The Meaning Of Life Experiment

I’ve spent the last month completing Ashok Gupta’s Meaning Of Life Experiment, after being reminded of it on the Community Of Hope For Recovery group on Facebook. It sounds like Ashok is doing a Deepak and expanding his teaching beyond just CFS sufferers to the masses. Here’s what I discovered about the meaning of life…

I really liked the effect of making the commitment to doing a 20 minute meditation every day using the meditations in the iPhone app. It gives you the choice of a 10 or 20 minute guided meditation led by Ashok’s familiar soothing voice. The Soften and Flow meditation sounded particularly familiar… It’s exactly the same as the one in his Amygdala Retraining Program; which must make the references to symptoms sound a bit out of place to people without any physical health condition.

I enjoyed the daily teaching videos too. While the metaphors he uses are new, the videos encapsulate a lot of what I learned during my counselling and life coach training and my own life journey from head to heart. Not bad given that you get this all for free given what I’ve forked out for a zillion courses over the years.

Continue reading “The Meaning Of Life Experiment”

Why I Highly Recommend Yin Yoga

Just over a month ago I joined my local yoga studio in the hope that it would help reduced the severity of my headaches. So far it seems to be working. At first I tried mostly regular yoga classes, doing about 5 a week. It was too much for me; after a few days I was starting to feel faint during the class, so I backed off and switched to the yin yoga classes instead.

Yin yoga feels much better to me as it is primarily restorative so I don’t end up overdoing it. Rather than moving through a fairly rapid sequence of postures as you do in regular yoga, the yin variant involves holding a supposedly restful pose for about 5 or so minutes and basically meditating there. Then we rest completely for a couple of minutes before the next one.

I say “supposedly restful” because the postures still involve quite a bit of stretching for my inflexible body. After a couple of minutes I start to feel increasingly uncomfortable and the idea is to relax into the discomfort and breathe through it.

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Guided Self-Compassion and Asking For Support Meditation

Here is a free guided self-compassion meditation recorded with the permission of one of my clients during a recent Skype session. It is based on the mindful self-compassion practise I learned from Self-Compassion Teacher Dr. Kristin Neff.

It also covers sensitivity to noise, reaching out to other people for support, asking for help in getting our needs met and being open to receiving help and support; which are things thing I found difficult when I was most ill and notice that many of my clients also find challenging.

The meditation goes for 33minutes 45seconds.

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Headaches and EMDR

Headaches

One of the most distressing symptoms of CFS for me has been the headaches. While I’m continuing to recover, I still feel more anxious than I’d like, I feel like I have a mild cold all the time… and I get debilitating headaches.

Oddly enough, playing Pokemon GO every day hasn’t cured the headaches. Who’d have thought. I guess they never promised that in their terms & conditions that I clicked “agree” on without reading.

Back when I worked as a Computer Engineer and spent 8 solid hours every day staring at a screen and push push pushing myself towards the next vitally important deadline, I used to get severe migraine/tension headaches. I would either wake up with them and be wiped out for an entire day, or one would come on during the day and I’d just keep working until the pain got so bad that I had to go to bed, take Panadeine (paracetamol/acetaminophen and codeine) and lie there in agony until I could get to sleep. I knew once I got to sleep, the pain would be gone when I woke up; getting to sleep with my head in agony was the problem.

When the pain was really bad, I’d end up vomiting. I tried taking anti-migraine medication and going to a physiotherapist, but when I didn’t have a bad headache I felt absolutely fine; so I’d go back to push push pushing myself to breaking point again.

Eventually after I burned out at that career, I stopped sitting in front of a computer in a state of tension every day, and the headaches went away. I was incredibly relieved and finally kicked my codeine habit.

Then when I came down with CFS, the headaches came back.

