This Resilient Mother Won Her Battle With Fibromyalgia With Yoga And TCM

Back in the ’90s, Daisy Chia was a stressed-out accounts director working in the media industry. The fast-paced environment meant she was constantly on the go, with barely any time to rest.

“Deadlines were a daily affair. I was sleeping an average of three to four hours every night, and always rushing for time. After a year, I finally quit my media job due to pressure from my husband,” says Daisy, who is now in her late 40s.

“Struggling with three young kids and a husband who was constantly working outstation was challenging. My marriage broke down… and that’s when my illness started.”

Although Daisy didn’t know it at the time, she had fibromyalgia, which causes chronic muscle pain and stiffness, fatigue, and sleep issues. “I was increasingly tired as the days went by,” she recalls. “I felt pain all over my body. One day, it got so bad that I couldn’t even sit up in bed. The pain never went off. Not knowing what else to do, I simply continued to endure it… until one day, I experienced incontinence.

Daisy ended up in the A&E department of a public hospital, but the doctor there wasn’t able to diagnose her condition. “I went home in despair… I felt like I was having a mental breakdown, but no one believed me,” shares Daisy. “For almost five months, I was unable to sit up, and had to crawl to shower myself. My eldest son was eight at the time, and his twin brothers were five. They often saw me lying on the floor and would bring me pillows wherever they found me lying down.”

Daisy’s days passed in a haze of pain and confusion, describing the period as “the worst time of my life”. “I had dementia, widespread pain throughout my body, fatigue, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome),” she recalls with a shudder, “Yet, I was unable to get a proper diagnosis. I would be yelling at someone one minute, and then have totally no memory of it ever happening. It was very frightening because I had no idea what was going on.”

“During the years when I was suffering from a bad nerve disorder, my childhood friends would come over to my place to celebrate my birthday with a cake and food for my kids. They would sing me a birthday song and let me blow out the candles, then make their way off to let me rest.”

It wasn’t till three years later that she finally found answers at a private hospital, and was formally diagnosed with fibromyalgia. “The doctor told me that it was incurable and prescribed me painkillers, sleeping pills, and epilepsy drugs for pain management.”

But just three days later, she made the life-changing decision to stop taking the drugs. “All the pills did was make me feel drowsy and stoned,” she reveals. Daisy dug deep to find the strength she needed to turn her life around. Looking back, she recalls, “My kids had no choice but to be very independent. Whenever Sports Day or parent-teacher meetings came around, they would tell their teacher their mother was not well and ask if I could correspond with them via phone calls. They never gave me any problems and did well in school.”

“These recent photos were taken with the kids just last year. Looking back, I realise that I hardly took any pictures with them while they were growing up. As they had an ‘inefficient/defunct’ mum during the years when I was sick, they had no choice but to grow up street smart and independent. Before I know it, they’re now so grown up! My oldest boy is now 19 and the twins have turned 16.”

“I had to survive for my kids,” the loving mum says stoically. “I was stubborn. I refused to survive on painkillers and sleeping pills. Being persistent about being on the holistic path and having a naughty sense of humour helped,” she quips with a chuckle. “I was willing to try anything that was recommended – osteopathy, acupuncture, and traditional Chinese medicine… I tried them all and let my body decide if they worked for me.”

During her ordeal, Daisy practised yoga under the patient guidance of her teachers, which she said helped manage her pain. “On the days when I managed to make it to the centre, they would help me with whatever stretching I could manage each time. And whenever I had bad days, they would support me with breathing techniques that helped to ease my pain. My health slowly improved and I got back on my feet, little by little.”

“I exercise every day, but how much I do depends on how I feel on any given day. Ashtanga yoga works on the understanding that everyone is different, and so no one is expected to practice in the same way, or with the same alignment, or get the same results.”

Daisy credits her Ashtanga yoga practice as integral to her journey of health and recovery. “Yoga practice encourages mindfulness and promotes self-awareness of one’s own body and mind. The student takes on the ownership of their practice, with the teacher alongside as their support and guide.”

For Daisy, yoga not only became a lifeline and a way to manage her physical and mental health, but a business opportunity. She co-founded and now runs The Yoga Shala in Tanjong Pagar, where she helps others transform their bodies, too.

“My team of friends at The Yoga Shala have always been there for me. They helped me with stretching and breathing exercises when I was in pain, and guided me along my road to recovery.”

This was taken in Perth with my kids when they were little My oldest boy was eight, while my twins were five.“Running a yoga studio was never something that I’d planned on doing, but the one I had been going had to shut down. A few other students and I decided to take over the existing space with our yoga teacher,” she reveals. “I left most of the running of The Yoga Shala to my business partners and did my best to support them whenever I could, but it was still quite a juggling act balancing with my full-time job with my work at The Yoga Shala, as well as family commitments.”

 

“This was taken in Perth with my kids when they were little My oldest boy was eight, while my twins were five.”

“My brave friends brought me on a self-drive trip to Hokkaido, knowing that there was no way I could manage the otherwise hectic schedule of going on a group tour. Despite being too lethargic to do much other than sleep in the car most of the time while they were hiking, they took me with them and took care of me throughout.”

Looking at Daisy now, it’s hard to imagine the health issues that used to plague her. Thankfully, those gloomy days are a thing of the past. Like her namesake flower, Daisy radiates cheerfulness with every step. She credits a healthy mix of positivity, yoga, and support from her loved ones, for her route to regaining good health. “Some days I do just 10 to 15 minutes of stretching, and on other days it may be 30 minutes of modified Ashtanga yoga. Dealing with my own health issues and meeting different people at the shala, has helped me to realise that no two people are the same. Everyone is unique.”

“During the years when I was suffering from a bad nerve disorder, my childhood friends would come over to my place to celebrate my birthday with a cake and food for my kids. They would sing me a birthday song and let me blow out the candles, then make their way off to let me rest.”“It’s been four years down this long road of recovery and I’ve gotten so much better,” she says with a confident smile. “I used to sleep through one to two weeks at a go, and yet still have no energy to get out of the house – these days, I sleep well and feel more energised. I try to get to bed by 10 pm and cut evening activities to a minimum. Gone are the days of finding myself squatting by the road with a brain fog, not knowing how to get home, or falling asleep at a bus stop in the afternoon, only to wake up hours later in confusion and stupor.”

Self-love also plays a central role in her life today. “Love has to begin from within,” she affirms. “I wake up every morning feeling positive! I’m able to love myself and everyone around me.” Adds the fit mum of three teenage boys, “As a total mind and body workout, yoga has helped me to improve my overall well-being. I still practice consistently and regularly as a way to relieve stress and manage anxiety. I highly encourage everyone to try it.”

Text: Candy Lim-Soliano / Photos: Courtesy of Daisy Chia

This article appeared in the June issue of The Singapore Women’s Weekly

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