A big step forward psychologically

I realised something big the other day… I am no longer feel a great sense of loss and grief when I think of exercise and it feels like a huge weight has been lifted!!

Before my chronic pain condition began, I absolutely LOVED exercise! From a very young age I was a competitive swimmer and then when I was a bit older, a competitive synchronised swimmer which I did until I was 18. I trained 4-6 times a week and weekends were often spent travelling to competitions or going to intense training courses. I also used to do a lot of sport at school and was in the rounders and hockey teams. Went I went to university I got heavily involved in the women’s boxing team and became captain. I know what you’re thinking – what a contrast…graceful, elegant synchronised swimming and rough and dangerous boxing – but I love all sports and the harder and more challenging they are the better! Boxing is probably my favourite sport…it gives you the BEST workout and really helps relieve stress! Exercise always used to be a therapy for me, it would eliminate anxiety and dramatically lift my spirits. Even though I began suffering with chronic pain in my first year of uni, the pain came and went and I was still able to do sport in the good patches. This was also the case for my second and third year. And in third year I had about 6 months completely pain free which was amazing and I took full advantage of it!

I did syncronised swimming from the age of 8 until 18. It was so much fun and I met some amazing people!

I did syncronised swimming from the ages of 8 to 18!

However, in my final year, I had the worst flare yet and had to stop sport completely…and I’ve not been able to go back to it since. My legs became so hypersensitive and painful that walking was a challenge let alone anything more physical. I was so frustrated and upset that I was unable to exercise due to my chronic pain; I was angry at everyone around me who did sport or talked about sport, angry at the world when sport was on TV, and angry when I saw people outside doing sport. I just wanted to shut it all out. But I couldn’t as my entire family also have the same exercise bug I have. My parents run marathons and ultra marathons, as do my aunties and uncles, and my boyfriend loves cycling and playing footie. I hated that I resented everyone for being able to exercise, it didn’t make me feel like a very nice person. But I couldn’t help it. I tried so hard to be happy for everyone. What was particularly difficult was when someone would complain about a tiny injury they had such as a pulled muscle, I really had to bite my tongue as all I wanted to say was, ‘count yourself lucky, you’ll be back to it in no time. Others aren’t so lucky!’

Seeing a pain psychologist last summer did help me a lot with this issue and it gradually started to bother me less and less (If you want to find out what strategies I used with my psychologist take a look at my post on dealing with the psychological and emotional effects of chronic pain). But, I still felt niggles when a friend for example, would talk about their workout at the gym etc. It wasn’t until I became really poorly with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) in January this year that my mindset really changed. I started to care much less about exercise and more about the smaller things. I now just want to be well enough to put on make up, go out more than once a week for an hour, to enjoy being out again, to chat to friends on the phone more often etc. Those are the things I long for now. I don’t care if I never exercise again, as long as I can get a bit better to be able to do some more of life’s little pleasures :)

I am now quite happy to sit and listen to my family talk about their running races, or my boyfriend talk about his 90km weekend bike ride. I am genuinely really happy for them and so proud of what they’ve achieved! My mum for example, ran for England a couple of years ago in an 100km race, how amazing is that!! And Paddy did his first marathon this year with a fantastic time in memory of a close friend of his!!

I only properly realised how far I’ve come psychologically when we were having dinner a couple of weeks ago, and the Commonwealth Games was on – the swimming. I used to turn all sport off when it was on the TV or walk out of the room, but this time I sat and really enjoyed watching the swimming and talking about sport. I was totally griped for the first time in years and found myself getting really excited when watching the likes of Hannah Miley and other young British hopefuls swim! From then on I watched the games pretty much everyday and loved it :)

If I got suddenly got better tomorrow, I’m not saying I wouldn’t immediately put my trainers back on and get back on the road, but I no longer care about not being able to do sport or others being able to do it! I find happiness in the simplest of things!



Have you ever felt a great sense of loss and frustration when loosing your ability to exercise? Xx


  1. Kaila August 11, 2014 / 4:48 pm

    What an amazing post Sophia! I can really relate to you. Prior to being diagnosed with POTS I was a very competitive volleyball player. I was being recruited to play for University’s and it was my passion. Once I got sick that all changed. Now if I can walk around the neighborhood or walk through a store I consider it a big accomplishment. I have a question for you. Did you ever struggle with body image. I definitely had a hard time and still do when I compare how my body is now to how it was when I was physically fit and in shape. Do you have any advice on how to deal with that. I am not as bitter as I used to be about not being able to excercise but I do still struggle with how my body has changed! Would love to hear any advice or tips from you on this. Thank you for posting, I love your blog! It is very encouraging to me. Blessings,

    • spooniesophia August 11, 2014 / 7:54 pm

      Hi Kaila, aww thank you so much! Really sorry you can no longer play volleyball. That’s so true, I’m the same, if I can make it out for an hour in my wheelchair I consider that a huge achievement!
      Yes I sometimes struggle with body image. It used to really bother me that I lost all of my muscle tone that I worked so hard to get. But I guess the longer it’s gone on the more used to my new shape I get. And I think starting a very clean diet has helped too. Now I’m only putting really healthy nutritious food in my body so I don’t worry about my weight as much. I’m not going to lie though I still have days when I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see but they are much less often now. My advice is to try not to compare your new self to the old you. I used to do that a lot and it wasn’t helpful. I bet you have a cracking figure and no one would notice that it has changed slightly :) hope that helps!

