Amy Mackenzie and I first became friends through a little thing called Facebook. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
We quickly discovered how much we have in common and have become good buddies.
I’m excited that Amy could join us here on Starbrite Warrior to share her experiences living with Chronic Pain Syndrome and how she’s designing a life she loves.
Let’s do this!
A bit about Amy
Amy Mackenzie is a Life Coach + Cheerleader + Biz Bestie for Heart Centred Coaches, Spirited Leaders and Big Dreaming Entrepreneurs who are making a big, beautiful, inspired mark on the world.
Amy brings passion-fuelled women together to dive into their hearts desires and design a life and business they love. She uses her experience to inspire and motivate women to explore a more fulfilled, soulful and inspired lifestyle and business.
Amy’s heart dances between her business, travelling the world, soulful conversations and making memories with her loved ones.
At the inception of chronic illness there is a lot of fear and confusion. Can you describe the time you felt the most scared?
My Chronic Pain Syndrome wasn’t diagnosed for 3 years. During that time I was on a ridiculous amount of medication, trying every treatment possible and holding out hope that the next one would ‘fix’ me.
When I was diagnosed by my 4th doctor and sent to Royal North Shore Hospital to be examined and interviewed, I still thought there was finally a ‘cure,’ right up until the first day of the Three Week Adapt Program.
The most scared I’ve ever been was when I heard the words, “There is no cure, you just have to learn to live a ‘normal’ life with the pain.”
I remember thinking this isn’t living, I am merely existing. Every ounce of hope I had been holding onto was now gone.
Even though I had already been through seemingly worse things, like a severe mental breakdown, anxiety and depression, there had always been a little glimmer of hope, deep down, that I just needed to hold on and we would find the answer.
Survival depends on learning to build something new from a changed reality. You have talked openly on your blog, Designing Her Life, about your past struggles with self-loathing and depression.
You describe how hitting rock bottom was your life changing moment, recognising the “..accident was a gift to send me in a new direction,” and it became your catalyst for starting your journey of self-love, soul-searching and dream-chasing.
Can you share a little bit more about how you came to this place of acceptance and gratitude to live your best life with chronic pain?
Hearing that I now had to live my life with this pain diminished any hope I had been holding onto.
Life then got worse before it got better. After giving up on life but being handed a second chance, I made a decision that it was up to me to make the most of the life I had.
I wasn’t prepared to just exist. Slowly but surely those old thoughts that ‘I was meant for more,’ and that ‘there was greater purpose to my life,’ started to come back to me.
As soon as I turned inwards and started to take accountability in my own life, things started to change.
Once I stopped asking why this happened to me in a negative way, and changed it to why this happened to me in a positive way, I was able to begin building my best life again.
In fact, it felt better than before, because I had such a deeper sense of gratitude, a deeper sense of self, and an overwhelming sense of purpose.
Without the accident and without my pain, I wouldn’t have gone this deep. I wouldn’t be walking the path that I am. I was able to look at it as a gift and trust in everything happening for a reason.
Did you seek out any support to help you as you took back control of your life?
I definitely turned to difference resources and people for support along my journey.
My incredible boyfriend (now husband), different therapists for a variety of treatments and self-development books like Louise L Hay’s ‘You Can Heal Your Life,’ which was a game-changer for me.
So much of the work had to be an inside job, but being surrounded by people who love and support you unconditionally helps you to get there a lot faster.
You write how you choose to believe that everything happens for a reason. That there is a lesson to be learned in every situation, and by “..living from a place of peace, you open yourself up to a world of possibilities. Change your thoughts and you can change your world.”
How do people react to this idea?
I definitely get mixed reactions.
Some people find it really inspiring, especially when they hear parts of my story and it allows them to feel the possibility of changing their own thoughts and making the most of their life.
For others, it triggers their own emotions and beliefs which can then lead to looking to external factors e.g. situation, experiences, etc.
We all have our own lessons to learn and our own ways to do this. For me, this way of thinking has changed my life and allowed me to turn what once felt like the worst thing to ever happen to me, into the catalyst for the best.
Chronic pain conditions are often referred to as ‘invisible illness,’ because they are not always obvious to an onlooker. We can appear perfectly healthy when in actual fact, that brief walk across the parking lot feels like the equivalent to running a marathon and leaves every cell in our body hollering in pain!
How do you handle comments like, “But you don’t look sick!” or “How can you be in all that pain and still do that?!“ from people who don’t understand the realities of invisible illness and what it’s like to walk in your shoes?
