Guest Blog: The Ultimate Mindset Experience
Written by Ashley Shaw
Imagine being a few days out from a huge promotion at work. Everything seemed to be going well, I was growing stronger in my confidence in my career, my place in life, and I was finally comfortable with the idea that I was completely mastering “ADULTING” and things seemed to be falling perfectly into place. You couldn’t tell me that I wasn’t about to take over the world!
Then BOOM, just like that it was all over. I was driving to a meeting while at work and was rear ended at 75mph+ while I was completely stopped. I was in my early 30’s and still young enough to heal pretty quickly so just a little rest and pain medicine and I would be fine right? That’s what I was hoping for! But as the days and the weeks progressed, that wasn’t the case.
I’ll save the long part of the story for another time, but in short, I started having tons of issues that were unexplainable and just didn’t seem to make sense. After neck and back surgery, I didn’t seem to be healing at the rate I should be. I was in constant pain and literally could not sit upright in a chair without pain medicine for more than 15 minutes—and that was pushing it (This, by the way, lasted for over 3 years).
I went through a period of deep depression. I felt fatigued all of the time, like nobody understood what I was going through, like I was broken. And how could I ever be loved if I wasn’t whole? I couldn’t do any of the things I used to do. Friends turned their backs on me because I wasn’t “fun” anymore. My relationship was turning into a dumpster fire, and I just felt like I was a waste of air. Nobody knew that some days it took all of my energy to move from the bedroom to the living room to lay down again. I was on pain pills, muscle relaxers, and I finally gave in and began taking medicine to deal with my depression.
I had always loved working out..marathons, stair climb races to the top of the tallest building west of the Mississippi, and my favorite-boxing. I wanted SOOO badly to be able to be active again but I was told by doctors to get used to just being happy walking around the block. I laid in bed in tears one day and promised myself that if my body ever started cooperating again that I wanted to do a bikini competition.
I started by working out in my living room with just a shirt and shorts. Wearing a bra hurt my neck and shoulders so badly that I just decided to pull my blinds shut and do what I could. Despite the pain, I actually felt 1000x better when I got up and started moving. Less stiff and just the satisfaction of completing a workout was exhilarating. I started with 10-15 minutes and gradually built my time up.
Fast forward a couple of years...because my Fibromyalgia story is a teeny bit different. My mom has had it for decades so I was familiar with a lot of the symptoms and I was a living witness to how she handled it.
I made it my mission to find a way to recover from my surgeries and rehabilitate myself. As the years progressed, I started feeling better but mysterious things kept happening in my body. I kept ruling out causes..ok not arthritis, not gout, not this, not that..and every time my mom said maybe you’d have ..FIBR...I would quickly cut her off because ...NO I DIDN’T! I didn’t want it. I had already been through so much! I kept telling myself that if I didn’t claim it I wouldn’t manifest it. But deep down inside I always wondered.
In 2017 I started training for my bodybuilding competition. I told myself that’s what I wanted to do and after years upon years of hearing what I couldn’t do I WAS NOT going to not put 100% effort into stepping on stage. I found that my mindset is what got me through my workouts. It’s crazy because I can lift up the whole gym, but if you ask me to reach behind the toilet to scrub the floor I’d be down for the count. What I learned for me, is that as long as I can control my motions, that it’s much easier for me to workout. I don’t do exercises that involve me hopping around and bouncing. But personally, weightlifting, boxing, and cardio saved my life. I felt a sense of purpose return, I felt a sense of accomplishment. As I got stronger and saw my body changing it motivated me more to keep going.
But again, it’s never that easy when it comes to Fibromyalgia—that’s why we are warriors right! With a positive mindset, we can take the good from each battle and win the war!
As I started working toward competition, there were days that I felt exhausted. 2-3 times a day in the gym and it felt like all I could do beyond that was shower and sleep. Random stuff was happening like body swelling, tenderness, and extreme fatigue. In my second season of competition, a lot of these things seemed to be happening more frequently. In my first season I just wanted to step on stage. In my second season, I told myself, f-that if I’m putting in all of this work I want to win!
