WARNING: talks about miscarriage, IVF, cancer, death and trauma
My Journey from Chronic Ill Health to Living Powerfully
by Kate Gate
“Don’t judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again” Nelson Mandela
We live in a world which is becoming increasingly difficult to live in.
Our brains struggle to keep up with a constant influx of information and technology, and it is seen as a ‘badge of honour’ to be stressed out by busy schedules.
But these damaging perceptions hold us back from leading a fulfilling life. I believe people do not have to reach burnout or be suffering from chronic health conditions before they reach out for support. We all have a choice when we acknowledge that “enough is enough”.
Yet making the decision to take charge of your health and your future is not easy. Which is why I want to share with you my story. Thanks to Louise Bartha @Louslungandahalf for transcribing my story and for (strongly) encouraging me to share it 😊
I had always been a perfectionist and felt too much responsibility for others, a ‘people pleaser’, personality traits which are so detrimental to our well-being. I discovered this in my mid-twenties when my health crashed so severely, it took many years to find my way back. I was living in London and on track with my career working for various charities. But I was placing huge pressure on myself to excel at all costs. I did not look after myself, put everyone and everything before me and I ignored all the warning signs that it was all becoming too much.
I then became very poorly with a bug. Days blurred into weeks as I just didn’t get better, and I was soon in a constant fog, dragging myself through the day with a perpetual headache, overwhelming tiredness, and joint pain. I felt physically and emotionally broken.
I became increasingly sick with extreme fatigue, and I felt so lonely. I was a young woman who spent all her energy getting to and from work, and every evening and weekend, I was confined to the sofa. At times I was so tired and dizzy with vertigo, I had to navigate the stairs leading down to my front door on my bottom!
And throughout this challenging time, my Dad was fighting terminal cancer. I was having panic attacks at the thought of losing him, plus the worry about what was wrong with me. Why wasn’t I getting better?
When my Dad died, I was devastated. I had support to help manage my panic attacks, but I had now been sick for so long - seven years- that plans were discussed for me to stop work, sell my flat and move back in with my mum.
There was no ‘living’ my life, I was just surviving, and my future looked so dark.
I tried so many different types of treatment, but nothing seemed to help and I was spending more and more time on my sofa or in bed. Just before I took the drastic action to leave London, I started to learn about and explore the mind-body connection. And I signed up to do a course that teaches how to harness this connection to influence your health. From the very beginning, the course made sense to me. I started making positive changes almost immediately.
After my second day, waiting at the station to go home, on a whim I jumped on a train to Brighton and then walked down to the seafront. I made slow progress and it was tipping it down with rain, but as I finally reached the beach it was one of the most amazing feelings of my life. I felt so liberated and spontaneous. After many years of existing a certain way, I realised things can change and I can get my life back.
Over the next six months, I dedicated myself to implementing the things I had been taught. I thrived on the difference it was making to me, and I felt so passionate about the course, I eventually trained to become a practitioner. I knew what it felt like to be so stuck and I wanted to help guide others towards living a life they loved.
My career has always focussed on empowering people and since 2007, I have supported over 1,000 people to make transformational changes in their lives. It is such a privilege to see my clients go from stuck to flourish.
The dark days of pain and fatigue were firmly behind me. I then met Stuart, the love of my life. We moved to Brighton and we were very happy. But after only a few months together, Stuart fell critically ill after a long-haul flight back from Hong Kong.
Stuart nearly died of pulmonary embolism. He had so many blood clots, his consultant was amazed he made it through. Stuart was so incredibly lucky, but he was in hospital for many weeks. It was a traumatic and exhausting time for us both.
Stuart and I then began trying for a family. Over six years, we suffered the emotional and physical distress of multiple miscarriages; each time we grieved for the loss of future dreams, our hopes for a baby we imagined we would have.
After IVF we then fell pregnant with our incredible twins. With every scan showing our healthy babies, we were one step closer to finally having a family. It felt wonderful.
But as my pregnancy progressed, I struggled with constant breathlessness. My days were extremely busy working on a Big Lottery project for Rockinghorse Children’s Charity alongside my clinical practice, so I kept pushing through.
Doctors put my symptoms down to working full time, being an older mum and having a multiple pregnancy.
In August 2014, I was 31 weeks pregnant when I went into spontaneous labour. Things moved fast and I had an emergency caesarean to deliver our premature twins. Stuart had the ordeal of seeing two tiny bundles being whisked away by nurses, while their mum struggled to wake up from the general anaesthetic. One of those moments when survival mode kicks in.
When I did gain consciousness, I was now both a maternity and a cardiac patient. My reaction to the anaesthetic led consultants to diagnose a serious heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, with additional heart failure. I unknowingly had the condition for some time, which had worsened with the strain of pregnancy – hence the spontaneous labour.
Both twins had breathing difficulties, and they were taken into intensive care. Our son had an issue with his heart, and I couldn’t see them for the first 12 hours. When I finally made it onto the baby unit, I couldn’t believe how tiny and fragile they were.
For the first week, we were not allowed to hold our son and daughter, and we were on an emotional roller coaster of adrenaline and anxiety, mixed with pure joy. Six weeks later, we brought them home. As first-time parents to premature twins, we tried not to feel too overwhelmed by these miniature creatures that we had to now look after. It felt miraculous and mind-boggling in equal measure.
With our energies focussed on navigating the newborn baby blur - times two! - I did not really think about the fact I had a serious heart condition. The traumatic birth, the anxious weeks of watching the twins struggle, these experiences merged into the next.
Yet this time was also one of happiness as we had finally become parents, and I was so content and settled with our new life as a family of four.
Some months later, I went back to supporting my clients. We also moved house twice, in quick succession, and I had two knee operations. I was spinning an awful lot of plates and it was only a matter of time before the alarm bells started to ring.
My twins were 18 months old and we were in the middle of a major house renovation when my final tipping point came. I remember the exact moment. I was travelling into central Brighton for a catch up with a fellow coach when I received a message to say there had been a simple mix up with the date, and the meeting was cancelled. I was absolutely, and irrationally, devastated.
This over reaction was a sure sign that I had reached my rock bottom once again. Thankfully, my training enabled me to recognise when I needed to step back. I found the space and time to invest in my physical and mental well-being as I have supported so many others to do. It is one of the best choices I have ever made.
My cardiologist predicted the dilated cardiomyopathy would not improve and could get worse. However, I knew through personal and professional experience about the potential benefits of being active in our own health. So I didn’t accept that! And through focusing on eating nourishing food, the mind-body connection, my physical health, and of course the care of my cardiology team and the right medication, I’m so pleased to say that my heart function has improved. Now my job is to keep it there!
I have learnt to build a stronger and more resilient future for myself, and my family. And I use this knowledge to help others through the creation of The Live Powerfully Programme.
I want to inspire people to make changes now. Don’t let life get unbearable and your health suffer, before investing your time and energy to nurture the resilience you need. Through my extensive personal and professional experience, and my ongoing research, I believe it can be so much better. I love teaching my clients to support themselves sooner because we all deserve to thrive. And why shouldn’t we? We would always want positive change for our loved ones, our friends and family. So, be kind to yourself and believe you deserve to live a more fulfilling and positive life. To find out more about how I can help you to thrive, CLICK HERE or CONTACT ME to book a FREE consultation today.
© Kate Gare, everylife 2020