Struck by fibromyalgia, this mum-of-three could not sit up and had to crawl to shower for almost five months. Learn how this resilient mother turned her health around with yoga and TCM.
“I took this photo with my kids last year. Looking back, I realise I hardly took any pictures with them while they were growing up. As they had a ‘defunct’ mum during the years when I was sick, they had no choice but to grow up street smart and independent. Before I knew it, they’ve all grown up! My oldest boy is now 19 and the twins have turned 16.”
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.”
The Worst Time Of Her Life
Daisy’s days passed in a haze of pain and confusion. Describing the period as “the worst time of my life”, she recalls, with a shudder, “I had dementia, widespread pain throughout my body, fatigue, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). 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.”
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.”
“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.”
“We took a family holiday to Perth when my kids were little. My oldest boy was eight, and my twins were five.”
“My brave friends brought me on a driving trip to Hokkaido, knowing that there was no way I could manage the otherwise hectic schedule of 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.”
Transformed Through Yoga
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,” she shares.
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.
“Running a yoga studio was never something that I’d planned on doing, but the one I had been going to had 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, but it was still a juggling act balancing my fulltime job, my work at The Yoga Shala and family commitments.”
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.
“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 still have no energy to leave the house – these days, I sleep well and feel more energised. I try to go to bed by 10 pm and cut evening activities to a minimum.”
Self-love also plays a central role in her life today. “Love has to begin from within,” says the fit mum of three teenage boys. “I wake up every morning feeling positive! I’m able to love myself and everyone around me.”
YOGA FOR BEGINNERS If you’re new to yoga, here are Daisy’s tips to help you make the most of your practice:
Practise in the morning Ideally, this is the best time to do yoga as our minds tend to be more focused and clear. However, if you prefer, you can also practise in the evenings if that works better for you.
Have a light meal Food takes time and energy to digest, so eat at least 90 minutes before your yoga session to avoid feeling lethargic.
Learn from a reputable yoga centre A good teacher will be able to provide you with proper guidance, especially if you’re a beginner. This is important so that you learn the correct sequence of Ashtanga yoga (or any type of yoga).
TEXT: CANDY LIM-SOLIANO/ PHOTOS: COURTESY OF DAISY CHIA