, 1-2 cloves of raw garlic and some maple syrup (seriously good - and it complements the grapefruit really well). I take my second vitamin C (Ester C) with lunch. Making, eating and clearing up after lunch takes me a good hour, if not more.

  21. I make a pot of Red Clover tea with Dandelion Root and Burdock Root (a great tonic for the liver).

  22. I’m back at my computer for about another hour or so to continue what I was working on before (and sometimes post to Instagram). It never feels like long enough though! I often snack on an apple and a banana if I’m feeling hungry.

  23. I take my dog for her second walk, about 30-40 minutes. The time for this varies throughout the year - at the moment we are walking quite late once it is cooler - in the winter we have to go much earlier before it gets dark.

  24. I make dinner. At the moment it’s a cooked meal for my husband and a raw meal for me. I’m currently experimenting with eating 100% raw again, so am eating lots of salads and trying out lots of different dressings. I’m also fond of a dip with raw veggies - the Sweet Pea dip by Medical Medium is delicious. Or sometimes it’s a green juice with some fruit, or sometimes just a bowl of spinach with mango and banana and sprouted seeds with a squeeze of lime. I’m still working on my raw meals repertoire - I don’t have time or energy for anything fancy and like to keep things super simple, especially when I’m making two meals. This is still very much a work in progress. I also take my second lot of herbal tinctures with my dinner.

  25. We clear up and wash up and often need to water the garden.

  26. I make a pot of Thyme, Lemon Balm and Fennel tea (aka the Medical Medium Thyroid Healing Tea), and sit down for the evening (with a glass of water too) - it’s usually about 9pm by now, so I don’t have long before it’s time for bed.

  27. I write 3 things I’m thankful for that day in my Gratitude Journal.

  28. I write in my journal with some thoughts and reflections for the day, or notes on things I’ve changed or done differently or lessons learned.

  29. I often spend some time on Instagram or sometimes we watch some TV or read before going to bed. In an ideal world, I’d do some meditation before bed, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough time for it all. I’ve been pondering a lot about my evening routine lately, and feel strongly at the moment that I need to keep it free and flexible to do what I feel like doing. The rest of my day is mapped out so much, I don’t want to feel trapped and then start to resent what I’m doing. I’m also experimenting to find the best time in my day to spend on Instagram. I love it and find it an inspirational place and somewhere I learn a lot from others about healing from chronic illness. It’s also my main form of social interaction (as I only see my husband and a few other random dog walkers in the day) and increasingly an important platform for me to build my profile and business as I move forward. So it’s lots of things rolled into one. It’s also a big time suck! So as always, it’s about finding the right balance.

  30. I try to head to bed by 10.15pm, but sometimes it’s later. I know the magic sleep window is 10pm - 2am and I would love to be asleep by 10pm - but my routine still needs some work to allow that to happen! It takes me a while to get ready for bed as I need to defrost my frozen wild blueberries for the next day, often soak some seeds, sterilise my tongue scraper, clean my face and teeth, etc., so I need to allow time for this.

So there you have it, my daily healing routine. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to do everything I want, but my healing remains my priority and my focus. So this means less time to spend working and moving business plans forward than I would like (about 9 hours in total a week), but I know the balance will shift as I get stronger and able to handle more. For now, this balance feels right for where I am currently at in my healing journey. Although I would really like a magic extra hour a day for a good Instagram session….

Do let me know in the comments or over on Instagram if you have found any helpful ways to manage your routine - or the mindset approach that goes with it - I’d love to hear from you.



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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Daily Healing Routine - Part 3 of 3

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - What I’m doing to recover - Part 2 of 3

This is the second post in a series exploring my journey living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME, where I explain all the things I am doing to recover from it, how I manage it day to day, and the improvements I have seen since following these practices. Part one sets the scene and explains what CFS is, how it first developed and how it shows up in my life now. Part three will explore my daily healing routine in more detail.

This is a long post, so you will probably want to dip in and out of it. I contemplated breaking it into smaller chunks, but decided it was ultimately more useful to have all the information together.

CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3

Introduction

I’ve wanted to write this post for so long - and have often drafted parts of it in my head - but something always stopped me. I think I felt that I needed to have all the answers and needed to have healed before I could share my experiences and what I’ve learnt. But of course I don’t have all the answers (I’m still very much learning) and neither have I healed yet, although I do believe I’m making progress now. Yet I know that if I had read this blog post at the start of my illness - or even just a couple of years ago - it would have helped me so much. And I know I’ve benefitted hugely from reading the information and insights so generously shared by others who are healing and learning and going through the same thing. I’ve also been asked quite often over on Instagram about what I’m doing and how I’m getting on, and it’s very hard to share anything meaningful in a short DM. So it’s in this spirit that I’m sharing my imperfect and incomplete perspectives on healing from and living with CFS.

I also believe that healing looks different for everyone and I believe there are many different paths to healing - there is not a one size fits all. We are all different and struggling with slightly different things with different severities, based on our unique histories and experiences in life. I have read recovery stories from people who have healed from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in many different ways, and it’s usually a combination of lots of different things. So please don’t think I am trying to sell you my particular version of healing as the only way - I completely respect there are many different routes to get to the goal we all want - a healthy body and mind.


What I'm doing to heal

There are a wide variety of different things that I’m doing to help myself recover from CFS. I’ve tried to group them under several headings to make them easier to read, but they all overlap. You’ll find the following sections in this post:

What changed everything for me, was to really believe that healing is possible and to take responsibility for my own health and healing, rather than leave this in someone else’s hands. This has meant putting in a lot of time and effort to read and research and learn and apply and reflect and try lots of different things. It has meant giving myself permission to put my healing first.

If I can urge you to do anything, it is to be curious, to seek and learn, to be open to different ways of healing, to explore and experiment, and to believe that it is possible. But above all, be kind to yourself.


Before I get stuck in to explaining how I’ve changed my diet, I thought it would be helpful to explain the reasoning behind it. It all stems from the discovery of the Medical Medium information about the root cause of CFS/ME and what to do about it….

The Medical Medium theory about the cause of CFS/ME

Medical Medium, Anthony William, believes that the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) is the root cause of CFS/ME, Fibromyalgia and many other illnesses. It can lie dormant in the body quietly multiplying and gathering strength for many years, before making a move when your body is weakened due to stress or trauma or other illness. It first appears in many people (but not all) as Glandular Fever and goes through four different stages. The final stage of EBV is when it inflames the central nervous system, causing severe neurological fatigue. It is this stage that Anthony Williams believes is what we know as CFS.

He recommends a two pronged approach to deal with it:

  1. Starve the virus of food by removing its food sources

  2. Attack the virus with appropriate anti-virals to kill it off

He recommends cutting out the following foods completely from your diet, as they feed the virus:

  • eggs

  • dairy products (including products from goats and sheep)

  • gluten

  • corn

  • rapeseed oil/canola oil

  • soy

  • pork

  • MSG & natural flavours

  • artificial flavours & sweeteners

  • citric acid.

Instead, he recommends focussing on eating fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices.

He also recommends eating a combination of foods daily to help remove heavy metals from our system, as these are also a major food source for the EBV virus. We can absorb these heavy metals from the environment, from our tap water and foods, and they can even be inherited from previous generations. These foods are: Barley Grass Juice Powder, Spirulina, Dulse, Coriander and Wild Blueberries. The easiest way to consume them is to make the Heavy Metals Detox Smoothie.

Another key part of the recovery plan is to drink pure celery juice on an empty stomach every day. Celery juice “Strengthens hydrochloric acid in the gut and helps the liver produce bile to break down food. Provides mineral salts that are anti-EBV and help support the central nervous system with powerful electrolytes while they stabilise and support the adrenal glands. Celery has the ability to cleanse the thyroid of EBV toxins. Also bolsters the production of the thyroid hormone T3.” (Extract from Thyroid Healing* by Anthony William).

It is impossible to do justice to the breadth and depth of the information that Anthony William shares in just a few paragraphs. So if you are interested, I would strongly urge you to read his books and his blog posts (links below).

The information he shares just made so much sense to me - it was the most viable and comprehensive explanation I had read about what I was experiencing, and explained how the various different illnesses and problems I had experienced throughout my life were related and connected. It made sense that we need to focus on the inputs to our body (food, liquids and thoughts) if we want to help it to heal. NB. the Medical Medium approach is not just about food - it is about compassion and meditation and so much more.


Further Reading: Books

I would recommend starting with the first three Medical Medium books:

  • Medical Medium: Secrets Behind Chronic and Mystery Illness and How to Finally Heal* is his first book and there is a chapter dedicated to CFS/ME, explaining the root cause in detail. He also shares his advice on how to heal. This is a good starting point.

  • Thyroid Healing* is his third book and is all about the Epstein Barr Virus and how to heal from it, so don’t be put off by the title if you don’t relate to having a thyroid issue - it is highly relevant to those with CFS/ME. I found the section on “Symptoms and Conditions” particularly helpful. It also covers the foods, herbs and supplements that will help you to heal and sets out a 90 day programme to kickstart your healing, along with useful recipes and more. This was the first book in the series I read and I highly recommend it.

  • Life Changing Foods* is his second book and it is absolutely beautiful. It provides detailed information on the most important fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, and wild foods for healing, with lots of beautiful photos, and some recipes. It is very easy to read and dip in and out of, and is more of a reference book. It also includes a section on fertility. I come back to this time and time again.

*These are Amazon.co.uk affiliate links, so if you make a purchase using these links I may receive a small payment.

Further Reading: Online Information

  • The Medical Medium website has a wealth of information. I recommend signing up to his mailing list - he regularly shares useful articles via email.

  • In particular, have a look through his Blog posts which you can filter to just show Health Articles or Recipes and you can search them too.

  • He also has a whole section dedicated to Celery Juice.

  • Another good starting point is the MM101 section, where you can find some of the key recipes for healing and free downloads about the key healing foods.

  • The Epstein Barr Virus blog post is basically the chapter on Chronic Fatigue from his first book. It’s long, but bear with it as there’s lots of useful information, especially towards the end.

  • The True Cause of Asthma blog post is a very interesting read.

  • It is also worth following the Medical Medium Instagram account - he regularly shares lots of inspiring healing stories as well as lots of key information.

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Now on to the juicy stuff - all the things I’m doing to help me recover from CFS/ME.

Diet / Supplements / Herbs

This was probably the biggest area of change for me, despite always eating what I thought was a healthy diet. I have never eaten junk food, I have been a coeliac for the last 20+ years and so have avoided gluten, I avoided most dairy products as it triggered my asthma (however, I did drink goat’s milk on a regular basis and ate butter) and I have always eaten lots of organic vegetables. But it wasn’t enough.

Now my diet is very simple.

I strictly avoid this list of foods: eggs, dairy products (including products from goats and sheep), gluten, corn, rapeseed oil/canola oil, soy, pork, MSG & natural flavours, artificial flavours & sweeteners, citric acid.

