My Life With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome And Fibromyalgia

3 Lessons I've Learned

Maya Lombarts

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Hey Chievers,

My life with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia started when I was only 15. I couldn’t go to school, I was walking with a cane, and I would catch every virus going around. My body was completely malfunctioning, and the worst part: doctors couldn’t give me a solution.

If you want to read my whole story, you can read my Fibromyalgia Recovery Story right here.

Today, I’d love to share how my life with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia taught me 3 important life skills that I’m still using today in my vibrant life in Cusco, Peru.

If you prefer listening instead of reading, check out this new podcast episode:

Also available on Apple Podcasts or in your browser on Anchor.fm

Or watch me on YouTube right here:

Living with Chronic Fatigue: Changing Your Schedule

I am lucky to be born with a natural talent for planning and scheduling. As a kid, I LOVED making a timetable for my day, even when I didn’t have anything important to schedule. I got so energized just by looking at my timetable on a piece of paper and following it to the dot.

When Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome entered my life, all of a sudden, I couldn’t plan anything anymore.

I had to cancel everything that was on my schedule, because my body just couldn’t.

I had to stop focusing on the number of hours in a day, and had to start adapting to my tiny energy bucket.

I had to change my whole way of thinking and being.

And I learned 3 important life lessons that have changed the way I schedule my days up to this very day:

Lesson 1: Listen To My Body And STOP The Pushing

During my entire childhood, the only thing I did was push my body.

I was only 6 years old when I started doing competitive jump roping. Saying "I can't do this." meant doing 10 pushups. In order to break your records and win a competition, you need to push your limits, all the time.

Can you believe how hard it was to actually start listening to my body after 10 years of having a push-through mentality? When my body broke down, I woke up every morning thinking: "Today I can do it. I can go to school." And when I reached the bathroom I had to admit to myself: "Actually, I can't.”

I had to start listening.

Pushing my body was so normal to me that I didn’t even notice my body asking me for a break, until my mom would say: “You are tired today, aren’t you?” I stopped and felt into my body to check if she was right. Yes, I was extremely tired, actually.

In the very beginning, when I couldn’t even get out of bed, I HAD TO push my body sometimes, otherwise, I would be 100% bed-bound, not being able to even take a shower.

I had to push myself to get out of bed.

I had to push myself to take a shower.

I had to push myself to walk my dog.

I had to push myself to hold up a fork and eat.

It was scary, not being able to rely on my body. Not knowing what the day would bring. Not knowing if tomorrow would be a good day or a bad day.

That’s when I started reading about mindfulness and meditation.

I started doing body scan meditations every day for years (this is the kind of meditation where you pay attention to every part of your body, and without changing anything, you just notice how you’re feeling), which made me a champion in listening to my body and recognizing the signs when my body was telling me it was time to stop and rest.

Lesson 2: Become The Best FLEXIBLE Planner

My first physiotherapist made me time block every hour of my day.

I had to include three time-blocks of each 10 minutes where I would have to lie down and do a body scan meditation, and one block of walking to the park and see how far I could get in 15 minutes, then walk 15 minutes back.

There was no space for spontaneous plans with friends.

If I wanted to have some sort of social life, the first thing I had to learn was to plan empty moments. For example, if there was a birthday party on Saturday, I had to make sure I had no plans on Friday evening, save my energy the whole of Saturday, then have a full empty day on Sunday to rest up, and I could anticipate that on Monday I’d still be extremely tired but I would already be able to go to school.

I had my strict schedule from the physiotherapist, and I had my empty spaces before and after social plans. Everything was perfectly planned out.

Then, I started rebelling against this structure, and I decided to not use time blocks anymore. I wanted to rely on Lesson 1: Listen To My Body to just pay attention to my energy levels and flow with that.

I wanted to become good at, what I call, Flexible Planning.

Flexible Planning is NOT time blocking every hour of your day. And it is NOT just going with the flow the whole day. It is a mix of both.

It is an art of constantly reevaluating what your body needs, reevaluating what you’ll be able to do in a day, being kind to yourself when you’re just not feeling great, and enjoying the waves of productivity. It is realizing that life is more than just crossing off your to-do’s. (Can you see now how Healthy High Achievers was born? ;) )

When I started healing from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, and I felt my energy levels were increasing, I wanted to make up for all of my ‘lost’ years of being bed-bound, and do it ALL, now now now!

That’s when it got even harder to listen to my body and plan around my energy levels: my energy was increasing, and then I would have a setback of extreme fatigue, and then my energy would increase again…

I had to constantly reevaluate my limits and adapt to new standards. It was unpredictable, every day.

This is why I dare to call myself a Master in Flexible Planning today.

And you can become a master, too. I’ve created a special platform that helps you set your weekly focus, declutter your mind, and stay accountable so that you can get things done while still having the space to listen to your body and live a spontaneous life. We’re opening the doors on 6 October: Get on the waitlist to receive sneak peeks and a special Early Bird price if you decide to join!

Lesson 3: Enjoying The Little Things In Life

Lesson number 3 is by far the greatest lesson I’ve learned, thanks to my body’s limits and my mindfulness practice.

In the deepest of my chronic fatigue days, my biggest highlight would be just going to the park (my grandmother would drive me there), sitting on a bench, and watching the dogs and kids play, hearing the birds sing, feeling the sun on my skin.

Nothing more, nothing less.

I was only 15, and the girls of my age were all busy exploring make-up, boys, and popularity.

As for me, my biggest goal was to be able to walk without a cane and catch up with school at home.

From a very young age, then, I learned that in the bigger scheme of things, the little things in life are what bring you life. It is not the list of achievements of the past week. It is not the number of people who know your name. It is the collection of little moments that make your heart sing.

Thank You, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

It sounds cheesy, but I want to thank fibromyalgia, and thank chronic fatigue syndrome, for teaching me these lessons at a very young age, and shaping the way I view life today.

I want to thank these health struggles for allowing me today to help others who are going through the same journey, and my dear Healthy High Achievers who want to do a million things in life and bump into their body’s limits, not knowing how to balance their mental drive and their physical energy. You’ve come to the right address. Let’s get to work!

Download this FREE guided meditation where I will help you take a mindful break from your day and I guide you through a relaxing body scan.

Guided Body Scan Meditation

Download this FREE guided meditation where I will help you take a mindful break from your day and I guide you through a relaxing body scan.

Let's do this!

I’m grateful you were here to listen to my story,

Maya

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About The Author

Maya Lombarts is the founder of Healthy High Achievers. When she’s not coaching her clients online, she's singing in bars and hotels in Cusco, Peru. More about Maya on the 'About' page.