Lifestyle Tips to Recover From Viral Meningitis

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.

Signs & Symptoms of meningitis

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.

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Charlene Hutsebaut

Charlene Hutsebaut is a Canadian Personal Trainer and corporate wellness speaker working in London. Charlene wants to help you become the hero in your own healthy story! She was a Life Fitness - Top 10 Global Finalist in the Personal Trainers to Watch Competition 2015. Charlene was the only UK woman to make it and 1 of only 3 women in the top ten. She brings her passion for the outdoors to the core of her workouts. She aims to make wellness achievable for everyone, with or without a gym membership. Her love of fitness started early, at age 3, on her first pair of ice skates. Since then, she has completed degrees in Physical Education and Education as well as studying Athletic Therapy. She is a Stott Pilates instructor and has Functional Sports Nutrition Academy Levels 1 & 2. She has logged an impressive 15,000 PT hours in her 24 years of experience. Charlene’s training is a cutting edge fusion of pilates foundations, mind-body connection and traditional weight training. Charlene trains at the St. Pancras Hotel Spa, or outdoors, in Mother Nature’s gymnasium. When she isn’t training or making fitness videos, Charlene runs corporate workshops, and is the featured expert in Psychologies Life Labs and Monarch Airlines in-flight magazines.

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