I also avoid eating meat, fish, grains, beans and legumes to help keep my digestion process as easy as possible, so my body has maximum resources available for healing.

I eat fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices in abundance. I eat raw food up until dinner to ease the digestive load on my body and promote detoxification.

Salad bowl | CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3
Raspberries & Papaya | CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3

I sprout seeds (alfalfa, red clover, fenugreek, radish) and eat them daily.

I hydrate well and start the day with a large glass of lemon water with honey (900ml water, juice of one lemon, spoon of honey) and have another one or two of these later in the day.

Lemon water | CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3
Celery juice | CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3

I juice two bunches of celery and drink this on an empty stomach every day.

I have just started juicing ginger, turmeric, garlic and an orange every day for an immune boost and a good dose of natural anti-virals.

Heavy Metals Detox Smoothie | CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3
Melon | CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3

I make the heavy metals detox smoothie for breakfast everyday, along with some other fruit (usually half a melon or a mango or papaya).

I make a large salad for lunch with leafy greens and usually some oranges or a grapefruit, and include raw garlic in my dressing.

Orange & grape salad | CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3
Grapefruit salad | CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3

I eat steamed veggies for dinner everyday with either potatoes, sweet potatoes or winter squashes for carbohydrates, and more raw garlic. I also vary this several times a week and swap the steamed potatoes for baked oil-free “fries” or wedges for a change of texture.

I eat very little fat (even healthy fats) to help support my liver (usually just 1.5 avocados a week and a tiny amount of coconut oil).

I snack on fruit.

I avoid caffeine completely to keep my nervous system calm.

I drink several herbal tea blends to assist with healing:

  • nettle and raspberry leaf for my reproductive system

  • dandelion root, burdock root and red clover for my liver

  • fennel, lemon balm and thyme for my thyroid and EBV

I take a handful of core supplements to support my immune system: liquid Zinc, liquid B12, Ester C, and a few herbal tinctures for anti-virals: Cat’s Claw and Licorice Root. This list has changed over time and I have recently had to cut back as I can no longer afford all the tinctures and supplements I would like to take.

I have made all these changes slowly, over time, giving my system time to adapt. As far as possible, I try to only change one thing at a time, so I can see what impact it has on me.

I think giving up rice and quinoa was probably the hardest and biggest adjustment for me, as this used to make up half my plate at most evening meals (and often lunch too). Without it, there is much more room for vegetables, which offer more healing power, are more alkalising to the body and are easier to digest. I don’t miss rice at all anymore.

I am always tweaking things so they feel right. Last summer I ate 100% raw for a month, but over this winter, I ate more cooked food as I felt my body needed it. I eat more fruit over the summer when it is readily available and also drink more green juices, such as apple, cucumber, parsley, ginger & spinach or swiss chard. Fresh juices are a brilliant way to get more nutrients into the body in an easily digestible form, so the body has to do minimal work; they also help promote detoxification.

I also want to say that I am not perfect. I’m only human and don’t manage to stick to these guidelines 100% of the time, but it is the majority. I don’t see it as deprivation, I see it as an abundance of beautiful living foods that are helping me to heal. My motivation is strong and my “why” is strong - it is 100% my choice to do this, no one is making me. I want to heal and I believe this is my best route to help my body heal.

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Movement

Movement has always been a key part of my life and critical to my wellbeing. It helps the process of detoxification and encourages the body to eliminate properly.

Yoga

I have practised yoga for the last 20 years or so, and have had an established ashtanga self-practice at home for many of those years. So I just carried on when my CFS developed. I adapted the sequence to suit my energy levels and I just do about half an hour every week day. It helps to calm me and ground me and bring me back into my body when my mind is very active. It is also great for toning muscles that otherwise don’t get much use. And the breath work really helps my asthma too.

Yoga | CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3
Rebounder | CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3

Rebounding

If you have never heard of it before, rebounding is jumping up and down on a mini trampoline. I started rebounding last summer, after reading about how beneficial it was to get the lymphatic system moving (this helps to remove waste from the body). I slowly worked my way up to bouncing for 10 minutes a day.

Walking

I get out for two 30-40 minutes gentle dog walks every day. This is so important for me to get some fresh air and sunlight and get my body moving first thing.

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Mind

Meditation

I do a daily meditation for 15 minutes at the end of my yoga practice whilst I’m lying down in Savasana. I use the Headspace app, which I can highly recommend if you are new to meditation - it explains the process very clearly and simply. This has helped to bring awareness of my thoughts and helps me to stand back and observe without getting so involved. I feel much calmer and my life feels more spacious as a result. This is an area I want to explore more - I have recently bought Dr Joe Dispenza’s book Becoming Supernatural* after seeing it recommended by @julieshealing. A key part of this is doing meditations that help you get into the optimum state for healing, calming the central nervous system. It focusses on FEELING (rather than thinking) to get beyond the analytical mind into the subconscious, spending time in states of elevated emotions such as love and joy, where different parts of the brain can resynchronise and communicate better and healing happens. I will report back when I’ve learnt more.

Gratitude Journal

I started a gratitude practice a couple of years ago where I write down 3 things every day that I am grateful for. It’s been a huge help to refocus my mind on all the positives and all the lovely moments, people and things that are already in my life, rather than the things I am missing. I notice and appreciate the little things so much more now and I know I feel happier for it. I no longer dwell on the negatives for the most part, and am able to catch myself when I do. I look back over my gratitude journal when I’m feeling low and it always gives me a boost - it’s also a lovely thing to review at the end of each month.

Affirmations about healing

I started dabbling with affirmations about a year ago and initially designed some cards with various statements on, like “I am healing” and “The beautiful foods I eat are healing and nourishing me. Food is my medicine”. I looked through these cards and read them every night after writing in my gratitude journal to help reinforce these messages in my brain.

Affirmation: In the stillness and the space, healing will unfold.
Affirmation: The beautiful foods I eat are healing and nourishing me. Food is my medicine.

More recently (the last couple of months), I have started saying these affirmations out loud whilst I do my rebounding. What I say varies from day to day as I don’t have a script, I just basically talk to myself and reinforce my belief in my healing and my recovery and give thanks and love to my body for all it is doing for me.

I also spend quite a bit of time visualising my recovery and describing what I’m doing when I’m healthy and fully recovered and what it feels like. Both these practices feel very powerful indeed, and I now look forward to my rebounding time every day and see it as a positive happy space. Even on days when my energy has been very low and I really haven’t felt like it, I’ve done it and it always makes me feel better.

Affirmation: I am healing. I nurture and honour and thank my body and my mind.
Affirmation: I believe in my recovery. I believe in myself. Life supports me.

Visualisations about being healthy

Prompted by a practice I read about in Faith Canter’s book Living a Life Less Toxic*, I wrote down a visualisation of what my future happy healthy self was doing, feeling like, looking like, with as much detail as I could manage. I then recorded myself reading this out, along with some of the words from Faith’s book and listened to the recording every day after my meditation. It felt very strange and awkward at first, and somewhat at odds with accepting where I was currently at. But I had faith that this practice would help to retrain my brain and soon it began to feel natural, and importantly, it began to feel possible.

More recently I have started saying these visualisations out loud, together with my affirmations for healing, as part of my rebounding practice (see above). The act of speaking them out loud every day feels very powerful and just right and I’m excited to see what effect this will have over time.

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Body

Epsom salt baths with essential oils

I have regular Epsom salt baths to help my body to detoxify, relax and soothe my muscles, and help with Magnesium absorption. They always feel like a lovely treat.

Dry skin brushing

I try to do dry skin brushing daily to help promote lymphatic drainage and flow and thus detoxification. The lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump like the circulatory system, so relies on the movement of your body to move your lymph fluid and remove toxins. Here is a YouTube video showing you how to dry skin brush for lymphatic drainage: The correct way to skin brush.

Sleep

Getting restful sleep when you have a chronic illness is so important as this is when the body repairs itself. I’ve made my bedroom a sleep-only zone and removed all technology - my body knows that when I come to bed I am ready for sleep. I’ve also added curtains as well as blinds to make sure it is as dark as possible. I don’t drink any caffeine at all and the food I eat is easy to digest.

After dinner, I dim the lights in the sitting room so my body knows it’s time to adjust. I also try and put down my phone/iPad/tv a while before bed to reduce mental stimulation. I have to say that this is probably the advice I find the hardest to follow, as this is usually my only time in the day to check Instagram or watch TV and we often don’t sit down until 9pm. I know the solution is to eat earlier and shift my whole routine earlier so I can get to bed by 10pm, with an hour of no internet or TV beforehand. In an ideal world, I’d like to do an evening meditation to help calm my nervous system - it’s a work in progress!

Spending time in nature

I find it so soothing and calming to spend time in nature and I know it helps to calm my nervous system. I now consider it part and parcel of my healing process: - fresh air, sparkly blue seas and the energy and sound of the waves, bird song, leaves rustling in a forest or park, walking under a canopy of green with dappled light filtering through, expansive blue skies, sitting on the grass, walking bare feet on the grass or sand, hunting for pretty shells or pebbles, pottering in my garden and growing things - all of these things help to calm, soothe and rejuvenate me.

CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3
Bluebell woods | CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3

Removing toxins from my environment

I am hugely sensitive to many chemicals and especially artificial fragrances, as they trigger my asthma. Since learning more about the impact of chemicals and toxins on the body (both Faith Canter and Medical Medium write a lot about this) I have done a thorough audit of all the personal care products I use, as well as cleaning products and the pans and dishes I cook with. I am now very careful to read labels thoroughly and wherever possible I make my own products.

The skin is the largest organ in the body, and anything you put on it gets absorbed easily, so it is important to choose wisely. Also consider what you are inhaling into your lungs (perfumes and air fresheners are highly toxic).

The other thing I did about a year ago was to install a water filter system under my sink, which means I now have filtered water on tap. Previously I had always used Brita water filter cartridges, but I wanted something more robust that would also filter out heavy metals. This is a huge topic, so one for a separate blog post I think.

Releasing emotions

Living with a chronic illness for many years is an incredibly challenging thing to do and many emotions will understandably arise. I’m learning to acknowledge these difficult emotions when they surface and sit with them for a while, allowing myself to feel them, before releasing them and letting them go. Crying, talking things through with someone, and journalling are all things that help me to let go.

I’ve also found it easier to notice when I’m emotional, upset or irritable since I started meditating regularly and this helps me to get some distance from it and observe rather than always being carried away in the thick of it. When I’m able to do this, I can play the detective and try and figure out what is triggering the emotions - often with me at the moment it’s detox, which can be very powerful, or my menstrual cycle. I find sitting quietly and treating myself with love always helps the emotions to pass too.

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Community & Connection

One of the biggest game changers for me was connecting with other people who were also living with CFS and chronic illness. Until then, I had always been surrounded by “normal” healthy people and inevitably ended up being influenced by them and comparing myself to them and always coming up short.

