Is The Gupta Programme a 100% Cure?

I got an email today from a reader of this blog who could relate to my story. They asked how I was, whether parental conflict issues from childhood were common in CFS, and said they were having trouble thinking of the Gupta Programme as a 100% cure. Here’s my response:

Thanks for your message. I’m glad you found my blog helpful. I woke up feeling pretty tired this morning, as usual, and played my guitar for a while before going back to bed for some meditation. I ended up falling asleep, and woke up feeling worse. I lay there thinking “Well, if I feel tired, perhaps I really do just need to rest”. Gets pretty boring kinda quick though.

In the absence of any better theory, I’m pretty convinced that the underlying cause of CFS is emotional stress, and there’s nothing like parental conflict in childhood to set you up for that. It left me with some pretty deeply rooted fear, and a sense that the world was a dangerous place to be in. Throw in a God who lets you go to hell to suffer for all eternity if you do, say, or believe the wrong thing, and it’s little wonder I’m anxious. I don’t think the link is just co-incidental. Ashok’s theory about the amygdala getting stuck in fight-or-flight mode makes sense to me.

I’ve only been on the Gupta programme for about 2 months. It feels like longer! I keep reminding myself to do Stop-Stop-Stop when I have negative thoughts, but I get lazy. Yes, and I too wonder sometimes whether it is all really working or not, and that causes me more stress. I start thinking “what’s the point? It probably won’t work anyway”, and worrying about whether I’ll actually be well at the end of the 6 months. I’ve always been skeptical of the whole emotional-issues-causing-physical-illness thing, but here I am with nowhere else to go so I’m giving it my best shot. I came across some recent medical papers on the Internet talking about a “psychogenic cough”, so it seems chronic stress can cause coughing symptoms. It doesn’t seem like a huge gap from that to full-on flu-like symptoms of CFS.

Nevertheless, I keep getting distracted with thoughts of “What do I really want to do with my life?”, and wanting to be out earning money and feeling like I’m “getting somewhere”. Starting the acting course has made that a little easier, as I feel like I’m a student again back at uni or something, which gives me a reprieve from pressuring myself to be working. Plus I just got an unexpectedly large inheritance from a pseudo-aunty which will keep me going for at least a year without digging into my savings. I really feel for people with CFS who are struggling to make ends meet; that’s just got to put even more stress on them.

I’ve had years of therapy even before getting CFS, and I’m looking at other avenues for unlocking emotional repression that I think probably helps fuel the amygdala stress cycle. So I’m also doing an acting course based on the Meisner technique of getting in touch with your emotions and learning to express them authentically, which another friend of mine with similar symptoms to CFS put me onto. It’s very obvious during the practise sessions that I’m pent up and there are emotional areas I just don’t seem to go into. I see other students struggling with the same thing, and the teacher’s comment is: “We’ll fix that”. I find it really encouraging when other students tell me they can relate to where I’m at, and have since moved on to feeling more free. It gives me hope. They may not have the physical symptoms, but they know what it’s like to be stuck in self-consciousness and emotional repression. Looking back, I was feeling stressed out and desperate for several years before my physical symptoms hit.

I’m glad you’re finding the programme helpful; it reminds me to stick at it. I’ve come across a few people on the forum who seemed to tail off it because they got bored or distracted, even though they acknowledge that it was helping them. Don’t give up! Keep in touch and let me know how you go down the track.

Cheers,
Graham
http://cfs-survivors.org/

No More Afternoon Naps!

I find myself getting really sleepy around 4 or 5pm, and got into the habit of having a lie down and a brief snooze. Trouble is, I generally wake up a half hour later feeling really shattered… much worse than before I had the lie down. I also tend to have a lot of trouble getting to sleep at night, and recently while reading the section on sleep in The Happiness Handbook, I was reminded that sleeping during the day isn’t good for insomniacs like me.

So I promised myself the other day that I was going to stop having a mid afternoon nap. I broke my promise yesterday, thinking “But I feel soooooo tired!” Well yes, I did, but that was nothing compared to how I felt when I woke up after about half an hour. I felt like my head had been backed over by a truck. Several times. I was due to give a presentation at Toastmasters that evening, which meant dragging my sorry ass out and waking up enough to speak coherently. Fortunately I’m really good at that, and it went down without a hitch. I’m glad I had the thing prepared the day before; I often leave things to the last minute, and that’s not good when a truck starts reversing mid-afternoon.