Comments like that were once a burning trigger for me. They could instantly send me into a deep and painful space of justification, hurt and anger. It wasn’t until I realised I was looking for outside validation that I was able to start separating myself from responses like that.
It didn’t matter if someone, everyone, didn’t understand what I was going through. It didn’t matter if no one believed me or could see my pain.
What mattered was what I knew, what I believed, and how kind and understanding I was with myself.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn in my relationship with myself came from how I was letting others make me feel. Again, we cannot control anyone else, only ourselves.
I don’t need someone to walk in my shoes because I’m walking in them and that’s all that matters.
You are a wife, fur-baby mumma, life coach, blogger, biz owner and a fellow wanderlust adventurer, dreamer and spirit seeker.
How do you balance it all and keep chronic pain flares* to a minimum?
[*For our readers: Amy has lived with 24/7 pain for the past 9 years as a result of her condition. She had bad days and better days with her pain levels. By ‘flares’ we mean a significant increase in pain levels and associated symptoms that can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, weeks or even months].
Ahhh balance! Well, I have come to believe that balance is unattainable.
Not everything can or ever will be sitting evenly in your life. As soon as I gave up the battle for balance, I felt better.
However, I believe you can have a divine flow between all the areas of your life. That comes from how you take care of yourself and what boundaries you are setting.
When I’m coming from a place of self love in the choices I’m making, my pain responds accordingly. The same goes for when I’m coming from a place of lack or fear.
Stress is my biggest trigger for pain flare ups and so it is up to me how I manage this. I make choices knowing that if I am pushing myself, my body will respond / react.
I am aware of the consequences and I get to decide if they are worth it. I stopped trying to live in a way that would mean minimal pain and instead started living in an intentional way.
You spend your free time devoted to doing the things that fill you up and set your soul on fire. What does this look like for you?
Travelling the world definitely sets my soul on fire. There is something about the feeling of endless possibilities every time you explore somewhere new. It gives me a sense of adventure and freedom unlike anything else.
Soulful connections and conversations light up my days. Involving myself in anything related to community or creating change in the world, which might mean helping a friend or supporting a charity.
I love to be active and involved in my life and business.
I know that you love to surround yourself with inspirational words and quotes.
Anyone living with chronic pain knows it can be a roller coaster of a ride; oftentimes more heavily weighted towards the ‘wake-up-feeling-like-absolute-sh!t-days.’
What is your favourite quote that empowers you and makes you feel all superhero-esqe on the days when you need a bit of a lift?
Ahhh I have SO MANY favourite quotes! There is so much power in the way words said in a specific sequence can make you feel.
One of my most favourite quotes that helped me to love my story, to see that everything I’d been through helped me become the person I am today, is this:
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
– Elizabeth Kubler Ross
Through your life coaching and writing, you are motivating women to chase their dreams and design the life they love.
How has sharing your insights and experiences benefited not only the women you work with, but also yourself, to live the best life?
Building my business is a huge part of me living my best life. It aligns with my beliefs and is a huge dream coming true.
I feel by showing my journey, sharing my struggles and challenges, my successes and celebrations, I am able to ‘prove’ it’s possible to overcome your circumstances. No matter how hard or challenging they might seem.
By being raw and vulnerable in my experiences, I am better able to connect with women and help them see what is possible for them too.
If you could offer one piece of advice to someone who has recently had their world rocked by a chronic illness diagnosis, what would you say?
Firstly, I am so so sorry you are going through this.
Let yourself feel everything. Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Don’t give up on your dreams, you absolutely can still achieve them, even if they look different to how you imagined them.
Is there anything else you would like to add? Maybe something I haven’t asked but you think is important for everyone to know?
I think it’s really important to know that there are so many different forms of chronic pain and chronic illness.
Every. Single. Person is having a different experience. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. What might be true for one person might not be for another.
It doesn’t mean that anyone is lying. It doesn’t mean that one is worse than the other. Everything is relative to the person going through it.
Remember everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind, always.
Where can we find you?
You can join the beautiful and ever growing DHL community over at Designing Her Life.
And that’s a wrap! Thanks Amy!
If you would like to participate (be interviewed!) please drop me an email at bree[at]starbritewarrior.com and we’ll have a chat!
Like this post? Then share it!
Photo Credit (Featured Image): Pixabay
Photo Credit (Bio Photo): Amy Mackenzie
All photos and content the property of Starbrite Warrior and Bree Hogan. Not to be reproduced without permission.