I’m not going to lie the past few days have been a bit up and down. I had a lovely week in Devon last week, but at the weekend started on some new supplements to tackle what my Nutritionist believes is an underlying Candida issue.  I took a similar supplement a few weeks ago and literally every physical symptom that I have ever experienced as part of the CFS/ME flared up over a 2 week period. Apparently this is a sign that Candida die off is occurring and so is good. But it really wasn’t pleasant. This time I’m on a different supplement and am introducing it slowly. But it’s really hit my mood quite badly. I had a lovely couple of hours with a very dear friend on Wednesday which boosted me, but on the whole I’ve been feeling teary, angry and frustrated all at once. Any worries seem a lot bigger. Everything feels worse and without a solution.

With this in mind it would’ve been very easy for this blog post to be an angry rant on how bloody unfair CFS/ME is and how it’s had such a huge impact on me and my family. It would’ve involved a lot of swearing and bitterness and would’ve probably been quite therapeutic. But in the same way that you should steer clear of the internet after a few glasses of wine – it’s also not a good plan to offload on here when you’re feeling generally pissed off with life. So I decided to stick with the post I intended to publish with maybe a few angry tweaks here and there.

A few weeks ago I had a small epiphany. I was out for a walk, taking my usual route from my house if I need nature but don’t want to get in the car. I usually go through some local woods and then across a couple of fields.  As my strength has improved over the past 10 months I have increased this walk. To begin with I would literally just make it into the wood, then I could manage the wood and into the first field, then gradually I added on the 2nd and then the 3rd field. It’s a walk that I find calming and never fails to fill me with gratitude as I progress through my recovery.

This time I walked through the woods, through the gate of the first field and then saw that the field was being mowed.  Not wanting to risk an increase in histamine levels which is already an issue, I decided to turn back and just walk through the woods and along the river. The walk was nice. Lots of nature, lots of shade, sound of the river, sound of birds, no one else around. But the impact it had on me was completely different. I realised that when I enter that first field I immediately experience a calming grounding feeling and that this feeling was missing. It’s nothing special as fields go. It slopes gently up with a border of trees but something about it always makes me take a moment and smile.

Then I had my lightbulb moment. Whenever I’m out for a walk I feel the most calm and the most grounded when I’m in a big space and can look toward the skyline and big scenery.  It explains why I love my coast path walks and why certain local walks with hills, fields and views make me feel so relaxed in a way that walking though woods doesn’t. On holiday last week I found swimming in the sea totally calming because if I faced away from the beach I could literally look for miles towards the horizon. When I used to drive to work I would often be tearful, shattered and overwhelmed. Aware that I was pushing my system beyond its limits every day. Yet each morning I would drive over the top of a hill and see big rolling hills and woods and I could feel myself calming just a bit. It also explains the intense reaction I felt when we were driving from Yosemite to Big Sur in California a couple of years ago and stopped by the side of the road in 100° heat.  I got out of the car and was enveloped in this huge wave of hot which should’ve been too intense and uncomfortable. There was literally nothing in front of us and nothing behind us. Yet I felt this huge sensation of calm and safety like I’ve never felt anywhere else. The ultimate big space!

Without a doubt this is a partly to do with my system coping better away from noise and busy activity. I find sitting outside a café for a coffee a lot easier than sitting inside with lights, noise and activity. I find wandering rounds towns a lot harder than walking in the country or on the coast. If I’m in Cardiff I can deal okish with the quiet arcades but as soon as I head towards a department store brain fog, headaches, tired eyes all kick in really quickly. This has been the case for years and was the main reason that I found teaching impossible.

Light bulb moments, epiphanies, realisations, moments of clarity all form an essential part of recovery from CFS/ME. In the absence of any pill, set recovery path or even specialist Consultants it’s like a huge jigsaw puzzle with endless possibilities for pieces that could fit. It takes lots of trial and error to find the right piece but each time that you do, it allows you to move slightly forward along the recovery path. Noticing that big spaces are my calm place may sound fairly insignificant but actually it means that I now know exactly how to ground myself in the future which on days when my nervous system is on edge and wired is crucial.

Over the past 5 years I have experienced many of these light bulb moments. Sometimes diet related, sometimes symptom or trigger related, sometimes realisations about why I find changing certain parts of my personality hard. Some have been more like momentary ‘Oh I get it’ thoughts, others have been pretty huge but they have all moved more pieces of my recovery jigsaw into place and given me a clearer picture of where I’m heading and how to get there.

Why I find big spaces so relaxing and grounding is a mystery. Ironically the one phobia that I have is of being in aircraft hangers! I find this huge space threatening and totally unsettling which I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with! But whatever the reason it remains another jigsaw piece that I’ve identified. I guess that at the moment I maybe have the corner pieces and the edge pieces in place. There are a few parts of the middle of the puzzle which are gradually fitting together but nothing is as yet joined. But the more I slot into place the closer all these chunks of puzzle pieces become. I’m not sure if they’ll ever all join up entirely but if I can get to a point where enough of them are in place and resist the occasional urge to throw them all back in the box and stick the box in  a dark cupboard, then hopefully life will start to get a bit easier again.