Invariably when I go for a lie down and have a quick snooze, I don’t get back to sleep again after waking up. I just lie there staring at the ceiling feeling washed out. It’s a bit like the effect I used to get the day after a really bad migraine. Oddly enough I don’t get migraines any more, which is one reason why I think my CFS is stress-related. I can see that my migraines were caused by the stress of compulsively pushing myself to achieve achieve achieve all the time unrelentingly.

Anyway, so next time I head towards the bedroom mid-afternoon because I’m feeling exhausted, remind me to go out and go for a walk or something, and get a decent night’s sleep instead. Slap me about if necessary until I get the message.

Highs and Lows

I feel ok today. Woke up and did soften-and-flow and the positive visualisation. I feel stuffed in the head and tired as usual, but pretty up-beat. Hey, it’s a weekend and the sun is shining. You gotta love that.

I’ve had a heap of highs and lows this week. Been feeling quite tense, though nowhere near as bad as mid last year. My acting course is going brilliantly; I’m really enjoying it. It’s awesome to have finally found something I really love doing again. I don’t know if the novelty will wear off, but at the moment I’m really having great fun doing repetition practice with the other students. It’s a fantastic opportunity to play around with a cool bunch of dudes. I especially love rep’ing with the girls; I just feed off their energy and invariably have them in stitches laughing and flirting with me by the end. I kept teasing this girl like crazy last night and she kept swinging between offended-but-amused and laughing uncontrollably. Told me I should be a stand-up comic. I’ll consider that.

I never seem to get angry during the repetition practice even when people are having a go at me. Whenever I start heading towards being angry or sad, I laugh. I know it’s a defence mechanism and I’ve been looking at that as something to try and “fix”, but now I’m thinking maybe I’ll just accept it. I dunno how much I go along with the idea that repressed anger causes illnesses like chronic fatigue anyway. Maybe I’m just not an angry guy. If people insult me and I just laugh it off, that sounds like a pretty good coping mechanism. Much better than getting hurt and upset about it like I used to. So what if I never really get angry? And a stand-up comic who laughs off hecklers and puts them in their place would go down rather well. Perhaps it is my second calling.

The downside is that when I feel low, I really feel low. And it comes on quickly. Lately it’s always triggered by my book not selling. It’s like the world is rejecting me because it doesn’t like what I have to offer, which pushes my buttons big time. I gave up engineering because I got burned out and bored, and doing something more creative in the arts still appeals to me; but the reality is that it’s a shitload easier to get a high-paying engineering job than it is to make a fortune selling e-books on the internet! My conservatism and unwillingness to fork out money on a project that’s not earning anything doesn’t help; I’m massively risk-averse. My savings are my security, especially when I don’t feel up to working. I don’t want to go blowing it on some crazy money-making scheme that may not pan out. And the more time I put into promoting the e-book when it’s not selling, the more I go through these goddam mood swings. Besides, it’s meant to be fun. It’s not fun when I’m worrying about whether people like it or not. That’s just old needy Graham popping up again in a new context.

I’m considering taking next week off altogether; but I know I’m addicted to validation and people purchasing my wares is just another form of that, so I can pretty much guarantee I’ll keep at it. I’m not really following Ashok’s advice to stop working though. My meditation retreat is coming up in a few weeks time, so that will definitely give me some time out.

I’ve also joined a men’s group, and we have our first meeting this afternoon. I’m looking forward to that; I’ve never had really close friendships with many men before, and I think it’s something I’m lacking a bit. It should be a good support mechanism too.

Doing Pretty Well

Yesterday I woke up a bit headachey. I was due to do lunch with my parents and a second cousin. Perhaps the thought of lunch with my parents brought the headache on; they’ve been the main root cause of stress in my life. It may be all psychosomatic, but that doesn’t make it just go away.

