It’s been a while…tough times

Over the last year it’s true that there have been few signs of life in terms of the MTOUGH site. We haven’t gone away and there has been lots happening but unfortunately I have not been in a position to update you on the many exciting things that have occurred. We have a small but active group that have achieved a lot since last summer: A whole host of excellent publications, a PhD completion, conference presentations, applied work and many other things that I will try to highlight over the next few weeks.

Unfortunately I haven’t been in a position to highlight these achievements as I suffered serious health problems last summer and have only just begun a phased return to work in the past week. It was a major relapse of a debilitating condition (CFS/ME) that I have lived with for over ten years. It’s a condition that is still poorly understood and one for which there is no cure. I was managing the condition well, but things went badly wrong last summer. I went from being a reasonably active person to housebound within a few weeks. It has been a long, hard road back to reach a point where I can, at last, return to work on reduced hours before building back up to a full-time role. It’s an illness that changes your life and places significant limits on what you can do. That’s a tough challenge not just physically, but also in a psychological sense. I still have many obstacles and challenges ahead but at least there is now a feeling of moving forward and making progress.

Without doubt my ability to cope over the past year has been challenged like never before. It presents a completely different context to understand what mental toughness is all about. It’s certain not all about pushing on through pain (if you do that with CFS/ME you become very ill and delay eventual recovery) but about being very disciplined and at times restrained…to avoid doing too much when you are motivated and feeling somewhat better. The illness sets many traps for the patient and remaining positive and optimistic when there is little sense of control is difficult. Not everyone makes a good recovery, very few recover fully (about 5% of patients). Personally, I’m pleased that I possess, and have learned to be mentally strong as this has been crucial. When life throws that curve ball, we need to be flexible enough to adjust and withstand, and sometimes it’s just getting through a day at a time. People who have gone through this, and worse illnesses, will understand. My own personal experiences over the last year have re-affirmed just why possessing mental strength is so important, in all aspects of life, not just sport.

There is a lot more to say about what has been going on within the MTOUGH group, and I will try to do so over the next few weeks / months. But for now, here’s a link to an very readable article that showcases some of the work we have been doing (before I became ill) with mountaineers. Many thanks to Christian Swann for relating the key findings from our work in this article.
Best wishes, Lee.