The gifts of chronic fatigue

 

This is another topic I like to revisit: 

What are the gifts of chronic fatigue (CFS)? What are the genuine gifts in it for me? 

It supports healing, awakening, and humanizing. Just like life in general, when we are receptive to it. 

It invites a deep healing of the bodymind. In my case, it invites me to notice any stressful beliefs and find what’s more true for me (The Work). It invites me to find healing for anything that comes up and is triggered by the illness and life situation. It invites me to find healing for any emotional issues that may weaken my system (they all do) and contribute to the illness. It invites me to strengthen, clear, and balance my body and energy system in a variety of ways – through food, herbal medicine, bodywork, energy work, nature, and more. 

It invites awakening. It invites awakening to (and out of) beliefs and identifications, and especially those triggered by my situation. It invites noticing what’s happening in me – including the emotional pain – as happening within and as what I am. (Not noticing that is extra painful so there is an inherent incentive to notice what it is happening within and as, and find what I am as that.) 

It invites humanizing, becoming more deeply human. Having a serious illness, and having a lot of unprocessed emotional material surfacing, and also making decisions “out of character” because of it, is very humbling. It can be deeply humanizing. This is all universally human. What I experience has been and is experienced by innumerable others. 

In addition…. 

It invites learning about health and healing, and what works for me in my situation. I have learned about CFS and Lyme and Lyme co-infections. I have learned about what foods and herbal medicines work best for me (I had a pretty good sense of that from before). I have learned about a range of modalities for healing the body and mind. 

It invites deep rest. Not only in a conventional sense, but a deeper rest through healing, awakening, and humanizing. (Emotional wounds, taking ourselves to only be separate, and trying to be better than or different from others is inherently stressful. When we heal, awaken, and humanize, we find relief and a deeper rest.) 

It has given me time to rest, notice, and explore, including to explore these topics. 

It has given me experiences, insights, and skills I can share with others and that may be useful for some others. I have been given a lot from others (everything including my life), and passing on just a little bit that’s helpful for others makes me very grateful. 

And last but not least, my situation has motivated me to seek deep healing, awakening, and humanizing. It has given me an extra motivation and perhaps sincerity. It has made me willing to be extra humble (sometimes) in order to find healing, awakening, and humanizing. 

Would I have chosen to not have had these health problems? Yes. Do I see the genuine gifts in them? Yes. Did I ever have a choice? No. This was chosen by life. It’s happening within and as all of existence. It’s the play of life, or the universe, or the divine. 

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Chronic fatigue and therapeutic tremoring

 

From my own experience and that of others, it seems that therapeutic tremoring (TRE) can be very helpful for people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Since it releases tension out of the system, it can help improve sleep, reduce anxiety and depression, and lead to more comfort and well being in general.

Equally important, therapeutic trembling may allow energy tied up in tension to release and thus become available to the (other) needs of the system.

Both help with everyday functioning and both may support the system in healing itself.

There are some TRE precautions for people with CFS. Mainly, do the tremoring for only short periods at first, and follow the signals of your system. As your system gets more familiar with it, and you get more familiar with how it responds, you can increase the frequency and length of the tremoring sessions.

Several notes:

I use the word “system” here instead of body, mind, or even bodymind. I could say “bodymind system” since I am referring to the whole of the human being, body, mind, and all. When I use the word “tension” that similarly refer to tension as having body and mind components.

When I say “trembling” or “tremoring” it’s a lot more than just trembling. It can be any kind of movement (autonomous, not created through intention) including “butterflying” of the legs, slow rhythmical movements, shaking, subtle vibrations, stretching, jumping, sounds and more. All ways the bodymind – outside of our conscious awareness and intention – invites tension to release when it’s allowed and invited to do so.

And when I put TRE in parenthesis after “therapeutic trembling” it’s because TRE – Tension and Trauma Release Exercises – is perhaps the simplest way to allow therapeutic trembling to happen for us modern people. Therapeutic trembling is built into us through evolution, but in our modern culture, we have learned to suppress it. We may have learned it’s a sign of weakness, or embarrassing, or that it means we are out of control (and that’s bad), or we don’t understand what it’s for, or we just have a general suspicion of the inherent wisdom of the body, or we simply think there is no inherent wisdom in the body. For whatever reason, we have learned to suppress it, so we need to unlearn and allow the trembling to happen. And TRE is a good tool for just that.

