The Cycle of change.

7 Apr 2016

Five years ago, in my early fifties, I went from being a fit and very active healthy woman, to struggling to get through the day doing even the simplest of tasks. I ached all over. It hurt to turn over in bed. I could no longer run up the stairs. I had to rest for a good two hours every day.

So I adapted, as you do; I had no choice... I found out, the hard way, that I could do one, just one thing each day: e.g. a wash-load or a trip to the corner shop, not both. I learnt to pace myself.

Two years in, I was referred to a lovely physiotherapist. He encouraged me to persevere with gentle exercise (my weekly yoga class, a Sunday stroll, a gentle aqua-fit class). And we talked; we talked about my relationship with my condition. He taught me about the Cycle of Change. I stress the following is my interpretation of the different stages:

Denial (This isn't happening to me)

Ambivalence (Maybe there's a problem/no there isn't/yes there is)

Planning for change (What am I going to do about this? Anything?)

Implementation of change

Maintenance of changed behaviour/thought patterns


Lasting change

I confidently assured him that I was at "Maintenance"; I knew I had the condition; I had learnt the hard way not to overdo things; I was maintaining a sensibly paced approach with plenty of rest. My life was so very different from before the diagnosis that obviously I was at "Maintenance" ... or was I?

Gently, he questioned this and eventually helped me to see that I was not at "Maintenance" – oh no! I was right back at "Ambivalence"; I tolerated my condition, I had to, otherwise I was wiped out for several days. But I hadn't accepted it. I was grieving for the woman I had been and I was impatient to return to being her – I was looking backwards.

I found this SO hard to accept. I didn't want to look at myself as I had become. I was impatient to return to my former self. Yet I knew in my heart of hearts that he was right. I also knew that there IS no "going back"; which meant that I HAD to accept myself as I was, which I absolutely did NOT want to do – after all, if I accepted the condition, then IT had won and I would never change...

Now the thing about the Cycle of Change is that you can make progress, then suffer a lapse – and find yourself right back at Denial. This was one of the hardest parts of the whole process for me; recognising I was back at the beginning and having to work through all the stages again, and again...

I now use the Cycle of Change in other situations and it has become an invaluable tool for me. Challenging, definitely, but invaluable. Maybe it can help you too?


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