Contagion is a very serious, real public threat in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Fortunately, the disease itself is not contagious. Unfortunately paranoia, misinformation, false despair and a false sense of helplessness are.
For years I have cautioned my clients and readers to avoid support groups that disempower rather than actively teach self-healing strategies. I have known many PWC’s who have left some group meetings more depressed and discouraged than when they arrived. I also advise against reading literature that is not supporting you in your healing process. What you take in from others in support groups and from reading has a real impact on your psyche-consciously and unconsciously- and eventually it will affect your body.
By “disempowering” I mean any group or literature that suggests that you are a helpless victim, and that your healing must await a medical discovery to be funded by the government some time in the twenty-first century. That would be nice if it happened, but the fact is that everyone who has recovered from CFS to date has done so without a medical cure.
They have recovered with the help of medical support, both conventional and alternative, but there is no single medical cure and probably never will be. That is because CFS is a multi-causal disease. This means that different causes combine in different pathways in different people to create the syndrome.
There is fairly strong consensus now among researchers that there is a genetic vulnerability to this disease. Please note that I said vulnerability, not cause. Vulnerability means that due to your genetic makeup, your immune and neurological systems happen to function in a way that makes them more vulnerable than the next person [to this particular disease]. Likewise, you may be genetically less vulnerable to some other disease, like heart disease or diabetes.
When other factors like environmental toxins, chronic caffeine and sugar intake, nutritional deficiencies, chronic stress, possibly parasites or yeasts, and perhaps (though yet to be proven) a virus or other bug come together, then your host resistance is reduced. At this point your genetic vulnerability can kick in, allowing the disease to happen.
Recovery happens in people who alter the balance of these multiple factors in their bodies. They clean up their environment and diet, learn to supply the body with what it needs nutritionally, learn to alleviate or cope with chronic stress, detoxify, get quality rest, and clear out any little critters that might be gumming up the works.
Once this foundation has been laid, then the body’s natural healing responses take time to restore the immune and neurological systems to normal functioning. I emphasize that it takes time, because we are so used to “fast medicine” that we are impatient with natural healing processes. Since there is no fast medicine cure for CFS, the natural healing responses of the body must express themselves over time, and we have to support the process.
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How to Boil Water
When you want to boil a pot of water, you put the pot on the stove, turn on the heat, and patiently wait for the water to reach the boiling temperature. You patiently wait because you know you cannot rush the process. You have no problem accepting that it takes time for the water to boil. You don’t say, “this stove doesn’t work,” throw it out, and go buy another one.
The same applies to the body’s natural healing responses. They take time to build up momentum. Meanwhile, if we get inpatient because we are not seeing immediate tangible results, we might stop giving the body the very support it needs in the long term. I am referring to diet, supplementation, rest, and daily self-healing disciplines such as meditation or other methods.
This long, slow healing process is hard to accept in our culture because of our relationship to time. We want what we want when we want it, and that is usually now. Unfortunately, that is not the way of nature. Although it is humbling, we have to support our bodies as they heal at their own pace.
There is a whole psychology to believing in recovery, which activates a mind, body dynamic. When you decide that healing is a real goal for you, and you deeply believe it is possible, then forces are set in motion that were not previously being brought to bear. By committing yourself to a vision of recovery, your subconscious mind begins seeing opportunities and pathways to fulfilling that vision-things that it was not attuned to before.
In the same way that you develop a desire for a certain car, and you suddenly start noticing all the other cars on the way like the one you want. You did not realize how popular this car was until your sub-conscious became attuned to it. Likewise, when you fix on your desire to do whatever it takes to heal, your subconscious starts giving you input as to what actions are in alignment with that desire. In other words, the vast resources of sensitivity and information that reside in your subconscious come in to “service” to close the gap between the status quo and the image of what you want.
Naturally, if your deep belief is that you are a helpless victim dependent on forces outside yourself for heating, none of these resources are available to you. it’s as if the subconscious says, “Oh, all right, I’ll wait.” But when the commitment is in place, it begins to permeate your whole day You find yourself chewing your food more slowly so as to have more complete digestion. You hesitate before entering into stressful inter-actions with others, or you tell them you want to start relating in a different way. You cut down or eliminate TV, because you begin to sense the effects it has on your brain and nervous system.
You become more interested in your breathing patterns, and start to breathe move fully and thoroughly to give your body more vital energy for healing. And you are drawn to practitioners or healers who seem right for you.
There are many subtle ways this commitment finds expression throughout your day, and the effects mount up. Your healing requires your belief and commitment to the process. And, like boiling water, it takes time.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Collinge began working with CFIDS during the Lake Tahoe epidemic in the 1980s. His book Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Guide to Self-Empowerment (Putnam, 1993) and an accompanying set of tapes, The Home Self-Empowerment Program, are available through the Health Buyers Club.