Once I started reading about the lives of others with chronic illness, it helped to normalise my experiences and gave me new ways to understand and manage my illness.

Having someone else explain the different levels and stages they go through in recovery and how they manage when they are at a certain stage has been so incredibly helpful. Even and especially just having an alternative definition of what “normal” looks like when you have CFS was so wonderful - I finally felt understood and a part of something, a community, instead of completely on my own.

I have also learnt so much about how to manage and pace myself day to day, as well as the things I can do to help myself heal.

And I have made friends, a wonderful bunch of people who help to cheer me on and celebrate my wins and empathise and truly understand what it feels like when your body has crashed.

Most of my connections have come through Instagram and I will list below some of the accounts that have been so helpful and generous in sharing about their experiences of healing.

I have also participated in several groups doing raw cleanses for a month or a few weeks, based on the information shared by Medical Medium. I found these tremendously helpful - I couldn’t afford to work with a practitioner one on one, so this gave me an opportunity to ask lots of questions about how to implement the information, what symptoms meant and so much more. It also provided a community, sometimes with a closed Facebook group, that I could chat to and swap knowledge and stories with. This has been so helpful in my healing process and I have learnt so much. I’ll list the groups/cleanses I joined below too.

Instagram accounts that have helped me

There are so many I could list here, but the ones below all regularly share information and advice that have helped me (and continue to help me) so much on my journey. I highly recommend joining in conversations and connecting with others who are on similar paths to yourself. I love to read the comments on posts that resonate with me and then go and visit their accounts - I have made so many lovely connections that way.

  • @julieshealing is super knowledgeable about healing and detoxification using raw food and herbs. She generously shares information about all the things she has tried that have helped her recovery from Lyme, including a 7 part overview of her protocols: Part1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. I have learnt so much from Julie.

  • @consciouslyhealthy.emma shares lots of helpful insights about managing life with CFS and dealing with setbacks. Also see her blog Consciously Healthy for a deeper dive into lots of CFS/healing-related topics.

  • @beahboso is well on her way to recovery and shares lots of insights about her journey and always the most beautiful reminders about the importance of rest.

  • @mindfullyevie is the most beautiful positive soul and always reminds us that how we look at the world changes everything. Evie also has a blog Mindfully Evie with some helpful articles about living mindfully with CFS.

  • @healwithamber is a Medical Medium health coach and has healed herself from many issues. She explains things very clearly and I always find her posts super helpful.

  • @laurenhenryhealth is another Medical Medium health coach who has recovered from Lyme using the Medical Medium information. I love her happy, positive, fun and down to earth outlook.

  • @freeyourglow is such a beautiful account, all about healing gently using the Medical Medium information and lots of self-compassion. I have done many raw cleanses with Ally and have learnt so much about all aspects of healing.

Raw Cleanses based on Medical Medium Information

  • DIY Intuitive Cleanse with Muneeza Ahmed - Muneeza shares a wealth of knowledge about how to apply the Medical Medium information in this programme, with a comprehensive guide and lots of FAQs that I found really helpful. She also includes a series of videos explaining some of the key body systems and their inter-relationships, as well as how to detox safely. She also has some helpful free resources to download and a Facebook Group with lots of recorded live sessions where she answers questions and discusses interesting topics relating to Medical Medium.

  • Free Your Glow - I have done several seasonal cleanses with Alana and her wonderful team and have thoroughly enjoyed them. They helped me navigate my first experience of eating 100% raw and provided lots of guidance understanding the emotional and spiritual side of healing too. There are no cleanses available at the moment as I type this, but worth following @freeyourglow on Instagram for notifications of new programmes.

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Other Self-Care Practices

Journalling

I started to keep a journal a few years ago, so I had a record of how I was feeling and any changes in my symptoms etc. I found that my recollection of these things was so vague and fuzzy as time went on, that it was impossible to know if things were getting worse or better, let alone figure out what might have triggered a flare-up. I also found it very helpful to note when I started taking supplements or making changes to my diet, so I could figure out what difference they made.

Another very therapeutic practice is to do a brain dump of all the things whirling around my head, from frustrations to ideas, so that I can release them instead of trying to hold on tight and remember them. It’s helped me to discover patterns of behaviour that keep repeating and make sense of them - and reading my own advice on what to do in certain situations has been very helpful!

Monthly achievements list

At the end of every month I make a list of all my achievements that month, big and small. It’s helped me to feel as though I am making progress and moving forward. When we are struggling with chronic illness and spending a lot of time “being” instead of “doing” it can be easy to feel as though we are getting nowhere, as we are so used to measuring and valuing our successes through what we have done/produced. Recording my own version of success and achievements has helped me to shift away from this view. Things on my list vary and can range from things I’ve learnt and books I’ve read, to how I handled certain situations, to big wins when I’ve been able to walk a distance, or managed a social situation without crashing.

List of ways my health has improved

I also keep an ongoing list of all the ways my health has got better. Because healing from chronic illness is a very slow process and a very windy journey with lots of bumps in the road, it can be easy to feel as though nothing is changing and we are not progressing or getting any better. I’ve found keeping a list so helpful as it’s so easy to forget all the small ways that things have changed for the better (oftentimes these are not directly related to our CFS but are still an indication that other parts of our bodies are healing). I can then use this as evidence to support my belief that I am healing. I have shared my list of how things have improved for me since I started following the Medical Medium protocols and all the advice in this blog post, below.

Practicing self compassion and learning to really listen to my body

One of the most important things we can do is learn to really listen to our bodies and then act upon that information. When my body is letting me know things are getting too much (when my fatigue and aches are increasing) I am learning to stop and rest, and let go of whatever I was supposed to be doing, before it gets to the stage where my body is screaming at me and I have no choice but to rest.

I am getting better at accepting how things are on a bad day and not trying to fight it or resist it or push my body to do things it’s just not capable of doing in that moment. Instead, I try and rest gracefully and release the frustrations of not being able to do what I had planned. I try and make rest days as special and nurturing as possible and see them as a treat - I might burn some essential oils, make myself a hot water bottle if it’s cold and get cosy under my favourite blanket, pick out a magazine or book I’ve been wanting to read for ages and start with a few pages, and listen to some meditations or maybe an audio book if I’m up to it, in-between quiet rest time. I try to savour the stillness and space and remind myself that this is exactly what my body needs in this moment.

I’m also getting better at recognising when I’m overwhelmed or stressed and taking immediate action to remedy that (often this means letting go of a deadline and just choosing one thing to focus on). It’s super important to keep the adrenals calm and not overstimulate or stress them by pushing through - too much adrenaline is very toxic to the body (it’s the favourite food of pathogens and viruses). The body heals when the nervous system is calm and relaxed - you want to aim to be in this state as much as possible. So going slow is good, keeping calm and making time for rest and meditation is so important.

Self-love and patience

I am learning to love and appreciate my body that is working so hard to heal me and keep me safe. It’s natural to be frustrated when we are physically unable to do what we want to, but accepting where we are and sending love to our bodies, rather than negativity, helps so much.

At the start of my rebounding and affirmation sessions, I always take time to thank my body for all it is doing for me and I often sit with my hand on my heart to connect to my body and the feeling of love when I am meditating. Healing chronic illness takes a long time, so learning to be patient with ourselves and enjoy our days and accepting of where we are helps a lot.

Developing intuition

One thing that I think is incredibly important to navigate the sea of information out there about healing, is to work on developing your intuition, and making regular time and space and quiet to listen to what your body is trying to tell you. This helps so much in figuring out whether something is right for you or not.

I’m still working hard at this and I know it’s very difficult at the beginning, especially when there is so much conflicting information out there and you’re not sure what your body’s response means. But it is so important and needs regular practice - it’s a muscle that needs to be used. No one knows ourselves better than ourselves, so tuning in to this wisdom is so powerful. I found Susannah Conway’s e-course on developing your intuition really helpful.

Careful use of social media

As I’ve mentioned above, social media is such a helpful way to connect with other chronic illness warriors and build a supportive community around you. In fact, it is pretty much my only social life, as I rarely get out to see other people. But it is also really important to recognise when it is too much, and I need to step away and have some quiet and rest, and to focus on my own journey.

It is so tempting to read about what everyone else is doing and then compare myself or want to do everything I see others doing to heal or wonder why I’m not healed yet when others seem to be recovering more quickly. Yet we are all different, with different histories and experiences, different sensitivities and different severities of symptoms, living in different environments etc. Being aware of this helps a lot and I often need regular reminders.

So I think it’s a helpful tool that needs to be used mindfully, with regular breaks taken when it gets too much and we feel the need to come back to ourselves and tune in to our needs and our journey.

Controlling my intake of TV/books/news etc

I filter out what I watch and read and try to only consume things that make me feel good and avoid things that cause stress and upset. I rarely watch the news. I read books about healing and self care. I don’t use Facebook (other than closed groups linked to courses) as it always leaves me feeling inadequate and an outsider.

As for TV, I’m a bit more relaxed about what I watch as this is a shared activity with my husband. For the most part I find it relaxing, but I stop watching things if they get too tense, as I’m very aware of the impact it can have on me. As I’ve mentioned above, it’s important to keep our nervous systems calm, so watching tense thrillers and horror movies is not the best idea for me.

I make time for things that make me happy

I think it’s really important to carve out time and energy for activities that bring you joy. It can be all too easy for these to get de-prioritised when you can only manage the essentials. But I now regard them as essentials, as they have a big effect on my wellbeing and happiness. For me it’s things like pottering in the garden, reading, doing creative things like my photography, going out for walks and gentle adventures with my husband and dog. I make sure to write these on my to do lists and give them equal, if not greater, importance than all the chores and other commitments.

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Pacing & Day to Day Management

I give myself more time and space to get things done than I think I need and reduce my expectations for what I can do

I have to say this one is super hard for me and still very much a work in progress, as the driven-achiever-perfectionist in me is still very strong. But awareness is a great starting point.

I try and keep things as simple as possible and my to do lists short. I avoid deadlines wherever possible, keeping myself free to adapt to how my body is feeling and keeping my stress levels as low as possible.

When I feel the overwhelm building and notice I’m giving too much of my energy to figuring out how I’m going to fit everything in and how to juggle it all, I stop and re-evaluate and then decide on one thing only to focus on. And I do that until it’s done, and then move on to the next thing. It feels like a huge weight is lifted when I do this and I am so much happier.

I also break big projects and tasks down

This means that even when my energy is low, I can still start to make small steps towards something much bigger.

For example, I really want (and need) to be able to start working and earning money again. This will be a huge change for me, so my plan is to start small by working on my blog again and starting to build a routine with regular working hours in the week (a few hours three afternoons a week).

Once I’ve got a few blog posts published, then I’m going to start work on some new designs for my Etsy shop (I have so many ideas for affirmations and inspirational quote prints using my photos and typography). Again, there are so many aspects to creating work for an online shop, including styling and photographing it when it’s complete, listing it, marketing it, figuring out postage and packing logistics, etc. So it’s a case of one step at a time and doing things in small chunks, like first of all working on a couple of designs and that’s all.

