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Facing Adversity with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia: How Do You React?

  [ 211 votes ]   [ 1 Comment ]
By Eunice Beck, R.N. • • October 2, 2002

Dear Friends,

All of us are facing adversity in our lives. My thesaurus lists a number of other words for adversity which might better convey how we may be feeling: misfortune, affliction, bad luck, hardship, distress, misery, disaster, trouble. All of these words describe the experience of dealing with these DDs on a daily basis. I received the story below in my email recently, and it really made me think about how I react to what is happening in my life.

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and
how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was
going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting
and struggling. It seemed that as one problem was solved a new one

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with
water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a
boil. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed
eggs, and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them
sit and boil, without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished
the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She then pulled the
eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out
and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell
me, what do you see?"

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied. She brought her closer
and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they
were soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it.
After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.
Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as
she tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked, "What does it mean, mother?" Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity--boiling water--but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water. "Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?" Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a break-up, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart? Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain.

When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate to another level? How do you handle adversity?


-author unknown

I think the important question we must ask ourselves is not how we have dealt with these situations in the past, but can we learn new ways which are more productive. I think the way I was handling things when I was working was more like the egg. I became hardened and angry. I would be angry even when I was having a good day, and would obsess on those angry feelings even at home. I could leave patient concerns at work, but I could not leave the resentment for the way I thought I was being treated. I think I felt something like the cooked carrot as well, because my feelings were hurt so easily. In that way I was softer than I had been previously. I was expending what energy I had left “fussing”(a phrase I picked up while living in the South, which expresses it so well) about the interpersonal relationships at work. After being off work I began to understand that the changes in my performance thanks to our diseases were the basis for others reactions to me, and that my hurt feelings, anger and frustration just made everything worse.

I am trying to learn to be a coffee bean. To “go with the flow”. I try to take one day at a time, and find value I can add to my life from each experience. I still get frustrated and angry more easily than I would like, especially when I am really tired, or in pain. I like to be able to help people, but I am trying to learn my limits. I want to provide information and kindness, as the coffee does flavor and color, to the lives of others, as a natural part of my being who I am. Love and concern given to others does not diminish the love that you have.

I hope I am adding something to the lives of those of you who read my columns. I don’t really feel like an “advice columnist”, but as someone who has information, and perhaps, insight to share on dealing with the adversity of CFIDS/FM. If I am able to provide some information which allows someone to get a better grasp on their life, then I am a coffee bean. Maybe I can help some else change the adversity instead of it changing them. I just hope I can be helpful as an iced mocha latte! Take care and be well.

Yours in health,


I welcome your comments and questions at: My
articles and email responses are not being offered as those of a health care
provider. The information and opinions included are intended to give you
some information about your disease. It is very important that you empower
yourself with knowledge and participate in your own search for care. Any
advice given is not intended to take the place of advice of your physician
or mental health care provider. Always follow your physician's advice, even
if contradicted by something written here. You and your physician know your
situation far better than I do. Thank you and be well.

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Article Comments Post a Comment

Fight or Flight?
Posted by: TamaraSinging
May 26, 2008
Another way to think of it is how our "reptilian Brain" knows two options: fight or flight. Unfortunately, neither one of these is ideal. Flight, to me, means a kind of denial and "pushing through" which we all learn the hard way, is not effective and makes us sicker. "Fight" is closer to what works but this is not an illness you fight in the usual way that illness is thought of--like how people "fight" cancer. I'd say the best way is a combination of "surrender" and "fight." To me surrender means that at some point we have to "accept," (not like) that we are very ill. And the sooner we surrender to the fatigue instead of push through it, the more we start building reserves. Have you ever heard of the 50% solution? The doc who coined that encourages us to spend only 50% of the energy we have that day and save the rest. At the time I thought "Well then, all I"ll do is cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner and nothing else." I think we have to redefine what fight means. Not "push" or "overcome," but educate ourselves. It is our best weapon. Now unfortunately, we all know that different things help different people, so there is no real way to go about it other than trial and error and they don't call it TRIAL for nothin' cuz it's very difficult to endure all the side effects and dashed hopes. Studies have shown that people who believe in the "one cure" or the proverbial "magic bullet" don't get better. I think that's because they don't do the one arm of the work that we must do: surrender to the marathon that is this illness. But ultimately everyone who hangs in there finds things that help--the most important being, in Teitelbaum's opinion, to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Not as easy to come by as it sounds! These are my thoughts after 18 years of having CFIDS and after having achieved about 75% recovery which makes my life--well, A LIFE! Three years ago I was able to begin pursuing a long-buried dream of being a performing songwriter. I released a CD in 2006 with a couple of songs inspired by the CFIDS experience. One called "Listen Me Back" about how our identity shifts and how we need people who knew us "before." The other is called "Are You Really There?" and is about the questioning of faith that so often comes with prolonged suffering. I am busy at work on a second CD, performing regularly, and even doing small tours. Isn't that AMAZING??!! I feel I am getting a second chance at life. I still have sleep and stamina problems, but they no longer rule my life. Try your very best to Keep the Faith Sincerely, Tamara Lewis
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