A former client, Wendy H., has graciously shared her health coaching journey to give you a taster of what it is like and how it can support someone to live well with the impact of the health issue they have. Wendy starts her story before we started working together, sharing with you the serious health issue she lives with and everything she tried to help herself before trying health coaching. She then shares what health coaching was like for her.
I made very little changes to what Wendy wrote. I added in a word here and there and the titles, and moved some sentences. I also drew the pictures. At the end of this article I provide a link to the questions referred to by Wendy. They will help you think about your own situation and what you want to be different. There is also the opportunity to try coaching for yourself for free.
Return to wellness: My health coaching experience
When my life changed forever
It was 7 years ago – in another life – since I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis (TM), resulting in a weakened left leg with inevitable muscle wasting, dropped foot and a multitude of other symptoms associated with the condition such as bladder and bowel issues and fatigue.
I had always been sporty and active so over the past few years my rehabilitative journey took on a multitude of self-help strategies, importantly, finding out as much as I could about the condition. I read books on neuroplasticity, brain training and mindfulness. I joined exercise programmes, the gym, saw a sports physiotherapist, neuro physiotherapist, trained how to do Nordic walking, which led to me taking up hippotherapy (horse therapy, or simply put, horse riding).
I have been measured for orthotic insoles and used a Functional Electrical Stimulation device (FES). I even went to acupuncture for weeks. I was on the verge of sinking into depression so was referred to a clinical psychologist, resulting in a short course of anti-depressants.
Even after all this determination and sheer will power to get back to my previous life, it wasn’t really working. I did a reasonable job at maintaining my physical strength. However, it seemed I was fighting a losing battle and began to feel ‘exercised out’. I would put pressure on myself to exercise and scold myself if I didn’t.
I’d watch people running and walking in the street or on TV. I found myself analysing their gait. How do they do this simple activity…. automatically?
I obsessed about how TM had affected me, was consumed with frustration, anger, loss, depression.
Finally, a few months ago I realized I had become STUCK.
After all this effort.
I was STUCK.
Everything became a mammoth task or a hassle. I’d stopped exercising. I became anxious and tearful. I lost motivation, interest and confidence in almost everything. I couldn’t move on or come to terms with or adjust to how my world was now.
I still fretted about my past life. I was still angry and frustrated. This mountain was in front of me and I didn’t have the energy to climb it again.
Then it occurred to me – I had been focussing mostly on my physical state and been neglecting my mental health state. I really hadn’t learned how to adjust, accept or come to terms with this long-term medical condition Transverse Myelitis.
You've done everything you can to live well w/ your #serioushealthissue #seriousinjury #chronicillness but you’re still stuck. Imagine this. A magic wand is waved as you sleep. In the morning, you still have the health issue, but… tell a friend
The turning point
At this time, an article in a newsletter from the Transverse Myelitis Society reminded members about a bursary to provide health coaching, guided by Barbara Babcock. I did have some apprehension and wondered whether this would be another fruitless journey.
However, having plucked up the courage to contact Barbara, she reassured me about the process and that we would have telephone contact at times to suit us both. She also provided lots of preparatory articles and questions to think about prior to our first communication, so I felt somewhat relieved and prepared.
Health coaching journey – One of enlightenment, empowerment and self-awareness
Over the weeks that followed, my health coaching journey became one of enlightenment, empowerment and self-awareness. I was amazed with how comfortable it was talking to Barbara on the phone and I soon realized that she didn’t put pressure on me to fulfil her agenda.
This was totally me guiding the script and pouring out my anxieties, stresses, frustration and anger. And importantly, we tackled the obstacles in my way, with a much more energetic and positive attitude.
I learned how to recognise my feelings within my body, not just the negatives, but the positives too. It was frightening that I rarely felt these ‘positives’ because I had focussed on the negatives for so long. It took practice, but I now consciously recognise when something feels ‘good’ and that this is the ‘anchor’ I needed.
I became more attuned to acknowledging anger and anxiety and importantly, how to manage, process and take control. With Barbara’s guidance and simple strategies, I learned how to ‘feel’ where in my body the emotion was and what thoughts arose.
By simply giving the emotion a name and spending time with it, enabled me to process these thoughts and feelings. This may sound daunting, but the nature of talking about your underlying feelings, in this safe environment, or writing them down was incredibly powerful.
The nature of talking about your underlying feelings in this safe environment of #health #coaching, or writing them down, was incredibly powerful. #serioushealthissue #chronicillness #spinalcordinjury #TransverseMyelitis tell a friend
Health coaching empowered me to focus on what I can do
My health coaching journey has now ended, but my journey to wellness and normality continues. This is my new philosophy.
If you feel you have a mountain to climb or feel ‘stuck’ and have determination and the willpower to want to take your first steps, I would strongly recommend health coaching.
Be prepared to be open and honest and be aware that emotions may become overwhelming and distressful. And be prepared to work at it.
Barbara will pose unexpected questions and prompt when you are off your guard. If you expect Barbara to tell you what to do and how to do it, you will realise that this is not how it works and you will not reap the benefits.
I am learning to focus on what I can do now, and although I still have a mountain to climb, I can tackle it in smaller chunks. I am more positive and less fatalistic. I am able to recognise anger. I am now able to move on. I am managing fatigue. I have resumed physical activities and registered for a one-mile open water swim. I no longer feel ‘stuck’.
Wendy H, York
What’s it like for you?
In what ways did Wendy’s story mirror your own or someone you know? How do you think health coaching could help you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.
You can also download the questions I sent to Wendy for her to think about ahead of our first session via this blog post.
Help with research on acceptance
If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.
Pass it forward
Although this blog is written in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.
© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018