I write down all the other stuff that’s in my head to stop it swirling around, but then let it go and focus on the one thing I am working on that day. As for all my other ideas and all the other things this might lead to, I write them all down and tuck them away. One small step at a time!

I have a structure for my week days, with a specific routine that I follow

This means less energy is spent making decisions and weighing up options and I can just get on with things, without having to think about them. As well as regular tasks that I do every day, I write a to do list at the beginning of the week, split out day by day. This way, I can stand back and try and make sure that I’m not asking too much of myself, and plan in space around tasks as much as possible. But I also recognise that it’s fine to not do everything on the list if my energy is low - it’s just a guideline, not the law. I’m going to write a separate blog post (Part 3 of this series) to talk through my daily routine.

I plan my meals for the week and do my food shopping online

This helps for much the same reasons as above, and avoids last minute panics about what we’re eating for dinner when my energy is low, and means we eat much healthier. It also makes shopping easier, as I know what I need to buy. Ordering online helps massively too as I tend to order many of the same things each week, so it is super quick to find these and add them to my basket. Also having the shopping delivered to my door is so helpful as it means I can put it all away slowly at my own pace, and means that this is a task I can do by myself (I don’t drive, but wouldn’t have the energy to do a big supermarket shop by myself anyway).

I say NO to events and plans when I need to

Even at the last minute, when it is inconvenient to others, if I’m not feeling up to it. I am constantly reminding myself to put my health first, and to be realistic at what I can manage, given my current energy levels. I have got much more comfortable at asking others to adapt their plans to fit in with my requirements. It really helps everyone when you can be as clear about this as possible and avoids lots of stress.

I plan rest after activities/outings

This sounds like an incredibly obvious one, but it can be easy to get carried away when you are surrounded by people who are healthy. I now know that if I am going out anywhere, I will need several hours of complete rest when I return, so it is not realistic to expect myself to launch straight in to cooking a meal, for example. I will also rest when I am out as well when I need it, and often sit with my eyes shut in the midst of family gatherings (ideally I would go and lie down somewhere, but this isn’t always possible).

I make changes slowly

I’m naturally an all-or-nothing kind of person, so am always tempted to throw myself passionately into something and give it my all, wanting to do my absolute best and a thorough job from the outset. However, I’ve learnt that this approach doesn’t work well when you have CFS. I’ve found it much better to just try something tentatively and see how I go, and then slowly start to do more if it feels right. So, for example, when I wanted to start getting up earlier with an alarm, I first set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier than I usually got up. Once my body had got into a routine and got used to this, I adjusted it by another 15 minutes, and so on. This was done over quite a long span of time. The same with rebounding. I started just with 2 minutes a day, and slowly increased it by a minute every week or so until I reached 10 minutes.

I ask for help with household management tasks when I need to

When I worked full time, my husband and I would split all the household tasks between us. But since I’ve been unable to work, and have a lot more time at home than my husband (who works full time with a long commute to support us), I’ve taken on responsibility for most household tasks and these take up a good portion of my energy and time each week. However, I will still ask for help when I need it if my energy is low.

It is so important to communicate well about things like this and to discuss division of responsibilities openly, rather than build up resentment about things not being done or things you wish were different. It’s also important to not feel guilty when you need to rest, which means other people need to do more. I know not everyone is fully understanding of CFS and what it feels like to struggle, but I have always found being open and talking about how I am feeling and what I am experiencing to help.

I’m now at the stage where I need a bit more regular help from my husband with some of these household tasks, so that I can free up some time and energy to work on my blog and Etsy shop. We’re figuring out what makes most sense, but my husband is now cooking a couple of meals a week, for example.

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Improvements I've experienced since following Medical Medium advice for a year

Several people asked me on Instagram what improvements I’ve seen since following the Medical Medium advice, so I started to note these down. Of course, I have been doing lots of things over a long period of time to improve my health (as noted above), so it’s difficult to attribute changes to any specific thing. However, I do feel that the changes I made to my diet were probably the biggest changes I made and my sense is that those have made the biggest difference, along with my restored belief that healing is possible and that healing is happening.

  • I think the first thing I noticed after starting to drink celery juice daily for a few weeks, was that my brain fog improved - everything felt lighter, brighter and clearer, as if a fog had been lifted. I still struggle with memory, information retention and word recall sometimes, but my mind feels sharp again. I still have a long way to go, but I remember these changes being very marked. The only thing I had changed at the time was to introduce celery juice, so I am pretty sure this attribution is correct.

  • My digestion has improved and I am now able to eat and drink oranges. Previously, if I ate or drank oranges or anything acidic, I would get terrible stomach pains. I think this was due to low levels of Hydrochloric Acid in my stomach, which celery juice helps to restore. It is such a pleasure to be able to consume oranges again and I now enjoy 3-4 a day.

  • My energy levels have been more consistent over the last year, with no real crashes to speak of. I think I’ve only had a few days here and there where I’ve had to go back to bed in the daytime or rest all day. These occasions were either when I was eating 100% raw for the first time which caused lots of detox and increased fatigue, or when I had over-exerted myself with activities or during my menstrual cycle. I take this as a *huge* win and is probably the most significant change.

  • I have more stamina and am able to keep going for longer without much rest.

  • Less rest time is needed to bounce back when I’m tired. Rest feels very effective now. Previously, it would take several days or even weeks to recover from over-exertion - now I respond well to several hours rest.

  • I am able to get up much earlier, consistently. On week days I now get up at 7am with an alarm - previously I struggled to get out of bed before 9am and could never contemplate an alarm.

  • I am now able to work at my computer for 2-3 hours a day consistently. Previously there would have been many weeks and months when sitting at a desk was not even possible.

  • My anxiety has greatly reduced. I can’t remember the last time I had an episode of nausea or a significant anxious episode.

  • I have lowered my Seretide dose for my asthma (inhaled corticosteroids) by 1 puff a day, which is a big win. I have tried and failed countless times to reduce it previously. I haven’t managed to reduce it any further yet, though, without a flare-up. I’m also clearing lots of mucous daily, which I attribute to the dietary changes I have made.

  • My PMS is much improved and I no longer suffer with swollen and tender breasts or terrible night sweats. I’m still massively impacted by my menstrual cycle and my energy always drops significantly at this time (and at ovulation), so now I plan to take things extra gently. Anthony William explains that the menstruation process takes up 80% of our bodies reserves, and the 20% left over cannot manage the health conditions that our immune system normally keeps at bay, hence the reason we are vulnerable to viruses and why symptoms can flare at this time.

  • The dark circles under my eyes are not as bad.

I still have a long way to go before I reach full recovery, and I still start my days with a lower than normal battery charge. I still experience fatigue and aches on a daily basis and have to plan my days and energy very carefully, but I really do feel that these changes are significant and that I am on the right track as far as my healing is concerned. So I plan to keep on keeping on.

I am learning to read my body better and can now understand when the increased aches and fatigue are due to detoxing (usually due to me introducing something new into my diet - the latest thing to kick start more detox was starting the daily ginger, garlic, turmeric, orange juice, which is very powerful). Detoxification really is an art form and needs to be handled very carefully, especially when you are sensitive - if you detox too fast and flood your body with toxins, the liver has to work twice as hard to mop them all back up again and it’s counter-productive. I found the online courses/cleanses I mentioned earlier, really helped me to develop my understanding of this area.

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I hope that this post was helpful and has maybe given you some food for thought. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help. I’d also love to hear about the things you are doing to heal that have made a positive change to your health. So please do leave me a comment below or reach out to me on social media - I’d love to hear from you.

You can read about my daily healing routine in my next post: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Daily Healing Routine - Part 3 of 3.

*All links to books are Amazon.co.uk affiliate links, so if you make a purchase using these links I may receive a small payment. You can view the full list of books I love and recommend on my Amazon page.

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CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)/ME - WHAT I’M DOING TO RECOVER - PART 2 OF 3

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Story - Part 1 of 3

This is the first post in a series exploring my journey living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME, where I set the scene and explain what CFS/ME is, what it is like for me, how the illness first developed and how it shows up in my life now. Part two will look at all the things I am doing to recover from it, how I manage it day to day, and the improvements I have seen since implementing this advice. Part three will explore my daily healing routine in more detail.

It has taken me a long time to get to the point of being able to write about this. This is a very personal post and it feels scary and vulnerable to share. But I am doing so in the hope that it may help others who are going through the same thing, and also help to spread awareness and understanding of what this debilitating invisible illness is and how it affects us. I hope this gives you some insight into the illness that continues to shape my life - despite it’s many challenges, it has taught me so much and for that I am very thankful.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Story - Part 1 of 3

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), is a serious, chronic and complex illness where sufferers experience extreme and debilitating fatigue, muscle aches, and cognitive dysfunction (poor memory and inability to concentrate or think clearly - often referred as brain fog). Other symptoms such as joint pain, problems with sleep, headaches, nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations and sensitivity to noise and light are also commonplace. Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms and the severity can vary from person to person. The symptoms also fluctuate from day to day, making it very unpredictable. The illness can go on for many years and some people never fully recover. In severe cases, people can be bed bound for long periods of time and are unable to care for themselves.

The illness has a major impact on people’s lives and many (I would say most) are unable to attend school or go to work. Even leaving the house becomes a huge challenge. Socialising becomes hard to impossible, family life becomes restricted and relationships can get strained.

For more information, see the M.E. Factsheet by the M.E. Association.


Sunset skies | Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Story - Part 1 of 3

What Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is like for me

For my part, I can best describe it as feeling like you have the flu, permanently, without the head cold. On bad days I feel exhausted all the time and struggle to keep my eyes open, my muscles ache deeply all over, walking feels like a tremendous effort, my brain is foggy and it is a struggle to make the simplest of decisions or concentrate on anything or hold a conversation. I’m unable to tolerate any noise or bright lights or any company and need to sit or lie quietly with my eyes shut.

These symptoms will ebb and flow over time and their severity varies significantly from day to day - there are many different “in-between” states.

A reasonable day for me is when the tiredness and the aches are there, but more in the background. I am able to go for a short walk and do yoga and sit at my computer and concentrate for an hour or so before needing to rest. I can engage in conversations and prepare meals and wash-up.

A good day is where the tiredness and aches are even more in the background and my brain is feeling alert and I’m able to concentrate for longer periods of time. I can work at my computer for 3 hours (with breaks), or go for a long walk, or meet other people (but not all of them).

Any exertion - mental or physical - requires rest time for my body to recover. Sometimes I can push it when I’m feeling stronger and say go for a long walk two days on the run, or work in the garden one day and then have several hours working at my computer the next. But it always catches up with me, and usually means that I need several days of complete rest to recover. This is the bit that most people don’t see.