I’m doing pretty well today. I woke up quite early, did the Soften and Flow meditation, but didn’t feel like falling asleep again so I made some SEO improvements to the blog on my ebook website. My motivation waxes and wanes enormously with the CFS mood swings, but I figure I may as well work when I feel motivated, and do something else like play guitar when I’m not! Every second day I seem to decide to quit promoting my ebook since it frustrates me when it’s not selling. But every other day, I’m back to working on it again. And I have a bunch of promotional ideas that I haven’t tried yet: I have a TODO list a page long, and there’s not enough time to do it all. I want it finished and successful now now now! Just like Ashok says in one of the sessions about feeling that there’s too much to do and not enough time.

I’m still fascinated by the Meisner acting course I’m doing. During the “repetition” practise exercises, I just can’t help smiling and laughing. Interestingly I do this even when my partner is angry with me about something. It’s like when I was in primary school and I was in trouble with the teacher. I’d laugh… and get in even more trouble! When my partner starts ripping into me because I’ve offended them or been to reserved during “rep”, I laugh when a more appropriate response would be to get angry. I’m hoping the course will help me reconnect my anger neurons and lessen my internal emotional conflict, which I think is feeding the CFS. “Rep” is also an awesome way to practise flirting. It’s all about opening up and getting out of your head.

I quite like teasing and being mischievous, but I’ve only just found this out! Two guys at practise were talking after a rep session the other night, and one complimented the other on his voice. I said to him “Is that just a polite way of saying you think he’s got a good face for radio?” with a sly smile. The guy with the good voice then turns to the other guy and says “What’s wrong with my face?” looking all self-conscious. Given that he’s an actor, his looks are important to him. But he wasn’t offended at me, he got offended with the guy who was being complimentary to him! I snuck off chuckling to myself…

I used to feel really bad about all the stuff I was missing out on by being ill. I don’t seem to feel that any more. I’m ditching more and more stuff I don’t want to do, so I can focus on being well. Most of my time is going into the acting course now, so other things have to slide a bit.

First Acting Class Yesterday

Of all the weird-ass treatment approaches to Chronic Fatigue, joining an acting class sounds the weirdest. But if it worked for my mate, I thought “What have I got to lose?”. I’ve done some basic acting in community musical theatre in the past and quite enjoyed it; I only gave it up after I became ill. 4 months rehearsing and performing in Les Miserables when I first came down with CFS was no cup of tea. When I died on stage in the barricade scene, I didn’t have to push my acting skills to appear dead at all. At least there’s no dancing in Les Mis; otherwise I’d have been totally fucked.

I had my first Meisner class yesterday, and it was really fun. Scary and challenging, but just fascinating. The whole technique is based on repetition and distraction to get you out of your head, and operating on an emotional level. The antithesis of how I’ve lived my life. To me, this seems totally compatible with meditation: stop thinking, and start being. I struggle with meditation because I’ve had so many years of analytical thinking; but it’s the thinking that causes my suffering with CFS: the relentless “I wish this would go away. I hate my life at the moment. I just want to be well. I’m so frustrated” blah blah blah. The flu-like symptoms are quite tolerable when I’m not complaining about them internally so much; it’s the self-talk that stresses me out.

I don’t do that when I’m being in-the-moment, and that’s what the Meisner technique is all about. It’s early days, and it’s a big commitment taking on a full-time acting class. 30 hours per week, including practise. But it just sounds like so much fun, and totally complementary to the Gupta programme in breaking thought patterns.

I only did one short exercise in front of the class yesterday. Immediately my need to get things right had me feeling anxious. The teacher had coached some of the other students who weren’t acting naturally in previous exercises by saying “You’re trying to get it right. Stop doing that!” I totally get where he’s coming from. His answer to most questions about mastering the technique was “Practise!”. I get it.

I’ll let you know more about how it goes.

Interesting Times

Well it’s bizarre and interesting times. I’m getting mixed messages about how to approach life. I recently read Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton, and was quite blown away. The chapter on dealing with anger was particularly enlightening. I was left with the impression that I have to actually start telling people that I resent them when they upset me, before I’ll really begin to feel the anger I’ve been repressing all my life. Seems to make sense. When I got stuffed around for the second time by the camera store last week, I felt sad instead of angry; that seems to be what I do. Not helpful!