After a recent particularly torturous sleepless night in agony, I decided I’d had enough and headed to my local doctor for some medication. I told him my sob story about CFS, and he organised yet another round of the usual blood tests. I talked about feeling anxious, depressed and the weird tension symptoms I feel in my face, head and neck, which he said sounded like neuralgia. He gave me a sample box of Prestique to try, which is an antidepressant that is supposed to help CFS sufferers recover some of our energy.

Having got this far through CFS without resorting to antidepressants (except for a very brief week or so where I started taking a low dose of something I’ve now forgotten, and then quit out of fear of the side-effects), it didn’t seem to make sense to start pumping chemicals into my brain now that I’m getting better. Continue reading “Headaches and EMDR”

Active Minds Global Brainwave Entrainment Audios

 

Daily meditation has been a huge part of my recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I find it difficult to stay focussed when I’m feeling overwhelmed with anxiety though, so I’ve amassed a huge collection of relaxation and guided visualisation audio tracks to help me with the process.

So I was quite receptive to the idea of trying a new relaxation approach when I was contacted a few weeks ago by one of the guys behind Active Minds Global, who say that their Brainwave Entrainment audio tracks can help recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. They sent me a copy of Tracks 1 and 2 from RevitaMind for evaluation: Mind Revitaliser and Neural Agility. I said I’d try them for 3 weeks and then blog about my experience.

It’s just on 3 weeks now since I started using the RevitaMind audio tracks every day. In accordance with their suggested use, I listen to the Mind Revitaliser in bed every morning as soon as I wake up before going out for my morning exercise, and I listen to Neural Agility every night in bed just before going to sleep.

The tracks sound like a pulsing beat with white noise. It’s fairly soothing, but they do recommend listening as loud as possible; so that’s what I do. I can’t say I notice much difference between the two consciously; but this stuff is all meant to work on the unconscious.

I start by just lying back and letting the sound wash over me, while imagining my nervous system being calmed by the soothing sounds. Next, I visualise myself stepping into an elevator on the tenth floor of Anxiety House. Then I imagine watching the old-fashioned floor indicator in the elevator move down slowly through the floors from 10, 9, 8, 7, 6… all the way down to the ground floor. As I do this, I take a long breath at each floor and notice my breathing getting slower and my body feeling calmer and more relaxed as the elevator descends.

When I step out onto the ground floor, I let my mind come up with whatever image it likes as I wander out of the elevator and into the scene. Sometimes it’s a jungle, difficult to penetrate. Other times it’s a beach with the ocean lapping gently against it. Occasionally it’s a desert with the hot sun beating down. Wherever it is, it’s a peaceful scene and there’s no drama there. When my mind comes back to real world concerns, I just let the thought drift past and return to my elevator-accessible tropical island, or whatever it is today.

After a short while, I’d focus my attention on the amygdale region of my brain, and imagine it calming down, or cooling down. Changing colour from a hot red to a cool blue. Bathing in cool water, for instance.

The Active Mind guys say their audio tracks are designed to calm the sympathetic nervous system, so they seem to be on the same wavelength as I am regarding what causes and perpetuates CFS. After 3 weeks of using it consistently, I seem to feel calmer than I did before. I’m listening to a total of an hour a day, so this has pretty much replaced the meditation I used to do in the local bush near my place. Some afternoons when I feel really tired I’ll go have a lie down and listen to another meditation track; I wanted to stick to the suggested schedule for at least 3 weeks and not mess with it too much.

For the first few nights, I noticed that I had trouble getting to sleep; my old friend insomnia was back. It hasn’t visited me in quite a while since I started getting up early in the morning and going outside in the sun; so I wasn’t entirely thrilled about this. Active Minds said it was normal though, and it did go away after about 4 or 5 nights. I don’t have any trouble getting to sleep again now after 3 weeks.

Aside from the initial insomnia, it was pretty plain sailing. I’m mostly better now anyway, and while using RevitaMind I’ve continued my routine of daily exercise, getting out of the house to do things I love, and hanging out with people whenever I can. So it’s a little hard to pin-point exactly how big an effect the audios are having. I would have liked to come across this sooner when I was more ill and the effect could potentially be more dramatic. Mind you, being too well to see a dramatic effect is a nice place to be, so I’m not complaining.

