My “new normal” began after a bout of mononucleosis, a viral infection that changed life as I knew it. It started with a sore throat and fatigue, and eventually led to an immune system meltdown. I caught everything and anything from swine flu to respiratory and kidney infections. I even developed an overactive bladder, interstitial cystitis, asthma and several allergies. I was constantly battling illness, which left me with zero reserves and the inability to work full time or even consider having a social life.
Life before and after glandular fever is incomparable — I had been healthy, had energy, worked full time and had a social life. Two and a half years later, my stamina has improved and I've learned how to manage chronic post viral symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain and a weakened immune system.
I was 27 when I developed mono, and I’m turning 30 this month. It feels like I lost a chunk of my 20s, and for a long time I was in mourning for the life that I used to have and the life I felt I could have had if I didn’t get sick. Career progression and saving for a down payment on a house were once my main concerns. This has been replaced with a very simple priority: to pace myself and stay healthy.
A turning point for me was when I eventually stopped comparing myself to family and friends and what was normal for them. A typical, healthy 20something spends the day at work and looks forward to socializing at the weekend. I, on the other hand, spent most of my time in bed watching box sets or reading a range of articles on health and wellness, hoping to find a silver bullet solution to my illness woes. I was holding myself to unrealistic expectations and was setting myself up for constant disappointment.
Since embracing my “new normal” I've developed a greater respect and appreciation for health and wellness. I developed a craving for a healthy lifestyle, as well as an interest in nutrition. I started reading Patrick Holford’s range of books on eating well to stay healthy, and have since started juicing and became a vegetarian. Last year I bought his book Six Weeks to Super Health and it really helped me understand the link between what we eat and how we feel physically and emotionally.
My “new normal” has also included an influx of new friends. At the height of my illness I would become stressed out quite easily and didn't have the capacity or reserves to deal with negativity. I spent more time with positive people who took in an interest in my recovery process and encouraged a healthy lifestyle.
My advice for anyone adjusting to life with chronic illness is to embrace your “new normal” and start to enjoy a more healthy and positive life today.