Random Tips For Starting The Gupta Programme

It’s been 3 months today since I started the Gupta programme. It seems to be helping. I just sent an email to a reader who’s about to start, and here are some suggestions from it:

I think the trick is that when you have an increase in energy… don’t do more activity than what you’ve been doing! Give your body the chance to recover instead. Easier said than done though. It will take some time to get started on the programme. Don’t watch more than one session a day; it’s important not to stress yourself out with the program. They cover this in Session 1. There’s also a follow-up DVD, but you won’t need it until you’ve been doing the programme for at least a few weeks.

As far as I’m aware, the damage done by being in permanent fight-or-flight mode is recoverable. I haven’t seen anything to suggest that CFS sufferers age more quickly than anyone else. So once the adrenaline is switched off, you recover back to how you normally feel at whatever age; but your fitness will be shot because you stopped exercising. That’s recoverable too though; just don’t dive in too quickly to exercising again. You want to be really sure that you’re health is better first before working on your fitness.

I tried changing my diet, but never saw any difference with anything I did. Except that when I did the Liver Cleansing Diet and totally upped my fruit and vegetable intake, I had particularly flowing bowel movements! I eat a bit healthier now that I did before CFS, but I don’t really watch what I eat that much. I’ve gone non-dairy since starting the Gupta programme because I wanted to do everything he recommended. Going non-dairy before never made any discernible difference to me though. I think it’s stress related rather than diet related, with the proviso that a bad diet exacerbates stress and probably has a negative effect on the condition.

Alcohol makes me feel really whacked. I never did respond really well to it; just made me woozy and hard to focus my eyes, rather than uninhibited. Now I avoid it almost completely. The occasional red when I’m out socialising, or chocolate liqueur when I’m feeling rebellious is it. I avoid all exercise. I’ll go for a walk with a friend, but avoid getting my heart rate up. I’ll put energy into getting my fitness back when my health is back. I lowered my food intake to compensate so I don’t put weight on. I was going to the gym 3x per week, and dancing every other night when I got ill.

I’ve been on the Gupta programme for 3 months today. I have 3 months to go until the minimum recommended 6 months. I seem to be getting a bit better; mainly less tense. I’m hoping that means my body is starting to recover, and I’ll be less tired. I’m also axing some commitments that have been causing me extra stress, even though I quite enjoyed them when I felt OK. Doing too much pushes me into overwhelm, where things I normally enjoy suddenly become stressful and unpleasant.

I did a scene in acting class tonight, where we’re encouraged to base our scenario on something true that affects us in our lives. In mine, I was going on a road trip because I was going stir-crazy sitting at home being ill. The teacher asked what was wrong, and I slightly-reluctantly said I’d had Chronic Fatigue for two years. He asked “God, how do you deal with that?” and my answer was something along the lines of: “I’m not!”

I think all this stuff is linked, and my new life of creativity since ditching my Engineering career is an important part of being OK with who I’m meant to be. In addition to Gupta, I’m also doing an acting course which is helping me break out of holding my emotions in, including anger. It’s not meant to be therapy, but it is very therapeutic. I’m also going to explore psychodrama as another way of finding expression for my anger. And I’m working on even better social skills to lessen my social anxiety; I don’t think we’re built to work in isolation, and there’s only so far you can get with inward-looking therapy. At the end of the day, we need to be able to relate to other people in order to stay psychologically, mentally, and, as it turns out, physically healthy. The more I learn about and experience mental health problems, the more I see the link to emotional repression. It just makes me want to scream. 😉

I’ve been getting some great feedback on my writing here on this blog and elsewhere; I have a dream of being a professional writer. Or musician. Or comedian. Or public speaker. Indecision! I suspect the whole amygdala thing is at the root of that. Or at least, that’s my current excuse!

I’m looking forward to the big pagan festival this weekend, and a bit of down time. Plus catching up with a friend or two. Should be good. If anyone else with CFS wants to chat on Skype any time, my address is graham.a.stoney . I often find talking to other sufferers really encouraging. It’s so good not having to explain what you’re going through; you just need to pick the ones who still have a positive outlook about the whole thing. We’re out there!

Jealousy, Fear, Anxiety, Setbacks and Starting Again

I went to acting practise last night, and had a good time; it always gives me a lift. There’s a girl there who I really like who has been quite friendly towards me, and I’ve been hoping to get to know her better. Last night I heard her say to one of the other guys “We’ll have to get together for coffee sometime!” Urgh. I felt really jealous. I’ve had a few minor setbacks in the romance area lately; a number of girls I’d been interested in turned out to have boyfriends, or to just seem uninterested in me. Another girl I met on the Internet has turned fickle and negative towards me (yeah, there’s a story there). Definitely triggers my whole abandonment fears. But there are plenty of other fish in the sea, right? So I stayed up late last night sending contact requests to women who sounded interesting on an online dating site. The problem for guys online is that with the usual inhibitions out of the way, women are swamped with requests from introverted guys and you end up lost in the noise. If I get any response at all, most of the time it’s a rejection… which hit’s that abandonment button square on. Gawd, I’d love to be less sensitive. Just brush it all off and move on. I felt really lonely and looked around for someone online to chat to, but there was nobody… and I was too tired to keep my eyes open anyway.

