Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is in a large part related to the process of writing my memoir. I’ve suffered from this malady for over twenty five years. This is an article I wrote for Triond.com several years ago that might just encourage anyone else out there suffering from this condition. Here’s how I’ve learned to live with it:
1. Accept your illness.
It’s every bit as legitimate as any other debilitating illness.
Grieve the loss of the things you might never be able to do again like playing tennis, swimming for a workout, hiking, waking up refreshed in the morning, etc. But then move on. Recognise and express your feelings but don’t dwell on them. Expressing your emotions in a journal is very cathartic and healing.
2. Listen to your body.
The unpredictability of CFS can make life difficult to plan. Become aware of your energy level and work in accordance with it. Even as your condition improves, it’s important to pace yourself. Balance activity with rest. Don’t overdo it and cause a relapse. If an energy-sapping event is unavoidable, then allow more down time afterwards. Rest may prevent or minimize flare-ups or reduce its intensity. It’s important to schedule rest into your day especially after a tiring activity.
3. Educate yourself about CFS
Well-meaning people will swear by every alternative medicine out there. Educate yourself with latest information and treatments available for CFS. Under your doctor’s supervision, experiment with what works and what doesn’t.
4. Accept your limitations
Unfortunately, society tends to judge us by what we do rather than who we are. The limitations imposed by CFS may require us to shift our identities away from external accomplishments and create a lifestyle that accommodates our need for rest. You may not be able to do the same job you did before or exercise as long or as hard. Look for new ways to respond to what your body needs at every stage and live within the limits of the illness
5. Keep track of your symptoms and progress
Monitor your symptoms and factors that determine any patterns. Based on your conclusions, you can make effective decisions about your activities and environment. Record keeping also allows you to see progress over time.
6. Think positively and realistically
Don’t take a defeatist attitude. Find substitutes for the things you used to enjoy. Focus on what you can do rather than on what you can no longer do. You might not be able to walk for an hour but manage only 10 minutes. That’s fine. Praise yourself for that, because for you it is an achievement. Remember you are not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are enable by the abilities you have.
7. Cultivate supportive relationships
Spend time with people who are supportive, caring, understanding, encouraging and who can help in practical ways like heavy housework, meals and doctor’s visits. Tune out uninformed and unsympathetic people who will tell you to push yourself and exercise more. Join a support group with which you feel comfortable.
8. Don’t compare
Don’t compare yourself with others – especially physically fit people your age. It’s not realistic or fair, because they don’t have CFS.
9. Be patient with yourself
Understand that there is no magic cure for CFS. Recovery is a process. Don’t expect to see overnight changes; slow progress is still progress. Be compassionate with yourself. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself about your limitations. Self-criticism only increases stress that saps your energy. Strive to nurture yourself, look for simple pleasures and enjoy them.
10. Cultivate a sense of humour
Don’t feel sorry for yourself and be a misery. Try to be creative and see the humorous side of your situation. See your fatigue as your battery being flat and needing to recharge. Regard rest as plugging yourself into a recharger. Download comedy from You Tube or other sources on the internet. Laughter is good for the soul.