I decided to start a series of posts with Chronic fatigue Syndrome (CFS) reflections. These are just my own observations so take it with a big grain of salt and explore it for yourself (if you have CFS).
Chronic fatigue and conscious movement. One thing I have learned through living with Chronic Fatigue (CFS) is to be extra conscious of how I physically move. If I move too fast – and frantically – it’s clearly not good for my health. I need to find a comfortable way to move, and that usually means to slow down. Beyond that, if I can find a nurturing way to move, that’s even better.
When I see others moving in a fast or frantic way, it’s a reminder to me to slow down. I am usually pretty good at it, but I too notice the temptation to speed up and try to do a lot quickly. It’s also helped me to look at why I am tempted to do this. Mainly, when I have some “extra” energy – beyond just being able to lie in bed do close to nothing – there is a temptation to do as much as I can – and perhaps to do this relatively fast – since I don’t know how long it will last.
I have done a lot of conscious movement work in my previous life so this is relatively natural for me (tai chi, chigong, yoga, Feldenkrais, Breema). For others with CFS but without this previous experience, I imagine that very gentle conscious-movement explorations can be helpful if it’s adapted to what they are able to do without worsening too dramatically or crashing.
Chronic fatigue and surfacing emotions. We are a seamless system so emotions play a role in any aspect of our life, and so also in chronic illness. For instance, chronic illness may lead to – at different times – anger, frustration, sadness, grief, anxiety, and so on, and it’s good to address this to improve quality of life and give the system a better chance to heal itself. It’s also possible that certain personality traits – like perfectionism and people-pleasing – is connected with CFS although research has not shown this (yet).
In general, why not address emotional issues? It can certainly improve our quality of life no matter our situation, and it can also free up resources allowing our system to better heal itself.
There are many possible connections between CFS and emotions. Here, I want to highlight just one. When my energy level is good, my old emotional issues are mostly “hidden” and not very obvious. I have the resources to deal with life without having too many issues triggered.
When my energy levels go down, these old issues tend to surface more easily. Even smaller challenges in life can trigger my old hangups since I don’t have the resources to deal with life’s challenges as I normally would.
The gift in this is that I get to see these old hangups, make a note of them, and perhaps – if I have energy! – address them.
Chronic fatigue & crashing. When my system crashes, it’s typically when I am out of bed and in some activity, and when I do too much and haven’t had food and water frequently enough. The recipe for avoiding crashing is the reverse: do less, rest more, and eat small meals and drink (water, herbal teas) more frequently.
When my system crashes, it feels like a whole-systems crash. My physical body begins to shut down. My mind goes into survival mode with a single-minded focus on food and water. And if I perceive that someone or something is in the way of me getting food and water quickly, I may also get frustrated, angry, and/or grumpy. (The focus is often on chocolate and sodas since that gives me quick energy, even if I rarely if ever eat and drink it otherwise.)
Chronic fatigue & food. I know I do better when I avoid some foods (wheat, dairy, sugar, refined foods) and eat more of other foods (vegetables, some fruits, some less typical grains). In periods where I eat more indiscriminately, my system is eventually impacted and I need to switch back to a more intentional diet. Similarly, if I eat strictly for too long, I eventually need to broaden my diet.
The foods I get sick from if I eat them regularly become medicine in small amounts in periods where I eat more intentionally (for instance, cheese, cream, chocolate).
As mentioned above, if I am out of the house and notice I am about to crash, it can help to eat foods I usually completely avoid (AKA “junk” food) – simply because this food is full of quick energy.
Chronic fatigue & anger. I suspect that, for me, there is a connection between suppressed anger and fatigue. It may be one of several keys to healing. (It was obviously not the only or main factor in causing the illness, if it played a role at all.)
In my case, there is probably a connection between perfectionism and people-pleasing and suppressed anger (when we ignore our own needs in order to please others, we naturally get angry). And there are also beliefs and “shoulds” about anger from my family (where showing anger is not acceptable).
Anger is energy, and when it’s suppressed it means that the energy of the anger – in the moment – is not available. I also suspect that suppressed anger corresponds to chronic tension in the body (see other articles on how chronic tension is necessary for us us to hold a stance and believe anything at all), and that tension requires and “binds” energy that could have been used for the normal functioning of the body and for healing.
I notice that when I connect with the energy of anger, and perhaps use it when I speak and act (in a constructive way), I feel stronger and I feel I have more energy. And I don’t crash the way I normally do following exertion (PEM).
I thought this would be the end of this article but I’ll add a few more observations / questions….
Yawning as a signal. Over time, I have learned to notice signals that helps me avoid crashing. Yawning is one of those signals.
In my experience, when I yawn it means one of three things.
Most often, it means I need food – and that I need it right away. It’s already been a little too long since last meal or mini-meal.
If I have recently had food, it may mean that my system needs energization. Vortex Healing is the best way for me to do this.
And if I have had food and my system is relatively well energized, it may mean that I am ready for sleep.