Why and how did I suddenly go from being a happy newlywed athlete in 2014 to becoming housebound, able to eat only 8 different foods and barely able to function due to chronic fatigue in 2015?
That’s the question I get asked most often whenever someone hears my story.
And while I understand that there are many reasons you’d want to know the answer to that - if for nothing else just to see if there’s anything you might need to look out for or avoid – unfortunately there’s no easy answer.
But now that I’ve recovered fully through DNRS, I have a slightly clearer idea of how this all started. So here goes.
1. The sudden (or not so sudden?) onset of my illness
Most people think I became ill overnight. On the surface that’s what it seemed like.
But the people who know me well know a slightly different story.
Only the people who know me well know that although I was young, healthy and fit, when on holiday I would often have to stop walking around to sit down and try to regain my energy.
And that at times I’d need to stop eating most foods because it felt like they were making me really ill.
Only the people who know me well know that I missed the wedding of a very good friend of mine just because I woke up in the morning feeling too ill and too dizzy to even get out of bed.
Or that around 7 years ago I had become so weak that I had to stop training and some days couldn’t even face getting out of bed and going to the new job that I had just started and loved so much.
2. Strange symptoms over the years
Apart from occasional flare-ups like the one I had 7 years ago, I also used to experience strange symptoms quite regularly, such as unexplained fatigue, bloating, stomach cramps, nausea, dizziness and brain fog.
Until not too long ago, I actually thought it was normal to feel at least one of those symptoms every day. It’s funny how we normalise what we feel on a daily basis.
It was only when I unintentionally reduced gluten in my diet that I noticed a major decrease in these symptoms. My mother had suspected I might be coeliac for several years but coeliac tests were always negative.
Still, the reduction in these strange symptoms was huge and even in my running I was more consistent and my times were really improving – to the extent that I ran a sub 1 hour 30 minutes half marathon in 2014, knocking about 8 or 9 minutes off my previous personal best.
3. Starting to intentionally avoid gluten
When I put two and two together, I started intentionally avoiding gluten and though for a while I felt much better and thought I had finally discovered what used to cause those strange symptoms over the years, it was only about 3 months later that I started throwing up as often as 20 times a day and eventually lost my tolerance to all but 8 foods.
That was when this mysterious chronic illness seemed to start. At the time I thought I had just always had a number of food intolerances and that they had suddenly got worse. In fact I had known for many years that most medicines made me feel ill and started thinking it must all have been related.
But now that I’ve recovered and can once again live a completely normal life and eat anything I want – including gluten – without experiencing those strange symptoms, I know that my strange symptoms had nothing to do with food intolerances but rather that they were caused by an impairment in part of the brain called the limbic system.
4. The perfect storm
Mentioning the brain doesn’t negate the fact that my symptoms were very physical and very real. But the brain can change (both for the better and for the worse).
The conditions I had (and other related ones) are said to come about through a brain injury, probably caused by the "perfect storm" of factors including physical (viral/bacterial/chemical etc), psychological or emotional traumas. But with the right knowledge and practice (which you can get from DNRS) it’s possible to change the brain back to its original state and therefore recover fully (as I did).
So coming back to the question of what actually caused the onset of my mysterious, chronic illness, there’s still no easy answer. And it probably was caused by the "perfect storm" of factors – some of which I have been able to identify over time.
5. The first “trauma”…over 18 years ago!
I believe the first “trauma” which played a huge part in the development of these strange symptoms over the years was a bad bout of glandular fever when I was 13.
When I look back, apart from now that I’ve recovered, I never remember feeling as healthy as I did before glandular fever.
Before that, I never remember feeling unexplained fatigue. But after having been ill for a month, I remember how crossing the road literally felt like a marathon and going up the stairs was so challenging that I needed to rest on the banisters and literally drag myself up the first day I went out again.
6. Being diagnosed with post-viral fatigue syndrome
Although things improved, after glandular fever I was often ill and tired and was eventually told I had post-viral fatigue syndrome. It took me ages to “feel myself” again and despite my PE teacher’s encouragement, I stopped running at school and would often have to sit down halfway through a PE lesson. For the first time ever, I didn’t take part in any running races during sports day – something which I used to love so much.
There were also other things that at times I was just too tired to do after glandular fever – even simple things and things which I used to really enjoy before – like going out to meet friends.
So looking back on things now, I really feel that glandular fever was the initial trauma which triggered this limbic system impairment – even though the worst flare-up came so many years later.
There were of course other factors over the years, but I feel this was the main one. (Funnily enough I've spoken to quite a few other people with related conditions who also identify glandular fever as their tipping point.)
7. Recovery through DNRS
And yet the beauty is that you don’t even need to know what your tipping point was in order to recover through DNRS. I feel so grateful to have my life back in more ways than I ever thought possible.
I no longer feel the strange symptoms which I thought were just a normal part of life for so long. I no longer live a life of avoidance and restriction.
I’m free to be me and to go wherever I want, eat whatever I want and do whatever I want. It feels amazing.
And the same can be true for you.