Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Jody Smith, creator of the website www.ncubator.ca, who spent 15 years losing the battle against Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Three years ago, she found treatment that worked for her and is making a comeback. In the process, she’s helping a lot of people. (You can check out her blog, “ncubator” by clicking here.)
You tried many treatments and finally you got there. What worked?
Jody: My naturopath believed that my liver needed relief from its toxic load, and my immune system needed building up.
She put me on a tincture with natural antivirals and adaptogens and vitamins in it, and put me on omega3 oil.
I’d gone low carb some years before which had made quite a difference.
I did dry skin brushing with a loofah, to help lymph move better (removing toxins) and sinus lavage (water up the nose to cleanse sinuses) and juicing (for nutrients to absorb better in a weakened gastrointestinal tract).
Vitamin D helped with orthostatic intolerance and vertigo in noticeable ways. Most of us are deficient of Vitamin D.
Acupuncture once a month keeps pain levels down in my arms and gives my life force a noticeable boost.
Rescue Remedy is made from flowers and helps ease physiologically-triggered anxiety attacks and pain, and also is a safe sleep aid. Valerian and melatonin are other sleep aids.
My naturopath knew I’d done a lot of writing before I got sick and she encouraged me to start again. I wasn’t physically (sore arms and hands) or mentally (CFS brain) up to this initially. But she asked me for a weekly email about any progress between monthly appointments.
I started out with two sentence emails that sent me to bed after the exertion. Within a few months I was sending long emails about anything and everything. She said, “Think of this as a journal that responds. ” This chance to express myself, to know I was being heard, knowing I could say anything without fear of judgment or criticism, did me a world of good.
I’ve been freelancing online for almost a year, and spent a lot of time on a CFS forums, and haven’t been sending long emails to my naturopath for many months. But I know I can if I need to. I credit this “treatment” with helping me make headway through the physical, mental and emotional burdens I’d been dealing with.
I loved your post “On Rebuilding a Life,” which was a two steps forward, one step back process. What was most helpful in recovering and starting to live again?
Jody: The things mentioned above were things I needed for physical restoration.
I also had to change how I thought about life in general and the challenges I faced in particular.
I needed to remember that I had a frail body and brain. Following a diet with supplements that worked for me, and getting rest every day, were essential for the physical side of this illness. I needed to listen to my body and if it said “Rest!” I could not dare to ignore it. I had to respect this body in a way I hadn’t before I got sick.
The sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is often on overdrive when chronically ill. This is damaging when it’s too constant for too long.
The parasympathetic nervous system (rest and regeneration) should be consciously kicked into gear as often as possible because it releases healing chemicals into the body. This leads us toward rest, peace and revitalization. I needed to learn how to relax, in a serious way.
I needed to change how I thought, which was that life was terrifying and that I was helpless in far too many areas of my life because of being sick so long.
In short I had to cultivate hope. Hard to do when one feels hopeless. But it was invaluable.
What would the three pieces of advice be to my readers who suffer from both depression and CFS. Could you give them three pieces of inspiration to motivate them to get up from the bed and tackle this life?
1. Take care of the physical side
Depression, like CFS, has physical aspects to be addressed. Sometimes a change in diet, removing foods you have a sensitivity to, can even change how you feel emotionally.
I used to eat grains and sugars and I had a lot of pain in my stomach and a lot of anxiety — the type that makes you want to roll into a fetal position and whimper. Or scream.
When I quit eating sugar and grains, all that was reduced dramatically. Emotions are affected by physical factors all the time.
Omega 3-oil is also good for emotional and mental health. Helps the brain work properly.
Plenty of rest gives an overwrought body a chance to regenerate. Your body and brain want to heal themselves. They’ll go in the direction of healing every chance they get. It’s called homeostasis.
2. Seek support from others
If there are people you can reach out to, do it. If you can, talk to someone about all you’re dealing with. This can be healing, even if it doesn’t change any of the circumstances.
If you need help, and there’s someone you can ask, do it. They may say yes or no, but you will have done what you could. Sometimes you’ll be surprised by who will say no. But, sometimes you may be surprised by who will say yes as well, and where their help and support might lead.
If you don’t know anyone, look into online communities. If you don’t like the first one you find, visit another one.
3. Build up yourself from within
You may feel invisible, and helpless, and like you have no voice. Your experience may be telling you that’s exactly how things are. It may be how things are.
Talk to yourself, and if you believe in God or a higher power of some kind, talk to him/her/them. Even if it seems like talking doesn’t do anything. Especially if it seems that way.
Tell yourself you matter. Tell yourself though you seem to have no voice, that you will have a voice. Consciously decide to expect the things you need to come to you. Think about the things you need, and expect them. Every day. If they don’t come right away, continue to expect them.
This can help to keep the darkness from engulfing you. And it releases healing chemicals into your brain and body that can gradually help lead you to wholeness and soundness.
I can’t guarantee how things will work for you. I know it’s hard to hope when you’ve been let down and trampled in the past. I can only say, this made a difference for me. And I hope it will make a difference for you.
Borchard, T. (2010). Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Psych Central. Retrieved on April 21, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/07/30/recovering-from-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-cfs/