This is what sets CFS apart from “normal” fatigue. Before I got ill, I used to feel tired after doing too much, but I could still keep going and go to work every day, and a good night’s sleep or two would usually sort me out. Now, this is impossible. My units of energy available for each day are considerably less than they used to be, and when they run out, I cannot function and need to rest for long periods of time to recharge. It’s a very careful balancing act of how to spend my limited energy, and activities need to be chosen carefully.

Summer daisies | Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Story - Part 1 of 3

One of the most difficult things for me is socialising - I find this drains my energy more quickly than anything else. On a day that I socialise, I can’t do anything else. My menstrual cycle also has a major impact on my CFS and my fatigue and aches and brain fog are heightened for several days a month, when everything becomes a struggle.

I think the unpredictable nature of CFS is one of the hardest things to really understand and come to terms with - you just have to take one day at a time, which makes planning things very difficult. You learn to be very adaptable, to pick yourself up time and time again, to accept the bad days and make the most of the good days. You learn to live in the present moment - there is no other way.

I’m now in my mid-forties and my eighth year of living with CFS and have been unable to work for the last 5 and a half years. We have been living on a single income for all this time, with no financial help or support from outside. Finances are something rarely spoken about, but I wanted to mention it as it is a major struggle for us and many others. This year, I need to start earning some income, whatever my state of health, and this scares me.

I also just want to stress that this is my experience of CFS - it will be different to other people’s - there are so many different levels of severity and so many variants, even for one person. For many people with CFS/ME, even managing to have a shower is a tremendous effort and achievement.


Birds in flight | Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Story - Part 1 of 3

How CFS first appeared in my life

I first became aware that I had CFS at the beginning of 2012, although I believe it started to develop several years before this. I had a really bad case of the flu at the end of 2011 and didn’t recover. After the cold and shivers had faded, I just couldn’t shift a deep fog of fatigue and couldn’t keep my eyes open and I felt achey all over. I went to my GP who took some blood tests which all came back “normal” and eventually diagnosed me with Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome. I think I had about a month off work, which was unheard of for me.

At the time, I was working as the Systems and Information Manager for the Research Services Department in the University of Oxford - it was a big job with a lot of responsibility, managing a team, several projects, and ongoing services and systems. I returned to work when I began to feel more normal again, but there was always an underlying feeling of achiness and tiredness.

Over the coming months, I had several relapses of feeling exhausted, achey and very emotional, and had quite a bit of time off work. On returning to work after one lengthy episode, I went to see a University counsellor, who helped me reprioritise and figure out what changes I needed to make to my job and the way I worked, at least in the short term. This included delegating more, postponing things and shifting deadlines until I could get back on my feet.

My recollection of the months following this is now rather hazy, but over time I reduced my hours and worked 4.5 days a week, with the last half day working from home. This helped a bit, but not enough. I would drag myself through the day, and collapse in a heap on the sofa at the end of the day while my husband cooked dinner. I remember getting more and more anxious about everything and avoided leading meetings and delivering training and presentations as I used to feel uncontrollably nauseous beforehand. I also started to step back from more and more responsibilities as things became more overwhelming and I was struggling to cope mentally and physically. Eventually, I realised something needed to change - I couldn’t carry on like this.


Sunset skies | Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Story - Part 1 of 3

2013: The big decision

I’d been having some acupuncture since 2011 to try and help get my system back into balance. I’d been experiencing so many colds and flus with frequent chest infections which led to lots of antibiotics and oral steroids to control my asthma, which kept getting out of hand. I knew something was off, but I didn’t know what.

After one particular acupuncture session, I remember having a light bulb moment, and became certain that I had to make a big change if I wanted to get better. I could see there was no way I was going to be able to make a recovery whilst I had such a big demanding job that took all of my time and energy. In this moment, I decided I needed to leave my job and take some time to rest and recuperate (I naively thought that 6 months would be all it would take for me to bounce back to health). I did some quick finance checks to see how we could manage and what we would need to change. I’d never been more certain of anything in my life. After a long discussion with my husband, I handed in my notice and left 3 months later - this was October 2013.

In the months and years that followed, I focused on pacing myself, resting and doing simple things that bought me joy. I continued with my beloved yoga practice, I learnt to sew and made lots of things with vintage fabric, and I photographed and blogged regularly. I withdrew from socialising as I found this too tiring and felt like I had less and less in common with my friends as I just couldn’t do any of the things they were doing. I continued to have acupuncture every fortnight as I found this calming and soothing for my system, and looked forward to my hourly slot as time to focus on my wellbeing and reflect on my health.


Sparkling ripples | Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Story - Part 1 of 3

Anxiety

I also remember anxiety being a real problem for me. In particular, I would feel really nauseous before an event, or meeting someone, and often be sick. Sometimes I would shake uncontrollably and have heart palpitations and feel dizzy and have to lie down. I now know that this was anxiety, but I just couldn’t understand it at the time.

I think this was the first time I sought outside help. I’d been to see my GP a couple of times before this, since my first diagnosis with Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome, and had repeated blood tests, which always came back “normal”. My GP was very reluctant to diagnose me with CFS - it is only usually done after eliminating lots of other possible illnesses - and you need to be experiencing the symptoms consistently over an extended period of time (at least 6 months I think). I was offered no help or information and he couldn’t get me out of his office fast enough - he clearly felt very uncomfortable talking about an illness that is so poorly understood by the medical profession, and it left me feeling like it wasn’t a “real” illness and I was some kind of fraud, and was very much on my own. I was told there was no cure and that most people seemed to get better eventually, but not everyone did. It was just a case of managing my symptoms and pacing myself and doing the best I could with the limited energy I had.

So I didn’t go looking for any cures or treatments - I believed what my doctor said. Until the point that my anxiety got out of hand that is, and I went to see a psychotherapist who practised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to see if this could help. It didn’t really - but I did at least learn that what I was experiencing was anxiety. I think the most useful thing that came out of these sessions was right at the end when my therapist just urged me to accept what was happening to me regarding the nausea and anxiety - and not to resist it. To know that it sometimes came, but it would always pass. This bought me the most relief - up until this point I had been fighting it so hard, desperately resisting the nausea, willing it away, thinking I was failing by feeling sick. By simply accepting that it would arise under certain circumstances and that that was OK gave me immense relief.

I now believe that this anxiety was part and parcel of my CFS and that my body was just feeling under so much stress and was so low in resources, it was a cry for help. I also now know that anxiety has a very physical cause and is absolutely in no way anything shameful or a failing. The benefit of hindsight!


Pebbles |  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Story - Part 1 of 3

How it all began

To take a step back for a moment, I think it’s worth mentioning a series of triggers that led me to this point in time. Now I look back with more understanding, awareness and knowledge, I can see how so many different things all contributed to CFS erupting in my life in 2012 - my body was at an all time low and simply didn’t have the resources to carry on.

I developed asthma as a young child, followed soon after by a bout of Scarlet Fever. I now believe that this was the point the virus that is responsible for CFS first became active in my system (I will explain more about this virus in Part 2).

I never grew out of my childhood asthma and from about the year 2000 onwards, I had frequent chest infections and bouts of the flu, often treated with antibiotics and sometimes oral steroids (I was taking regular doses of inhaled corticosteroids to control my asthma, but it still regularly flared up). My immune system was compromised from the steroids (which are immune suppressants) and antibiotics and I was an easy target for viruses, especially when I was often stressed at work, always pushing myself to the limits of what I could do.

My Mum was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer when I was 13. It was controlled through regular operations for a long period of time, but in 2005 things deteriorated rapidly, requiring multiple operations and a period in intensive care. At the same time as dealing with Mum’s illness and frequent trips back and forth to Jersey to be with her (I was living in Oxford at the time), I was also in a new relationship and moved in with my partner (now husband), and got promoted to a managerial position at work with some major projects to manage. The following year we bought our first house and my Dad had a stroke (thankfully he recovered). The year after, my Mum lost her battle with cancer after a long bout of suffering. Although we knew it was coming, nothing can really prepare you for death and the heartache and grief that follows. We got engaged at the end of that year and married the year after. Seeing it all written down now, it looks crazy. I’m not sure how I coped, especially with increasing responsibility going on at work at the same time and a new boss.

I think it’s fairly obvious why my health went into decline over the years that followed, with frequent episodes of what I thought was the flu (but now can see was the early stages of CFS) that dragged on and on and the feeling that I was always fighting some kind of infection - feeling tired, achey, and completely run down with a sore throat.


Cuckmere Haven, East Sussex | Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Story - Part 1 of 3

2014: Moving home and relocating

In spring of 2014 we decided it was an ideal time to sell our house in Oxford and move to live by the sea. This was something we had dreamed about for many, many years, but the logistics of trying to sell and buy at the same time as finding new jobs for both of us, just felt like an insurmountable problem. But at that time, I was of course not working and my husband was working remotely for a company in Cambridge and could in theory live anywhere in the UK. It felt like a unique opportunity to make the move.

So despite my low energy levels, we somehow managed to redecorate our house, find a buyer for it and then go on a crazy tour of the UK trying to decide where to move to. We eventually settled on Seaford, in commuting distance from Brighton, and not too far from London. We fell in love with the stunning coastline in-between Seaford and Eastbourne and the house prices seemed to be affordable. We had to pull out of the first house we put an offer on once we saw the survey results, but managed to find another one that was even better in October, and completed the sale and moved in December 2014. Whilst the stress of the house sale and move and all the DIY was not very sensible for someone trying to manage CFS, I am SO glad we made the move when we did. Where we live now is so much quieter and more peaceful and I just LOVE living so close to the sea - something I find very healing indeed.

After a period of settling in to our new home and overseeing the fixing of a lot of urgent issues, I could finally pause for breath. I very reluctantly put my CV together in the spring of 2015, thinking that I had to start looking for work, as it had been a year and a half since I left my old job. But the person I was writing about on my CV felt like a totally different person and my old job felt like a lifetime ago. My body still felt exhausted and achey and my brain was still foggy. I began to realise that healing was a much longer term thing, and that I was in no way shape or form ready to start work again. As I started to relax a bit more, I think all the stress of the move and the DIY started to catch-up with me and my CFS took a dip.


Reflections | Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Story - Part 1 of 3

2015-2017: A slow decline

During the years 2015 - 2017 my symptoms continued to fluctuate, but I started to have more frequent, prolonged crashes as time went on, requiring complete rest. I managed as best I could, focussing on pacing myself and making the most of the life I had. I decided that I had had enough of waiting to get better before starting to work again, and motivated by a quote by Roosevelt “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”, I decided to re-open my Etsy shop and start to design and sell inspirational quote prints. I taught myself brush lettering and how to use Adobe Illustrator and thoroughly enjoyed the process. But it was slow. And it was a struggle to concentrate, and I often pushed myself too hard and neglected my self-care and then had to take long periods of time off to rest. I continued to blog when I could, and together with my husband, we completed a lot of DIY during this period, which meant everything else had to go on hold, as my energy was so limited.

