Exercise doesn’t fix everything



Last week whilst doing my daily social media scroll, I saw a post written by fitness guru and gorgeous creature Joe Wicks which was then emphasised by every single fitness freak on my personal/blog Instagram. This was a post that read – Exercise gives you energy. It will lift your mood and mental state and make you feel good . I fully believe in the power of exercise for mental wellbeing. I go for a walk, and it works wonders for re-setting my dull or sad mood. It can re-energise me. However, I find this at the moment the most triggering comment and statement ever and want to emphasise this to you. 

Two weeks Sunday- I lost my balance and had a recurring feeling I’d experienced before. This feeling was pins and needles- the feeling was on my right side; a side most dominant and a side that had been usually clear from ME symptoms. The pins and needles travelled from my neck, down to my shoulder arm into my finger tips and then into my hips/legs/feet. The numbness has caused weakness in my hands and feet. I am having trouble opening bags to put peppers into, I’m having trouble getting in and out of the bath. I called 111 and was later prescribed by the GP- a prescription for a set of tablets that I’d been on before and really suffered with the side effects; imagine Kerry Katona 2009. Slurred speech, drowsiness and nausea. I’m now that right now. So, it’s amazing this post makes any sense. All of which has made the last few weeks ruddy poor. Discomfort galore. The pain and discomfort does and will affect my mental wellbeing and I will explain why.

Up to now, I’ve been trying to do daily 50 minute walks, a weekly HIT workout and a yoga session. I know, like Wicks, the importance of exercise. Yet right now, in this moment, exercise will make this numbness worse- I could cause much worse implications of not leaving my bed for weeks again- something I’m preventing from happening anytime soon. I want to be able to walk in a months time, not be bed bound. Not being able to exercise versus not wanting to exercise are two very different things; the eagerness to go for a walk, the eagerness for a spot of downward dog or just some squats but right now, a squat is trying to prise myself out of the bath during a time the numbness isn’t as a severe. This relapse in original symptoms couldn’t have happened at a worse time; when everyone is indulging in at home workouts, everyone is walking/cycling and everyone is posting these activities on social media. I see on my lunch hour, Holly and Phill discussing the dilemma of whether we’ll be coming out of lockdown as lumps. Something I don’t like, I don’t have any form of eating disorder yet found it rather triggering during a period in which I can’t physically exercise without the risk of increasing the severity of my current relapse. I’m finding myself needing to limit my social media usage even more so; muting more of my following since every time I see a post-workout selfie, a running route or just the screenshot of the weight loss I feel terrible; I hate myself and hate my appearance. I’ve been guilty to sharing a workout photo or weight loss because, I know when the exercise endorphins are high you want to share the feelings with your followers especially if the shot and filter compliment your buzzing mood. I do not want to say, at all, we shouldn’t be proud of sharing our exercise achievements or our accomplishments but this constant emphasis on exercise making problems go away, is unhealthy. It encourages obsessive habits whether that is going for a walk every time we eat something unhealthy, whether it’s going for a walk every time we do something wrong. It’s perhaps something i see since I am trying to battle obsessive compulsive thoughts.

Every time we share anything of the lines ‘exercise fixes everything or exercise gives us energy’. We are patronizing the grief felt by those with chronic illness such as ME, Fibro + MS. Every time you say, go for a run it’ll make you feel better you are feeding the issue they may have with their bodies or their appearances. If you follow the ME Association, you might remember when blogger and chronic illness sufferer, Ali Hemsley spoke about her ME and was criticized for believing that exercise was the cure to her illness or helped her illness. Severe and moderate sufferers felt this undermined the on-going statement of; for most CFS patients, exercise can easily trigger an intensification of symptoms, so patients should focus on avoiding post-exertional fatigue (excessive tiredness after activity). All physical activity should be considered exercise.I dislike my body since, I equate body confidence with having abs and the ‘perfect body’ whatever that may be. I am aware and conscious of the editing, filtering and posing that goes into posting a fitness picture yet I still a victim to these.

I’m now receiving pyramid scheme messages telling me I’d feel great if I started a shake diet when chances are, it wouldn’t because I’d be the same size after stopping the shakes. I also have to remember that these recruits, are selling a product, preying on the ‘vulnerable’ and trying to sell this unattainable look and lifestyle. I also feel that we all have habits of saying ‘oh thats like when ?’ or ‘oh thats similar to’ these do not make anything better or make you feel better. Or my least favourite comment is ‘but at least you don’t have it as bad as’ that will never make the situation better but worse. As a result of that innocent comment, you’ll sit there and feel guilty for feeling this way. We also, should not say the words ‘but they don’t understand’. In this day and age, when we’re all becoming aware of our actions, behaviour and our norms, not understanding or wanting to understand is pure ignorance. When you have to excuse someones attitude as ‘they dont’ understand; we are essentially saying, ‘it doesn’t matter’. It is about education. It’s about trying to inform someone of their ignorance and lack of wanting to understand too.

My fellow chronic illness sufferers may or may not feel this. I know, that my feelings wouldn’t have been as strong had I not have suffered from a relapse. I want to educate and turn ignorance into understanding. I want to give PTs and online PT’s an insight into what not wanting to exercise and not being able to exercise looks like. Two different things. Come out of lockdown, with not just a new language or a newly organised wardrobe but an understanding.

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