[The following is excerpted, with permission, from my book The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution.]
After dealing with an insane medical system, people with CFS/FMS, and even those with simple day-to-day fatigue, often come away wondering if they're crazy.
The simple answer? NO!
At least not any more than anybody else!
Nonetheless, with all that you have been through, let's take a look at this issue in a little more depth. We have a bad habit in medicine. If a doctor can't figure out what's wrong with the patient, the doctor brands that patient a "turkey." Imagine calling an electrician because your lights don't work. The electrician checks all the wiring, can't find the problem, and says, "You're crazy. There's nothing wrong with your lights." You flip the switches and they still don't work, but the electrician just says, "I've looked. There's no problem here," and walks out the door. This is analogous to what many people with CFS/FMS and day-to-day-fatigue experience. I apologize on behalf of the medical profession if we've called you crazy just because we can't determine the cause of your problem. It's inappropriate, abusive, and downright cruel.
Unfortunately, some patients become so frustrated by being told that their CFS/FMS or day-to-day-fatigue is "all in their head" that they're in a catch–22. They feel that if they acknowledge that they also have emotional issues, just like everyone else, they are validating the wacko doctors who say that their illness is all emotional. Rest assured, however, that extensive research proves that CFS/FMS and day-to-day fatigue are real and physical.
One of many studies that proved the CFS and fibromyalgia are real was our placebo-controlled study. This is so because 90% of the people who received the active S.H.I.N.E.® treatment improved dramatically (90% average improvement in quality of life) and those receiving placebo did not. If it was "all in your head," the placebo group would have improved as much as the active group. This means that anyone who says it's all in your head is no longer simply a nitwit. Now they're unscientific nitwits. Give yourself permission to be human. You are no more and no less crazy than anyone else.
People often ask if they should get counseling. The simple answer is that, as in any other severe illness, the time to get counseling is if and when you feel like it.
How to Tell If You're Depressed
Research has shown that there's a very good way to tell if people are depressed. It's as effective as or more effective than many of the complicated depression questionnaires such as the Beck Depression Inventory.
What is this new high-tech technique? Simply ask the person if they're depressed!
Not sure if you're depressed? Here's one more important tip. Ask yourself if you have many interests. If the answer is that you have many interests but are frustrated that you have no energy to do them, then you're probably not depressed. If you have no interests or have lost interest in the interests you used to have, then you likely are depressed and it's good to treat that along with the S.H.I.N.E. protocol. Depression can accompany any severe illness, such as cancer, but we wouldn't dream of telling people with cancer that they're simply crazy.
Whether or not you're depressed, you may consider some type of therapist for emotional support and guidance. Be careful whom you choose, however. Make sure "psychotherapist" is one word—not two! Talk to your friends and relatives to find somebody who's good. Your physician may also be an excellent resource.
The Mind-Body Connection
I suspect that all illnesses have a psychological component. Although the highly stressed executive may have a bacterial infection such as Helicobacter pylori or excess acid causing their ulcer, it helps to remove the three telephones from their ear while treating the infection and excess acid.
I find that most people with CFS/FMS are mega type-A overachievers. To some degree, this psychodynamic often applies to day-to-day fatigue as well. We're approval seekers who avoid conflict to avoid losing approval. We often grew up seeking approval from somebody who simply was not going to give it—no matter what. And we take care of everybody except one person—ourselves! Does this remind you at all of yourself?
Being empathic, we also often found ourselves being emotional toxic waste dumps for other people. It almost seems like we would attract every "energy vampire" in town. How do you spot an energy vampire? After an interaction with them, they tell you how much better they feel—and you feel like you were energetically sucked dry!
So how do you break the psychodynamic? It's pretty straightforward. In fact, it can be summarized in two letters:
Learning to use this wonderful word can free you. Here's how.
When somebody asks you to do something that'll take you more than two hours, tell them that you're sorry but the doctor (that's me) told you that I would wring your neck if you took on anything more. Tell him that the answer is probably no, but you'll get back to them in the next twenty-four hours if you change your mind and are able to. Then walk away.
Most often when you get home you'll feel great, like you've dodged a bullet. Since it was left as the answer being no unless you got back to them, you're now off the hook. If, on the other hand, you feel that you really wish you had said yes, and that it would feel really good to do it, you can always call them and change your mind.
In general, I encourage you to decide to say yes or no based on how things feel, more than based on your thoughts. Although it's good to do your homework and check into things, once you've finished this see how things feel. If it feels good to say yes, then do so. Otherwise say no.
Why is this so? Our mind is a product of our programming as a child. It basically feeds back to us what we were told that we should do to be accepted by and get approval from parents, our religious organizations, television, and God knows how many other authority figures. Our feelings, on the other hand, reflect our intuition and also let us know what's authentic to us.
So simply remember the wonderful word "no." It's a wonderfully versatile word. It's a complete sentence. It can be said gracefully or as a very firm "NO!"
There's even a great T-shirt that says, "What part of 'No' didn't you understand?"
Three Steps to Happiness
Having worked with thousands of severely ill patients over the last thirty-five years, I've found that there are three steps that will leave you feeling happy, no matter how ill you are:
- Be authentic with your feelings. This means to feel all of your feelings, without the need to understand or justify them. When they no longer feel good, let go of them.
- Make life a "no-fault" system. This means No Blame, No Fault, No Guilt, No Judgment, No Comparing, and No Expectations, on yourself or anyone else. This means you'll be changing habits of thinking. For example, if you find yourself judging somebody, simply drop the judgment in mid thought when you notice it. And no judging yourself for judging others.
- Learn to keep your attention on what feels good. We sometimes are given the misconception that keeping attention on problems is more realistic. That is nonsense. Life is like a massive buffet with thousands of options. You can choose to keep your attention on those things that feel good. You'll notice that if a problem truly requires your attention at any given time, it'll feel good to focus on it. Otherwise, you're living your life as if you have two hundred TV channels to choose from, but you're only watching the ones you hate—to be "realistic."
For more on this, I invite you to read my e-book Three Steps to Happiness! Healing Through Joy. It'll give you the tools that you need to feel great emotionally! If brain fog makes reading difficult, the book has also just been released in an audio version and also a CD that can be purchased.