One of the paradoxes of having a chronic illness is that since we tend to spend a lot of time and energy focusing on fixing the problem; which means we’re spending a lot of time and energy on the problem itself. Of course what we really want is the solution to the problem, but when the solution isn’t easily apparent, it’s easy to get stuck feeling anxious and just focusing on the problem.
That has been my experience anyway. We get more of what we focus on. At the same time, what we resist persists; which is why I think that “fighting fatigue” doesn’t work, and I no longer push myself when I’m feeling tired: I rest. And I tell myself that’s OK.
Lately I’ve been focusing more on creating the life I want for myself and on helping other people than on working hard to recover. I spend a lot of time playing music and have a gig lined up in a few weeks that I’m really looking forward to. I don’t feel so anxious when I’m absorbed in playing music, and I feel my nervous system relax.
I also coach other people who aren’t yet where I’m at, and helping them move forward really helps me feel positive too. One of my clients recently sent me this video, which I think has some great advice about relaxing your nervous system and focusing on being happy using EFT:
I’ve been recovering from a cold for the last week-and-a-bit, and I’ve really noticed how my thinking turns towards negative victim thinking when I feel particularly unwell. At the same time, over Easter I watched The Passion Of The Christ on TV, Mel Gibson’s brutal Catholocism-inspired glorification of suffering and martyrdom.
Taking it easy over Easter gave me time to reflect on whether martyrdom, suffering and victimhood should really be glorified. My conclusion is that while suffering can build patience and cause us to reflect on what is really important to us, martyrdom is overrated. It reflects a worldview that life is just about suffering and pain, often with some promise of reward in the non-existent afterlife, rather than to be enjoyed in the present moment.
After all, nothing is as bad as the smell of a burning martyr.
I was recently contacted by a reader with CFS who said that the Keto//OS ketone supplement from Pruvit had miraculously cured his brain fog. I can’t say I’ve ever really experienced brain fog, although I do get a lot of anxiety to the point where I feel very sleepy & like I need to lie down; and I think they’re related.
Nevertheless, my reader sent me a 3 day sample of Ketone//OS and I agreed to write about my experience with it.
The main thing I have to say it that it’s delicious! I think I feel a little more alive than I did before taking it; but with my current low-stress lifestyle I’m gradually recovering anyway so it’s hard to say what contribution the Ketone//OS had. I suspect it’s a placebo, and a fairly expensive one at that… which may improve its effectiveness at reducing the anxiety that I believe leads to brain fog.
About seven weeks ago I finally got around to taking swimming lessons. It’s something that I had been planning to do ever since moving to live near the beach 18 months ago.
There are a number of reasons for this: Firstly, I don’t feel safe in the ocean when I’m out of my depth. Deep down I know that I’m not a good swimmer and whenever I’m in deep water my body responds with a lot of anxiety. I figured that if I knew I could swim confidently I wouldn’t get so anxious about not being able to touch the bottom. I go body boarding a lot and I feel relatively safe with the body board strapped to my arm, but I get caught in rips all the time and I know that if the strap was to break or I lost the board somehow, I’d be in real trouble.
One of the principles that I learnt during my brief experience of Mickel Therapy a few years back was that it is important to stay on top of things in order to avoid feeling any more overwhelmed than we already do by being ill. Having an accumulation of small unresolved life stressors can add up to create stress and tension in our nervous systems. That’s why it’s helpful to make a judicious list of “outstanding issues” that we want to address and whittle it down over time.
I say “judicious” because most people with CFS tend to take on too much, and and up feeling overwhelmed with the familiar feeling that there is “not enough time”. We don’t really trust in the process of life and have bought into the idea that the more we do, the more stuff we can have and the happier we will be.
The truth is that time is indeed limited and we need to choose what to focus on in our lives generally. But when I got sick a whole bunch of things that were actually important to me started to fall by the way side.
Now that I’ve whittled my “outstanding issues list” down to virtually nothing, it’s important to stay on top of things to prevent that feeling of overwhelm from coming back.
I think his theory about the cause of CFS is probably accurate and although I can’t vouch for the contents of his recovery program since I haven’t seen it, I thought I would let you all know about it so that you can check it out.
If you want to try the program, check out ANSRewire.com; and please leave a comment below letting me know how you find it. I’m particularly interested how it compares to DNRS and The Gupta Program.
I get my fair share of hate mail on this blog, which I find unpleasant but not entirely surprisingly. Given that CFS appears to involve the emotional centre of the brain, it tends to generate a lot of anxiety and/or anger. Many people aren’t good at expressing their anger cleanly, and some of them choose to channel it into hate mail directed at me.
Being on the receiving end of somebody else’s hostility can be stressful, so it’s important to be assertive with these people to stop their stress from entering my emotional boundary.
He’s an example from last week: I got an email from a female ex-friend who I initially met through this blog, which began:
“I don’t read your shit, but…”
… and went on to give me some unsolicited advice that I didn’t find particularly helpful.
If the theory about CFS being caused by an infection of the vagus nerve leading to chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system is correct, then it should show up in Heart Rate Variability measurements. HRV is supposed to correlate with parasympathetic nervous system arousal. I saw a psychologist a few years ago who was right into it when I was really stressed out and this technology first hit the market, but the devices at the time were specialized and expensive and I never asked him to test me, so I never actually got my HRV measured.
Now HRV measurement devices are relatively cheap though, and a friend of mine recently put me onto the EliteHRV app, which works on an iPhone with a relatively inexpensive Polar H7 Heart Rate Sensor.
The basic idea is that the more time your body spends in parasympathetic arousal, associated with higher HRV readings, the more recovery/healing you get.
I’ve just started this morning with my first Morning Readiness reading; so it’s too early to give any concrete results. I have noticed that my HRV drops while playing Yousician Piano, presumably because I’m still learning and the challenge of getting the notes right is mildly stressful. I hope this changes as I play better, since I play music to relax; not to get more stressed.
Warning: this post may contain graphic depictions of bodily fluids.
I’ve been slowly working through all the things that I put off because I’ve been sick, to reduce my sense of overwhelm. One of the things that I’ve been putting off for a long time, is going to the dentist to have a regular checkup and clean.
Three things prompted this: the first was simply that I haven’t been to the dentist in many years even before I became ill almost seven years ago, and I certainly haven’t been since.
Secondly, my gums of started to bleed during brushing lately and that bothers me.
Thirdly, the tension headache that I have most of the time tends to move around and often settles in my teeth, either on my upper jaw, my lower jaw or both at the same time. It occurred to me that the symptoms that I have in my head could be related to toothache or gum disease, and I have also heard theories relating migraines and even CFS to dental or orthodontic work; so I thought I should probably check that out.
Going to the dentist has never felt like much fun for me, so I was feeling pretty anxious. My previous experience of dentists had always been pretty painful, and they keep reminding me that the evil guy in The Little Shop of Horrors who chose to be a dentist so he could inflict pain on other people.