I bumped into my former cello teacher, Heather Stratfold, at a Bach concert a few months ago and she told me about her struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome. She eventually gave up on mainstream medicine and decided to heal herself and she is keen to let other people with the condition know it is possible to get better without taking medication.
I’ve been writing her memoir for her and she’s finding it immensely empowering to realise the intensity of her struggle with chronic fatigue and how she has come through it a stronger person.
When Heather’s illness emerged three years earlier she was busy teaching at an elite boy’s school and performing in gigs at night and on weekends. But for the first time in her career, she started cancelling gigs because she was so unwell.
Heather didn’t know what was going on, neither did the doctors—it took them a long time to work out it was chronic fatigue syndrome. She was too exhausted to work, plummeted into a spiral of deep depression. Doctors gave her prescription medicines, but they made her worse. ‘I hit a wall,’ she says. ‘Everything fell into a heap at my feet.’ It dragged on month after month, year after year.
Despite all the visits to doctors, naturopaths, herbalists and psychologists she felt stuck in a hole. ‘I didn’t know how to climb out of it,’ she says. ‘I thought I was never going to work again. I never thought I’d hold my head up again. When you’re sick, you think you’ll never get better, that this is how it’ll be forever.’
She eventually decided to give traditional medicine a miss as it was clearly not working and instead focused on self-healing through meditation, yoga and diet. Instead of focusing on the illness, Heather focused her energies on healing and recovery. ‘I’m amazed at the transformational change that comes from healing yourself—it’s totally empowering!’ she says.
‘For anyone going through a health issue, it’s important to realise we have more skills than we think, and we have the power within us to get ourselves better.’
Heather has now moved to a place where she’s beyond her illness. She’s worked her way to good health, feels pleased she did it herself rather than relying on the medical system. ‘There’s still so much stigma associated with a diagnosis of chronic fatigue and depression and in the past few years I experienced a lot of shame,’ she says. ‘But I read the Chinese Bamboo Tree parable the other day, have found my own answers for dealing with it, realised I don’t have to live in that small ashamed person anymore.’
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