All in all, it seems to work and I’d recommend giving RevitaMind a try. Especially if you’re not already doing at least an hour of meditation a day, or finding it hard to focus. You need to stick with it until it becomes a habit. It’s no quick fix; but hopefully you’ve realised by now that there isn’t one out there anyway. Given that it seems to be working, I’m going to keep using them morning and night for the time being. If you give it a go, leave me a comment to say how/if it works for you.

Disclaimer: Obviously if you’ve been paying attention you’ll already know I was sent a free sample from RevitaMind for evaluation. They were pretty cool about it, suggesting I might like to blog about my experience. I found it helpful, so I did.

 

Anyone Tried The Chrysalis Effect Programme?

Has anyone tried The Chrysalis Effect Programme? Beneath the rather cheesy Internet marketing spin, what they’re offering sounds pretty consistent with adrenal fatigue and the ideas in the Gupta Programme. They seem to get the mind/body connection thing and the importance of emotional support in dealing with this illness.

I’ve been using the free meditation download they offer, and I quite like it. I figure anything that reduces stress is good for this illness whatever the underlying cause turns out to be. I could relate to a lot of what they say in their Essentials Guide which you get for free when you register on the site. I am a A Type driven person, and many of my friends with CFS are (or at least, were before they fell ill) too. They take a holistic approach and are offering a support community, which is probably particularly helpful if you don’t know anyone else who is suffering from CFS, has recovered or really understands what we go through. I don’t know if it’s worth 19 pounds a month, but I’ve spent a lot more than that on my recovery so far. It’s probably worth at least having a look at what they’re offering.

That said, I sure hope they have a sense of humour! After you enter your email address, watch their video.

Then have a look at this hilarous parody:

After all, laughter is the best stress relief…

Adrenal Fatigue and Nervous Exhaustion

I spent the last 2 months staying at my sister’s holiday house at Hawks Nest, about 3 hours drive north of where I normally live in Sydney. The plan was to get away and relax. I ended up working quite a lot, and having a lot of headaches. When I rested for long enough, the headaches went away. Hardly surprising really. But then my restlessness would kick in and I’d just want to go and do something. I got a lot done but I realize that as a writer, the more you write the more you realize that you have more to say. It never ends. On the plus side the income from my websites is slowly increasing, which lessens my sense of financial stress. It’s still not nearly enough to live on and only growing slowly. Some days I feel depressed about this but there’s not much else I can really do right now.

Anyway, I spent much of my time either relaxing at the house, writing content for my blogs, or working down at the local library which had free internet access and was open Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I don’t work Saturdays. They dolled out the internet access in 2 hour blocks, and eventually I realized that if I only worked 2 hours maximum per day, I didn’t get headaches but did have a sense of moving forward. After work each day I went and either lay on the beach or sat by the lake and just relaxed. It was beautifully peaceful and quiet up there, far away from the crazy city life I normally live. I didn’t really feel very lonely. A few friends came and visited which was great, and I had heaps of books to read and DVDs to watch to occupy my time. I was a mixed blessing that the wireless internet adaptor I’d bought didn’t work well enough at the house for me to work from home; kinda forced me to take a bit of a break on Tuesday and Thursdays when the library was closed.

While I was away I finally got around to doing some Internet research into Adrenal Fatigue. A girl in my acting class last year said she suffered from it, and it immediately sounded very familiar. I stumbled upon the Wikipedia article on Neurasthenia, a.k.a. Nervous Exhaustion, which also matches my symptoms very closely. Sounds pretty consistent with Ashok Gupta’s hypothesis and many of the suggestions in the Gupta program match the advice given in Dr Lam’s article on Adrenal Fatigue. I’m going to be following this advice more closely; especially the bits about diet, going to bed earlier, and taking B-group vitamin supplements. I feel nervous a lot of the time, find it hard to relax and always feel like there’s a lot of stuff to do, which all fits the pattern.