Also, I should say that although it seems that therapeutic trembling can significantly help people with CFS, the extent will vary between people. It does require sticking to it for a long period of time, over months and years (although the progress will be noticeable from early on). And the underlying medical conditions may vary between people since CFS is an exclusion diagnosis.

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My approach to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

 

How do I approach my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and brain fog?

We are one seamless system, so it makes sense to take a holistic, pragmatic, and ecletic approach. To use whatever works and approach it from many different angles. At least until the causes are more pinpointed and/or we have found simple and effective treatments.

Here are some things that have been helpful for me.

Rest. Avoid excertion.

Nature. Walks.

A diet that works for my body. In my case, eating less processed foods, low on the food chain, and organic and local as possible. Mostly vegetables and some meat and fruit. Mostly avoid wheat, dairy, and sugar. Listen to the body. Follow the body’s guidance.

Herbal medicine. For me, right now, eleuthero, echanacea, kapikachu. Stangeland’s herbal tea.

Resting with/as what is. Allow. Notice. (Shikantaza, “just sitting”.)

Western medicine. Check for deficiencies, organ problems, known illnesses with similar symptoms, toxic mold exposure etc.

Mindful body-centered activities. For me, it’s Breema but it could also be (and has been) Tai Chi, Chigong, and yoga.

Therapeutic trembling to release tension and trauma. Over time, this releases and frees up energy previously bound in tension. For me, through Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE).

Befriend the symptoms and my life. Change and heal my relationship to the symptoms and my body, myself, others, and life. I mostly use ho’oponopono and tonglen, and also inquiry and Vortex Healing.

Use the CFS and my life situation as an opportunity to see what’s left to heal at an identification and emotional level. As above, I am mostly using inquiry, ho’oponopno, and Vortex Healing for this.

Explore and find healing for any emotional issues that may have contributed to the CFS and Brain Fog (created a weakness, suseptibility). E.g. wanting to avoid life, finding refuge in the CFS. Again, inquiry, ho’o, and Vortex Healing.

Seek out and strengthen nourishing relationships. Heal stressful ones (at least from my side). Limit those who drain me.

Organize my life, as much as possible, so it’s simple and nourishing.

Use energy work to strengthen and balance the system, and clear physical and emotional issues contributing to the fatigue and brain fog. In my case, this is Vortex Healing.

Do more of what gives meaning in life. Zest.

And other things as I discover and am drawn to it.

A brief note about Norway: To me, taking a pragmatic holistic approach is natural. And that’s what I have seen among people I know in North America having similar health issues.

But in Norway, I have sometimes noticed a strange polarization between those taking a psychological approach (Lightning Process etc.) and those favoring a physical approach (which partly means waiting for doctors to find a treatment). They seem to overlook that we, as human beings, are one seamless system and that the mind-body distinctions is imagined. By taking imaginary sides in that way, we limit our options. And that doesn’t make sense when it comes to something as important as our health. It makes more sense to take a holistic and pragmatic approach. And, of course, many in Norway and everywhere else do just that.

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Brief update

 

I just returned from Core Veil in London, a Vortex Healing course with Ric Weinman. I feel it helped clear, stabilize, and perhaps deepen a lot of the haphazard openings and awakenings from my pre-Vortex Healing days. And the course seems to also have strengthened my system considerably.

Over a couple of tea-breaks, Ric took a look at my chronic fatigue (CFS) and brain fog. He said it seems that a CFS (inducing) virus is still hiding out in my system (which would explain a great deal), and did a couple of brief treatments to clear it out. It will take some time for my system to adjust to a potentially virus-free existence. We’ll see how it unfolds.

A few words about viruses and CFS: There are probably many things that fall under the CFS label, including undiagnosed known illnesses and various subgroups of “true” CFS. Sometimes, CFS is called Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome which is fitting since it often comes after a viral infection. (For me, mononucleosis in my teens.) Many of the symptoms associated with CFS fit a viral infection. For me, it feels like having a flu – sometimes strong and sometimes less so – without the fever, runny nose, or cough. The brain fog and wooziness is there. The fatigue and tiredness. Worsening condition after exertion. Brain fog and inability to focus as before. Unusually sensitive to noise and sometimes light. Wanting to lie down and rest. (Or being unable to do anything but lying down.) And a rest that often doesn’t feel restful or nourishing. All of that is similar to having a flu or a similar infection.

If there is/was still a virus in my system, it also explains why any energetic work seems to actually work – in clearing and energizing pathways and chakras and doing many other things – but it doesn’t significantly change my overall health situation. The virus holds it back. So we’ll see what happens if a hidden virus was the key and the virus now really is gone.

