This is my experience of recovery. I am not a doctor or nurse but someone who has gone through viral meningitis and has an education in health & fitness. Here is my story and my tips on recovery from my professional point of view. Please always seek the support of your Doctors & health care professionals.
I contracted viral meningitis in the Spring of 2010. I went from being an active, healthy and vibrant personal trainer to someone who had no energy, gained 2 stone and had almost died.
I feel it all started at the beginning of 2010 when I was making a move out of my first home in London. I had been there for almost nine years with the same lovely flatmates. Along with the stresses of running my own personal training business I found I was quite exhausted. Once the move had happened I then took a trip for Easter to Canada to see my family. Within two weeks of my return to London I had contracted viral meningitis and was in Kings College Hospital. When I was admitted to Emergency I had seen at least five doctors within 12 hours as they were not sure what my illness was. They suspected Lyme Disease as I had just been to Canada and could have been bitten by a deer tick. I went through two lumbar punctures before a diagnosis was made. These were not fun, I can assure you.
What I didn’t realise at the time was actually how sick I was. The consultant along with her student doctors were very clear that I was to rest once I left hospital or I would take longer to recover if not be back with them again. It was when one of my close friends said she had lost a friend in her twenties to meningitis that I realised how serious my situation was.
As a personal trainer and someone who had been active her entire life I found not being able to carry out my usual exercise routines very difficult. I took the time off from work which I thought was sufficient as I needed to find a balance because I needed to work to get paid. I spent about four weeks at home doing what I could from the computer and then got back out to see around six clients per week for about six weeks. I increased my hours from there as I was feeling better. It was my formal exercise and fitness that took the longest to regain. I had to be patient and find a way to accept that my body had changed.
Through the process of having been sick, my inactivity and perhaps the drugs I had to take hospital I quickly gained about 2 stone (28lbs). This was very unlike me as I had been about the same body shape and weight since my teens. It was very disconcerting to not only be heavier and not feeling myself but also that I had to hold back on doing anything about it.
In the end it took me around 2 years to gain my fitness levels back to where I was before and feel strong in my work and activities. It took me three years to lose the 2 stone (although overall it only took 8 months once my fitness levels allowed me to be active).
My tips for recovery from my own experience and as a health professional are:
- take things slowly, you will need more rest and recovery than you used to
- accept that your body has changed
- find strategies to deal with stress in your life (meditation, walks in nature, quiet time, breathe)
- get enough sleep for you
- ease back into work if you can (tell your employer what you need or if you run your own business get some help)
- strategically plan your return to exercise – small steps are best (the good thing is your body will immediately tell you when you have had enough because you will feel knackered)
- Choose exercise which supports your calming parasympathetic nervous system such as grounding forms of yoga, pilates, weight training
- nurture yourself with healing food
- discover mindfulness – be in the moment
I strongly feel that my stress levels at the time of contracting viral meningitis were a key factor for me personally. I realise this is controversial in the medical community. I would like to see more research into this. I feel this as well because after many tests while in hospital and in the weeks after no doctor could tell me why I had gotten viral meningitis or how to recover other than resting.
I am happy to say I am back to my old active self now and must thank my wonderful partner Jez, my family and my amazing personal training clients for sticking by me through a very scary period of my life. Despite not being as fit as them for some time they knew I still had the knowledge and enthusiasm to guide them in being healthy and fit.