What defines success? If you have set your life up in such a way that you are earning good money but are on the road to burnout, can you really say you are living a successful life? There is no doubt that we need money to survive and to enable us to do the things we love, but money is only one part of the equation of success.
After achieving a great deal of success academically at a young age, I pushed my body too far and experienced severe burnout and was later diagnosed with a chronic illness at age 23. This unexpected illness shifted my definition of success drastically. Once I thought having a great job and making money was all that was important, but this life experience taught me that health and happiness must come before everything else.
You can build an amazing business or career but unless you are building on a solid foundation of sustainability, health and happiness, you are setting yourself up for failure by risking the health and wellbeing of your body and mind. This is not something that is easy to come back from.
Since recovering almost completely from my illness seven years later, I now share the valuable life lessons I have gained with other women through my business, The Inspired Woman. I work with women to help them implement changes in their lives that will allow them to live healthier, happier and more successful and fulfilling lives.
Having spent almost a decade recovering and rebuilding my life, I would say that prevention is always better than a cure. In this chapter I will share with you how I recovered and how you too can create more success in your life by creating sustainable lifestyle practices and implementing strategies that will boost your health and happiness. By the end of this chapter you will see how success is more holistic than just the state of your bank balance and why investing in your health and happiness today will continue to pay dividends well into the future.
My Story: Re-building From the Ground Up
Standing in the aisle at the grocery store I realised that I wasn’t going to make it. I wondered if I would even get back to my car. Abandoning my shopping basket in the aisle, I got to my car, drove home and fell onto my bed. My heart was racing. I was feeling faint and like my body was set in concrete. I only had one question going through my mind: “What is going on?” I was 23 – how could I go from being fit and healthy to being too weak to do just about anything including grabbing a few groceries?
Little did I know that I would go on to experience these symptoms, plus many others, for another six months before finally being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) (or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). CFS is a challenging illness affecting the whole body, impairing neurological function, digestion, the immune system and the nervous system. CFS bought my life as I knew it to a complete stop and forced me to reconsider everything I knew about myself.
It is safe to say that getting sick was not part of my grand plan. Rewind 6 months before and I was at the peak of my success as a young person. I had just graduated with First Class Honours from a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and was one of 50 people in Australia selected to be part of the Graduate Program at the Attorney-General’s Department in Canberra. Things were looking good.
As I became unbearably and unexplainably exhausted, I battled through the workday in an attempt to hold onto my job, then crashed into bed not long after getting home from work. When I no longer had the energy to walk up the set of stairs on a Monday morning to get to my office, despite having slept all weekend, I knew the time had co
me when I had to leave. I took a month off on paid sick leave, but as it happened CFS would prove a harder nut to crack and I would be ill for the good part of seven years – but I didn’t know this at the time.
When I left work I moved back in with my Mum because by that point I was too sick to stand up long enough to have a shower and I was struggling to cook, do the laundry, drive or do other basic day-to-day tasks. Everything was hard work and on top of all that I felt dizzy, nauseous, my muscles ached and my head felt like I was constantly battling flu.
Back home in Sydney and no longer with the pressure of having to go to work, I believed that I could kick this thing and began seeing every specialist and alternative practitioner who thought they could help me in some way. I tried it all – I went on steroids, acupuncture, kinesiology, vitamin B12 injections, herbal remedies, exclusionary diets, cognitive behavioural therapy, aromatherapy and massage.
Investing nearly $10,000 of my own money and my family’s savings into these treatments, I was determined to get better. Despite trying everything, I still wasn’t improving. I was definitely not anywhere near ready to go back to work even after 6 months. Unsurprisingly, I lost my job after being on sick leave for so long.
I now found myself back to square one. I didn’t have my health, I didn’t have my independence and now I didn’t have a job. I also had lost quite a few friends who struggled to understand what I was going through. Life wasn’t at its best. I knew it was going to be a massive job to re-build my life from the ground up, but that was what I was determined to do.
A year into the illness and after chasing my tail looking for a cure, I made the hard decision to draw a line in the sand. I decided that I would not spend any more time, money or energy searching for a cure or a treatment. I chose to focus instead on how I could live my best life using the capabilities I still had available to me. I was determined not to focus on what I had lost. I was determined to live an enjoyable and meaningful life – whatever shape or form that took.
This is a sample taken from a chapter in the book Success Unlimited. The chapter is written by Jessica Stead. Click here to pick up your copy.