I wish people knew how hard it is to keep striving to feel better. We are also always doing the best we can, even when it looks like we are doing nothing, i.e. resting. We are actually warriors, fighting for our health, each and every day, and we never give up seeking answers to feel better and remember our dreams of living a semi-normal life.
As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Edie Summers. Edie Summers is an author, wellness consultant, and yoga and fitness instructor. Her book “The Memory of Health: A Journey to Well-Being” is a resource and guide to living well in the face of any great life or wellness challenge. Find out more here: bit.ly/MOHbook
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Sure. ☺ I loved dance, writing, and books growing up. I was always very active, played outside a lot, and I had a huge imagination. I was creative, intellectual, and shy, but I had several close friends. I was very active in learning and performing tap, ballet, world, and contemporary dance. In college, I was a dance major, and then switched to studying English Literature.
Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled or became ill? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?
While I was in college, in my early 20’s, I had a ski accident. I had to have ACL surgery, and then 3 weeks later, I was in physical therapy. Somewhere along the line, I started feeling worn-out and tired often. I was sleeping much more than usual too. I noticed a distinct shift in how my body was functioning. I started having reactions to some of the anti-inflammatory medications I was on as well. They were supposed to reduce inflammation and help me in physical therapy in terms of helping to reduce my scar tissue. After 8 months on ibuprofen and then Naprosyn toward the end, I started developing major symptoms like chronic fatigue and short-term depression. And even though I had made progress getting my scar tissue in my knee down, I hit a plateau at 90 degrees mobility. I was told that’s most likely where my knee’s range of motion would stay. This wasn’t an acceptable reality for me, so I met with a naturopath, and his suggestions helped me be able to continue reducing the scar tissue in my knee. Afterwards, I got into the natural foods industry seeking even more answers, and my energy and well-being started to improve as well.
For me, I had to make a few mental shifts. First, I didn’t accept the current reality of where my knee was stuck. This would have meant I couldn’t dance again. I remember there was a former police officer in physical therapy with me, who had been in a high-speed chase. They went through the front glass window of a store. He was trying to get his knee to 90 degrees mobility so he could ride his motorcycle again. I was rooting for him, but my knee was at 90 degrees mobility (where he aspired to be), and to dance again, I needed even more range-of-motion. So, I knew I had to try something different to try to reach my goal. This is why I visited the naturopath.
I also had to make several mental shifts regarding developing chronic fatigue. My body had developed a new normal. I have been able to shift that normal to varying degrees through lifestyle, but it’s still a new normal overall. I’ve had to learn to develop a lot of patience and self-compassion for my body. There can be a lot of judgment that comes with having to deal with physical challenges too. Sometimes we have to rest or change plans. People don’t always understand. We have to be ok with not being understood. I’ve been lucky that, overall and for the most part, my fatigue has been mostly mild — relatively speaking — compared to many people who cope with chronic fatigue or even CFS (which I was also diagnosed with down-the-road in 2005).
For me, I also made a mental shift by setting an intention to feel as good as I can. This intention made me relentlessly seek answers to what may cause chronic fatigue, and what may improve it. This intention also makes me follow through on what I’ve learned, and what I’ve found that works. What works for me is lifestyle medicine: it’s what I eat, it’s when and how I sleep, how I think, certain supplements, and it’s mind-body practices like yoga, Qi-Gong, Tai Chi, and mindfulness meditation. It takes discipline to practice lifestyle medicine, but it’s worth it. We have so much more influence than we realize on the experience of our well-being. We also have great influence on each other’s well-being when it comes to public health, and our collective energy and actions.
Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability or illness?
I’ve been lucky to be able to work for the most part, although I have mostly sought work — or created work — that is flexible to some degree. I worked as a buyer and broker in the natural foods industry, and I was a professional dancer for about 10 years. I was so blessed to even work as an executive with a health, wellness, and fitness tech startup in San Jose. Before the pandemic hit, I was honored to be a yoga, dance, and fitness instructor in the local park district and in schools here in Portland, OR. I also wrote the book “The Memory of Health” on these subjects (illness, health, wellness, challenge, resilience, perseverance) that took me 10 years to write. I just kept plodding away at it until I finally finished it: a little bit at a time, when I had energy. I had set the intention to finish it. Setting intentions makes all the difference. I run a very active page on Facebook for people facing chronic fatigue from any source: facebook.com/chronicfatiguesupport
What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?
Be your own best advocate, whether it’s with practitioners, yourself, or individuals or institutions. Don’t allow others’ judgments to affect you. Instead, focus all of your energy on practicing consistent self-care and self-compassion. My wish for you is that you find your strength of will and capacity to continue to hope, seek answers, and implement the wellness wisdom you find along the way. Our body, mind, heart, and soul are beautifully resilient. Whatever you’ve been through, or are currently facing, know you have the capacity to be ever more resilient. We can thrive even with a new normal. Regardless of any disabilities, your true potential in life still calls. You can still find a way to share your gifts, regardless of your current physical limitations.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I would have to thank my mom, a million times over, for never giving up on me, and providing so much unconditional love and support along the way.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I really try to give people a sense of hope and possibility. I create content around self-care, health, sustainability, well-being, compassion, confidence, inspiration, and entrepreneurship.
Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.
- I wish people had more compassion and less judgment for those facing great odds.
- I wish people knew that we are not complaining when we talk about symptoms. We are seeking compassion and hoping you can see our perspective for greater understanding.
- I wish people knew that chronic fatigue is not the same as feeling tired from the day. Chronic fatigue is a debilitating feeling of being drained or wiped out, with often continuous brain fog and/or muscle fatigue. It sometimes feels like you have a mild flu.
- I wish people knew how lonely people with physical limitations can feel. We have faced immeasurable losses not feeling well, including isolation. We need connection to heal too.
- I wish people knew how hard it is to keep striving to feel better. We are also always doing the best we can, even when it looks like we are doing nothing, i.e. resting. We are actually warriors, fighting for our health, each and every day, and we never give up seeking answers to feel better and remember our dreams of living a semi-normal life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
As far as being unstoppable, I love this quote by Rachel Friedman:
“Focus on the things you can do, not the things you can’t.”
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
I have always wished to connect with Deepak Chopra. His wisdom has influenced me so much. We did meet on Twitter on a synchronous Sunday morning, and I hope to connect more in the future in any capacity, virtually or in person. ☺