Then I went along to Malcolm Cohan’s Future Shifters events a couple of times in the last week. His philosophy is somewhat the opposite. We get so stuck in the painful stories of our lives… what would happen if we just “flipped” them, and told the opposite story to what we remember? Our memories are hideously unreliable and we lie to ourselves about how bad things have been anyway; so why not just “lie through your teeth” and tell a positive story instead? Fascinatingly, it seems to work. But what happened to radical honesty?

One of the women that came along to the last Future Shifters meetup triggers massive anxiety in me. She’s extremely attractive, and I first met her at a wealth creation seminar about 18 months ago, where we both signed up for a 12-month Life Coach training course with Beyond Success. When I approached her to say hello at the first day of the course, she just walked away. Seems to trigger my “why doesn’t the attractive woman want to be my friend?” response. I’m not going to speculate on what was going on for her, but something was obviously up. I approached her at the meetup to ask if she’d help work with me on it, and she said “No”. I know she works as an energy healer, so it was all a bit weird.

The meetup was also an opportunity to hook up with a new mate of mine with a very similar background story to me: grew up in a family where emotions were repressed, went into engineering and ended up with chronic fatigue. He’s now recovering, and the thing that made the biggest difference for him was doing an acting course at The Actor’s Pulse based on the Meisner technique, which is all about getting out of your head and learning to react to situations instinctually, based on your emotions. I’ve been looking for some time to do some sort of psycho-drama or get into some sort of group to practice the expression of difficult emotions, particularly anger. After talking with my friend I contacted the acting school and went for an interview; it just sounds totally fascinating so I’ve signed up for a 3-month introductory course.

The Amygdala that Gupta’s retraining technique works on is the emotional centre of the brain, so it makes sense that resolving emotional issues should lessen the stress load and help break the adrenaline cycle. I made a commitment to myself recently that I wouldn’t take on anything new that wasn’t directly related to getting myself well. Part of that is reducing the stress that I put on myself. Taking on an acting course might seem counter-productive, but if it helps me deal with emotional stress, it will be well worth it. I think a lot of my stress is caused by internal conflict over fear of what other people think. In the words of the guy running the course: “We’ll beat that out of you!”. Should be interesting.

I spent most of Saturday in bed with a headache, and Sunday I made a video for my niece’s birthday, which she absolutely loved. Good work Uncle Graham. Then Sunday evening I just felt lonely and depressed. The old “what am I doing with my life?” thing again. It’s hard to really move forward when I feel like crap so much of the time. If I rest up, keep doing the retraining and the meditations, I should have enough energy to do the acting course. I’m looking forward to the first session this afternoon… Let’s see where that takes me.

Mood swings

I find I get really big mood swings with this thing. They’re always triggered by some experience, like an interaction with someone else or getting negative feedback in some way.

I went to a workshop in Saturday which was all about who we are and the sort of energy we give to the world. I didn’t like what it told me about myself, which was basically that I’m sensitive and reserved.  I think that’s quite accurate, but it’s not who I would really like to be… So I ended up feeling quite upset and down on myself. I think the inner conflict about this is all part of what stresses me out, and keeps the illness going. I’m going to meet up with the guy who ran the workshop and talk it over with him. Interestingly, he mentioned in passing that he’d suffered from Chronic Fatigue too during his 30’s; understanding who he was and what he had to contribute to the world seemed to be part of his recovery story.

I had a pretty good day today. Created some presentations on SlideShare to promote my book, which was pretty good fun. Had a lie down this afternoon and did the meditations. I don’t feel too bad when I don’t exert myself. Bit frustrating when I imagine all the things I want to do when I’m better during the second meditation; because I want to do them now! But if I can at least keep from feeling like I’ve been hit by a Mach truck all the time, life’s not too bad. I think I’ll skip my guitar classes this term, as I’ll miss two weeks when I’m on the meditation retreat I want to go to.

Meanwhile, if you’re reading this, let me know how you’re doing. If you’re just starting the Gupta programme, make contact so we can talk about how you’re finding it.