You are not empty, you’re just full
When I became ill, I was overflowing.
I would wake up in the morning already feeling that there was no space left. My mental and emotional overwhelm, created by years of chronic stress and internal pressure, had calcified into real, tangible, physical sensation. I could literally feel my cells shaking in my body, vibrating with surface tension like the tiny crest of water that rises over the rim of a full glass, balancing precariously for a short and anxious time before it inevitably spills.
Sometimes after only a single added drop.
It felt like I had to scoop out parts of myself in order to make room for the tasks of the day, reaching deeper and deeper every morning into the well of my reserves just to crawl out of bed, shower, make increasingly low-effort meals for breakfast, wobble myself to work, and pin my eyes open with sheer will as I stared at spreadsheet after spreadsheet.
By the end of the day, I was completely and totally spilt – a puddle on the floor, dislocated, sore and unmoving and lost.
During the months that followed my “big crash”, bedbound and aching, I felt completely spent. I became genuinely afraid that I’d given away all my life force energy and simply had nothing left.
I was surrounded by language of depletion – the doctors said I was in a “crash”, I constantly referred to myself as “exhausted” and “dead”, and spoon theory made me painfully aware that there was a lot more empty space than cutlery in my drawer. Things appeared very dire.
Now, having healed significantly and claimed a rich, beautiful life for myself, I see things differently. My experience is that, if you are healing ME/CFS, you are not empty. You are just full. It’s the pressure of fullness that causes the jar to tip and break, the vessel of your body to burst and leak everywhere.
Small tasks feel like mountains because the space between you and your capacity has grown so thin that even an anthill could fill it.
Everything is exhausting because there is simply no room.
Picture your body like a house, and your awareness (or will, or consciousness, or soul, or however you prefer to label it) as the person living there.
If everything is neat and tidy at home, it’s going to be relatively quick and easy to perform a simple task like vacuuming or cooking breakfast. It might even be pleasant if you’ve got some nice artwork hanging around, some photos of loved ones, items you love and cherish. This is how it should feel to be in our bodies when we’re in good health – like we are enjoying the safety, practicality, and open-windowed pleasantness of our home.
But when we are unwell, the floor is littered with anxieties. There are old boxes strewn around labelled “repressed past – DO NOT OPEN”. Maybe “work” is spray-painted in giant letters on the walls, or “motherhood”, or “marriage”, or whatever facet of our lives we have somehow atrophied from joy into obligation. Cleaning quickly becomes impossible. Walking from one end of the house to the other takes twice as long and requires ten times the effort, because we have to dodge all our own crap.
We don’t even want to stop and rest in this space because it feels so uncomfortable, so we just keep trudging around, bumping into things, or hiding in bed hoping it will all go away. This is how it feels to live in an activated nervous system. This is how it feels to be full.
In order to heal, we must summon the bravery to roll up our sleeves and clean up our internal landscape.
We need to finally look around, finally sit with the emotional discomfort, finally sort through the mental files from our childhoods, finally open the curtains wide so the light can show us where the dust has swirled and settled and darkened. It’s time for some serious truth-telling.
We need to get real with ourselves about our relationships, our choices, our lifestyles, our behaviours, and our work.
In what ways have we denied our truth to please others? In what ways have we martyred ourselves to avoid dealing with our own problems?
How have we overworked, overachieved, or become the family problem-solver to compensate for a core belief that we are unworthy when we are not successful or of service?
How has illness kept us safe by giving us something familiar in a world we’ve learnt to fear?
And what is our truth? What are our desires? How would it feel to live an open and spacious life, free from the “shoulds” and the “should-nots”, a life guided by a somatic sense of openness and receptivity rather than force and obligation?
How would it feel to trust and respect our bodies? To relax knowing that symptoms are loving gifts from an intelligence far wiser and more ancient than we could ever comprehend? To have faith, fully and wholeheartedly, that not only can you have a life that lights you up with satisfaction, but your body is conspiring in each and every moment to create that for you?
Health arrives when the body has a felt sense of spaciousness. When the weight of the past no longer rounds our shoulders and curls our necks into our chests. When the gut doesn’t need to clench up tight to protect us from an unsafe environment. When we can breathe deeply and fully, claiming our value, claiming our wants and needs and fears, holding the entirety of ourselves in the loving palm of our awareness.
Health is the slow unravelling of 30 trillion cells, each learning that is safe and worthy and loved, and communicating with other cells in perfect symbiosis.
When we pour out everything that isn’t ours, health is guaranteed. And in that open space, fresh and bright and glistening, there we will be.
How to reach Alisha:
You can find Alisha on Instagram @alishalouisebrown where she shares insights about her healing journey and what it means to be divinely human. She also offers 1:1 intuitive healing guidance, reiki healing sessions, and tarot readings.
Liz note: Nothing on this blog is health advice, we are just sharing our stories to inspire others.