Source: Arthritis Matters magazine
Today we hear from Zoe Watson, Zoe was a high flying successful businesswomen with a demanding career when life was abruptly interrupted by a major car crash which left Zoe with a range of unexpected health challenges as well as being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.
Here Zoe shares the ups and downs of her story that have taken her along the path to the wonderful place that is “Bliss” today.
Zoe can you tell us a little bit about your life “pre” the accident and diagnosis of fibromyalgia?
I was a very busy, very driven woman who knew a lot about and practiced wellness, exercised a lot, went to naturopaths and ate really well.
At a young age I would get really unwell but no one ever knew what it was and I looked healthy, so a lot of my concerns were swept under the carpet.
You lived with a series of emerging health challenges over a number of years, can you describe how you were feeling over time living with these conditions?
I think when you have ongoing pain and you don’t know any different you can start to think of it as normal. I lived with a huge amount of aches and pains but I kept pushing through.
“I become very self critical and hard on myself”
…and when were you diagnosed with fibromyalgia? Had you ever heard of it before? Did you know where to go for help?
After the car accident and becoming more and more unwell, I decided I needed to get out of the grind and change my life and I had a new business idea in Bali for women travelling on their own without being along. I decided to back myself and look after my health first and made the move (www.blisssanctuaryforwomen.com)
It was actually working here in Bali and struggling more and more with my health despite all the positive changes I’d made, that a guest who was also from Adelaide observed me. She had Fibromyalgia and CFS and said to me I think you have what I have.
I am so thankful to her as from here she sent me information and her doctors information and I went back to Adelaide to be diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, CFS, Chronic migraines and Chronic IBS.
When you go through the really really tough times it is very isolating. Many people don’t understand invisible illnesses and close friends and family often find it difficult to relate to a strong, vibrant successful person becoming so vulnerable and unreliable.
“I had to learn to say no to a lot of things and people and I lost a lot of my closest friends, which was heart wrenchingly sad for me”
I had moved to a different country too, so I felt very much on my own and at times, the despair and loneliness was completely overwhelming.
What are the biggest challenges you have had to overcome since the diagnosis?
Transforming from hating my body and feeling like it was against me, to being thankful for this amazing body that has stayed so strong and resilient despite everything it is going through
“Loving myself exactly as I am”
And to find a balance in dealing with the pain without all the hard drugs as I don’t do well with them and I needed my wits about me to survive and move forward. I decided to communicate and relate to my body differently, like a child.
I wouldn’t chastise and berate a child for feeling unwell and I needed to stop doing this to myself.
How has living with Fibromyalgia affected your emotionally and in terms of your close relationships?
It has changed my life completely but I see this as growth. I have a completely different set of friends now. I have a much smaller group.
I can’t be there for a lot of celebrations or for others the way I was but this has actually been liberating also. I have learnt to put myself first and have grown to realise how important this is for all of us.
What is the most common response you encounter when telling people about living with your condition?
Initially it was shock. I’m not the type of person people usually feel sorry for but all of a sudden I was feeling peoples pity.
For the most part I learnt people relate to you as a mirror of themselves and those who really felt for me were more empathetic or had gone through similar things.
Those who relate to themselves more harshly with the toughen up mentality found it a lot more difficult to relate to this aspect of me.
“I don’t take other peoples reactions personally as they are largely about them not me”
We know living with Fibromyalgia means living with a lot of pain and fatigue.
When a flare up of symptoms occurs what are your coping mechanisms both for yourself but also to keep on top of your business life?
Pain is a constant companion in life now but I manage it well. I can’t take the hardcore pain killers as my body is extremely sensitive so I need to be gentle. I take tablets for migraines and blood pressure and when I have a real flare up I take CBD oil, tablets or suppositories.
“To minimize the flare ups, I put my health first and energy levels are something that rule my life”
I had to set up my whole business around my health and actually that has been amazing.
Somehow I have been able to build a beautiful business that I work on and not in, and over the last 8.5 years I have gone from living in my sanctuaries and being on call 24/7 to running it from my phone as needed living in a different country. I feel very blessed about that.
From a health system perspective, what would have made life easier for you?
I found my best information from overseas which were so far ahead of Australia it’s not even funny. Things like DHEA are $6 off the shelf in America. They are $80 from a compound pharmacy in Australia and hardly any GP’s even know what it is.
So it all comes down to being much more open with sharing information as many of the website discussing Fibromyalgia overseas are not even available here. It’s bizarre to me that borders control information on something like health matters.
If you had one bit of advice for someone who has just been diagnosed Fibromyalgia to help them live their best life what would it be?
Don’t hate your body. Be thankful for it everyday. Treat it with the utmost respect and love. Put your health first, even if it means changing your life completely and losing people you love.
Realise that pain is not just physical and seek to heal the traumas attached to pain.
“It takes a lot of courage. But you are worth it”
Also everybody’s healing is different so if you try a bunch of things and don’t get the same results as others go easy on yourself and don’t compare.