In 2016 I went to see a GP in Seaford who took my CFS seriously and I had my thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels checked out for the first time. Not surprisingly, my thyroid function was low. I was put on some low dose medication to raise my TSH levels (Levothyroxine), but I didn’t get on well with it and experienced a racing heart beat, so stopped taking it pretty quickly.

In 2017, I experienced extended rough patches and crashes more frequently (where I was unable to do anything other than lie on the sofa and rest), and after one particularly low patch, I finally started to search for answers and for things I could do to help myself recover.

I convinced myself that a lot of my problems were caused by Candida, and put myself on a strict anti-Candida diet with no sugar and no fruit and eating what I thought was a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables. I also experimented with drinking Kombucha and making fermented vegetables. But it didn’t help.

At this point I also came across the work of Faith Canter and her book Living a Life Less Toxic*. I started to follow all of her advice and tips for recovering from CFS. And I also searched for people to connect with on Instagram who were also recovering from CFS. This really opened things up for me and made me aware that there was SO much I could be doing to help heal myself from CFS.

*This is an Amazon.co.uk affiliate link, so if you make a purchase using this link I will receive a small payment.


Cherry blossom | Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Story - Part 1 of 3

2018 and beyond: the resurgence of hope

As I started to build my network of fellow CFS and chronic illness warriors, I started to see some books by Medical Medium pop up time and time again, and I remembered that they had also been recommended by Faith Canter. Intrigued and frustrated that my health seemed to be getting worse rather than better, I ordered his Thyroid Healing* book in March 2018. I devoured it - finally I felt as though I had some answers and explanations for what I was experiencing, and crucially, advice for how I could heal. I was excited and filled with hope and the next phase of my healing journey began.…

I decided that I owed it to myself to completely dedicate myself to my health and healing and I stepped back from doing anything other than the essentials for the rest of 2018. I devoted my time to reading as much as I could to understand what was causing my symptoms and what I could do about it. I read all the Medical Medium books, several times, and made notes of the key bits so I could refer back frequently (very necessary with brain fog!). I started learning about the adrenal glands, the thyroid, the liver, the lymphatic system, digestion and elimination and how these are all connected. I learnt about detoxification and healing foods and herbs. I drastically changed my diet. I enrolled on several “cleanses” to get advice and support on how to apply the information I was learning to my life and help with answering my many questions.

You can read about what I’ve learnt, what I’ve been doing to recover from CFS, and how things have improved for me in my next post: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - What I’m doing to recover - Part 2 of 3. This post is already too long, so I thought it best to break the information up so I don’t overload you all. I hope this was helpful - and I’ll see you in Part 2!

*This is an Amazon.co.uk affiliate link, so if you make a purchase using this link I may receive a small payment



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Fluffy clouds | Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Story - Part 1 of 3

For the love of autumn: 10 favourite leafy pursuits

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Autumn and spring are my absolute favourite seasons. The colour that transforms our streets and parks and woodland never fails to uplift and inspire me as nature puts on her spectacular end of year finale. I struggle with winter - the dark days, bleakness and brown everything - so I like to savour and soak up autumn whilst it's here. My favourite way to do that is of course photography (I'm typing this on a crisp winter's day and re-living all those beautiful moments and that delicious colour as I look through my photos). So I thought it would be fun to share some of my favourite autumnal leafy photographic pursuits and a lovely burst of colour along the way.

All of these photographs were taken at Winkworth Arboretum, Sheffield Park & Gardens and Scotney Castle (all National Trust) - my favourite places for autumn colour near me.


1. Leafy Close-Ups

Those amazing leaves deserve their moment in the spotlight. I love to hunt out the extra special ones and find a lovely colourful backdrop (a pile of leaves on the floor or a colourful tree is ideal) and use a shallow depth of field to blur the background and allow the leaves to stand out.

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For most of these shots I used a 50mm f1.4 lens on my Canon 6d and shot wide open at f1.4 for maximum blur and also because the light was very low. My usual lens of choice for autumn shots is my 100mm f2.8 macro lens which allows me to reach up into the trees, but for these shots, as I was holding the leaves whilst photographing them, I needed a shorter focal length.

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2. Hunting out the best colour combinations

As well as honing in on the details of autumn, I love to stand back and look at the sum of its parts. The beautiful tonal ranges and melee of different colours from leaves at different stages of transformation, all working together to please our eyes.

Sometimes these beautiful colour combinations can be found in a single tree, other times beautiful compositions can be created by placing a contrasting colour in the background of the tree or leaf you are photographing (as I did with the close-ups above).

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I always love to use a shallow depth of field for my autumn shots, to blur the background and allow the eye to focus on the important leaves or tree in the foreground; this also helps to accentuate any colours in the background, as they simply become colour rather than distracting details.


3. Collecting leaves

One of my absolute favourite things of all is to wander around hunting out the prettiest leaves (windfall only of course) to admire as I walk along, as well as photograph and take home with me. I have been known to wear some in my hair (or hat as is usually the case!) and arrange some pretty leaf bouquets. Always go prepared with a collection bag for your treasures :)

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TOP TIP: leaves will keep well for a few days in the fridge if you put them in a plastic bag with a sprinkle of water. This comes in handy if you want to photograph them, but the light has gone by the time you get back home.


4. Leafy flatlays

This goes hand in hand with no.3 above. For me, one of life's great pleasures is arranging leaves in pleasing combinations and shapes and then photographing them to enjoy for months and years to come. It's a wonderful activity for mindfulness practice as it is wholly absorbing - I find it so relaxing.

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5. Admiring the Autumn Carpet

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There is so much joy to be found in autumn whichever way you look. But a carpet of fallen colourful leaves is so very beautiful and brings out the inner child in me. After photographing their perfection, I can't help but kick them along or throw great handfuls of them up in the air (I'll spare you the slow-mo videos of me doing this ;) Whatever you do, make sure you look down to your feet as well as up in the air or there is so much you will miss.

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6. The art of fallen leaves

I love to seek out the fallen leaves that have landed gently on a moss-covered branch, or been caught in the gentle embrace of other leaves. It feels a bit like suspending a moment in time. I could sit and watch the leaves gently drifting by all day. It makes a great subject for some slo-mo video too :)

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7. Warming up with a cup of tea

It's easy to wander for miles when you're entranced by all the beautiful leaves, and it can be cold out there too. I usually make sure we have a flask of hot tea with us to revive us - and this year I went one better and took my favourite mug with me for a treat. It makes a great photo subject too :)

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8. Getting my head under the trees

Sometimes (often!) the best views and light are from under the trees. You'll often find me pacing around and doing circuits of my favourite trees to find the best light - and looking up. So many people seem to just stroll on by, missing out on some of the best colour and photo opportunities. Go under and look up people!

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9. Taking portraits

All that glorious autumn colour provides a perfect backdrop for some portraits. Find some pretty leaves to frame your shot or provide some colour for the background. We've had fun trying to take some photos of our little dog Misty amongst the fallen leaves - but it's considerably more challenging than taking photos of people, as trying to get her to sit still is a nightmare! She's much more interested in the ducks.....

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10. Seeking out the softness

Autumn colours can be rich and vibrant, but I've found my taste veering towards the softer end of the spectrum with some gentler, more muted colours of late. I love to seek out the pastel tones and accentuate the softness with a very shallow depth of field (you will likely gather I'm a big fan of blurry backgrounds!). A big part of the fun is then back at my computer, reviewing the beauty I've captured and playing with the edits to soften the colours and cool the tones to fit with my style.

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The magic of bluebells: exploring Arlington Bluebell Walk

The Magic of Bluebells: Exploring Arlington Bluebell Walk1.jpg

It's become an annual tradition to visit the Arlington Bluebell Walk in East Sussex in late April / early May - springtime would not be the same without it. Luckily for me, it's only a short drive away - but I think it's well worth a longer trek. It has the most beautiful and concentrated display of bluebells I've ever seen, and most of them can be viewed from wide accessible paths. There is a small entrance fee (£6 in 2017) which goes to a group of local charities - and it's worth every penny! 

There are 7 different walks you can take through beautiful woodland and farmland with lots of different vistas. My favourite is the short loop through Beatons Wood where most of the bluebells can be found (this is accessible to wheelchair users). There are some ponds (great for reflections) and lots of tree stumps and of course endless trees to provide interesting focal points for your photographs. Plus there are lots of seats scattered throughout the woodland for when your feet get too weary. The birdsong is so beautiful!

As you would expect, the bluebell walk gets very popular and busy at peak season with families and photographers alike. You can track the progress of the bluebells on the Arlington Bluebell Walk website, which is so helpful for planning your visit. The white wood anenomes appear first, followed by the bluebells - I love to try and capture a mix of both. It's definitely worth getting there as early as you can to beat the crowds, although there is so much space, it's very easy to wander away and find some peace and quiet.

The bluebell woods make the perfect backdrop for some portrait photography. We had some fun trying to get our little dog Misty to pose for the camera. With the help of some treats, we sort of managed it!

I've experimented with lots of different lenses over the years, but have settled on my 85mm f1.8 prime lens as my favourite lens to capture the magic of bluebells (paired with a full frame DSLR, the Canon 6D). I'm not one for wide angle shots, with lots of detail and everything in focus. Instead, I prefer to blur out the foreground and part of the background to try and capture the great swathes of purple and provide a dreamy, gentle feeling. It's not the best lens - and tends to be very soft when you are shooting with it wide open (a small number aperture), so most of these shots were taken somewhere around the f2.2 mark. They're not as sharp as I would like, so I will continue experimenting....

To get the blurry soft foreground, I crouched down low so that I had several rows of bluebells in front of me, and then focussed on a point roughly in the middle of the scene, using an aperture around f1.8-2.2 to create a shallow depth of field. This meant that the bluebells directly in front of me would be out of focus, as would the trees in the very far background, but the section in the middle that I focussed on, would be nice and sharp, drawing the eye there.

If you'd like to understand more about aperture and shallow depth of field, you might want to look at my post on How to get background blur in your photographs.

If you'd like to see more photos, I've collected my images from the last 3 years into an album on Flickr: Arlington Bluebell Walk - or you can click through the embedded slideshow below.

Arlington Bluebell Walk, East Sussex

I hope you enjoyed a wander through the Arlington Bluebell Walk. Do let me know if you have any questions in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them.


A bedroom tour and a giveaway - win a Nest & Burrow wall hanging!

I'm very excited to share this with you today - both because it's taken ages to finally finish off our bedroom - and because the prize on offer is absolutely gorgeous!

A little while ago I stumbled across the beautiful work of Suzanne of Nest & Burrow (funnily enough through the #mybeautifulsimplicity hashtag I curate on Instagram, as Suzanne had tagged a photo of one of her wall hangings) and I knew immediately that they would be perfect for our bedroom. I'd been hunting for something soft and tactile to hang in the space above our bed. I wanted some gentle muted colours that reminded me of nature and the coast I love so much - of pebbles, sand and shells... And something that would work well with the pink, grey and white that was already there.... So I set my alarm for Suzanne's last shop update and added these two beauties (above and below) from her "beauty in simplicity" collection to my shopping basket very rapidly! I'm thrilled to bits with them. 