CFS and bodymind

 

The body-mind is a seamless system, as is the individual and the larger social and ecological wholes. It’s all a seamless system.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and other mystery illnesses function as a reminder of this. To understand it, manage it, and treat it, we need to take a broad and inclusive approach. At least, unless they find one simple solution to curing it (which may happen).

For now, it seems that different approaches work for different people in terms of managing it and sometimes healing from it. Activity management is a universally helpful approach to managing CFS, perhaps since we all do it anyway. It’s part of human life. And some have healed themselves through yoga, or some form of cognitive therapy, or herbal medicine, or eating more, or through other approaches.

In my case, what preceded the CFS, the symptoms, and what helps, is not original. The initial onset was preceded by mononucleosis, perhaps combined with typical teen stress which put an extra load on the system. I got much better after a few years, mostly because I found myself in a situation where I could manage my schedule more freely. When there was a relapse of the severe CFS many years later, it was after severe pneumonia that I wasn’t able to completely recover from.

It’s also clear that it’s connected with food intolerances (which makes the symptoms worse). And it may be connected to mold since I lived in a basement when it first happened, and I lived in a house in Oregon with mold problems when I had the relapse.

My approach to managing and healing from CFS includes:

Avoiding foods my body reacts to. (Dairy, wheat, sugar.)

Regulating my activities. Rest when needed. Do a little less than I feel I can (to avoid crashes).

Herbal medicine. Right now: siberian ginseng (energy), echinacea (immune system), kapikacchu (energy).

Natural rest, inquiry, heart centered practices. This helps me change my relationship to the CFS symptoms and it’s impact on my life, and also explore any issues that may in any way contribute to it.

Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE). TRE releases tension out of the muscles, which in turn frees up energy.

Eating enough. It seems that this is a peace of recovery for many. Making sure the body has enough calories and nutrients to have a good metabolism. (Also, recently adding a small layer of fat to my body has helped me avoid energy crashes.)

Vortex Healing. This has helped me greatly although it’s also a slow(ish) process. I have used it to clear the mono-virus that was still in my body when I started with VH, clearing and optimizing my energy system, and also working on emotional issues impacting my physical health and energy levels.

The Vortex Healing approach to CFS and similar health issues is a reminder of what I mentioned above. It’s best to take a broad and inclusive approach and leave no stone unturned. Prioritize and explore.

Note: I was motivated to write this by a somewhat odd discussion in a Norwegian CFS Facebook group. Some seem to take the view that cognitive therapy approaches can heal CFS (which it can for some but not others), some that it’s a purely physical illness (it certainly has that component, and that’s where a “magic bullet” cure may be found eventually), and some take a more inclusive view. As I mentioned above, with any mystery illness it makes sense to take a broad and inclusive approach and leave no stone unturned.

How food influences CFS in my experience

 

I have had CFS since my teens, and especially strongly in two periods (including right now).

From the beginning, I knew that food played a role in how well I do. The type of food plays a role, as does when I eat, and – as I discovered more recently – having some minimal fat reserves.

Type of food. I tend to do best when I eat mostly vegetables and meat, with smaller amounts of grains and fruit, and minimal to no dairy and sugar. The less processed the better. And I prefer organic and locally produced food. I am from Northern Europe, and I notice I do well on traditional Northern European foods. Perhaps it’s genetics, or just what my body is used to, or the climate, I don’t quite know.

I especially like warm food that’s delicious and easy and quick to prepare. Slow cooked stews with bone broth is a favorite.

When I eat. I tend to eat relatively frequently. My main meal is often breakfast, and it’s often vegetables and meat. Lunch and dinner are typically similar. Although I do mix it up according to what I notice I am drawn to. It’s good to not be too strict. (For instance, I had muesli with kefir a couple of days ago and it felt right and good then. And I do sometimes eat chocolate.)

Fat reserves. I have been slim to skinny my whole life, and unable to put on weight even when I have intentionally tried to. This spring, I did a combination of Vortex Healing and using an app in order to put on more weight, and it worked within a week. (The Vortex Healing was for my digestive system and to support my body in absorbing and making use of nutrients.)

I am now up to 84kg (184cm tall) and have a minimal to moderate layer of fat on my body for the first time. It feels like an important and helpful buffer for me. I used to have energy crashes if a meal was delayed or I missed a meal. Now, that doesn’t seem to happen anymore. Joey Lott and others talk about the importance of eating enough in order to deal with and perhaps recover from CFS, and that fits my experience as well.

