Hi, I'm Ariela Jacobs and welcome to THE DIRT COLLECTIVE. This concept was born out of years of self study and my respective health journey with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Over the past few years, I have been figuring out how I could branch out and share my story, knowledge and healing mechanisms with others. It is The Dirt Collective which has brought me to this point. The aim here is to raise awareness about the invisible, on all levels. I want to let people know that liking themselves is healing, not selfish - and that it's a good thing to embrace our dirt. The collective is here to highlight the strategies involved in shifting perspective and making a permanent change towards self-healing and love, through education, self-acceptance, sustainable practices and storytelling.
I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 2008, A mystery illness and an umbrella term coined by many practitioners alike. It is also classified as anxiety or depression when no underlying cause can be deciphered. I rarely tell people I have CFS. I do this for a few reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t define me, and secondly it’s extremely hard to explain what CFS is to someone, because it’s invisible. There is a HUGE stigma about invisible illnesses, and sometimes people are scorned if they seem to be complaining with no visual proof. People find it difficult to comprehend CFS because those who are afflicted tend not to complain. They hide their issues, because others make them feel as if they are crazy. Over prolonged periods of time, symptoms also become the norm.
New relationships and CFS make for an interesting combination, albeit friendship or romantic. What does it mean to tell someone you love about all your weird symptoms? Can someone really understand when you don’t really understand? And ultimately where does the frustration lie? Explaining to someone that you’re exhausted, listing all your new-found intolerances to foods, severe brain fog, insomnia, fibromyalgia pain and periods of insomnia are difficult topics to discuss. Once you have CFS, normality flies out the window. Things which may have once been extremely simple, become quite a complex. For 8 years, I’ve been deciphering the underlying cause; I’ve figured out management tools, through diet, meditation, environmental changes and basically doing things which merely make me happy in order to live with this weirdness.
Over these 8 years, I’ve been labelled with orthorexia, anxiety, hypochondrainism and obduracy. Sure, maybe. Perhaps it can appear that way. But when you are experiencing physical symptoms which can’t be seen, I have found that I need to do what works for me, albeit how niche. I don’t always like to explain what’s going on with me; sometimes all it requires is empathy from the important people in my life, especially because some of the symptoms fall under categories that we are taught not to talk about such as cramps, stomach spasms, painful periods etc.
Along the way, I’ve had to give up many things that I really love, but I’ve also gotten to choose new things, and change is also good. I’ve come a long way and I am currently at a point which I never thought would eventuate. Initially my symptoms made me ridiculously unhappy and I couldn’t really see the light. Sometimes I still have those days, but I can definitely say that the good days currently outweigh the bad. Chronic Fatigue has allowed me to learn a lot about myself. It has allowed me to like myself and I recognise, that prior to diagnosis, I don’t think I liked myself very much at all. Perhaps this is why CFS and I found each other, so I could help myself, on many levels. Yes, it has taken me a few years to get to that point, to look at it from a completely new perspective, to manage my symptoms with love and self-discipline, but CFS has been my greatest teacher. It has taught me to be authentic and confront my issues head on. The more I suppress the sicker I feel, so standing in my truth is my greatest medicine.
It has taught me to be mindful and present, because that’s when I am happiest. It has taught me that love and positivity outweigh fear; the latter is there and it always will be, but we have a choice to change our our view when it decides to pop up. I’ve met beautiful, like-minded people allowing me to accept my journey, and most of all, myself.