      Really hope you’re ok lovely xx

  2. Lauren August 11, 2014 / 6:51 pm

    I love this post Sophia!!:-) x

  3. lennae87 August 12, 2014 / 10:42 am

    I can completely relate to this! Glad to hear that you feel better about it all now!

    Lennae xxx

  4. Lucie August 12, 2014 / 5:07 pm

    Do glad I found your blog! Keep fighting sweetie, you are beautiful x

    • spooniesophia August 14, 2014 / 10:46 am

      That is so lovely Lucie :) I will don’t worry! Love and hugs xx

  5. James Cooper (@jpc101) August 12, 2014 / 7:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing Sophia. I was 11 when I got M.E. (nearly 25 years ago now…) I’d always enjoyed taking part in sport before that but I wasn’t very good! 😉

    Watching sport has encouraged me and kept me going through my illness. I prefer watching ‘really hard’ sports like cycling, biathlon (cross country skiing and shooting) and ski-jumping. I’m also a bit American Football fan – even though I’m a Brit! I’m not really a competitive person but I think watching sport has helped to make me want to keep on going even when times have been very tough.

    Your mum sounds amazing doing 100km!

    • spooniesophia August 14, 2014 / 10:51 am

      Gosh james, you were so young!
      These illnesses are so cruel :(
      That’s amazing that watching sport has helped you get through this really tough time!

      Yes she sure is, she’s so inspiring!

      Keep fighting <3

  6. emmafarrellblog August 13, 2014 / 11:23 am

    Excellent post Sophia, you’re so brave, well done on coming to terms with all of this and taking steps forward! I can really relate: I’ve always loved to exercise, I was a physiotherapy student and in my spare time I swam, played tennis and was the treasurer of our uni’s Volleyball team! As well as going to the gym lots.
    I really miss the relief and distraction exercise gave me and seeing as I’ve never had such an awful time in my life as I have being diagnosed with this, I miss that I can’t exercise to help me cope and come to terms with it! You’re right though – one thing this illness teaches you is how to really appreciate life’s little pleasures, I never understood that saying before I became ill.
    Keep strong, it will get better.
    Lots of love xxx

    • spooniesophia August 14, 2014 / 10:46 am

      Thanks Emma that means a lot! Same, I would LOVE to go for a run whenever I have a bad day! It used to help me so much when I was anxious or upset!
      I really hope you’re ok since that nasty episode a few weeks ago,

      Thinking of you and keep going lovely :)

      Lots of love xxxx

  7. Hayley-Eszti August 13, 2014 / 1:49 pm

    I used to have to turn off sports too, but now like yourself I can now watch it and enjoy it as a spectator. I used really struggle to watch any sport, and when your brother is on England’s athletic squad and your Dad is his coach, it’s kind of hard to avoid sports in our house! Although I will always miss that post workout feeling, and feeling like my body is fit and ready for anything, I now appreciate just being able to do something light on a good day like a gentle yoga session :)

    • spooniesophia August 14, 2014 / 10:43 am

      So pleased you can now enjoy sport Hayley! It’s so hard isn’t it living with people who are sport mad, it’s impossible to shut it out. I miss that too, so much!! There isn’t anything better than the feeling after a really good workout! Well done you for doing some yoga, I am looking forward to being able to do that in the near future :)

  8. Anna Jones August 13, 2014 / 6:17 pm

    This post made for such lovely reading Sophia <3 So pleased for you that you have some of the weight lifted off your shoulders

    • spooniesophia August 14, 2014 / 10:39 am

      Thank you lovely Anna! Hope you’re ok!
      Healing hugs xxx

  9. Hannah August 13, 2014 / 8:23 pm

    You should be so proud of yourself. When I became ill, I lost so many things and 3 years on, I still mourn everything. Friends, lifestyle, work, independence and most importantly, being with my son as he grows. I pray that life will improve and although I already have counselling, maybe I need to see a specific pain specialist in the future. Well done you x

    • spooniesophia August 14, 2014 / 10:38 am

      Aww Hannah thank you so much <3 I am so sorry you've lost the ability to do those things, but I really hope one day soon you'll be able to take back control and do some of them again! Pain psychologists are brilliant – they understand much better than regular counsellors :) I'd recommend it! Keep going, you're a fighter xxx

  10. Alice August 14, 2014 / 3:45 pm

    I totally feel you on this one, in fact it’s such a coincidence you’ve posted this as this is also what the blog post I’m working on at the moment is about! Glad to hear you’re coming to terms with it more and more- I’m trying my best but still find it quite difficult! Wishing you the best :) xxx

    • spooniesophia August 16, 2014 / 9:58 pm

      I just read your blog post Alice! It was great :) take your time with it, acceptance can take years, and you’re doing the best you can!!

      Lots of spoonie love xxx

  11. hcpampering August 17, 2014 / 7:09 pm

    This is such an incredible post Sophia and I really admire you for having such a positive attitude <3 I think it's really easy to focus on what you can't do when you're chronically ill (something I've been very guilty of doing recently) but that quote is really encouraging and has made me think about how grateful I am for being able to do quite simple things.
    Lots of love and hugs xxxx


  12. Francis August 24, 2014 / 3:22 pm

    Inspiring to see someone remain positive even though they lost one of the most important things in their life. And now you can look it in the face and move on. Kudos to you! That’s something to be proud of.

    Growing Positive

    • spooniesophia August 27, 2014 / 3:08 pm

      What a lovely comment! Thank you. Well I don’t have much choice, you have to stay positive to be able to get through something like this, otherwise you’ll sink. Thanks again, it means a lot!! Xx

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