Embracing the Messiness that comes with Healing

February 12, 2016 1:48 pm

As a society, we like things that are perfectly packaged – even healing/recovery stories or various stories of real life trials and tribulations.

When you read these stories, you’ll often find that they (or us as a reader!) skip through the painful parts fairly swiftly, focusing on the neatly packaged happy ending and lessons learned. Which is good in the sense that they are uplifting. After all, who wants to dwell on difficult times and stories of pain?

But the trouble with this is, it can give such an unrealistic view of the main bulk of what happens when we go through something that is traumatic, long lasting and life changing.

I have had experience of this on a personal level, as I used to be that person telling my recovery story.

Eight years ago, I believed I had fully recovered from ME.

I was working as a Holistic Health Therapist, had a busy social life and was living a life that was pretty full – in an external sense at least. I was enthusiastic about sharing my story and helping others find the hope that I had once clung to in my own darkest days. Many of you may even remember me from back in the day when I did an interview for the Secrets to Recovery Series with Alex Howard at the Optimum Health Clinic.

My story did very much have a beginning, middle and an end… (although the end didn’t turn out to be the end after all but thats a whole other story) I got sick age 17. I had many years feeling unwell.

I tried different things, including an extremely strict anti candida diet, various complementary therapies and took a huge amount of supplements each day. I then discovered the world of NLP and some brain retraining techniques and after much struggle, I eventually healed myself and slowly integrated back into the world.

This story was fairly easy to tell. However, since I relapsed a few years ago, I feel like the journey I have been on since has been so chaotic, full of transformation, pain, self discoveries and more ups and downs than I can even remember, that writing about it, especially when I am still very much in the middle of healing, is often quite a challenge.

I am sometimes unsure about how much I want to share in this blog. I feel my way with it really and write what comes to me, but as time goes on, the main thing that screams out to me as being top of my list of priorities is authenticity.

In every way.

Perhaps because for so long I felt I had to portray only a certain side of myself to the world. Perhaps because for so long I didn’t feel I was actually connected to my true authentic self? Perhaps, because I feel there is too much ‘clean cut-ness’ out there about everything…and this includes recovery stories.


Embrace who you are


In reality, healing is messy.

There are bad days and better days. There are tears, (so many tears). There are breakthroughs. Discoveries. Hope…..then moments where you feel like all hope has been ripped away from you.

There is no certainty or predictability. It’s definitely not neat and tidy!!!



When starting this blog almost a year ago, I had been stable for some time and was slowly improving after the major relapse that happened in 2010. I made the naive assumption that this meant I would continue to improve and that recovery would be a nice neat linear process from there on in. One that I could share with you in a fairly structured way.

How naive was I to think things would be so plain sailing after 16 years living with this unpredictable illness?!

Last year saw some profound shifts for me on many levels. The year began with my father passing away, bringing up huge amounts of emotional stuff, the obvious being grief and sadness, but also some unprocessed childhood stuff emerged. It was anything but ‘neat and tidy’ but it was an opportunity for me to heal on a deeper level and process things that I had turned away from in previous years. This is often the case with deep healing, we need to be prepared for it to sometimes get messy before things can get better.

As the year progressed, I caught a nasty infection followed by a succession of viruses and despite the emotional and spiritual work I had done on myself in recent years, physically, I took an unexpected down turn. I’m currently in the middle of a number of investigations at two different hospitals due to abnormal bloods (more on this in a future post…once I’m more clear on whats happening myself) and am having to practice a lot of patience as we discover what’s actually going on.

My ego, clings on to wanting to write about positive things, my progress in terms of recovering my physical health and for this blog to be a nice neatly packaged source of information for people. But this isn’t my reality right now!

My heart and soul, know that something is calling me to be real. To write whatever comes to me. To be authentic and true to myself and to be honest about the messiness of this journey. This means that some weeks I’ll share learnings and insights, some weeks I’ll share news of improvements or steps to recovery, some weeks I’ll share the reality of having really tough times living with chronic illness.

I’ve learned to respect the process that is healing, however that looks, and to acknowledge all aspects of it. On a Physical level I may be facing a few challenges right now, but emotionally I feel the most connected to myself than I ever have. This is where I realise healing is happening…even when we can’t always see it on the surface.

I am sharing this, because it feels right to do so. If nothing else, I want this blog post to encourage you to embrace the messiness that may happen as you heal. To know that it is perfectly normal for life not to be neat and tidy, especially when it comes to healing. That up’s and down’s and a variety of different place’s in between on your recovery path, is totally normal. That the recovery stories you hear, are most likely similar to the one I told many years ago, with a beginning middle and end and lots skipped over and cut out.

I want to share, that sometimes, life just needs us to be where we are at right now and all we can do is trust it. Life is messy. Recovery is messy…for pretty much everyone I think. We just don’t always get to see the full picture.



With love,





*** Next week I am going to write about why I believe I got sick again after making what I thought was a full recovery from ME/CFS.

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  • Susan says:

    As always dear Emma, your honesty is wonderful.

    In some ways you could be describing how I have been and what has happened in my life over the last 20+ years.

