Yesterday, I walked three miles to ‘my’ wood, the furthest distance I have been able to cover for three months since the mystery chest infection that put me firmly back to bed.  I’m told it wasn’t Covid-19, but I have to wonder . . .  Whatever the cause, it has been an intensely frustrating and confusing time, combining physical incapacity and intense emotional challenges, just when I thought I was close to complete recovery. Physical and emotional barriers have impacted on my ability to get out into the garden for more than a few minutes, particularly since the arrival of autumn and the wild wet weather.

My return to the woods meant more to me under these circumstances than any previous visit, and I drank in the damp sweetness of the fallen bracken, the whisper of wind in the dancing birch leaves and the crunch of acorns underfoot. It was a blessed autumnal respite from the harsh summer road of recovery; reward and reassurance that I am travelling the right path and will be completely well again.

When I signed up to The Chrysalis Effect I agreed to embark upon a recovery programme that requires me to do whatever it takes to get well.  I understood that allopathic medicine was incapable of fixing me and that I would have to heal myself, albeit with the guidance and encouragement of others who have travelled this hard road ahead of me. I couldn’t have done it alone, neither could I have faced this journey at all if the path had not twisted and turned, forcing me to concentrate on the here-and-now roots and rocks under my feet and the beauties by the wayside. A long straight climb towards a visible yet distant summit is a sure path to despair and overwhelming fatigue, however much company you have.

Over the past two years I have made astonishing progress.  When I began, being able to sit at a table to pot-on tomato seedlings felt like a triumph.  By July this year I was marching for miles, up-hill and down-dale with my husband, and then feeling up to a little gentle weeding before lunch.  Despite my progress, at times I have despaired of ever getting to the root causes of my slow pulse rate, low temperature and inability to lose weight.  I thought I had done everything possible, but sometimes the recovery path leads to places in which you realise that what seemed impossible was actually just unthinkable at the time.

I first experienced this when making the initially inconceivable decision to give up a job that I loved, but in which I was not able to set protective boundaries.  I resigned after recognising that leaving could be a positive move onwards to new possibilities and not the hard sacrifice it seemed when I first began.  On this journey I have set the pace, turning each corner when I am ready, not before and never alone.

Over the summer, my path led me downhill for a while and towards a stretch of path that seemed too dangerous, too daunting to negotiate, and yet that downhill slope gave me the impetus to round the corner. As happens to so many people, an apparent set-back just at the point of near recovery was what I needed.  My physical illness shone a spotlight on both my personal relationships – who was and wasn’t there for me when the going got tough – and my own understanding of what was and wasn’t  a reasonable way to treat me – or myself. I’m still trudging, head down, finding my way along a particularly thorny and unclear path, but at last I think I can see through to the end.  The light at the end of this path is glinting through the shimmering leaves of an autumn wood, hope is whispering in the breeze and I will keep going steadily towards it, resisting the urge to break into a run and fall flat on my face.

Who is walking with you when the going gets tough?