Chronic IllnessWhen I sit back and think about where I found myself in life more than 10 years ago, it makes me realize and appreciate how far I have come.  From a person that was diagnosed with a chronic illness, taking medications (because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right??) and throwing a daily pity party that spilled over into my relationships with friends and family.  What a sad person she was.

Tammy & Tammy - Hurricane 5KSo a couple of years ago, one of my best friends (as I have posted in other blogs) reignited my love for running.  It was a very slow road getting back up there and upping my mileage beyond the 5k or 1 mile for that matter.  Will, determination and sheer mental toughness not to give up on myself even when the rest of the day may have been filled with self-defeating thoughts.  Gradually, I became more aware of what I wanted to do to get myself and my mind right and on the road to being a healthier version of me, FOR ME!

Tammy & Carly - Allstate Atlanta 13.1So I started slow and calculated by focusing first on my newly ignited love for running.  I was even added as a “Match for Life” in the IRun4 campaign.  Then I turned that focus on changing my mental outlook on things.  Mind you I had some encouragement from situations that arose from personal situations with close friends.  Being more mindful of my words and how they affect others.  Thinking before I spoke about what I said and how it would impact those I said it to or about.  No longer putting the focus on myself, but becoming a listener.  For me, the classic “ginger”, I tell you that was no easy change for me.  From a young age, I had grown to learn how to “defend” myself with my words and though not always kind words, it was my coping mechanism for dealing with many things that came my way.  But as I grew in my drive to change, I knew that continuing down that path just simply was holding me back and I had except that my way isn’t always best and in the end, even if you are defending something you are passionate about, words hurt.

Next I moved on to actions, because you can hold things in and not speak out of turn all you want, but actions . . . yeah they often speak so much louder than words.  So I began my next process of healing by apologizing for the hurt I had brought, for the words that I said that really hurt and in some cases broke relationships.  Forgiveness was not always there, but it helped me heal myself and move forward and know that those situations were my stepping-stones to the path that I wanted to be on and known for.

Tambra MeansAs I pressed on down this new and terrifying path, I began to find myself.  The person that I always knew was there and wanting so much to make a positive impact on lives.  So I began to blog and share my words with others hoping to inspire them to make changes themselves.  Putting yourself out there for everyone to see that, WE ARE NOT all perfect and our lives have setbacks and THAT’S OK!

But even after all that change, I still found myself on medication for this chronic illness.  I was tired of taking it.  I felt awful, I was still allowing something to hold me back and it was the daily dose of a crutch that pushed me even further to make drastic changes.  The final straw with my medication was when the doctor said, “we’ll only put you on this for 6 months and then you have to come off of it because your retinas may detach.”  Um, SAY WHAT!  Though I took the medication for a few months, I began to look into changing my eating habits even more.  I found my food triggers which caused inflammation and I found exercise routines that helped me gain strength in already damaged hands and neck.  Going from days of not having the ability to get up out of bed for 24 hours to getting up at 4:30 am to go and take a 5 am class.  It was drastic, but not quick and certainly not easy.

Group Fitness with Tammy MeansFast forward to 2014.  In January, I took on my fear of judgment and failure once again and earned my certification in Shockwave and began teaching in the evenings on Thursday nights.  Something that 18 years ago with another one of my best friends, seemed like just a pipe dream.  Getting up in front of people and telling them how to exercise . . . WHO IS THIS CHICK . . . I thought to myself so many days.  Even still, with adding several other classes to my fitness resume, I still get all queasy in my stomach right before class.  But for me, seeing those faces and watching them grow stronger each class and being out on runs with newbie runners and watching them do things that they never thought they could, that motivates me to keep on pushing.  To get up out of bed on those days I may have a setback because I ate something that I knew I shouldn’t have and not allowing my illness to define me.

No ExcusesSo I leave you with this.  When life leaves you feeling hopeless and you keep getting knocked down around every corner, get back up.  Don’t let setbacks, no matter how devastating they may seem, hold you back from being everything you ever dreamed.


2 thoughts on “Chronic Illness . . . Make it drive you, not define you!

  1. You are soooo my favorite ginger. You’ve come so far and no one would guess it just looking at you today. All I see is a fierce, determined, amazingly unstoppable woman and it drives me nuts to see people use chronic illness as an excuse. No doubt it can be legit at times, but you continue to show there can be balance between listening to your body and telling it to shut up so you can keep pressing on. Yay you!

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