I have been working with clients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME for most of my professional practice. In the early days, I saw many CFS/ME clients referred in quick succession from bemused medical professionals. As I worked on a deeply intuitive level with an integrative approach using psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, counselling, EMDR and NLP, I started to understand the mind body relationship in CFS/ME.
The saddest thing for me was that so many of you have been dismissed or overlooked by medicine. So many of you have become disillusioned with looking ‘out there’ for solutions while all the while not knowing that you yourself, hold the key to your recovery. What I am so privileged to be able to discover and inspire with each of my clients is how you can reclaim your power and live a far more personally balanced life.
As a result of my work, I have also trained more than 70 therapists in the UK to help clients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
What is CFS/ME?
Basically it’s a cluster of symptoms that stops you from being able to sustain ‘normal’ daily activity. So if I list a few, you can check whether this feels like you:
- Fatigue that doesn’t improve after sleep
- Foggy thinking
- Numbness in different parts of the body
- Wobbly legs
- Inability to function mentally
- Muscular pain
- Digestive problems
- Skin issues
- Intolerance to light or loud noise
- Difficulty controlling body temperature.
Of course, if you’re feeling like that physically, you’ll probably be experiencing anxiety or depression.
What is the Mind Body Relationship in CFS?
I have never treated a client with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome who doesn’t have trouble expressing their needs and wants clearly. As a sufferer of CFS, your internal police force is highly repressive. There are lots of ways in which you may have learned to convince yourself that you are not allowed to say what you feel or what you think.
This internal prison keeps, you, the person with CFS locked into yourself and emotionally isolated. You may unconsciously have learned that, the only way to get the validation we all need as social animals, is to be all things to all people. Paradoxically, sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, far from being work-shy, are THE most conscientious people on the planet. So conscientious in fact, that you are living with a constant level of stress in the body. Raised cortisol levels keep the body on red alert and the body’s chemistry normalises to this higher level of cortisol. However, over time, the body becomes depleted.
Sudden traumatic life events or brief spells of illness can be all your body needs to push it into exhaustion. And often, just your continued personal ethos of conscientiousness at any cost, will slowly, over time, drain you of your life force. If the story ended there, and despite being affected by traumatic life events and illness, you could take a break and allow the body to recover, there would be no ME/CFS.
However, as it is not in the nature of people with CFS to take a break and risk not being able to be all things to all people, you soldier through the illness or shock. Your mind and body do not get a break, and you continue, relentlessly, trying to uphold the same level of commitment you always have done. Your body has no choice but to stop working.
This is not new information. Hans Selye in 1923 discovered what he called the General Adaptation Syndrome – the body’s response to the overproduction of adrenaline is to shut down. The difference is, people with CFS often do not report feeling stressed because normal for you IS the body’s heightened stress level.
It’s all in the body not in the mind
On the surface, it looks like the virus, bug or trauma has caused CFS. It is this illusion that has sent our medics on a wild goose chase looking for physical causes. (Read more about my Mind and Body
However, it is not correct to state that it is all in the mind. We wouldn’t say that about cancer even though many have healed from it by working very deeply on their emotional and spiritual self. The difference is, we cannot find where CFS actually hangs out in the body even though the physical effects are debilitating. With cancer it’s clear.
If though, you cut off the importance of working on the emotional and spiritual self, you are left to the vagaries of coincidence or chance that you will ever find the right combination of treatments to recover your wellbeing.
We place responsibility for our health, erroneously, as they are more clueless than us, into the hands of ‘experts’ – paradoxically, experts who often don’t understand the spiritual and emotional nature of illness.
If we continue to keep separate spirit and matter, we will continue as a society to peddle ‘solutions’ that do not go far enough, and only treat the symptoms, and not the core of the condition.
The Anxiety Loop
The anxiety loop is a term I have coined from working with people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. When the body stops working because of disease or trauma, even temporarily, then if you have a tendency to develop CFS, you will become anxious that you cannot do what you used to do. If the body’s adrenalin levels are already over used and depleted, the anxiety will be calling for an adrenalin source that your body can’t supply. If your body can’t supply the adrenalin that you need to be all things to all people, then more anxiety arises which calls for even more adrenalin. This is what is happening when the body collapses. The body’s systems, be it the immune system or autonomic nervous system, cannot rest regardless of whether you are awake or asleep. That’s why sleep is not restorative.
At the core of this loop is a deep seated belief that you are not valuable and ‘being’ is not enough. ‘Doing’ is the only thing that supplies identity and structure. This is not a conscious experience. This is deeply subconscious and hidden.
I’ve often called this disease a spiritual disease and in order to do so I’ve had to seek my own understanding of what I mean by spiritual. I mean that our natural inheritance as human beings, our capacity to love and appreciate ourselves and to be loved and appreciated by our community, is in some way dislocated and dysfunctional. We have forgotten that in order to really love others and feel at home with them, we need to know how it feels to love ourselves and be at home with us. From my Buddhist philosophy the concept of Esho Funi – oneness of self and environment – demonstrates that how we treat ourselves, so will we be treated by others.
However, there is a paradox to this condition. The more you go out of your way to claim that your CFS is just a physical condition that merits its own recognition by the medical men, the more you will disenfranchise yourself from the route to recovery. Your thirst for recognition is precisely at the crux of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. And it’s the thirst that can never be quenched. All the while you wait for others to validate you, you are wasting valuable healing time and valuable personal resources.
The role of nutrition
Most people can get away with eating an average western diet of meat, dairy, vegetables, sugar grains and pulses. The times when any element of this diet becomes indigestible is usually at the point of some kind of deeper existential challenge.
At this point, your body’s immune system has become overloaded with stress of some sort or another and will identify common foods as too difficult to cope with. The most common of those are wheat and dairy. Both are complex molecules that are difficult to digest. However, your body can identify anything as an allergen given the right circumstances and associations caused by your experience of the world.
Giving your system a break from common allergens and getting rid of foods that give you energy spikes, such as sugar and processed carbohydrates, can provide a start to allowing the inner system to stabilise and find a basic equilibrium. Use this in conjunction with a deeper search for meaning and wholesomeness and you are on the right path.
Who can help
The people who can help are paradoxically those that may promise no cures. The medical world hasn’t yet produced a model that I believe would explain CFS any better than the one I’ve offered above. And in fact, is unlikely to all the while medicine remains fragmented: the heart from the head, the mind from the body.
And that’s because the path to recovery is unique and individual in every case. Recovery from illness is an art form more than a science. Apart from the cohesive understanding in my above description of what might be happening in the hearts and souls of people with CFS, there is still the individual je ne sais quoi which will determine the rate at which individuals recover. Some just get it and transform their inner worlds fast while others take much longer and need reminding.
What I know though is that you have the key to your recovery in your own heart and mind. How we unlock that knowledge is the journey you undertake when you come to visit me.
Using a combination of hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, EMDR, coaching, meditation and counselling, among other approaches, we can work towards healing your mind and your body so that you can experience the freedom you deserve. I can offer you a program, included in which are a couple of clear the fear workshops, that will help kick start you back into the heart of your being where the answers to your CFS truly hang out. Give me a call on the numbers below, or fire me off a text message and I’ll call you back as soon as possible.
My numbers are 01371 859994 or 07773 919071. I work from Longcroft House, Victoria Avenue London EC2M 4NS Liverpool Street in the City of London, or Great Dunmow.