Additional notes. As I mentioned above, I am not terribly strict in my diet. Now and then, I do eat some grains, some dairy (cheese, kefir), and some sugar (mostly in the form of chocolate). I also find that butter seems to really help me, so I tend to melt butter on most warm meals. I should also say that I do some strength training and typically walk a good deal, so I try to stay as fit as I can within the limitations of having CFS.

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What helps my physical energy

 

Here are some things I have found helps my physical energy.

Herbs. Adaptogens can be very helpful, along with more targeted herbs. I have been greatly helped by taking certain herbs under the guidance of an experienced herbalist. (Right now, I take eleuthero, echinacea, and kapikachu.)

Bone broth. This also helps my deep physical energy. Here is the recipe I use:

Roast bones, 375 degrees, 25-30 min.

Cover with water, add 2 table spoons of apple cider vinegar. Use a slow cooker if you can.

Simmer on low heat, cover with water. (Leave the foam bc of nutrients).

Replenish water as needed.

Simmer for 48 hours.

Cool rapidly, freeze in small(ish) portions – for instance in small containers or ice cube trays. Use in meals or take as broth daily, especially during fall and winter.

Nature. Rest. Food. Spending time in nature. Get plenty or rest and sleep. (Live well within my means when it comes to energy.) Eat low on the food chain. Eat mostly unprocessed foods. Chose foods that work for my system. (In my case, mostly avoid sugars, dairy, and wheat. Eat cooked food during cold months, and more raw foods when it’s warm. Since I have dampness in my system, foods with heat help my energy.)

Vortex Healing. Vortex Healing has helped me greatly over the last year or so. My digestion is much better than it was, as is my general energy level. And it continues to improve.

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A few words about sensitivity

 

Since childhood, I have been quite sensitive to a range of stimuli, especially sounds (noise, eating sounds, paper rustling), certain foods (sugar, dairy), chemicals, heat, physical exertion, and more.

I notice that my sensitivity is related to how well I feel in general. When I feel stronger and/or feel good about my life, I tend to be less sensitive. When I feel more fatigued or vulnerable, and I am less happy about my life, I become more sensitive.

Also, I assume these sensitivities are a type of “allergic” reaction. It’s my system reacting strongly to stimuli that in themselves are relatively harmless. My system seems to respond as if it’s a life and death situation, when it really isn’t.

That’s why retraining my system’s response seems important. How do I retrain or reprogram the stimuli-response reaction? How do I help my system respond with calmness to the stimuli that previously have triggered a strong reaction? One way is to feel the response in my body, and rest with it. As I rest with it, I am signaling to my system that it’s OK. There is no life-and-death situation here. It’s OK to relax. It’s OK to be OK with it.

Joey Lott writes about this, and it’s also an inherent part of Natural Rest and the Living Inquiries. In Natural Rest, I notice what’s here and allow it as is. I may even say “I love you, stay as long as you like”. In the Living Inquiries, I look at images and words, and feel sensations, which invites the “velcro” to release. (Sensations that seems “stuck on” images and words, lending them charge, and a sense of reality and solidity.) Both signal to my system that it’s OK. The stimuli is OK, whether it’s a sound, image, or sensation. It’s not life threatening. It’s OK for my system to respond in a relaxed way. It’s even OK to find love for it.

Said another way, when there is velcro (or a belief, or identification, or a psychological knot), the stimuli may trigger a strong and unpleasant reaction. It’s an over reaction, in a conventional sense, although the reaction is appropriate to the underlying belief, identification, velcro, or trauma. And this looks like sensitivity.

There is a sound. The sound itself is harmless. My system responds strongly, with a fight or flight or freeze response. It’s alarmed. It reacts that way due to a belief (or identification, velcro, trauma). And that stimuli-response pathway can be changed. My system can learn to respond in a more relaxed way, through inquiry, or Natural Rest, or just feeling the sensations of the reactions and resting with these sensations. In each case, I am showing my system that it’s OK. It’s OK to respond in a relaxed way. There is no life-and-death situation here.

Another way to work with this is Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (TRE), allowing the body to release tension and trauma through it’s natural and inherent trembling mechanism. (Spontaneous trembling, shaking, rocking, stretching.)

