Like many women, turning forty was daunting.
I cruised through my twenties and thirties unscathed by health issues or trauma then a series of unthinkable events happened.
In the lead up to my big birthday I had anxiety over the number itself and general physical changes being in my forties would bring. I know there are many of you out there nodding your heads in understanding. Little did I know that the first half of my fortieth decade would bring bigger challenges than I could have ever imagined one physical the other emotional.
My whole life I had been a very active person and chose a career in health and fitness right from the start. I had been guiding people how to move well, eat healthy and live a balanced lifestyle for over 24 years and I was proud to be a seasoned and educated pro. So I was feeling accomplished and to be honest blissfully unaware of how good I had it as I approached forty in the spring of 2010.
Then the physical bit happened.
Shockingly as such a vibrant active person I was diagnosed with viral meningitis and found myself in a hospital bed for seven days! I was on a ward with people 30-40 years my senior. I lay in that bed wondering how this had happened to someone so healthy. The doctors could not give me an explanation as to why I had contracted the meningitis just that it was very serious and I must take time off and slowly ease back into work or I would be back in hospital.
Just like that my body had changed.
I did have to ease back to work. In the past I could bounce from one client to another and recover from long days easily. Now I could barely jog slowly for a couple of minutes. It was scary and it took me two years of trying to figure things out. No one really gave lifestyle tips on how to regain your-self after the possibility of dying.
My overwhelming feelings were that I wasn't me, I wasn't comfortable in my skin and I was tired all the time. Sound familiar? My by-product of slowing down was weight gain. I never weigh my clients but I knew I was not myself and when I did get checked at my GP I was two stone heavier. By 2012 I was so frustrated I knew I needed to balance myself out with the help of my nutrition colleagues.
Better nutrition along with gradual increases in physical activity helped.
My body wasn't the same so I had to get to know the new me. Nutritionally I added more nurturing foods such as vegetables, good sources of protein and oils. I also removed refined sugars, white bread products and decreased my alcohol intake. Within weeks my body was feeling much better. My exercise choices were building type choices such as body and weight training along with mindful pilates movements. I was rebuilding my foundations.
I have written a piece in support of Meningitis Now and can honestly say what saved my life was knowing my body well. The head and neck ache I had the day I took myself off to A&E was not normal for me nor was the rash I had two days earlier. Recognising signs and symptoms of common diseases is important but what is more crucial - knowing your-self.
A year on and I had lost most of that extra weight when the next bullet hit.
My family phoned from Canada to tell me my older brother had died in the night of a sudden heart attack.
I was devastated, I couldn't breathe. It was unreal.
Aside from my own grief of losing a sibling what I found most difficult was watching my parents deal with their grief of losing a child. Our roles had changed. In the first 18 months they were inconsolable and were not coping well so I would call Canada daily to check in. The reality was I couldn't move them through their grief any faster I just had to listen and learn patience. I also felt completely ineffective in offering any help to my sister-in-law and my brother's children because of the distance. Being an expat has its complications and heartaches.
All of us will go through grief at some point in our lives and it is different for everyone. For me the sudden loss of my brother made me question all my base values and ideals surrounding my career and how I lived my life to that point. I remember in the first months after he died thinking, "Why am I doing this job if everyone dies anyways."
My beliefs had been shaken.
One of my healing turning points was in 2015 when I had a new work challenge present itself. I was nominated to the Top 10 Global Finalists in the Life Fitness Personal Trainers to Watch Competition. I knew I needed to move forward and feel better so I took it on. It gave me a focus. My confusion after my brother's death eventually turned into something else, a belief that if we are still here we should enjoy every moment. Find our daily feel good practices.
The reality is we do change in our forties, tough stuff can happen. This is life.
As a health professional I urge you to listen to your body, get to know yourself even better than before, nurture and care for yourself so when something big is thrown your way you are in a stronger place to deal with it.
I invite you to check out my website for tips and tools on how to find your daily feel good practices.
Feeling great at 45!