Facing my fears

Fear. It’s a horrible thing that can so easily take over your life. I know. Last year I was consumed by it when my health went haywire.

I was anxious because doctors were unable to tell me why my tongue was spontaneously swelling almost every day. I was worried because specialists could not explain why my right foot mysteriously stopped functioning or why I was experiencing numbness in my face and hands and stabbing pains all over my body.

My stress levels were through the roof and I grieved for the sporty life – ironically tennis and gym classes were huge stress-relievers for me – I once lived. I was exhausted. I felt isolated. And I feared for the future. By December 2016 – one year after the first lip and tongue swelling episode that landed me in the resuscitation unit of the local hospital – I was enormously fed up.

So I made a decision…to launch a blog. The hope was to find an answer to my health problems, help others experiencing similar issues and focus my mind on ways to relax and cope with everything life seemed intent on chucking my way. Except – that all-too-familiar knot in the pit of my stomach – a.k.a fear – was never far away.

I was worried I’d fail. I was worried I’d become a laughing stock or criticised for oversharing. I was worried I wasn’t skilled or technical enough. I mean, what the heck did I know about launching a blog? Indecision hung over me. But then I had another nasty tongue swelling episode. I couldn’t go on like this. I needed an answer. The blog would help me get there. The plan was back on.

Helen Gilbert seeks diagnosis for baffling condition

So I bought a whiteboard and set myself some goals. I outlined why I was launching my blog, what I wanted to achieve from it and then put in the hard graft to make it happen.

Every evening and weekend for six months, in between the day job and hospital appointments, I’d write posts, sketch out designs, take and edit pictures, learn about SEO, social media, content creation as well as the technical aspects of running a blog. It was daunting. I felt way out of my comfort zone. And I was shattered. The goal was to launch in May 2017. Somehow I did it.

At times it was (and still is) hugely frustrating – I’m ridiculously impatient when it comes to learning about anything technical and monumentally dislike not being immediately competent at anything. And on more than one occasion I’ve questioned whether I’m GOOD enough and have certainly been tempted to throw in the towel.

Fortunately, a quick glance my whiteboard reminds me exactly why I’m doing this and points me back on the right track. Yes, blogging is hard work but ultimately it’s a passion. So far the journey has been an exciting, educational, enjoyable, cathartic and, for the most part, a happy one. I’m hopeful that I’m one step closer to finding a diagnosis (see below).

Here, I’ve rounded up 10 reasons why I’m glad I pushed through the fear and launched my blog in the hope it will inspire others to go after their dreams.

7 reasons I'm glad I faced my fear

I’ve always criticised myself for not being good enough and too long in the tooth to start a blog and there were so many times when I wanted to jack it all in for an easier life. So, you can imagine my surprise when I received an email from industry experts Vuelio UK last week stating that Relax Ya Self To health had been named one of its Top 10 UK Mental Health blogs of 2017. I was flabbergasted – especially as this time last year I hadn’t even decided on a name! Throughout the process, I’ve berated myself but what I’ve come to realise throughout this journey is that it’s OK to give yourself a break and not be so hard on yourself.

I was lucky enough to interview former CNN journalist Yasmina Ykelenstam during the course of research for an article. This inspirational lady has put histamine intolerance and mast cell issues on the map thanks to sharing her own personal journey on her blog healinghistamine.com.
Astonishingly, it took Yasmina almost 30 years and 68 doctors to get a histamine intolerance diagnosis and a further three years and two doctors to be told she had a mast cell activation disorder. Since then I’ve been in touch with support group UKMasto.org to discuss my symptoms and my GP has referred me to a mast cell specialist. I am hugely grateful for the awareness-raising work Yasmina has done and find comfort in her fantastic content and am hopeful the consultant will be able to shed further light on my complex medical history when I see him in January.

I’ve worked as a freelance journalist for 18 years but blogging is a whole new world. So I was delighted when Rachel Spencer, a fellow journo contacted me about a story I was writing for a newspaper and told me she was also launching a pet blog The Paw Post in May. We hit it off instantly and have been supporting one another ever since with regular natters on the phone and words of encouragement.

Yes. This is the best bit. I’ve experienced all sorts of things I mightn’t have tried in the past from a Hypnotherapy Mind Massage to a Pranic Healing session and E-biking up Box Hill. I’ve also interviewed well-known faces with inspiring health stories including Jonny Wilkinson, Katie Piper and Gail Porter.

Before I started the blog I was hugely anxious. I had no sense of control over the weird goings-on in my body and I was too scared to eat because of the reactions. And then I launched Relax Ya Self To Health. Life was even more hectic and stressful because I had double the workload (the blog on top of the day job). However, since May I’ve learnt that stress, alongside food, a lack of sleep and a rise in body temperature, is a huge trigger. Training myself to relax has not been easy but I realise now it’s essential if I want to get my health back.

Yep. That’s right. Over on Instagram, I’ve discovered a supportive community of chronic illness sufferers who totally understand what it’s like to live with nasty reactions, bizarre pains, autoimmune problems and a restricted diet. It’s a huge help to discover that you’re not alone.

Writing *stuff* down has been incredibly cathartic. It’s afforded a sense of control and I’ve rediscovered a sense of hope. And although I’m not in this for the thanks, whenever I receive a kind message from a reader it makes my heart sing.  One lady recently wrote this on my ‘How to travel with allergies’ post. “My husband has an allergy due to which he didn’t use to come with me for a trip. Your article was a great help for me. I shared this article with him and now we go for a regular outing remembering all your tips shared in this article. Thank you for sharing!”

Those words made me light up inside and realise that breaking through my fear was most certainly worth it.

Are you thinking about launching a blog? Do you have hopes and dreams or is fear holding you back? I’d love to hear from you.

Please comment below (your email address won’t be shared) or over on Facebook, Twitter on Instagram.

If you think this post might help someone else, please feel free to share. 

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