#MYNESTANDBURROW giveaway

Suzanne and I have been chatting since then (isn't Instagram wonderful for connecting with like-minded souls?) and thought it would be lovely to do a little collaboration. So I'm thrilled to help Suzanne launch her new Instagram hashtag #mynestandburrow.

I asked Suzanne to tell us a bit more about it: 

#mynestandburrow is about the way you lovingly create spaces in your home {nesting} and the resulting magic that provides a nourishing environment for you and your family’s wellbeing.
It’s about being inspired by nature, bringing the outdoors in, light, natural materials, as well as a strong interior design ethic that says You!

Use the tag to share your favourite spaces and pockets of your home. The cherished places where you entertain, spend time with family and friends, meditate, create, cook, sleep....or simply just be.

And as we are working up to the longest day of the year with the summer solstice this month (or the shortest day and winter solstice for you lovely people in the Southern Hemisphere), I thought it would be lovely to focus on the effect of light in our homes and how it makes us feel. Adding an extension has made so much difference to the light in our home which means all the difference to me......it literally feeds my soul.

Suzanne goes on to explain "I love the natural environment and spending time outdoors helps me thrive and provides immense inspiration. I also have a passion for natural materials, aesthetics and modern interior design. These elements combined have inspired me to design simple yet stylish luxury pieces to help people decorate their homes and create a cosy, nurturing environment - a nest if you like."

Suzanne is very generously offering a wall hanging from her new collection (not released yet) as a prize for one of the images tagged to #mynestandburrow. And I get to choose my favourite image! I'm absolutely delighted to be the guest judge. You have until 06 July to share your images, so get tagging! 

How to enter the giveaway

  1. Follow @nestandburrowuk and @zoepower on Instagram.
  2. Tag photos of your favourite, cherished spaces at home {your nest} that have been inspired by nature and natural materials with #mynestandburrow on Instagram by 06 July 2017. If you can, try and capture the magic of light in your home and what that means to you.
  3. I will choose my favourite image and Suzanne will announce the winner on her Instagram account.
  4. The giveaway is open worldwide.

If you'd like to read a bit more about Suzanne, her work, materials, inspiration and her home, there's a lovely interview over on the Alice in Scandiland blog (Alice has another one of Suzanne's wall hangings and an absolutely beautiful home - do take a look around!).

You can find Suzanne / Nest & Burrow on Etsy | Instagram | Facebook |  and you can sign up to her mailing list to receive an instant 20% discount code and regular updates and offers on her collections.

Now back to my bedroom...read on to find out how I have cosied up my favourite space with inspiration from nature.

My bedroom update

My bedroom update has been a long time coming. In the two and a half years we've been here, the space has evolved from something very colourful and packed with bold vintage prints (see what it looked like before - but you might need sunglasses!), to the calm white oasis you see today. I'd been craving a calmer, gentler space filled with light and free from clutter, with soft muted colours.... a space that better reflected the beautiful coastal environment we now live in. A space with room to breathe and reflect, that encouraged a good night's sleep.

We painted the walls white about a year and a half ago and replaced the carpet with some white laminate flooring at the same time. One set of curtains also got replaced with plain white ones, although I couldn't bear to part with the vintage linen ones you see below as they are just too precious and the room needed a *little* pattern :)

It's a sunny, dual aspect room and the light just bounces around now - I love it!

The pile of blankets in the corner is a bed for our little dog Misty

The pile of blankets in the corner is a bed for our little dog Misty

We have a giant wardrobe from IKEA with sliding doors that keeps everything hidden away and it's absolutely brilliant (we customised the insides to suit our requirements - so much fun!). Initially, I had a second wardrobe in the space you see the mirror above - but we felt it imposed on the room too much and after a big old sort out (thank you Marie Kondo!) I didn't need it anymore. We kept the mirrored door, though. I had planned to put a small chest of drawers in its place to use as a sort of dressing table, but then decided that I loved the clean simple uncluttered look with nothing on display (and less to dust!). So now I have my "dressing table" inside my wardrobe and it works pretty well - except when my husband and I both need to slide our doors at the same time.....

When we adopted our little dog Misty (above) we discovered she LOVES to sit on the window sill and watch the world go by (or snooze!) and that she is very adept at climbing up steps to get there! So I cleared off the window sill to avoid any damage and make space for her :)

I also finally got round to making some cushions the other week. I'd bought the pink Japanese fabric with half moon shapes well over a year ago with the bedroom in mind. Getting my wall hangings up was the push I needed to get my sewing machine out and finish the room off! I'd made the light grey cushions a while back and thought they'd make the perfect companions for the pink half moons.

I absolutely love my birch wall shelf below (the round dorm by Ferm Living) and enjoy changing the displays regularly to suit the season and my mood. It's usually full of treasures I have found on my travels - I'm such a magpie when it comes to pebbles and shells! (although I must confess most of the shells below have come from the Philippines via the shell shop in St. Ives). I fell in love with the shape and it sat on my wishlist for a loooong time. I'm so glad I finally decided to go for it. These days any purchases I make are well considered - I've done some major sorting and decluttering over the last couple of years and anything new has to earn its place.

You get a lovely view of the shelf as you walk past and enter the room (see below).

I've also introduced a bit of greenery into the room to help it feel calm - this sunny windowsill is perfect as it gets the morning light and there is no radiator underneath to dry the plants out.

And a few more details as I love this wool so much....

So there you have it - our bedroom is finally finished (well, for now at least)! Let me know if you've got any questions....and don't forget to enter Suzanne's amazing giveaway - I look forward to seeing all your beautiful images and cosy nests tagged to #mynestandburrow.


5 beautiful places to visit from Gwithian Sands in Cornwall

We had a super lovely break away to Cornwall in April for my husband's 40th birthday, staying in a beautiful self-catering chalet nestled in the dunes at Gwithian Sands. We explored some new (to us) parts of Cornwall, so I thought it would be good to share some of our favourites. It was also our first time travelling with Misty, our small dog, so this changed quite a few things!

5 Beautiful Places to Visit from Gwithian Sands in Cornwall

1. Gwithian Sands / Hayle

2. Porth Kidney Sands & the cliff path walk to St. Ives from Lelant Saltings

3. St. Ives

4. Porthcurno

5. Sennen Cove

// Where we stayed

// A few more ideas for places to visit....

Keep reading for more info and lots of photos to whet your appetite!


1. Gwithian sands / Hayle

I can't believe that we had never visited this beautiful area before. There are miles of soft sand, stretching from Godrevy lighthouse to the Hayle estuary (strictly speaking there are 4 beaches - Godrevy, Gwithian Towans, Mexico Towans, Hayle Towans - but they all join up at low tide).  There are views of the iconic Godrevy lighthouse in one direction, and St. Ives in the other, as well as large areas of sand dunes and lots of rock pools. Pretty much heaven as far as I am concerned!

And, fortunately for us, the seasonal dog ban runs from 1 May to 30 September, so Misty was allowed on the beach at all times. If you are travelling with a dog, definitely worth checking up on this in advance - you can find the list of beaches with restrictions on the Cornwall government website.

I adored all the S P A C E, and the soft sand was such a treat (all the beaches are shingle in East Sussex). Misty loved it too and enjoyed burying her head in it and then rolling around and around in it! We were super lucky with the weather, which really made the trip - beautiful blue skies most days, although it was rather chilly. But give me blue skies and cold any day over grey....

I know this beach gets busy in the summer, but there's so much space, there's room for everyone. It was so lovely to watch these horse riders galloping along...

We started each day with a walk on the beach (what a treat!) as our chalet was only a few minutes walk away. And quite possibly my favourite day of the holiday was spent walking the length of the beach, splashing in the waves and exploring the rock pools and the dunes. I was in photographic heaven and it was so lovely to see Misty tearing around off the lead.

We got really lucky with the tide times as well (another thing worth checking!). At high tide, the beach is completely covered. We returned "home" to the view below one rather windy day and it was so beautiful. Even though I was really tired, I had to capture it on camera. We both stood and stared until our legs gave way. It really was a gift.

Gwithian is also a popular beach for surfing, and the Gwithian Academy of Surfing offers lessons if you fancy learning. 

I have lots more photos on Flickr in my Gwithian & Godrevy album if you haven't seen enough - or click through the embedded album below.

Gwithian & Godrevy, Cornwall

2. Porth Kidney Sands & cliff path walk to St. Ives

We visited Porth Kidney Sands on the day we did our cliff path walk to St. Ives. We parked at Lelant Saltings and walked through some quiet lanes to reach the South West Coast Path, which leads to Porth Kidney Sands (and onwards to St. Ives). It's a beautiful route, with stunning views the whole way, and you can take the train back if you don't fancy walking (it's the most scenic train ride I've ever been on!).

Porth Kidney Sands is another lovely large stretch of sandy beach, the other side of the Hayle estuary. It's just 2 miles away from St. Ives and at low tide, you can walk round to Carbis Bay. You have the same views across to Godrevy lighthouse in one direction and St. Ives in the other, as from Gwithian.

It's dog friendly year round and hence quite popular with dog walkers. It was pretty much deserted when we were there, so we enjoyed complete peace and quiet. There were beautiful patterns in the sand and the most picturesque sand dunes. Most definitely worth a stop off!

The views from the coast path were breathtaking too - I think my camera stayed out the whole time! Part of the walk borders the West Cornwall golf course, and in the other direction you have beach and sand dunes. 

The coast path eventually descends into Carbis Bay. You need to walk through the spa hotel grounds to pick it up again and reach Porthminster beach in St. Ives. Unfortunately, no dogs were allowed on Carbis Bay beach when we were there, so we found a bench with a view and enjoyed our sandwiches overlooking the beautiful white sands before moving on.

You can view more photos in my Porth Kidney Sands album on Flickr,  or click through the embedded album below.

Porth Kidney Sands, Cornwall

3. St. Ives

St. Ives really needs no introduction, but I couldn't not mention it. I love to explore the sandy beaches and the windy back streets, hunting out pretty houses and art galleries. But this time, with Misty in tow, we couldn't venture onto any of the beaches, or visit the Tate or Barabara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Gallery. But never mind, there was still plenty to explore, and there is definitely something very special about the light in St. Ives, even when it's stormy and overcast.

We stopped for coffee a couple of times at the Porthgwidden beach cafe, enjoying the beautiful views - it was unusually quiet!

I can recommend a wander round the coast path on "the island" if you want to get away from the crowds - the views are lovely and there are some well located benches if you just want to sit and take it all in. The path winds round to Porthmeor beach (below right), by the Tate - another favourite (and another good place for coffee).

