Around a year ago I was six months deep into chronic fatigue. Not Chronic Fatigue, capitalised, the proper medical condition. Fatigue that was chronic in nature. Fatigue that was messing seriously with my ability to live my life. I was still working, unlike many people who get full blown Chronic Fatigue, but I was working at about 30% of the pace I was used to, spending my days hoping I didn’t get fired, and I was doing pretty much nothing else.
Rewind 8 months and I was in the best shape I’d been in my entire life. I’d just finished my second 10 week training challenge at my gym. I was eating super healthily. I didn’t drink, at all. I didn’t smoke. And my body fat was less than 15%. I thought I was unstoppable. Strong, fit and happy, or so I thought. I went to visit my brother in Brazil, came home and felt as though I never got over my jet lag. To top things off, my period stopped.
It took me a month of feeling that way before I realised that it wasn’t normal. I was 35, fit and apparently healthy. Why did I not feel amazing all the time? Why couldn’t I do anything except lie down and nap a lot? So, I visited my doctor. A couple of quick blood tests and I was told everything was just normal. Get some rest and you’ll be fine. No period? Nothing to worry about – that happens sometimes.
What? I literally can’t get off the couch most of the time! I fight hard to get out of bed and some days, I lose the fight. How can there be nothing wrong with me? How can there not be some kind of treatment?
I spent the next 6 months talking to anyone I thought might be able to help me. Doctors (who offered me antidepressants, amongst other things), naturopaths, nutritionists, counsellors, acupressure therapists – you name it, I had a go. I had ultrasounds and colonoscopies. And unsurprisingly, no one had a fix for me. Well, perhaps not unsurprisingly. Frankly, it surprised the hell out of me. It was a pretty stark realisation that actually, doctors don’t really know how to fix people all the time.
Eventually, I took things into my own hands. I stopped taking the contraceptive pill and started visiting an acupuncturist who specialised in women’s hormones. It took the best part of three months, but I finally started to feel better. By the time I got to April, I was feeling nearly myself again.
During this whole debacle, I was living with my long term boyfriend. At a particularly low moment, I asked him if he would look after me if I couldn’t work anymore. I guess I’d been worrying about it, but I really didn’t expect him to say no, which he did. That was a pretty shitty thing to hear from someone who I thought loved me and had my back. It was fair to say I had no intention of staying. I knew that one day I would know the words to say, I would have the energy to act, and I would leave. And in April last year, that day arrived.
Once I walked out the door of the house we shared, a weight shifted off my shoulders. I walked away without a single tear, and with a crystal clear view of what I wanted my life to be. I’d had months of not being able to do anything and I had years of being with someone that didn’t make my life better for being with him. I wanted my life to be an adventure. I wanted my life to be full of happiness of my own creation and full of amazing human beings with whom I do more, learn more and with whom I am more.
A strange beardy man I know once told me that one of the mantras by which he has lived his life is this: Always Go To The Party. I started thinking about what this really means and it struck a chord with me. If you stay at home all the time, if you say no to all the things you are offered, whether it’s an invitation to a party, a weekend away, dinner, or even when you get asked for help, you will never learn new things, you’ll never meet interesting new people, and more importantly, your life will never be any different. You’ll always get what you’ve got right now. I’d had months of only being able to say no. Now I was able, I was going to make sure I took up everything that came my way.
Enter the Year of Yes. I made a conscious decision to take this advice. I made a decision that I would say yes to every single thing I was offered, no matter what it was. I found myself in some interesting situations, as a result. I found myself hanging out with people who I’ve never spent time with before. I learned more about others than I had before. I went places I’d never been before. And, most importantly, I learned more about myself; who I am, who I want to be, and what is really important to me, than I ever had before.
By saying yes I went to parties, dinners, on dates, met a plethora of new and amazing people, reconnected with people I already knew in amazing ways, went to a secret geothermal waterfall in the middle of nowhere, jumped out of a plane, walked the entire length of Great South Road (45.9km, in case you were wondering), got a tattoo, helped out friends do all kinds of things, helped plan a surprise wedding (not for me!), volunteered for charities, conquered my fears of heights and water (at the same time), and figured out exactly what I want to do when I grow up. I sent a clear message to the universe, and everyone in it, that I was open and receptive to whatever it had to offer. By doing that, the offers came, one after the other.
The past year has been nothing short of an adventure: exactly what I wanted it to be.
My tattoo says “yes”. It is there a constant reminder to me of how far I’ve come and why. It is my very own memento mori. One day, just like everyone else on the planet, I will be dead. If I live as long as the average New Zealand woman, I’m already over half way through. I don’t want to waste a single day of my life being anything less than I know that I can be. I don’t want to waste a single day being unhappy, particularly about things that are within my control to change.
By saying yes, no opportunity is ever wasted. This incredibly simple concept has utterly changed my life. We get told that, particularly as women, we need to learn to say no. I disagree. Sure, don’t spend your life living for others, but stay open and receptive to what is out there for you. You never know where it will take you and what you’ll find. A secret hot waterfall might be just around the corner.
By Jenny Radich