“Hey. Don’t ever let somebody tell you… You can’t do something. Not even me. Alright? You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do something’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it. Period.”
-The Pursuit of Happyness
I sat bare foot in the doctors office looking at my drained savings account. Every last dollar I had worked my summer away for scrubbing fish tanks, gone.
We didn’t know about health insurance and even if we had, there was no way we could’ve afforded it. The public health system was a good 8 month wait and I planned to be literally back on my feet by then. So, my university savings came out and the doctors came in.
“I believe it’s Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.”
“And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Also incurable.”
And me as the diva you know responded with: (excuse my French)
*Saunters off stage like Beyoncé
This is my story of how I became a pill popper, and then quit. Just to clarify, it wasn’t the rock ‘n roll type who brought in big bucks, travelled with the band, scored hot chicks and took anything and everything on the market… okay that last bit is true.
I have always been a dreamer. My mum called me out when as a ten year old I still believed in fairies because Grandma had confirmed they were real. Grandma is always right. I am and will always be the girl who receives “you can’t do that” and really hears “maybe they can’t, but I can.” So when I was diagnosed with multiple, very serious, very “incurable” illnesses I thought; hah, not a chance, buddy.
It was summertime, 2013, in beautiful Hawkes Bay. I had just received a letter from the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art congratulating me on a successful audition and confirming my enrolment for that year. My dreams were coming true. Then the pain started.
It started between two toes on my left foot, what felt like a taser being shot through my bones and racing to my heart. It spread to the other foot. It spread to the point of requiring crutches to walk and not being able to climb stairs. From there the tissue in my feet started to deteriorate and I endured a painful cortisol injection that had me screaming so loud the patients waiting in the doctors surgery could hear me.
It developed into my entire body being in so much pain my family couldn’t even hug me anymore. One bump on the couch and I was in bed for days. My skin was ice cold to the touch but to me it felt like I was on fire. I was paler than Edward Cullen in the middle of a Dubai summer. The migraines were unfathomable, I would be a crazy insomniac for months and then become a zombie who would sleep 17 hours a day. I couldn’t wash my own hair, I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t even remember my name. I was slowly becoming an empty shell of the person I used to be, Chelsea was there, but she was trapped inside a body that refused to cooperate.
My amazing sidekick, my mum, was by my side every step of the way, being my voice and my advocate on the days where speaking just hurt too much. With an invisible illness people doubted the legitimacy of my condition and put it down to laziness.
My body was being pumped full of every drug the doctors could think of; Sulfasalazine, Gabapentin, Tramadol, round the clock Ibuprofen, Nortryptiline, Anti-Depressants, and so many health supplements- that fish oil was enough to put anyone off Salmon for life!
On top of this I had tried every diet; Paleo, Vegan, No Carbs, No Fat, High Fat, Gluten Free, the works.
I had a team of specialists trying to work out what the heck could be done to make my dream a reality again; my Physio’s (who were now my closest friends), my Podiatrist, Orthapaedic Surgeon, Rheumatologist, Pain Specialist, GP, Psychologist, Neurologist, Urologist, Gynaecologist, Naturopath, you name it, they were there.
Even still I was adament that I was not really sick.
High on Tramadol I would roll into my Bikram Yoga classes determined to be flexible enough for Ballet at NASDA who had let me defer for a year. Bikram Yoga: an hour and a half, 40 degree heat, 26 poses. Every day. No excuses. Even if it meant I would sleep all day, even if all I could do was lay on my yoga mat under the infra red heating, I would still work out. I had a dream and no amount of being told to accept my condition could make me.
Despite the drugs, diet and exercise, the illness wasn’t budging.
It was nearing the end of the year and my dream school needed to fill my place. I called NASDA and somehow through the tears managed to choke out the words that I was too sick to attend. I wouldn’t be chasing my dream. Yet. It broke me. Everything I had worked for, what I wanted more than anything, may be over in that moment. Life felt unliveable. I had never felt heartbreak so real and so crushing. All control had been taken from me in that moment and I had no choice but to trust God.
Being the cutie-patootie, Jesus gal I was (still am) I decided I wanted to make contact with every single person on my Facebook friends list. Not about my illness, but to tell them about Jesus and tell them how much I care about them. I set out to contact 200+ people. Some didn’t even reply, but one, who I knew wouldn’t agree with my views, replied. I was so afraid of the rejection I might receive that at first I didn’t even open the message. We hadn’t spoken in 8 or so years, not since intermediate. He lived in Japan now.
“Chelsea how are you?”
“Great!” I lied.
I told him about my Chronic Fatigue and that’s when some light was shed.
“There’s a cure. My friend had Chronic Fatigue and got well.”
My mum had been studying like a mad scientist, up til the early hours watching Ted Talks and reading about Chronic Illness and Neuroplasticity.
Someone had made the link!
As I read up on this supposed “cure” it all made sense.
I had had a lot of trauma in my life; losing my father to suicide, being sexually abused, being bullied at school, lots of held in anxiety, depression, rejection and hurt. My brain didn’t know what to do with it. However, when it all gets too much, your brain has to do something with it. It wasn’t psychological, it was neurological. My brain had switched on my Physical Emergency Response or Fight/Flight. My brain was sitting and waiting for the next bad thing to happen and I couldn’t survive that way.
“The brain makes a terrible master but an excellent slave.” -Robin S. Sharma
Adrenaline. This is an amazing part of human survival instincts. When your brain senses trouble, say a tiger in the room, you have a rush of adrenaline to get you to safety. Adrenaline should last about 15 seconds, it shuts down systems you don’t need in that moment, for example digestion. The purpose of it is to get you to safety so you can go back to functioning normally. Somewhere in translation my PER hadn’t turned off. My brain had used trauma in my past as a reason to constantly be on high alert and because of that, my body crashed. Now we had to undo that.
My money was gone and this cure would require me flying to Australia to take part in. I was blessed to have grandparents pitch in and send me to Brisbane where I learned about the cure I still use today.
This is called The Lightning Process; a drug free, surgery free brain training. I got to do it myself, re-wire my brain. Right before my eyes I got to watch the colour return to my skin, I got to sing for the first time in 8 months, I threw my crutches to the side, strutted past the wheelchair awaiting me at the airport, chucked the pills in the bin and ate a pizza!!
I was cured. In three days!
People had told me “maybe this is just the thorn in your side to live with.” James 1 was my mantra. God was using this trial to grow my faith, to bring me closer to Him and I knew He would restore my health. I took a step in faith knowing I may be rejected for that faith and shared the love of Jesus with everyone I could. Through being fearless and reaching out in love, God brought me the answer. God is the greatest scientist and through this He taught me about his most amazing creation of all, the human brain.
The human brain.
The most complex computer, the most beautiful masterpiece.
I called NASDA.
“Hold my place! I’m coming! I’ll be there in two months! I’m well!”
I don’t know what they must have thought. A week ago I could barely hold a conversation, this time I was yelling down the phone with joy.
I cycled! CYCLED. To my doctor.
“Write me a medical certificate to say I’m well enough to do this degree! Do it!”
My doctor could barely speak. This girl who had been rolled in in a wheel chair with an illness nicknamed The Suicide Disease had gotten on a bike and cycled in to get a medical certificate.
I was back. And I was even better than before.
To this day I am pain free, five years down the track I’m chasing my dreams in this big wide world and using my now very strong feet to do so!
Don’t let anybody tell you you’re stuck with your lot in life. You can have the life you love, you can be and do whatever you want. Have the drive, have some faith, make it happen.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”