A couple of notes:

I included physical exertion above. I suspect that chronic fatigue fits into this pattern of stimuli followed by an exaggerated response. The stimuli is physical exertion, and the response is fatigue. It may be a type of freeze response. This is not the whole picture of CFS, but it may be a part of it for many. (I suspect there is a great deal of individual variation here, and another part of the picture is physical problems such as mineral and vitamin deficiencies, viruses, auto-immune illnesses and more.)

Similarly, fatigue itself may be the stimuli, and the system responds with increased fatigue. This can also be retrained, in the way described above. It’s at least worth a try. And inquiry can be invaluable in this process.

Is X a threat? The physical exertion? The fatigue? The brain fog? These sensations I label in that way?

Can I find X? Fatigue? Exertion? Brain fog? Someone who has these?

Is there a command to X? To escape a situation? For the fatigue to go away? For the brain fog to go away?

I am intentionally avoided using the term “nervous system” above. It’s obviously important in this context, but there is clearly a lot more going on than just the nervous system. Our whole body-mind is included.

One way the nervous system plays a role, is what happens when the sympathetic nervous system (flight/fight/freeze) is chronically activated. This leads to the parasympathetic part of the nervous system being less active. And this, in turn, leads to diminished immune function, digestion, and more, which in turn can lead to a range of health problems.  Teaching the nervous system to relax – in general and when faced with certain stimuli – helps our overall health. It makes the body better able to heal itself.

Tiredness

 

Tiredness is very interesting.

It can be physiological, often from lack of sleep. It can have a significant mind component. And perhaps quite commonly, there is some of each.

In inquiry sessions – both as client and facilitator – I notice that an almost overwhelming tiredness can set in, often when the client is looking at something with a lot of velcro and seemingly threatening. When tiredness is brought consciously into the session, the experience of it can shift, and it also tends to mysteriously vanish after the apparently threatening images, words, and sensations have been more closely looked at. It may be that this tiredness is a form of protection.

In life, it may be similar. I wonder if not a part of chronic fatigue is the same impulse to protect. The tiredness is a form of protection, and if so comes from innocence, deep caring, and worried love. Tiredness protects me from being out there in the world, with all its apparent dangers, risks, disappointments, and more. (And that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a very real physiological component to chronic fatigue, and perhaps even in the cause of chronic fatigue.)

Some ways to explore tiredness:

Living Inquiries. 

Rest with the tiredness. Notice. Allow.

Feel the sensations. See how it is to be curious about them. Feel the sensations as sensations. (As much as possible. This may be much easier after doing the following inquiry.)

Inquire into the sensations, and any associated images and words. Is it a threat? Is it tiredness? Is it someone who is tired?

Kindness.

I love you.

I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. (Ho’oponopono.)

Holding satsang with.

You are welcome here.

Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me.

What would satisfy you forever?

What are you really?

Dialogue/mining.

How does X relate to you? What advice do you have for him/her?

What does it mean? What would is say if it could speak?

What does it need from you?

In my experience, the kindness can be very helpful in reorienting and relate to it differently, and the dialog can do the same. What really helps is resting with what’s here, and especially feeling the sensations of tiredness, and looking at the associated images and words. When the velcro is loosened, it’s much easier to feel the sensations as sensations, and the associated images and words are recognized as images and words.

The sense of tiredness may get thinner or lifts. Or there is still a more physiological tiredness here (from lack of sleep usually) and it’s OK, it doesn’t seem like a problem, and it doesn’t have as many overlays of images and words.

This is similar to how physical pain can be explored.

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The gifts of the fatigue

 

Some gifts of the chronic fatigue:

  • Finding how my life has value in the absence of doing. (And how that’s true for others as well.)
  • Learning to slow down, rest, take care of myself.
  • Learning to put my needs first, and communicate about it.
  • Questioning and having to let go of identifications with doing and achievement related identities.
  • Learning about my body and mind, how beliefs influence my experience of health etc.
  • Learning about healing modalities, learning about CFS.
  • Having time to relax, enjoy myself, learn, be.
  • Having time to notice what’s here, find curiosity for it.
  • Finding new appreciation and value of any life, independent of doing and activities in the world.
  • Questioning my labels, including the basic ones of fatigue, pain etc.
  • Noticing the effects of beliefs on how I experience my mind and body, my life in the world.
  • Realizing in a new way that “I” am not in control. If life goes somewhere, that’s what happens. If life doesn’t go somewhere, it doesn’t.
  • Being unable to push away or set aside uncomfortable experiences – emotions, sensations, images, thoughts. Invitation to be with them, with curiosity, instead of setting them aside as I used to.
  • Modeling this for others, sharing it with others through words and how I live my life.