I’ve also been continuing my morning Yoga, breathwork and meditation almost every day; except a few times when I’ve woken up with a really bad headache or just felt too cranky to bother. But they’re in the minority. It seems to be gradually calming my nervous system and I’m not feeling so resistant to doing it. I feel a little less jumpy and shaky. The weather at home is warmer now, so I do it out in the backyard behind my block of units in the sun. I start off with Surya Namaskara (salute to the sun) which is a bit silly to do it in my living room where there is no sun. First time I ventured into the backyard to do it, I worried about the neighbours in the other units thinking I looked ridiculous… downward facing dog and all; but I’m getting over my fear of what other people think.

The other obvious thing about nervous exhaustion is that the cure involves large amounts of rest. That means doing nothing, which I struggle with so I’ve borrowed a heap of guided meditation CDs from the local library to help with that. Meditainment Stress Relief and The Stress First Aid Kit are my favourites so far.

My other exciting news is I’ve won two Toastmasters humorous speech contests lately, meaning I progress to the next level. I’d love to be a comedian one day when my health is back, and I’ve been studying everything I can get my hands on about comedy. Besides, laughter is a great stress relief. I hope you’ve had a laugh today!

Back home again

I just got back this evening from my retreat in the Hunter Valley. I stayed at the Youth Hostel for 3 nights while I did a bit of structural editing on the book I’ve been working on for several years.

Then I went to Path Of Love. Wow… what an amazing experience. Lots of catharsis and emotional healing work in such a short space of time. It was very different to the Vipassana Meditation Retreat I did earlier this year; I’ll write a more complete article about it once I’ve had more time for it to really integrate.

After that, I went back to the Youth Hostel for a couple of nights. Glad I did too, because I was way too tired to drive back home straight after Path Of Love… it was exhausting emotionally, physically, and probably spiritually too! The hostel was buzzing with about 20 women from a hen’s weekend, who’d taken over the kitchen and therefore decided it was easier to feed me than to get out of my way. Bring on the love I say!

This afternoon I went to a Toastmasters seminar, and practised the speech I want to use in the upcoming humorous speech competition. It’s good to see it finally coming together, on the third attempt.

I’m back to Acting class tomorrow, and working on rebuilding my blog to start building a list to market my book to. All very exciting, and a bit scary. Great Expectations.

Just passed six months on the Gupta programme

I’m currently in Brisbane visiting my father’s family, motivated by my aunty’s 80th Birthday. Technically, it’s six months now since I began the Gupta Amygdala Retraining programme for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. So I think it’s time for a review.

I say “technically”, because I only really stuck to the programme for the first four of those six months. After that, I pretty much stopped doing the physical Stop-Stop-Stop business; although I kept doing it in my head every now and then. The other thing I had difficulty with doing was taking six months off life to just recover.

After about a month on the programme, a friend of mine with CFS recommended an acting course that he had found tremendously helpful in unlocking the emotional repression that he believed was at the core of his Chronic Fatigue. His background story was so similar to mine, and the course sounded so amazing, that I just didn’t want to wait until I’d done six months on the Gupta program before starting the classes.

Starting acting classes took all my remaining energy… and then some. I also had a couple of other stressors at the time: I was president of a Toastmasters club (what was I thinking?) where I learned to delegate primarily because I was too ill to actually do anything myself. And I was still attempting to unsuccessfully promote my first book. Which, by the way, is getting rave reviews… but few actual sales! I found the emotional rollercoaster of pushing something unsuccessfully really harsh, so I’ve pretty much sidelined it… at least for the time being.

