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Around this time 7 years ago, I was in A & E after a fall.  Around this time 7 years ago, this was the last straw for my health after a string of viruses.  Around this time 7 years ago, I didn’t take heed.  I continued to push myself through the intensive Graduate Diploma in Law until my health deteriorated to the point where I just couldn’t push through any more.  The diagnosis I eventually received, almost a year later, was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Recently, I was experiencing the second virus since the start of the month when I found myself at the bottom of the stairs in the middle of the night.  This was shortly followed by a trip to A & E because I couldn’t put any weight on my left foot.  The pain was so excruciating on impact that I thought I was going to throw up and my left ankle and foot were badly swollen.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

~ George Santayana

As I was sat in the hospital’s A&E waiting room, it suddenly hit me that the situation was a near mirror image of 7 years ago to the day.  What do they say about 7 years’ bad luck for breaking a mirror?   I already suspected the cracking noise when I fell meant I’d broken my foot and I wasn’t prepared to break anything else that night.  Instead I looked closely at what was being reflected back at me.  It was time to face up to a few truths.

Serious beautiful young woman looking at herself in the bathroom mirror at home

I’d been pushing myself lately, doing too much without enough inward reflection to connect with whether what I was actually doing felt intuitively right for me.  I looked back to 7 years ago when my health was on the slippery slope downwards and I was struggling to cope.  When after pushing through and breaking my coccyx on the way to my placement at a law firm, I didn’t stop and listen to what my inner voice had to say.  Instead I got up and ‘got on with’ my conversion degree, like I was ‘supposed to’ and like I’d already done in the past.  It didn’t last: My body shouted louder.

A lot of people have asked me how I broke my foot since I fell.  None of them have asked why, and rightly so.  (I’m armed with crutches right now, people.)  I have asked myself why, but not in the way you might expect.  Not, “why me?”  That unproductive line of questioning leads downwards.

I remember when I first started getting ill, prior to the CFS diagnosis, that question did creep in more than once.  But I knew that it was a bad question, because my brain was going to answer it by searching for evidence that I somehow ‘deserved’ it, or whatever other self-pitying thoughts might crop up in the small hours while I lay awake in pain.  CFS certainly gave me the time to reflect, when I had the energy to. So I would ask a better form of the ‘why’ question, a more specific question: what has led me here?

This wasn’t an easy question to answer.  It led to more questions, it allowed me to explore external influences, internal influences, what I had control over and that which I did not… It goes on.  7 years later and I’m peeling back another layer, following the deeper roots.  What lesson(s) do I need to revisit to keep the past from repeating itself again?  This time the answers come more easily and I’m more eager to listen.

Young woman walking down stairs

I found a metaphor in my fall down the stairs.  I didn’t fall from the top to the bottom.  I got to the 3rd or 4th step from the bottom, which one is a blur, and I put my foot out as though I was touching the ground at the bottom of the stairs.  This led to an impromptu meeting between me and the wall.  I’d love to tell you this: That as my face then greeted the hallway carpet I had a grand epiphany.  But in that moment, the only thing in my mind was expletives as colourful as the impending bruise on my foot.  This came later: I missed out several steps and it was to my detriment.  Literally.  But as this thought went through my head I heard the figurative message.

Usually, I have great patience with others and yet, when it comes to myself, I can be most impatient.  As someone who knows the importance of loving the self I see how it’s counter-productive to be impatient.  But I have learned to be patient with being impatient, having spent years working on it and making much progress.  Now I am following the roots deeper.

I feel like I know the steps to take, as I did that night on my trip to the bathroom (ahem),  I’m just not taking them.  As such, I’ve come up against a wall lately and it’s slowed me right down so I have no choice but to be patient.  It’s too painful to be anything but.  Although I’m normally unconsciously competent at taking the stairs, figuratively, there isn’t a conscious awareness of which steps to take.  It’s something I need to look within for, patiently.