I think my favourite beach has to be Porthminster (below), with it's beautiful views across to Godrevy lighthouse (it seemed to follow us, wherever we went!). I had to satisfy myself with a quick snap and views from afar this time though, as Misty wasn't allowed here.

We thoroughly enjoyed wandering around lots of art galleries (and the vast majority welcomed well behaved dogs). I think my favourite would have to be the Porthminster Gallery which had some really beautiful pieces and an interest free payment scheme to make it easier to buy original art. We were very tempted!

On the eating front, our usual haunts didn't allow dogs, so we ended up at Pedn Olva and enjoyed some lovely fish and chips (gluten free for me) with beautiful views of the harbour. They welcomed dogs and bought Misty a bowl of water and a biscuit. We'd happily return.

You can see more photos, including some from previous visits, in my St. Ives album on Flickr, or you can click through the embedded album below.

St. Ives

4. Porthcurno

Porthcurno is the most amazing beach with turquoise water and soft white sand. It's hard to believe you're in the UK! The day we visited it was incredibly cold, but it looked tropical. Well worth the slightly hairy drive down some small windy lanes to get there. Food for the soul indeed. It's also the location for the amazing Minack Theatre - we didn't visit this time, but caught a performance some years back which I will never forget (at least I won't forget the beautiful sunset and scenery :).

There are also some beautiful cliff path walks around Porthcurno, where you can see more jewel-like hidden coves. The paths were lined with bluebells and gorse and lots of other wildflowers - there was so much colour everywhere. 

As always, there are more photos to peruse in my Porthcurno album on Flickr, or you can click through the embedded album below.

Porthcurno, Cornwall

5. Sennen Cove

We visited Sennen Cove the same day as Porthcurno, as they aren't far from each other. Sennen is another beautiful sandy beach with soft white sand, beautiful turquoise water and sand dunes (recognising the pattern here?!). It was soooo cold though - I eventually had to admit defeat when my fingers were so numb I could no longer press my shutter! It's another popular spot with surfers, although it was pretty empty when we visited (but that might have something to do with the temperature!).

If by some miracle you haven't seen enough photos yet, head over to my Sennen Cove album on Flickr, or click through the embedded album below.

Sennen Cove, Cornwall

// Where we stayed

As this was my husband's 40th birthday, we pushed the boat out a bit (for us!) and booked a week at Sauveterre Anglais, a self catering 2 bedroom beach house right by the beach at Gwithian Sands with Forever Cornwall (they have a lovely selection of properties in Cornwall). It was amazing! White wooden floors throughout, tasteful decor, modern kitchen, and the most wonderful conservatory and decking with views across the sea to St. Ives. It was the most welcome sight after our ridiculous 10 hour drive to get there (so much so that I even managed to take a few photos before we dumped our bags everywhere)! It's clear from the guest book that people come back time and time again, which speaks volumes. It's the most perfect location, full of light, comfortable, and has the most beautiful views which really expand your space. We'd so love to go back again.


// A few more ideas for places to visit

I'll keep this brief as this has turned into a monster post! Other lovely places you could visit nearby (although quite frankly spending every day on Gwithian beach would be super lovely) are:

I hope that was helpful! Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas for lovely places to visit in the area :)


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5 Beautiful Places to Visit from Gwithian Sands in Cornwall

SGIEW instagram challenge :: Simplicity ::

I'm thrilled to be the guest judge for the @sogoodineveryway Instagram challenge for the next 3 weeks. The theme is :: Simplicity :: and I'm offering two prints from my Etsy shop as a prize for my favourite image (the winner gets to choose which ones).

How do I join in?

Simply tag any of your new photos on Instagram that fit the theme with #sgiew_simplicity and #sgiew and make sure you follow me @zoepower, the @sogoodineveryway challenge account and lovely hosts @incredibusy @willowdaygram and @redtedart. That's it! I'll share my favourite nine images and the winner in about 3 weeks time.

If you're new to @sogoodineveryway challenges, there's a new theme to join in every 2 or 3 weeks or so, and a guest judge to keep things interesting. It's really fun, so do join in :)

It would also be lovely if you could pop over and have a browse through the hashtag #sgiew_simplicity from time to time and leave some words of encouragement for your fellow participants - it can be a great way to connect with other lovely like minded people and find new ideas and inspiration.

More about the theme :: Simplicity ::

I'll be looking for simple compositions, free from distracting details and clutter, and full of space and calm. So have a think about the type of backgrounds you are using and how much you've got in the frame. You could also try using a shallow depth of field to blur out any distractions, or use a restricted colour palette.... The subject matter can be anything you like, it's all about how it is framed and presented.

Some Inspiration

If you're looking for some inspiration to get you started, I thought I'd share some favourite images that have been tagged to my other hashtag #mybeautifulsimplicity over the last few weeks. Do click through and have a browse around these inspiring accounts - you won't be disappointed. Huge thanks to these amazing photographers for sharing their beautiful images.  NB. your image doesn't have to be a floral one - it just seems we all have a particular love for flowers :)

A post shared by Kyoko (@kyoko29kyokolily) on

A post shared by Gem (@gemblina) on

A post shared by Caroline (@pears39) on

A post shared by Cristina Colli (@c_colli) on

A post shared by Elvira (@elvirasstory) on

A post shared by Kriss MacDonald (@krissmacd) on

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A post shared by @jenny.bee13 on

A post shared by 🍃Annie (@hannie65) on

A post shared by Kayleigh (@kayleighawright) on

A post shared by Tess (@tesslovesflowers) on

A post shared by Hannah (@hannahargyle) on

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Introducing #mybeautifulsimplicity

I've finally jumped on the hashtag bandwagon! I've been umming and ahhhing about this for a while, but decided it was finally time to create and curate my own Instagram hashtag to share the kind of images I love. Allow me to introduce #mybeautifulsimplicity

So what's #mybeautifulsimplicity all about?

Well, I'm looking for beautifully simple images, full of space, especially white space. They should feel calm and be free from clutter and detail. Think simple backgrounds with minimal objects - perhaps a flatlay or a still life. Or seascapes and nature images where simplicity is the focus. Using a shallow depth of field can be a great way to create simplicity and blur out any distracting details. The same goes for a limited colour palette. It's not so much the subject matter, but the way it is presented.

To get things started, I've tagged some of my images to give a feel for what the hashtag is about. But I'd LOVE to see YOUR beautifully simple images. Please do join in by adding the hashtag #mybeautifulsimplicity to any images that you think are a good fit.

I'll share some favourites every couple of weeks on my Instagram account @zoepower and some monthly round-ups over here on my blog. I think it's such a lovely way to discover new accounts and inspiration.

Please do spread the word - and get tagging!

A photo posted by Zoë Power (@zoepower) on

A photo posted by Zoë Power (@zoepower) on

A photo posted by Zoë Power (@zoepower) on

A photo posted by Zoë Power (@zoepower) on

A photo posted by Zoë Power (@zoepower) on

A photo posted by Zoë Power (@zoepower) on

Colour Palette Inspiration

I've had so much fun lately making colour palettes from my photos. It's been part of the homework for a colour course I've been doing on Skillshare, but also preparation for my next set of designs for my inspirational quotes. It's been good to reaffirm the colours I'm naturally drawn to (pinks by the bucket load!) - and evident that nature plays a big part in that.

You will find all the colours of the seaside, and many shades of pink and purple, from cold to warm, sourced from spring and summer blooms. They've made me smile so much and cheered up some very grey, cold winter days, so I thought it would be nice to share them. I hope they'll bring you some joy and inspiration too! Feel free to pin away :)

Blush pink colour palette | Jelly Bean Poppies in my  Ceramic Magpie  bottle vase

Blush pink colour palette | Jelly Bean Poppies in my Ceramic Magpie bottle vase

Warm blush pink colour palette | Dahlia hues

Warm blush pink colour palette | Dahlia hues

Mint and salmon pink colour palette | Minty fresh summer wardrobe

Mint and salmon pink colour palette | Minty fresh summer wardrobe

All the pinks colour palette | Cosmos Velouette

All the pinks colour palette | Cosmos Velouette

Cherry blossom warm pink colour palette 

Cherry blossom warm pink colour palette 

Cherry blossom cool pink colour palette

Cherry blossom cool pink colour palette

Dusky cool pinks colour palette | Magnolia filled skies, Nymans garden, West Sussex, UK

Dusky cool pinks colour palette | Magnolia filled skies, Nymans garden, West Sussex, UK

Beach hut blues colour palette

Beach hut blues colour palette

Sky blue and sand colour palette | Cuckmere Haven, East Sussex, UK

Sky blue and sand colour palette | Cuckmere Haven, East Sussex, UK

Sea, sky and sand dunes colour palette | Holywell beach, Cornwall, UK

Sea, sky and sand dunes colour palette | Holywell beach, Cornwall, UK

Sky blue and aqua colour palette | Porthmeor beach, St. Ives, Cornwall, UK

Sky blue and aqua colour palette | Porthmeor beach, St. Ives, Cornwall, UK

Echeveria blue grey colour palette | Monk's House, East Sussex, UK

Echeveria blue grey colour palette | Monk's House, East Sussex, UK

Cornflower blues and purples colour palette | West Dean Gardens, West Sussex, UK

Cornflower blues and purples colour palette | West Dean Gardens, West Sussex, UK

Tulip pinks and purples colour palette | Monk's House, East Sussex, UK

Tulip pinks and purples colour palette | Monk's House, East Sussex, UK

Japanese Anenome pink colour palette 

Japanese Anenome pink colour palette 

Sand dune neutrals colour palette

Sand dune neutrals colour palette

Pebble grey colour palette | Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, UK

Pebble grey colour palette | Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, UK

Pebble grey colour palette 2 | Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, UK

Pebble grey colour palette 2 | Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, UK

Hot pink peony colour palette

Hot pink peony colour palette

Warm summer pinks colour palette | University of Oxford Botanic Garden, UK

Warm summer pinks colour palette | University of Oxford Botanic Garden, UK


More Colour Palette Inspiration & Resources

Design Seeds is an amazing, vast collection of colour palettes, created by Jessica Colaluca, using photos from Instagram submitted to the #seedscolor hashtag. You can browse by colour or by collection and the hex values for every colour are provided. In addition to the Design Seeds website, I'm sure you'd love Jessica's Instagram account @designseeds where the colour palettes are also shared. 

Coolors.co is a fantastic free online resource that generates colour palettes for you. You simply keep pressing the space bar to see endless combinations of colours that work together. You can pick a colour from a photo as a starting point if you like and you can lock in colours as you find the ones that work for you. You can save palettes you've created for future reference and also export them in a range of formats with the hex values. There is also an app for iOS and Android, and a plugin for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

Pinterest is of course another great resource to search for colour inspiration. Just search for "colour palette" and the colours you're looking for. I've started a modest Colour Palette Board with a large helping of blush pinks in case you're interested.


Where do you get your colour inspiration from? I'd love to hear about any great resources you recommend. And do leave me a link to any great Pinterest boards you have :)