After a few months on Gupta’s programme, I became pretty skeptical of his Amygdala Hypothesis, and particularly of the ability of the NLP business to break the stress response. I’m currently reading The Emotional Brain, by Joseph Ledoux; the neuroscientist whose work Ashok Gupta based his programme on. It’s a fascinating read, very relevant  to what I want to talk about in my public speaking. I grew up in a family where emotions are so strongly suppressed that they’re pretty much taboo, and this has had a tremendously damaging effect on my psyche. So to read this book about the emotional mechanisms hard-wired into my brain is very validating. Ledoux’s key research interest is the emotion of fear specifically, so it talks a lot about the amygdala and the physiological stress response.

I can see how the stress response could become a learned conditioned response, and how the Stop-Stop-Stop technique is intended to break the association. But it’s a bit of a stretch to jump from Ledoux’s research to Gupta’s theory; I’m not sure if Ledoux would go along with it. I’d been under chronic emotional stress for some time before succumbing to CFS, but even if the stress response does become active constantly, I can’t see how this alone can produce flu-like symptoms. It would surely play havoc with my immune system though, and that could allow for a persistent infection.

My main complaint with the Gupta programme is that it’s just so goddam boring. All that Stop-Stop-Stop and meditation; frankly, I’d rather be out living my life. But then it’s really CFS that’s boring rather than the recovery programme. I seem to have fewer days stuck in bed now than I did when I started the programme, and I don’t feel overwhelmed with anxiety so much. I’m functioning well enough that I think the distraction of getting back to what I actually want to do with my life is more productive than walking around saying “Stop Stop Stop!”. Whether it’s Gupta that got me there, or the acting class, or the vitamins, or the rest, or the non-aerobic exercise, or just the sheer passage of time, or some combination of the above… I’m really not sure. I remember a few months ago I was deeply fearful of being ill indefinitely; now I’m not so worried about that. I just feel like I have a mild cold, and a bit zoned out. But that’s quite liveable, so if it never went away, I’d cope.

I’m basically backing off on Gupta now. I’m going to spend less time watching the DVD’s, reading the forums, and probably less posting to this blog. My plan was to spend 6 months recovering, and this blog’s purpose was to reach out to other sufferers seeking support to stay motivated. It mostly worked, and the 6 months is now over.

Chronic Fatigue has felt like a huge distraction for me from what I actually want to be doing with my life. It’s been like driving with the handbrake on; but the brakes have slowly been coming off lately, and now I’m keen to move forward. However, it has forced me to focus more because I could no longer do all the fun stuff I used to enjoy and had to come up with something else. I have enough energy to practise my public speaking, get to an acting class or two a week, plus some practise sessions; and get back to that autobiographical book that I put on hold when I became ill. The book is meant to be inspiring, and I couldn’t see how I could be inspiring when I was stuck in bed most of the time so I put it on hold for two years, but now I’d rather like to finish it.

Focusing on my future gives me less time to focus on feeling ill. And I don’t feel so ill now anyway… I’m hoping the trend continues. If there’s one thing Gupta got right, it’s that the psychological and emotional effects of Chronic Fatigue are enormous. They’re the thing that actually causes the suffering, and we need to pay more attention to these emotional aspects. Getting emotional support from people has been absolutely crucial for me. Sadly my emotional-brick-wall family don’t qualify, but that’s just more material for what I want to speak about down the track.

I’m considering writing a book about my experience with Chronic Fatigue. There was quite a bit of drama in the first 2 years before this blog started, and I think the story itself would help inspire other sufferers. If you think you’d buy a copy at say $10, drop me a comment and I’m sure I’ll be more motivated to put the time into writing it.

My plan now is to rebuild my home page on WordPress, and start blogging there on a more regular basis. CFS and this blog has helped me learn how to do that better. It’s an ill wind that brings no good, as they say. Then I want to get out to more speaking venues, develop a keynote speech, and get this public speaking career thing happening. Having a plan for the future definitely makes me feel more positive, and less anxious. Anxiety is one of the things I want to speak about, so perhaps CFS has taught me a valuable lesson in there somewhere that I can use.

Meanwhile, let me know how y’all are doing!