Raelan started to have symptoms in 2008 and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome about a year later. Since then she has taken control in her own hands and developed her own recovery programme. Now, fully recovered, she is determined to supports others in their journey. From her home in Edmonton, Canada, she has set up a website, youtube channel and facebook community where she shares a wealth of information and good vibes.
What is your advice to people who are just diagnosed?
Even in the most dire of circumstances recovery is possible. Hope and optimism are everything. You need to be ruthless when choosing who and what you surround yourself with. Make sure the content you consume and virtual spaces you visit are recovery-focused. Finding a source of hope and inspiration is mandatory. Read about the recovery stories of others and surround yourself with uplifting and optimistic things. It can be incredibly helpful to learn from others who have gotten past this, but also listen to your gut. Find what fits for you because there is no one size fits all plan.
Who is/ are your biggest supporter(s) and what did they do?
My father, my husband Geoffrey, and my close friends. They listened when I needed someone to listen, they had flexibility with plans and understood when I needed to cancel or reschedule, and they opted to ask questions about my experience instead of giving advice.
What were the key elements for your recovery?
I put together my own program of sorts that was all about supporting the body’s own ability to heal. It covered a few areas:
Pacing – I needed to break out of that boom-bust cycle. I needed to respect and accept my limits and use the vast majority of what usable energy I had for things that were going to help me recover.
Mental health – I worked on reducing stress and calming my autonomic nervous system by catching and dealing with my anxious thoughts throughout the day, through meditation, counseling, journalling, and so forth.
Diet changes to support my body and heal my microbiome – I switched to a predominantly whole food plant-based diet, I regularly consumed fermented foods, I did intermittent fasting and juice fasting, and I mostly eliminated processed foods; added sugar; and alcohol.
Movement /exercise – I did a very gradual, gentle, and regimented movement program to support my lymphatic system and slowly build back up strength and endurance.
Overall body support – I put a lot of focus on getting consistent good quality sleep, getting daily exposure to sun, minimizing toxins, and drinking lots of water. I also got regular massages and took alternating hot and cold showers to support my lymphatic system
What do you do when you have a bad day, or feel one coming up?
It’s all about rest and distraction! Double down on self care and binge watch a favorite TV show or whatever will keep your mind occupied on other things until it passes.
What good thing has your illness and journey brought you that you would not have had otherwise?
After years of being in a battle with food I’m finally at peace with it. My addictions around food are healed. I enjoy exercise, but I am no longer an exercise addict. I have crystal clear knowledge about how I want to live my life. I have a thirst and love for life. I no longer bend to expectations. I own that I want something different than what most people want and that’s perfectly ok. I’m more empathic. I care more about others. I can connect more easily with people in pain. I’m an entirely different person now in a dramatically different and better place as a result of all I’ve been through.
What is your go-to comfort food?
For an unhealthy indulgence it’s a charcuterie board with a glass of wine. My healthy comfort food is berries and kombucha.
What is the best and worst movie or series you watched while you were ill?
I watched The Big Bang Theory and Weeds start to finish multiple times! Loved them. Don’t recall a bad one.
Can you share a quote, cartoon or inspirational message that cheers you up?
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
If you have to come up with a metaphor for CFS what would it be?
It’s like growth bootcamp! It can be a nightmare but it will teach you so much.
Please share a picture of you in your happy place