    After my 8 days of seeming to be ‘fully cured’ a few weeks ago, I am now in the depths after catching this infection in my weak lungs. I ache all over, I have what I term ‘thrumming sensations’ throughout my body joint pains in fingers and fatigue so bad I have to stop 5-6 times going upstairs.
    I have lost touch with the ‘real world’ and live online and with my lovely family.
    We are going to sell this house and move into a bungalow in Truro if we can find a lovely one with a
    south-facing, secluded garden!!! We then won’t be by the sea, but will be near M&S (how sad is that as a big positive!!), Sainsburys, Tesco and lovely boutiques …still only say 10 miles from the coast and with family very very near.
    But this house is so very lovely, with a staircase that sweeps round, open fireplaces, lots of Georgian/Victorian features , a small sunny walled garden and a paddock and horses over the wall! And dates from 1848. I love to marine the women who lived here in their long dresses sweeping down the stairs!! But,needs must and all that – 5 bedrooms, 2 sitting-rooms are just too much.
    Ah well!
    So sorry, gone on and on – life goes on and I must try and float myself through all this wasteland of illness. Much love and many apologies, Susan

    • Emma ~ Consciously Healthy says:

      Hi Susan,

      No apologies needed….I’m glad you felt you could express yourself here 🙂

      Its strange how these dips along the way can make us feel cut off from the world so quickly isn’t it? But just hold on to those 8 days you had!! That is proof your body has what it takes to feel better, as confusing as it may feel when you are once again thrown back into the depths again.

      As for your house move, I had to leave my house I loved a few years ago…and like you….i was gutted about it. But, know what? I feel so much more settled in the lovely house I now call my home. I feel freer and moving house is an opportunity for a good clear out and a wonderful fresh start. Take it one step at a time, I’m sure your perfect house will come along just at the right time. And being near an M&S? What more could you want (hehe).

      Much love to you Susan,

      Emma x

  • Teresa says:

    Yes. Amen to this.

    I too feel more connected to myself both emotionally and spiritually and I’m so blessed to have come to that through this experience. I think that deep connection for me comes from the dynamic journey which as you so beautiful expressed is a messy, winding path. You can never see around the next bend so you just have to surrender and trust in the process.

    My road looks just like yours. Looking forward to reading about your theory next week.


    • Emma ~ Consciously Healthy says:

      Teresa – exactly! Through this experience, we are forced to connect to our true selves in order to begin healing. I think illness comes to us as a wake up call, a cry from our soul for connection. Its an ongoing journey isn’t it, but as I’m sure you are, I’m so grateful for the lessons that have come from it so far.

      Thanks as always for taking the time to comment and your ongoing support with the blog 🙂

      Big hug to you lovely!

      Emma x

  • Lorraine says:

    Perfect Emma thank you.

    I naturally crave order and control. (Also working hard on childhood issues) I think I have struggled much more than I needed to around the unpredictability along the way.

    I am learning to take things as they are and go with the feelings that that creates.

    7 years and no predictability along that road.

    • Emma ~ Consciously Healthy says:

      Hi Lorraine,

      Its funny how going through this experience makes us face underlying things such as our need for control and such like isn’t it Lorraine? I have a feeling for the majority of people with ME or who have had ME (or gone along any healing path for that matter!) that the process is anything but straight forward and orderly. Its definitely challenged me…

      Thank you for your comment. Lots of love x

  • Susan Ashmore says:

    Thanks Wmma .. do read my post on the Gratitude post on today’s CofH page, Sunday, as it explains why I feel so very bad!

  • Clare says:

    Thank you for sharing, Emma. I was nodding in recognition to so much you wrote. Sending you a big hug. X

  • Niamh says:

    Thanks for your blog, Emma – and your beautiful, honest writing! I don’t have ME but have had a whole host of other issues over the past 15 years. And as I moved into being a holistic therapist, I found it very hard to tell my story. I don’t have a neatly packaged one, like many others. There is no ‘happy ever after, never got sick again’ ending…yet. So how do you sell that?!

    I don’t identify with those simplistic stories either, because my experience of life is that it is total messiness. You can tell a neat story about your life at the end, perhaps – but certainly not in the middle! We can’t know the ending before it happens.

    And messiness is the ONLY way to provoke growth, honesty and transformation. And sometimes, this transformation goes deep and takes much longer than society has a tolerance for. But I guess, I’m not responsible for society’s expectations. I’m only responsible for myself.

    I found the moment that I stopped fighting my ill health and instead just gave in to whatever was coming, that I was able to find peace and joy, even in the midst of the most ridiculous of circumstances. Because when everything has fallen apart, what can you do but just love yourself? And maybe that was the lesson all along 🙂

    (Okay – essay over 😉 ) x

  • Emma - Consciously Healthy says:

    Hey Niamh,

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful wisdom and insights! I found myself nodding as I read your comment just there

    This paragraph you wrote :-

    ‘And messiness is the ONLY way to provoke growth, honesty and transformation. And sometimes, this transformation goes deep and takes much longer than society has a tolerance for. But I guess, I’m not responsible for society’s expectations. I’m only responsible for myself.’

    SO. TRUE.

    So often I find myself trying to hurry my healing along, when I get caught up in the unconscious patterns that creep in from time to time, and as you said – society’s expectations of how long healing should take. How ridiculous for there to be any sort of time limit on healing?

    It’s as if we somehow tell ourselves we aren’t ‘strong’ ‘worthy’ ‘good enough’ (insert whatever your inner critic likes to say here!) if we don’t get sick. Heal quickly. And are able to tell a neatly packaged recovery and transformational story.

    It’s not reality. Or at least…it’s not mine.

    Life is messy.
    Illness is messy.
    Healing is messy.

    And I think we should all speak more openly about the above. Not doing so leads to so much misunderstanding, stress and unnecessary pressure!

    Huge huge hugs to you.

    Thanks for your insights as always they are so appreciated here 🙂

    Emma x x

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