When Victoria was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, her future looked bleak. But the agonising condition taught her to fight, to change, and to forge a successful new life

So, picture me, just 25 years old, sitting in a consultant’s office, feeling vulnerable and scared, being given the damning diagnosis: “You have fibromyalgia… it will get worse… and you will end up in a wheelchair.”

The diagnosis in 2006 was deeply upsetting, crushing beyond belief. My whole life flashed before me, and I imagined what I would never get to do – I had a fear of the future, rather than curious expectation.

Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body. The exact cause is unknown, but it’s thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain, and changes in the way the central nervous system processes pain messages. In many cases, the condition appears to be triggered by a physically or emotionally stressful event.

I started medication, yet my body couldn’t take the high doses the doctors wanted, so the nerve suppressant had to be reduced to a minimal dose, which for many does nothing.

Initially, I struggled to work. I was left exhausted after 20 minutes of gentle exercise, and stress felt like I’d been hit by a baseball bat. Before my diagnosis, in 2003, my previous work had suffered, and I lost my job due to repetitive strain injury (the trauma tipping point for the fibromyalgia developing). My self-esteem went through the floor. By 2004 I had managed to claw my way back to being strong enough to work in retail, but that felt like a step backwards and triggered a feeling of hopelessness, as I felt I wasn’t fulfilling my potential.

But I kept going. In 2005, I eventually managed to secure an office job where I could work without computers, and build some purpose back into my life. Yet the fibromyalgia continued to affect my relationships, social life, career, and my mental, physical, and emotional health.

I was resentful when people accused me of being lazy or making it up, judging me. I felt guilt, shame, hurt, sadness, anger. I hated the disease, and probably myself. I would go into the ‘why me?’ mode, and get angry to the point of bursting into tears of frustration, which only made the fibromyalgia worse.

In the summer of 2006, I relocated to Kent and got a part-time job, yet I battled to find enough energy. Unfortunately, I was bullied at my workplace and was unfairly dismissed, despite being completely honest and truthful in my interview. More fighting, more stress.

Yet all along, my medication had not been increased, and I was continually looking for holistic methods to control pain, as well as using exercise, and having the attitude of “I want to control it, not it control me.” The focus on what I could do, not what I couldn’t. The warrior within broke free, and although she got tired of fighting many times, out she came again with her sword and shield.

But with every ending there is a new beginning and I began working in a veterinary referral centre, being able to build up my workload and implement task management to suit the fibromyalgia. That built my confidence and started a whole new journey.

I seemed to have good instincts for the job, and I was told by one of my managers that I had the best client empathy in the company, a compliment that has stayed with me – and which started to make sense several years later.

I have learnt what’s important to me in every area of life. Things may have happened to you, but it is up to you to create the changes within

By gradually dealing with my severe anxiety and mild depression, by 2011 I managed to come off medication completely. I exercised, worked, and overall had a pretty good life compared to the picture that was painted for me in 2006.

But in 2014, redundancy hit and I grieved for the job that I truly loved – partly because I knew I’d never get as varied a role to suit the fibromyalgia as I had there.

I secured a new job… and once again got tendonitis. A pattern was beginning to build, and each time the tendonitis hit, it was always worse than the time before. I remember exclaiming: “It’s like someone doesn’t want me to work in an office anymore!” Oh, how little I knew.

I took a leap of faith and trained in neuro-linguistic programming, using speech software to get around the computer work. I worked hard and passed with flying colours. Next came cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy in 2015, and Rahanni healing in 2016.

I learnt how I was experiencing spiritual stress by being a highly sensitive person, an empath, and an old soul, and how all this was contributing to my fibromyalgia.

I learnt ways of dealing with this to reduce my symptoms. Yet even though I was helping clients and myself, I still felt like there was something missing. While decluttering, I came across an article about a canine hypnotherapist, who was helping dogs to release emotions.

Given what I did, you can imagine I was delighted! I contacted her, went along to a workshop, and loved it. It fitted so well with what I’d already learnt, and I got to help dogs in the process.

Animals have always been dear to my heart. Being bullied when I was young, I found comfort and affinity with animals who gave unconditional love. So, I trained in canine flow and animal communication, and now I work in Canine Assisted Therapy – helping dogs release their emotions, while helping them show their owners what they need to heal.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, because while completely switching and retraining in a career that lets me control what is left of my fibromyalgia, it began loosening its hold on me through awareness and action.

While this won’t be the case for everyone, for me, I learnt that I didn’t ‘have it’, I was ‘doing it’. That in itself felt empowering. If I am ‘doing’ it, then I can stop doing it. I felt (and still do feel) that fibromyalgia has a deeply emotional basis, with different types of stress, PTSD, and emotions trapped in our cells.

I have done a lot of emotional clearing and healing, using various energy and therapy techniques, and deep-diving into values, beliefs, emotions, and metaphysics. To this day I still work on any triggers that arise, confident that everything is a lesson or a gift in some way, to heal something trapped within.

I have learnt what’s important to me in every area of life. Things may have happened to you, but it is up to you to create the changes within through a process of healing, and an integration of every part of you, removing limiting beliefs that no longer serve, and not being afraid to be you – the real you before all the trauma began.

I’m medication free, I eat healthier than I ever did before, I work out, and can enjoy a life that is relatively normal compared to many sufferers. On top of that, I’m doing work I love, and look forward to getting up in the mornings! For me, fibromyalgia was a sign to treat myself better, and to become who I’m meant to be, in every area of my life.

Rachel Coffey | BA MA NLP Mstr, says:

Victoria’s story demonstrates just how varied and individual our paths to recovery and happiness can be. She found a way to learn from her struggles, which in turn enabled her to understand herself more. Although she had an innate sense of empathy and ability to help others, she needed to take care of herself first in order to be truly available.

By being open-minded, Victoria has found a genuinely unique way to be happy. It just goes to show that we should never be afraid to listen to our hearts and follow our own path.