As I got closer to my second show, the swelling increased and I had days that I could barely keep my eyes open between gym sessions. My coach started questioning my heart, my eating habits, and my dedication. The week of the show and the day of the show, everything that could possibly go wrong seemed to go wrong. I’ll share more later, but I’ll say this..in the sport of body competitions, stress can cause your body to change. Any small change at that level could be the difference between 1st and not getting called out at all. So let me share this-my stress that week included both a hair and makeup fiasco and police.
During the show, my coach ended up sitting next to my mom and she mentioned something about her having Fibromyalgia. Ding ding ding! Without me knowing, he contacted a doctor friend if his and started going over some of my symptoms. With that second opinion they agreed that I had Fibromyalgia. A consult with my personal physician a few days later further confirmed the diagnosis.
When I got home that night I was sad. I didn’t get the first place spot that I wanted, but I was nationally qualified to go to the next level to get my professional status. But my sadness wasn’t because I didn’t win, it was knowing how hard I worked and to be told that the swelling was Fibromyalgia meant that I was never going to be in control of my body. I hopped on google and started going over the symptoms. For hours. I compared and cross compared. The craziest thing is when I read that TMJ was a symptom of fibromyalgia. My accident was in 2011. One day in 2015 I was extremely stressed and woke up and opened my mouth and my jaw dislocated. Nobody knew why. As I went over each of my “unexplained” symptoms I started to embrace that the majority of issues I thought were residuals of the car accident were actually Fibromyalgia.
At the end of my research and quiet time I felt a lot better. I was beginning to think something was wrong with me and I had literally wondered if I was going crazy for the months leading to my actual diagnosis. It wasn’t a matter or heart or mindset or effort. I FINALLY had a reason. A lot of the self pressure and the fighting I had started doing with my body HAD to stop. I forgave myself for becoming an enemy to myself. I realized that even though I had workout, business and lifestyle goals that were not always in agreement with how my body felt, that I would have to find a better balance and truly listen to my body when the Fibromyalgia was talking to me.
My biggest take away was to be unapologetic about having fibromyalgia. My main goal now is to limit my stress level. I try to anticipate my triggers and stressors and avoid or work around those things in advance. I make sure to schedule rest breaks after my workouts so I can lay down or stretch out and relax and don’t have to immediately do something so that my body has additional time to rest and recover.
Right now, I workout 2-3 times a day because I am trying to keep my body in peak athletic shape. Part of the reason I do multiple workouts is because the rest of my day is pretty sedentary. I work from home for myself because sitting in front of a computer and filing papers aggravates my neck and back and increases my pain and swelling. By splitting my workouts I am able to exercise more intensely for a shorter period of time. Also, if my body isn’t happy with what I’m working on I can switch the order of my workouts. I generally feel best in the mornings and in the late evenings if I am able to pace my day and factor in fibro rest time.
With my diagnosis, a huge weight has been lifted. I have a name and reason for the things happening in my body and an awesome community of Fibro Warriors that give me a huge sense of family and a giant dose of inspiration. I share my story to inspire others. My hope is that my testimony encourages you to keep fighting! We are A LOT stronger and more resilient than we know! I BELIEVE IN YOU! YOU GOT THIS!
Ashley Shaw is a published best selling author, public speaker, certified master life coach, certified personal trainer, and health/wellness coach. Founder and owner of AshFit Solutions, she focuses on holistic total body lifestyle transformation to ensure her clients are their best selves.
A tragic traffic accident ended her career in law enforcement as an LA County Deputy Sheriff, so Ashley had to reinvent her life. After neck and back surgery and re-teaching herself to walk, Ashley ultimately rehabilitated herself from using a walker to becoming a body competitor.
From that experience, AshFit Solutions was formed and Ashley created a groundbreaking program, the “Ultimate Mindset Experience”, to share her story of going from depression to triumph for the purpose of inspiring and motivating others and to truly change lives through total mind, body, and spirit fitness. You can check out Ashley’s online mindset and fitness courses by visiting Ashfitsolutions.com.
Make sure to follow Ashley on Instagram @ashfit_1 and let her know that you are a part of the Fibro-warrior family!