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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Silent Teacher

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By Linda Carol Baker • • April 21, 2000

It has taken several years and quite a few relapses before I figured out how to effectively fight back from the devastation of chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS). Sparing little, taking plenty, CFIDS is a very thorough disease.

Before I became ill with CFIDS, the notion of "being still" was impossible for me. Like many persons with CFIDS (PWCs), I led a very active lifestyle […] I had little idea how harshly this way of living was about to blow up in my face. In 1993, CFIDS arrived in my life and I no longer had the luxury to go and do as I pleased. Quickly I became aware of all the ordinary things I had taken for granted. I spent a lot of time sitting around trying to convince God to "fix things."

In my desperation to escape the grip of CFIDS, I tried any remedy with promise. Unable to rely on my body's performance, I struggled to find a way to reestablish my quality of life. I spent most of my time coping with CFIDS by either denying the entire thing or rebelling against it. I treated myself as though I still had a normal amount of energy and tolerance to stress. I didn't take my medicine, ate poorly, did too much and didn't rest enough.

As I struggled to come to terms with this mysterious syndrome, the subject of " surrendering" kept coming up. To a person who is fiercely independent, this idea is not appealing. This was the enemy, so why should I give in to it?

Attempting to put things into perspective, I called upon my training in the field of psychology. The power of thought has been well documented, so I turned my attention to my own thoughts and soon realized how much negative thinking I engaged in. I began to see a connection between my physical pain and my negative thinking.

I decided to try a little experiment by focusing on something positive each day. I kept a running list, so on especially challenging days I had an instant reminder that there are some things I can still do. Nothing was too absurd. For example, I have developed champion TV channel-surfing skills thanks to the days when my brain fog is severe and I am not able to do anything else. I have become more efficient on the computer. I can still bake a delicious chocolate cake. Some days I really have to stretch to come up with something, but find it worthwhile to focus on what I can do, rather than what I can't do.

I also spent more time exploring the concept of accepting and " surrendering" to the lessons CFIDS has to offer. I had always viewed surrendering as a type of giving in or giving up and feared that by doing so, I'd remain ill forever. But I came to realize that surrendering means admitting something has tremendous power over me -- and learning to work in harmony with it. By doing so, I became more in tune with my body and making healthy choices became easier.

Through meditation I learned to relax and become more honest with myself. I realized that in the past I had not taken care of myself as well as I convinced myself I had. I now set appropriate limits on my physical activities and eat well.Dealing with CFIDS has become easier with my new approach. I encourage you to find what works for you. You might just find a few positive surprises. It may sound odd, but in many ways CFIDS has improved the quality of my life and has become my "silent teacher." It has taken me a long time to learn that serenity is not freedom from the storm, it's freedom amid the storm.

CFIDS has taught me that quality is better than quantity and, most importantly, that I don't have to be the Queen of Perfection to be loved or to make a difference. I may not be able to do all the things I used to, but now I do things I never would have considered before CFIDS. This wasn't quite the reality I was expecting, and it may require some creative thinking on my part to reach my goals, but that doesn't mean my dreams can't come true. I discovered that I already have what is most important to me: good friends, plenty of laughs and the ability to love and be loved.I share my experiences to lend hope and help to others. The moral to my story is if you can't change something, then change the way you think about it. I've learned a lot about myself and now see that I am more than just CFlDS. It hasn't been easy, but the choice was mine all along. Source: Used by the permission of The CFIDS Chronicle, Vol. 12, No. 5, p 28.

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