What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)?
I have spent a lot of time working with people who suffer from anxiety disorders, depression and the many types Fatigue Syndrome that are commonly encountered these days in our Western society, and I’d like to explore some of the things that I see day to day and give you a perspective from the therapists point of view.
The majority of clients I have worked with who have had debilitating symptoms from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibrositis Fibromyalgia (FFS), Adrenal Fatigue and Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS) have had the same list of concerns (if we place the painful symptoms to one side.)
- Why can’t the Doctors be more specific about my problem?
- What needs to happen for this to ease off?
- Why me?
- Is there anything I can do or do I have to accept it?
- If it abates, will it come back?
- What is causing it, what should I do / avoid?
- I feel guilty for causing so much disruption to my family
- (And) How will I manage without the help from my family?
- If I push myself physically will it make the problem worse?
- How can I change the big problems in my life whilst I am like this?
- Is it worth focusing on my future if I am ‘stuck’ with this condition?
Doctors place many of these syndromes in the “I can see you have a real problem, however, we don’t know exactly what it is…” category, along with conditions such as, IBS and overwhelming panic attacks. The very prevalence of these conditions point to the reality, however, medicine and tests can’t pin point their manifestation or continuation.
A story about anxiety & CFS
A few years back I worked with a woman who had been living with anxiety for many years and after being made redundant, slowly became house bound through the advancement of agoraphobia and debilitating OCD that mean’t she had to repeatedly check her doors and windows over and over again, even though she knew she had just checked them. Her anxiety was very real, she would shake with nervousness, her mind was always racing and worrying, she was always looking for the next thing that might go wrong so she could be prepared for it or mitigate it.
Her way of life was mentally exhausting, continuously having to think about everything and her body was continuously being hijacked by her unconscious mind and having to react in anxious manners – crying, shaking, rapid heart beats, churning stomach etc. etc.
She became less able to control the big events and decisions in her life and more and more she looked towards her husband and family to make decisions on her behalf. She didn’t realise consciously that although she wasn’t making any big decisions she was trying to control every little thing that she could in her life, where people went, what they did, how they did it.
She felt trapped and at the mercy of her anxiety, she couldn’t see a way out and she had lost touch with her ‘old self’ who was a competent woman, wife, mother – By the time she came to me for help she was exhausted, afraid of her emotions, she had erratic sleep patterns, aching muscles, migraine headaches, IBS and scary ruminations in her mind. It was as if her mind had sabotaged her body in an effort to say “there must be a better way of responding to life and its challenges, I’ll get you to step out of life for a while, I’ll interrupt your health for a while, so you can figure it out.”
What we did….
To get her out of her downward spiral of health and abdication of power we worked on helping her to realise that the anxiety, the OCD and the agoraphobia where the body’s symptoms, and that to get real change, we had to work on the problems! Her problems were:
- She had a tendency to worry which put strain on her nervous system
- A strained nervous system reduces the body’s immune system
- She didn’t respond well to criticism or external judgement
- She had some feelings of self doubt and low confidence
- Her mind was always racing which disrupted sleep
- She didn’t feel she could say no to people
- she felt she had to be strong for others
So, by giving her new ways to understand her own biology and by teaching her how the mind works she was able to develop new levels of self worth and self-esteem, she could change the way she influenced the environment around herself by saying “No” or putting herself first and this in-turn made her realise that she can influence her environment and people around her – and the anxiety subsided and she emerged a different person. It took time, but mostly it took her desire to make it happen, the pain of being trapped was greater than the fear of change.
The reason I tell this story is because Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) & CFS have very similar strategies to those who have experienced anxiety – I’d even go as far as to say, for many people who develop symptoms of Fibromyalgia or symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have experienced a fair amount of anxiety and stress in their lives.
There is a limited amount that the external world can do to help ME, however, there are lots of things that you can do to help yourself – assuming you want to change the rules and assuming that you believe it is possible to regain your normal health.
chronic fatigue syndrome treatment
It is very hard work (biologically) to be stresssed, anxious or worried – the body has to use a lot of emotional energy to generate the feelings and release all the chemicals required to give you butterflies in your stomach or nervous shakes or keep your heart beating fast etc. During your recovery we do a lot of work to understand exactly what happens within your body in response to certain types of thinking patterns, becuase, in general, the body responds to what you hold in mind – happy thoughts = happy feelings, scary thoughts = scary feelings and worried thoughts = worried feelings. Too simple to be true? Think about it.. Or perhaps that is the problem, some people just think too much?
The enormity of facing life head on again
This is often enough to keep a person trapped within their ongoing problem. To believe that you can re-train for a new job or manage to bring up children or find a new partner or face up to bullies at school or respond to the pressures of a parent in a new way can often seem too large to handle when your immune system has been compromised and you feel drained and in pain. However, this is one of the most important aspects of recovery and where I spend a lot of time helping you to generate the desire for a completely new future.
How we treat the problem, not the symptom
I hope by now you can see that by focusing on your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms you may well be missing the underlying problems that could have started the illness in the first place, such as, a poor capacity to handle stress, fear of change, low self -esteem, an out of control ruminating mind, adrenal fatigue from prolonged anxiety, insomnia or poor sleep and perhaps a victim or negative outlook on life.
Is this for you?
I need to ve very blunt here, so I will. Many of the people I meet who have disorders of the nervous system or neurological symptoms believe that there is nothing that will help them and they don’t believe that they can influence their own wellness from within. The doctors say walk for 20 minutes each day and the patient say’s “Yes, I know I should, I might do that tomorrow.” At a deep unconscious level some of these fatigue and pain disorders often meet the needs of an individual and it is in the interest of the individual to not get better.
If I don’t get better, I won’t need to find a job, face that problem, leave my relationship, make those decisions etc. Or the needs of the person are met in other ways, such as, a carer looking after their needs (giving love / attention) people coming around and saying “poor you, how are you today?” Of course, these are victim strategies, however, they are very common and often not consciously acknowledged by the individual. Carers occasionally are getting their needs met by having a patient to look after and may unknowingly perpetuate the illness in a child or partner to give themselves a role rather than facing moving on in life. Or a child my resort to this victim modality to escape bullying or academic over-load from parents who pressure them to perform.
Either way, in my experience it takes a brave person to say “You know, I do have a stake in my wellness and I want to do everything I can to change the way I think, feel and react to life!” If this is you, I’d love to teach you what needs to happen so you can regain control of mind, which in-turn, gives you control of your body again.
Realistic expectations for CFS recovery
Assuming you have had enough and want to re-engage in life at any cost then the process takes 4 – 6 months. 3 months is education and therapy and the remaining 3 months is the body coming back on line as you change the way you think, act and begin facing up to the realisation of how you need to adapt to fit back into life with less stress and more direction.
A lot of time and effort is targeted at what you would be doing if you didn’t have ME/CFS and what hurdles would present on the way to realising your dreams and your goals (and defining your dreams and your goals!)
Fibromyalgia treatment in Bucks, Oxon, Northants
If you are seriously interested in overcoming ME / CFS / Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue in all forms and you are willing to go deep inwards to change who you really are at a deep level, I would love to help you. My approach is not for the faint hearted or professional victims – it is for those who have had enough and just don’t know where to turn next….
My office in Buckingham is accessible from Oxford, Milton Keynes and Northampton.
Give me a call on 01280 823058