- Name: Georgie Coghlan
- Country: Australia
- State: New South Wales
- City: Byron Bay
- Gender: Female
- Age: 42
- Education: Four Year Degree
- Primary Illness: Fibromyalgia (FM)
- Fibromyalgia (FM)
- Year Illness Began: 2001
- Former Occupation: Interior Designer
- Job Responsibilities at Former Occupation:
Interior designer in architectural firms and shopping centres. Responsibilities included client briefs, concept design through to final design, project management, on site coordination during construction, remaining up-to-date with current trends, materials and products
- Years of Work Lost: 10
- Current Work Status: On disability
- Yearly Income Before Becoming Ill:
- Yearly Income From Disability:
Minimum Current Annual Income Loss:
- Total Projected Economic Losses For Years Not Worked:
- My parents or other family members have provided financial support
- This illness has severely impacted my ability to financially prepare for retirement
- I reduced my work hours
- I left my job or retired early
- I took on jobs with less responsibilities than I otherwise would have
- I lost my house or had to move to a smaller dwelling
- I decided not to have children (or have more children)
- I have been unable to or found it very difficult to date
Most Impactful Loss
The biggest loss for me was financial and the impact that has had on my housing situation. I had savings and inheritance that was destined to buy myself a house but all of the money has been spend on medical costs and covering my cost of living during unemployment. Housing insecurity adds stress
I remember being in my late teens and always having a sore back, shoulders, neck and legs. I thought it was normal and tried to ignore it. In my early 20s it was becoming intolerable so I went to the doctor. After some blood tests and a trip to the rheumatologist I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I was told to Google it for information and find a psychologist. I was told it was a mysterious condition and there was no cure.
Over the next 15 years my symptoms became worse and more complex. I had unrelenting fatigue, extreme widespread pain, brain fog at times, crippling stomach aches, allergies and sensitivities, trouble standing up for long, anxiety and depression. Every doctor I saw wrote it all off as ‘fibromyalgia’ and gave me no options apart from psychological therapy and strong medications. The medication I tried made my symptoms worse and I became frighteningly suicidal. I stopped seeing doctors for a few years after that experience as I had lost trust in their ability to care for me.
I suffered in silence for a long time, putting up with the pain and pushing through despite the message from my body that something was seriously wrong. A glass of wine (or 5) at the end of the day was often my only respite from the suffering. I self-medicated with addictive substances and was in denial that my behaviour could be contributing in any way.
In increasing desperation, I started trying different diets, alternative therapies and spent a lot of money trying to feel better. Some things seemed to work for a while but then the symptoms would return. During this intense time, I had recurring nervous breakdowns, pushed to the brink of my capacity and sanity by being tortured in the body I could not escape from. Each time I would be forced to stop work (I had a successful career as an interior designer in Sydney) and totally rest. I’d feel better after a few months, think I was healed, and go straight back to my stressful job and partying lifestyle.
At the end of 2014 I was breaking again and made the huge decision to leave my career and the city and move to Byron Bay. I rested, worked part-time and created a relatively relaxed and clean lifestyle for myself. But I kept getting sick and I had another 3 breakdowns over the next 3 years. I had become so sensitive that I was reacting to chemicals, noise, lighting and electromagnetic frequencies. Just a few hours of work would leave me exhausted. During this time, at my wits end but with no escape door available, I began learning everything I could about fibromyalgia and my array of symptoms (thanks greatly to Health Rising!). Slowly I began to understand what might be causing my suffering and I dedicated myself to trying every strategy that I thought might work. I was at the point where I realised my life was worth nothing if I didn’t have my health. I was facing long term unemployment, reliance on disability payments and the inability to enjoy my life in the way that I desired. Increasingly, health became my priority and to this day it remains so.
To document everything I undertook to get better would require a whole book but here’s a short summary of the highlights:
I started with Dr. Ginevra Liptan’s book The Fibro Manual (she has fibromyalgia and is a medical doctor). I worked my way through most of that and most importantly, gained the hope and optimism I needed to believe that I could heal.
Next, I prioritised re-wiring my nervous system which had been stuck in sympathetic (fight-flight) stress for a long time. This involved healing trauma through psychotherapy, Somatic Experiencing, Feldenkrais, cranio sacral therapy and neuro-sensory practices . This was a vital step for me. Knowing how to be aware of and to respond consciously to my nervous system is a powerful skill.
Following this, I received a diagnosis for Helicobacter Pylori which is a toxic bacteria that lives in the stomach. I believe it had been there for over 15 years and was the main underlying cause of my health issues. The infection was causing my IBS symptoms and led to maldigestion, nutrient deficiencies, dysbiosis, leaky gut and compromised immunity. This then caused food allergies and widespread chronic inflammation. My stomach issues were a really big deal and I was feeling traumatised by the years of daily pain and aching. Anti-biotics effectively treated the infection and I no longer get crippling stomach aches or bloating. I thought this was the end of my gut issues but years later we discovered that issues were still at play which require ongoing treatment and dietary restriction.
Next, I discovered that I am reactive hypoglycaemic and that my constantly plummeting blood sugar levels was causing brain fog and unstable energy levels. By cutting out most carbohydrates from my diet I felt significantly better.
In addition to the above, a pivotal strategy for my improvement was finding the key supplements that my body was missing in order to function optimally. I take daily supplements for immunity, energy, exercise recovery and to support my mental health.
These days I live 90% pain free and have energy for daily life and exercise. I am returning to work but I have to have full flexibility to respond to symptoms as they arise. I do have to be careful and I do have occasional flare ups, but they are not as extreme and calm down quite quickly.
This was a long and expensive journey and it continues to this day. I tried and benefitted from many other therapies in between including mindfulness, vipassana meditation, chakra healing, plant medicines, functional testing, drastic lifestyle modifications including detoxification and letting go of alcohol and drug consumption, psychedelic plant medicines, shamanic energy clearing, CBD oil, embodiment practices, Ayurveda, earthing, self-love, supportive community and harnessing the power of my mind. I integrate aspects of these into my daily life now and am grateful for the gifts of health, vitality and community that they offer me.
I am fortune that I had enough savings and inherited wealth to support myself through almost 10 years of unemployment and to pay for many of the therapies I chose to try. But I'm almost broke and if the money runs out, I won't be able to afford my expensive food (organic gluten + dairy whole food diet is not cheap!) and all the supplements I need to feel ok.
I have experienced housing insecurity and was living out of my car during the covid debacle. That became very stressful and added to my illness. I've come to appreciate that housing security is a top priority for me so I'm very sad that it's out of reach for me right now but I'm determined to create that for myself.
I'm still trouble shooting remaining symptoms (orthostatic intolerance, suspected low blood volume, food allergies, mineral and amino acid issues) and I'm hoping I can get on top of these so I can work full time for the next 20 years and catch up financially.