SOL team member Florence Neville is an experienced Health and Nutrition Coach. Driven by her passion for transformation, she helps people use food to reach optimum health and overcome conditions such as migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney stones, digestive distress, infertility, and weight issues.
Today, Flo is taking over the SOL blog to share her own, deeply personal wellbeing story…
Life with Autism
Although I’ve spent much of my adult life throwing myself into different and eclectic career roles, I’ve been passionate about health and nutrition since the age of eight when I secretly dreamed up meal plans for my classmates and imagined becoming a doctor who prescribed food instead of medicine! However, my path to becoming a Health and Nutrition Coach was a rocky one.
Growing up in Bristol in the 1970s, I was known as an ‘odd’ child. Despite working at a level far beyond my years, I saw all written words as vibrating on the page and often found it impossible to comprehend verbal instructions. A loner with chronic insomnia, bad digestion and poor social skills, I was unable to manage simple tasks like dressing myself until the age of eight. Later, as a teenager, I had overwhelming meltdowns that left me exhausted for days and multiple breakdowns that kept me off school and, later, university.
These days, there’s a much greater chance I’d have received my diagnosis of Autism earlier in life rather than waiting until my early forties.
The Challenge of ‘Masking’
Autistic people do not process information in the same way non-autistic people do. We may perceive the spectrums of colour, sounds, textures and tastes differently.
We generally have to study body language and facial expressions to understand what other people are saying rather than instinctively understanding unspoken communication. We often take words literally, are unable to adapt in new or unexpected situations, have ‘spiky’ educational profiles, and misinterpret even the physical environment around us. All of this can leave us with high stress levels that impact every area of our physical and emotional wellbeing.
Those stress levels meant that life until my late thirties was spent with fatigue, depressive episodes, chronic anxiety and insomnia, brain fog, acne, impaired metabolism and frequent bouts of viral tonsillitis.
Meanwhile, I had studied and practised how-to-behave-like-other-people so well that nobody except my wonderful husband knew how hard I was working to hold my life together. The autistic community refer to this as ‘masking’. Every day, I performed ‘happy, relaxed and outgoing’ while inside I was permanently overwhelmed and confused.
Natural Nutrition & The Importance of Self-Care
When the younger of my two gorgeous daughters started pre-school in 2008, I enrolled on a Natural Nutrition diploma course (which I recently discovered is the same course Lizzie did). This provided me with a fantastic springboard from which to research and experiment with a wide range of nutritional philosophies and lifestyle practices which I still love learning about ten years later.
In my very first lecture, we were asked to ponder the following three points:
- All chronic illness begins with chronic cellular dehydration.
- Stress equals dehydration which, in turn, equals further stress.
- The very biggest stress in life is not being the person you are supposed to be.
It took until my diagnosis of autism, a full eight years later, to learn who I was born to be.
To honour the person I’m supposed to be means I need to treat the practice of regular and meaningful self-care with the utmost respect. It means taking frequent time out from playing the roles that society asks of me. It means honouring my ancestral requirements for high quality nutrition, sleep, fresh air, sunlight and movement.
It means giving my creativity free reign and recognising that I, personally, am fuelled by knowledge and the joy of seeing patterns in life’s seeming randomness. And it means recognising and immersing myself fully in the cycles of the moon, the seasons, and of life.
Without self-care, I can’t be fully present for my husband and daughters, for my friends or my clients. The more I actively and mindfully work with self-care, the more I can show up for, support and nurture my loved ones.
State of Liberty’s philosophy that self-care should be a way of life is one that resonates strongly with me. I believe self-care connects us to our own lives. I’m truly looking forward to being part of the SOL team and finding out how the strategies we share become interwoven with your own practices.