Do you struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Fibromylagia (FM)? Do you tend to overdo it and then crash trying to get caught up/do whatever you haven’t been able to do when you get a bit more energy than you are used to? If so, read on!
Most of the patients with ME and/or FM that I see in my practice, have a history of being very high achievers and very driven. What we might call “A” types in our society. I see a lot of professionals (doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants…) and/or those who are the primary caregivers for those around them who have a history of burning the candle at both ends. So much of our identity in life is tied to what we do and this makes it all the more devastating when we are unable to do what we formerly could - especially for the high achiever. There is a huge element of loss that comes with living with a chronic illness - loss of identity, loss of relationships… It is understandable that when health improves, it is tempting to try and restore some of what we used to do and what we have been unable to do. This can be the most dangerous time in healing, because if not careful, it can precipitate a big crash which can be very difficult both physically and emotionally. One of the biggest lessons in healing, is that acceptance does not mean giving up hope. What does this mean? It means giving up fighting against your illness and accepting that, with healing, slow and steady wins the race. It is important not to rush the process and not to fight the process. The most foundational and sustainable improvements come from making long term deposits and from depositing more than you withdraw. This does not mean losing hope that you can withdraw more as you improve, but without big enough deposits to offset the withdrawals, you continue to operate in a deficit. Let go of any guilt or self judgement around not being able to do what you used to. Accept the rest and nourishment that is needed to heal.
So what are some strategies you can use to make these deposits? Here are some ideas:
- Take short cuts with food preparation. Use pre-cut, flash frozen veggies; frozen berries; pre-made salads…
- If you are extremely drained, use paper plates. While arguably less environmental, if you can save the energy you would need to use doing dishes or feeling anxious about having dirty dishes on the counter, to put towards healing or other priorities - do it!
- Do something that is a healthy WANT, just for you every day. Keep it simple. It could be sitting outside for a few minutes; having a nice cup of tea; watching leaves fall or snowflakes fall out the window. It doesn’t need to be something that takes energy, just something that is for you and that you want to do. This is a deposit.
- Ask yourself what nourishes you and what drains you. Weed out what you can that is draining and feed what is nourishing.
- Get help/support. Get creative if you are on your own, enlist local teenagers who need volunteer hours to help out with tasks.
- Plan ahead to make deposits to offset anticipated withdrawals. Don’t schedule too much in one week or one day. Allow time for rest alternating with activities
Healing from a complex chronic illness is not linear. It is slow and steady. Be good to yourself and pace your healing. There is hope even when you can’t see it.
Dr. Louise McCrindle B.Sc. (Hons.), ND,m Board-certified Naturopathic Doctor has been in practice since 2008. She welcomes patients of all ages and levels of health, including those seeking support for women's health, fertility, and family health.