After her marriage broke down Helen Green seized the chance to make a fresh start.
Quitting her PR job at Boots in Nottingham, she bought a half-way-around-the-world ticket. It took her to Los Angeles and Seattle, around South America and on to Fiji and New Zealand. She spent time in Australia, Germany and then Canada teaching English.
When her visa expired, she was forced to move back home to live temporarily with her parents in Hucknall. She began planning the next step of her adventure but it was at this point that she knew something was wrong.
“I’d been feeling more tired than I felt I should have been for quite a long time,” she says. “Teaching is exhausting but I’d get home and spend weekends in bed.”
After a series of tests, Helen was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in 2013.
Around 250,000 people in the UK are thought to have the debilitating condition, which is characterised by persistent physical and mental fatigue, and it is difficult to treat because each patient reacts differently.
The illness affects Helen in various ways: often she gets ‘brain fogs’ and sometimes is left bedridden, relying on her mum’s help to cook her food and wash her clothes.
Experiencing long periods of exhaustion, the 43-year-old is forced to spend most of her days at home. She reads, watches films and meditates.
When she has enough energy, she goes out for coffee, takes five-minute strolls or goes to the cinema. But she admits the condition leaves her frustrated at times.
Since her diagnosis Helen has not been able to socialise in the evening because it is too exhausting.
She has also found out there is a poor understanding of her condition and has been hurt by some comments.
“It’s an invisible illness and it has taken time for me to understand, never mind others.
“One person said to me ’Why don’t you just get up and go and get yourself a job and stop spongeing off of your parents?’
“They expect me to be in a constant stage of exhaustion but on the days when I do feel like that I stay in my room.”
Inspired by the Wake Up project in Australia – aim: ‘To make the world a little kinder’ – Helen launched a blog in July 2015, Make Today Happy, writing about mindfulness, gratitude and her acts of kindness.
“I thought ‘I’ve got to pull myself out of this’ and I wanted to get back into writing. Instead of writing about how bad I was feeling I wanted to write about something positive.”
Helen’s acts of kindness have included leaving goodie bags on car bonnets at her local doctor’s surgery, buying a stranger coffee and scattering cards with positive messages around her town.
They are small acts in themselves but they can have a powerful impact on people’s lives as Helen has discovered.
Helen’s good deeds:
- Placed 150 kindness cards in library books, on bus seats and bathroom mirrors
- Handed a bouquet of flowers to a lady sitting doing a crossword
- Created a kindness advent calendar, prompting others to donate books to charity or feed the birds
- Gave out 20 goodie bags on Valentine’s Day
- Bought a stranger a coffee
- Paid for someone’s car parking
One woman, who was picking up her husband’s medication shortly after he had been discharged from hospital, returned to find one of Helen’s packages. She later wrote on Helen’s blog:
“We were both moved by the gift. At 3am [my husband] became very unwell, and was rushed back into hospital, and after receiving the most fantastic treatment he lost the fight and passed away. Just wanted you to know that your gift was a lift and I keep the card in pride of place.”
Helen says she was deeply moved by the kind words.
“One of the things I’ve learnt is that every day we have a choice. No matter how awful things are there is still beauty to be grateful for.”
Many with CFS get better over time and Helen believes that regardless of how slow the progress has been, she is too, finding herself building up more energy and being able to walk for more and more minutes.
“Sometimes I think ‘will I ever get well again – will I ever recover?’ But I snap out of quite quickly because it gets me down.”
Helen Green’s 100 Happy Days blog, http://maketodayhappy.co.uk/.