My priorities became VERY clear to me early on
Being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when I was two months old, and the consultants at the time saying “if you want to save this child, you need to know as much about cystic fibrosis as I do” definitely spurred my parents on to think of anything that would benefit my condition.
I would eat high calorie foods as I struggled to gain weight, I would do as much sport and exercise as possible along with physiotherapy, medicines and treatment because they were told [by the consultants] that anything that they can do to help my condition would always be a bonus along side the treatment they were providing.
Health became top of my list of priorities because I initially my parents didn’t have much choice, and as I grew up, I didn’t give myself any choice either. My health and wellbeing was my top priority if I was going to stay alive.
Activity, exercise and “the gym” became my life as soon as I could walk; I was running, doing martial arts, playing football, basketball and tennis as I got older along with joining my local gym when I was 16 (I actually started training with weights at 15 in my uncles “home gym”). I was hooked instantly because I could improve myself, improve my health, and give myself a better chance of staying out of hospital.
When survival became habit
As I got older, I realised that I enjoyed it; the sport the exercise and the gym became a huge source of pleasure for me and the fact that it improved how I felt in myself was a huge added bonus. Strength, endurance and simply the way i looked, naked, gave me the confidence to do things that I would never do.
My conditions made me feel lonely, my conditions made me feel “too different” from anyone else and I felt like even though i was around people, that i was alone, different, separate and “looking at my world through a pane of glass” (I heard this on the podcast All In The Mind with @claudiahammond recently and it stuck with me as it was exactly how I felt more and more through my teenage years). I felt like I simply couldn’t connect with anyone as my childhood was very different from your average person.
I didn’t “go out” much, I couldn’t have friends over or have “sleep overs” because I had treatments and medicines that were fairly intrusive so we didn’t really want other people seeing what I actually had to do when I was younger. For instance, when I was very little, I had to have overnight feeds through a gastrostomy as I didn’t eat enough (my parents were accused of malnutrition even though it wasn’t that they weren’t trying to feed me, i simply didn’t want to eat). That’s just one of the main things that kept me from doing things a “normal” child does at their age.
Being in and out of hospital (spending my first birthday in a hospital) and running my life off several treatments meant I didn’t have much of a life outside my condition.
Being “Normal” wasn’t something I was ever going to be
Because of my childhood and the fact that I was actually different from everyone else I came into contact with (and you know how children can be), there was always something that others used as a way of putting me down or name calling when I was growing up.
My gastrostomy meant that when I was old enough to have it removed, I now have what looks like “two belly buttons.” Obviously it wasn’t, but when you’re too young to know anything different and you couldn’t go swimming because of the “peg” in my stomach; when I actually started removing my t-shirt and doing things that other children could do, that’s when It started.
It was at this time that I realised just how different I was from everyone else; coupled with the lack of socialising, feeling alone and separate from everyone else; I felt like a complete outsider.
That’s not the worst of it
As I grew up, i started to develop an “under bite” (malocclusion or prognathism) which is basically where my lower jaw sticks out further forward than my upper jaw. I know, just to add insult to injury or “kick a guy when he’s down.” With moving to high school and trying to find my place in the world that I didn’t even think I had, it would be no exaggeration to say that high school was probably the worst part of my life to date.
After the near daily name calling, sports lessons still being uncomfortable for me along with “jaws” being the goto for people that felt so bad in themselves that they felt they had to make me feel worse than them; kept my positivity and “differentness” at bay. I hid, kept to myself, felt that being alone was the only way to at least not feel terrible and hate myself. The one way I actually felt good was then my teachers told me I did well (whether it be work or exams or just generally being well behaved and “in line”).
I became a pathological people pleaser out of necessity, survival and experiencing the “lesser of two evils” when it came to emotions.
I would do extra work for the teachers because they told me I was doing a good job, i would study early all the time and would get VERY anxious about exams and coursework. I understand now that I was looking externally for the things that would determine how I felt about myself, rather than just feeling good in my own skin enough to show myself to everyone around me without worrying what they thought of me.
But that’s now, looking back, back then I was chasing the feel good feeling that I likely wasn’t getting anywhere else aside from the teachers, and looking back, I would have told myself to worry less about what others thought of me and that trying to please others is a game you can’t win as you can never really know what others want.
Just when things started to go well
After high school, things started to improve, I started to worry less about others, the lesson started to pay off. I went to collage and university, focused on what I wanted to do (sport and exercise was all i knew due to my conditions) and I got a feel good feeling from helping others. The look on their faces when they improved or felt good because of me helped me realise that the more i gave, the more i helped, the better I felt to. So I pursued that.
Tennis coaching was my first taste of this, along with personal training (I know, health conditions and being a personal trainer, gave people less excuses to not try when they realised I was in a worse place than them). This was also the first taste of running my own business and I realised that I loved the freedom, helping others and a real sense of contribution to the improvement of the lives of others. That, and after a Saturday job at the tennis club i used to play at, realised I wasn’t a good employee.
Things started to go really well for me; my health was improving and things were going well business wise. Then, I started to get this sense that I was always trying to build myself up because I was either tired, rushed off my feet, or not enough time to myself to think. Slowly but surely, I would run myself into the ground through running both a tennis coaching & personal training business at the same time, along with maintaining my health through my conditions.
Yes, I hit BURN OUT, never feeling 100%, always tired or fatigued while still trying to push forwards and i felt like i would take more than I have just to improve the way things were going. That coupled with this…
After two tries, my trying to fight it and do everything I could to mean I didn’t need to inject insulin on a daily basis, I failed; the test came back positive for cystic fibrosis related diabetes [CFRD]. After years of trying, finally getting on top of my health, this happens! A little back story…
One of my fellow CF’ers also had CFRD an we got on reasonably well (couldn’t see each other face to face much due to cross infection… another contributing factor to my loneliness in sure). And he passed away… because his condition got the better of him.
Then, a year or so later, I’m diagnosed with the same condition that he had… and he was only a year or two older than me.
It’s very hard to explain the feeling of knowing that you now have a condition that someone you know, died because of; and that you now have said condition. A mixture of anger, frustration, morbidity motivation, hopelessness (because just when i thought i was getting a handle on my health… this happens to kick me down again).
I realised that in order for not only these conditions to “not beat me,” I have to do more to improve my health, work harder, work smarter and make sure i still keep on top of everything. But it’s mote than that, the morbidity side kicked in.
I asked myself…
What would it take for me to feel good about the life I lived?
What would i have to change to at least make progress towards a more fulfilled life?
A life of significance was what I wanted
Sometimes it takes the shock, the trauma and literally (in some cases) hit with the reality that you have to do something if you want your life to mean something.
I decided I wanted to change the world, there and then; one person at a time. I took my business online so I could help more people.
I started my podcast so I could learn from successful people and allow experts to help more people to.
I decided to become a speaker, a coach, an expert and spread the message of change being possible and that its down to YOU to make your life significant and mean something, if that’s something you want to do. No one else will hand it to you, you have to work for it and be proactive.
Helping people, living the high of giving and making the world a better place because i was allowed to live and given the motivation I needed to do this…. Is why I do what I do.
I’m really thankful that you found this blog, found this article and took the time to read this all the way to the end.
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