It was almost 1am by the time I got to bed, and I had a pretty good sleep. I woke up about 8:30am this morning feeling an anxious sensation in my chest. It was accompanied by the usual thoughts about the Big Three: health (when is it going to get better?), career (what am I going to do?), and relationships (when am I going to sort that out?). I listened to the meditation CD, and calmed down a bit. I wish it was possible to have an amygdalectomy and just get the bastard removed. My emotions only ever seem to cause me trouble.

I went to see an amateur production of Grease on the weekend which some friends of mine were in. It took me back to my first role, where I played Kenickie… before I got ill. I almost cried when Rizzo sang “There are worse things I could do”; I was actually moved by it. My acting teacher has been telling me to “be more affected by things”, so I guess I’m getting there. I’m still hoping that the acting course unlocks my emotional repression enough to release some of the stress I feel, allowing my body to recover faster than it would just with the Gupta programme alone. I seem to be getting more expressive during practise, and I’m really enjoying the course as it definitely gives me a lift most of the time. Just as long as I don’t wear myself out with the extra workload. I also want to try some psychodrama… I’ll let you know how that goes.

I visited my parents yesterday for the first time in a couple of months, which went OK. I’d grown a beard and shaved my head since last seeing them. My mother didn’t recognise me. Later on she asked “If you could do anything, what would you like to do?”. I think she was reaching out and trying to be helpful; but I wasn’t in the mood. Too tired to really engage, and I had a busy day yesterday which didn’t help. A pre-CFS friend from dancing rang while I was there to invite me around for Good Friday lunch. It’s nice to know I still have a few friends who keep in touch since I dropped off the planet.

I’ve just watched Session 3 of the programme, so I’m back to starting again with Stop-Stop-Stop. I hope the testimonials give me more motivation, as I’ve been kinda slack lately. I haven’t felt too bad physically though lately; mainly just tired and a bit anxious. I’m kinda at the “I can live with this; but it’s still a pain in the ass” level. I’m taking my guitar to acting class this afternoon for my activity, and doing two classes today. That should be fun!

Emotional Stress and Chronic Fatigue

This is an edited excerpt from an email I sent to a reader asking whether the treatment in the Gupta program worked.

After trying a bunch of other treatments and listening to crackpot theories from many quarters, I’m convinced that Ashok Gupta has hit the nail on the head with his amygdala hypothesis. CFS seems to be a self-perpetuating stress response where the body wears itself out by being stuck in permanent fight-or-flight mode. I can now see many warning signs in the years before I got ill which I either ignored or didn’t deal with successfully. I had no idea that stress could bring on an illness like this, but now I sure believe it can.

There are several components to the program, but it’s principally a thought-stopping technique plus meditation, plus supportive encouragement. I have the attention span of a small gnat (which just contributes to emotional stress… it’s all tied in somewhere), and I’m starting to wonder about the thought-stopping technique myself. But there are times when I can almost feel the squirt of a adrenaline into my system when I have a pessimistic or worrying thought; they’re not good for you! So part of the problem is me just getting lazy and going “Stop-stop-stop probably doesn’t work… why bother doing it anyway”. Well maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t… it seems worth a try. That’s why I set up my blog… so people would remind me to keep at it. Last night I was fantasising about recovering fully and writing a book about my experience to convince other people that this whole thing is stress-related.

At the same time, I’m also looking at other ways to break the adrenaline cycle. The usual cures for stress should work; anything that lessens emotional stress either about being ill or about life in general ought to help. I’m looking at comedy, laughter, and other avenues of self-expression like music. I repress my anger, and I’m doing an acting course to help me get over it. I had an argument at 3am with a sort-of-girlfriend who stayed over, and god it felt good to actually tell her I was pissed off with her even if I was on shaky ground. I judge my emotions waaaaay too harshly, and I’m learning to say “look, this is how I feel… that’s just how it is”. I’m having a look at psychodrama. I start a 10-day meditation retreat on Wednesday. I’m not going in for any further medical treatments though; I think the continual search for a treatment is just another symptom of the condition.

My skeptical side hears Gupta talking about subconscious thoughts jumping up to consciousness where we have the opportunity to challenge them, and goes “sounds like bullshit to me”. But I get a fair bit of email from people who have made massive strides with the Gupta program where nothing else has worked for them. My symptoms were/are relatively mild (no physical pain, utterly devestating as opposed to complete and utter annhialation of anything resembling a normal live) so it’s hard for me to say anything has changed dramatically yet. I spent all Saturday and most of Sunday in bed either asleep or exhausted, but I wouldn’t class myself as ever having been really bed-ridden. I often overlook the positives and it’s early days yet.

I feel much much worse when I don’t rest. My throat feels sorer, and my breathing much more laboured; and that’s when I find it hardest. And by rest, I mean lie down pretty much whenever I’m tired. Which is all the time.

Many people embark on a graded exercise program, and I’d be interested to hear how they go. I haven’t tried a formal program, but every time I’ve exercised in the past, I’ve felt truly terrible afterwards. Perhaps I overdid it every time, but my thinking now is that we feel tired because our bodies actually are worn out and need rest. They don’t recover properly because we’re still in fight-or-flight mode, but the rest is still essential. The general rule is that exercise is good for you… but I doubt it’s so great after you’ve just run a marathon! We’re running marathons in our sleep. My impression is that the graded exercise concept is based on the idea that we somehow adjust psychologically to being tired and unfit, and need to be shaken out of it with more activity. I don’t buy it. I don’t think this is consistent with the amygdala hypothesis, where we actually are physically exhausted and in need of rest. I sometimes wonder whether any proponents of graded exercise have suffered from the condition. But like I say, I have no formal experience of it.