You're so much stronger than you think
Riding with my husband on the Silver Comet Trail which goes from Georgia to Alabama.
So, I’ve reached my last blog post in my series of four. I was trying to think of what I should write about, and here’s what I’ve come up with for today’s post: I want to share some words of wisdom for the newer retainers out there (and also remind myself how far I’ve come, and give myself some of my own advice to keep on going!).
I’ve been retraining now for over 2 years and three months (but who’s counting?!) and my overall topic for this blog series has been on how to stay motivated in your retraining practice.
To tell you the truth, this journey hasn’t been easy. I don’t want to sugarcoat it––it’s been a challenging process––but I’ve learned so much about myself and have learned how strong I am, and how much I will do to get to a goal I’ve set for myself. I’ve honestly never worked at something harder, because I really do want to heal, once and for all. And all the other healing regimens and protocols I’ve done haven’t come close to the transformation I’ve experienced with neuroplasticity-based exercises. Not to mention, they were all very restrictive programs, so I didn't actually get to enjoy my life while I was doing them.
When I started retraining, I had already been dealing with chronic illness for over ten years, so the first thing I had to get over were my expectations that I would be fully healed within six months. I think that’s the hardest thing to shift in your mind because it feels unfair that some people can heal so quickly when you’re doing everything right and putting in the work, too. But they may not have dealt with limbic system impairment for as long as you have.
What has also helped is to remind myself that everyone is unique, and we aren’t under the same circumstances in terms of what we can even do to heal. I work a full-time job, and am starting a business as well, so I can’t devote four hours a day to healing like some others can. So, obviously it will take me longer. And I have had to come to terms with that.
I think if you're a newer to retraining, this is probably my biggest piece of advice. Throw your timeline out the window––if you don't, you'll probably fall into the comparison POP over and over again! This is your journey, and it will take as long as it takes. There are no shortcuts to healing, and just like everything else in life, it can be easier or quicker for some than others.
Another thing that I’ve recently started to do is to try and make my retraining practice fit better into my life and give myself some grace when it’s not perfect. I’ve devoted over two years of my life to daily retraining, so if I miss a round, I’m not going to beat myself up for it. Some would even consider me fully healed because there is nothing that I can't do.
But I don’t want to stop until my symptoms are completely gone. I never actually removed any activities from my life before this program, so I’ve always been able to "do everything,” it’s just that I dealt with more symptoms while I did those activities.
My goal has not changed from the beginning––I want to be able to do everything and anything I want, and not feel any symptoms. But more and more, I’ve just been able to enjoy life and not think too much about the ITs that may come up. There are days where my mood elevation is just hanging out with my husband, watching shows, drinking wine and eating good food. Essentially, living life. Or other days, I work in my garden or read a book.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I rode over 12 miles on my bike with my husband. It was glorious, and I only had to remind myself everything was okay once or twice while I rode. In the past, it would have been ten minutes before I had to talk myself down. We even forgot to bring our helmets and in the before times I would have probably not even gone or be worried about that the whole time, and not actually be able to enjoy myself at all.
I've wanted to ride on this particular trail for several years now and haven't been able to. Mostly, that was my mind telling me that I couldn't or I should do something else instead (classic avoidance behavior). And another thing I'll mention even though it's pretty small. I've never been a terribly confident biker. I never let go of the handlebars at all, because I was worried that I'd fall if I did. On this ride, I started taking one hand off at a time for a few seconds to train on that. It felt awesome to be able to do that. I also did a little bit of gratitude work while I was riding and in one short moment there was a huge smile on my face, just feeling the cool breeze, looking out at the beautiful view, the green trees... life in that moment was just perfect.
Another thing I’ve let go of is the need to do incremental training every single day. I know some may not agree with this, but eventually the need to do incremental training was turning into a POP for me as I was trying to fit it into my already busy day. And I had run out of things to actually train on. So, I’ve let myself do this type of training every once in a while, and focus more on incidental training instead. And I’m still making progress. For example, biking was one of the last things I’ve worked on, and I’d say I don’t really need to bike more than an hour in my daily life, so I’m good with that!
When I’m feeling like things are still progressing too slowly, I read this poem I posted on the forum after five months of training. I even remember when I had a particularly trying day a few months ago, someone re-posted my poem as a comment to me. It brought tears to my eyes, because she said she would read it to give herself motivation too.
So, I’ll leave you with this small token of my appreciation for what this journey has done for me.
And know that if you're currently retraining, you are so much stronger than you think. You are already on your way, and all you have to do is to continue putting one foot in front of the other until you reach your destination. One small step at a time, one round at a time, and one day at a time.
“Healing” by Agatha Brewer
Is it possible, that five months into this journey
I am starting to feel my life expand?
All that skepticism is turning into curiosity and joy
All that resistance is starting to clear
Just like the sun that shines after a storm
The birds start to chirp and hop around
And the air feels fresh and new
I feel my smile come through unexpectedly
I feel gratitude for all of life’s small pleasures
I feel lucky to be alive
ITs are just a small reminder of my past life
But I know they’ll be gone soon
And I feel moments of clarity and peace
Tears of gratitude stream down my face
This journey has brought me closer to myself
With every challenge, I realize how strong I am
I’m learning how beautiful I am
How caring I am
How much good I’ve ignored about myself in the past
And now I’m reaching out to her with open arms