Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myalgia Encephalitis
I am going to write this from a personal perspective as I have lived with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the past 20 years
I am going to use Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Myalgia Encephalitis (M.E.) interchangeabley. Yes, they can be distinct, but what I shall be talking about shall be useful to all.
Let me start by saying, that I was at the stage, in my early 20’s, were CFS took 5 years of my life, where I was unable to do anything, and now I work, full time, and have a good quality of life.
I am not going to promise ridiculous things, I shall just share what I know.
Part of my doctoral theses was on The Impact of CFS, so I have researched it, as in, – proper research!
But before I start, let me say this loud and clear
You are not a hypochondriac, nor will a good nights sleep sort it out, and those little nuggets ‘we all get tired’ does not help
CFS affects your
- cognitive functioning – brain fog
- work and school
- relationships, including
- your relationship with yourself
If you would like to understand this in terms of your immune system and inflammation you can
A cure for Fibromyalgia?
As you will know, there is no cure. By cure, I mean, one thing that takes it all away – like penicillin for infection.
What I did with myself, was
1 Accept that; and stop searching for a cure
2 Fix what was under my control; which is a considerable amount.
Living with Fibromyalgia
CFS is not what I call an ‘acceptable illness’
Heart disease and cancer are ‘acceptable.’ What do I mean by this?
It is about how they are perceived by society – the people around you, should you decide to tell them that you are not well.
Breaking your leg is acceptable, being in an accident is acceptable.
If you break your leg, and are out and about with your crutches, and your entire leg is in a cast. People may ask what happened, they may even have stories about when they broke something, but they will not say, bend your knee and just run up those stairs.
Nor will they assume the next day when they meet you, that your leg is completely fine today. Why not? They can see it is still in a cast. It is tangible, they understand it actually broke.
Fibromyalgia; they cannot see it – you do not wear it visibly, in fact, you may hide it from people, even those close to you.
You might look great, all dressed to the nines, trying to do your best, and people assume you are okay.
You could be dressed in your Sunday best, cracking jokes, and people will never ask you to give up your seat on the train with your leg in plaster. Their behaviour has changed accordingly, based on their understanding of what it means to have a broken leg.
Many people like you, hide the fact that they feel absolutely awful. As it is just easier.
At the start of this article, I said that I now work full time and have a good quality of life. And I do. That does not mean that every day I wake up feeling the joys of spring and thinking ‘bring it on.’It means I live differently now. I have a completely different attitude from twenty years ago.
I started with what I knew, or what I had researched
I knew to start with my immune system, and take control and fix what I could there, which brings me to stress.
Stress is one of the biggest, if not the biggest enemy of your immune system and I believe that chronic stress is the number one arch enemy of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
I am going to work backwards to explain this. In order to find the root cause of anything, you do not look to the symptom to provide you with answers. You work backwards.
Stress and your immune system
The state of your mind, has a direct impact on your health
Since my early days in psychology, I have worked within health coaching (most people in Ireland know me for my work with stress and anxiety) – but my interest in stress and anxiety was directly related to my original research on CFS – managing stress to heal your immune system.
Chronic stress affects
- your digestive functioning. This is important if you also have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- the chemicals in your brain
- Increases heart rate
If you are interested in working with me, I suggest my self course, as you can take this at your own pace
I could control stress. Learning to do this resulted in
- healing my immune system, which meant
- better digestive health
- lower resting heart rate
- taking the pressure of my immune system and allow it to function properly
- Changing my attitude towards myself
- Learning to recognise my own vulnerability factors and work with myself (not against myself.)
- Restoring better quality sleep
Of course I am very familiar with vitamins and minerals, but if your stress is out of control and affecting your gut, nervous system and immune system, your body will not be able to make best use of all the vitamins and minerals you either get from food or take in supplements.
I restored my own health by starting with controlling how I respond to day to day events. This allowed my digestive health to heal, and in turn help with my overall health.
Change is difficult though, as I am sure you know. We forgot to take the supplements, we cope in different ways, which may not help. You are human, and as a human being, will function in this world in habitual ways.
A large part of my own treatment was reversing some habits which were not good for me. By habits, I do not mean smoking or drinking, although I stopped smoking and drink very little alcohol anyway. By habits, I mean the way in which my brain (and yours) instinctually works.
You might notice, that you criticise yourself, or get annoyed with how you are, these, believe it or not, are habits in your brain (thoughts can also be habitual)
One of the biggest things I know is that how your mind is working for you has a direct impact on your health, so naturally, I made sure that my mind was helpful towards health as opposed to keeping me ill.
To summarise, I believe managing stress will take you a long way towards better health, as in doing so, you allow
- your immune system to function properly
- your digestive health improves
- your attitude to day to day experiences changes
- your sleep improves
- your cognitive functioning improves
If you would like to get some help from myself, you do not have to come into Dublin, I recommend starting with my own self help series; Your mind is your most powerful drug