Leaning back, the engines of our plane roar and we hurtle along the runway then up in to the air. The day is a dull one yet in a few moments we burst through the clouds and my young son shouts in delight ‘look mummy the sun is shining up here’. I think to myself ‘it sure is baby!’ and savor the fact that I am able to be sitting on this plane travelling with my son enjoying this majestic view.
I reflect on the fact that this same month four years ago (June 2012) I was bed bound in terrible pain with no ability to care for myself and with no comprehension as to what was happening to me. It felt like I was under a permanent cloud unable to reach the sun above. I had been diagnosed with severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. I had heard of it but did not have any real understanding of this illness. I was reeling from the experience but also from the information that I was given describing the dire statistics of what I could expect. I also just could not get my head around being referred to as disabled. Yes, I agree, I could not walk. Yes, I agree, I had lost my voice and could not communicate except via text. Yes, I agree, I needed to be brought my food in a thermos. Yes, I agree I could not bathe myself nor care for any of my needs. But, still, I did not see myself as disabled.
I have an intense dislike for this word. I am a very stubborn individual and prefer to see everyone as able or capable with a list of things that they may not feel so able to do. I passionately believe that one’s spirit can overcome just about anything. That day the doctor sat in my bedroom and called me disabled I remember whispering back ‘this is simply your opinion’. I refused to listen any further. He had nothing more to offer me so I decided I would somehow take care of myself. In my mind the words pulsed – I will walk again – I will run again – Most importantly – I will be there for my son.
Despite my conviction initially I cried a lot and I was furious. I was in so much pain. I had Fibromyalgia as well we discovered. I felt exceptionally helpless, something I had never felt physically before. I prayed for hours on end. I was unable to hold a conversation, have a hug from my baby boy or my partner, listen to music, nor watch a film. All I could do was survive from moment to moment. At my worst my heart felt like it would just stop beating and I lay still flat on my back waiting for the feeling to pass.
My saving grace, apart from being immensely stubborn, was my training in psychology and homeopathy. I began to use mental exercises to help me focus and relax. I used meditation to relax my body and use the time to reflect and observe this illness as if from a third party perspective. I observed my symptoms and self medicated using herbal and homeopathic remedies. My partner being a skilled homeopath also helped me by suggesting remedies. I had help from other gifted healers too. It took nine months but I began to turn a corner. I finally could spend a few minutes a day with my son and partner, do a bit of reading, and listen to music again. Heavenly.
I read up on this illness and the more I read the more it felt like going round in circles. One day, something miraculous happened. I was annoyed with my partner for some unknown reason and an old friend made contact just as I was feeling particularly huffy. My friend said ‘oh it will all be fine’ and uncharacteristically for me I also got huffy with her. This led her to recommend me a book to read. I growled and hung up. Then an hour later felt idiotic, could not remember why I was angry with either of them, so I apologised to both, and asked my partner to order in this book. It arrived a few days later and was written by a psychologist describing all different forms of relationships, our responses to various situations and how these are determined by our relationship to our primary caregivers as children.
In it there was brief mention of a neurological study on the Vagus Nerve in relation to how and why when some individuals are challenged they feel very stressed and have a whole host of symptoms, whereby they shut down emotionally and physically. Time suddenly stood still. What was being described here all sounded very familiar. All the symptoms were very similar to those described in CFS/ME though on a very mild scale. I wanted to jump out of bed and run down the hall to tell my partner – THIS IS IT, I think I know what this illness is.
I got a full copy of the study and was able to piece together a satisfying theory of this illness, explaining how it develops and why. From this I worked out how to get myself better. It was stress related, and the mechanism that is at the heart of our ability to heal – the Autonomic Nervous System (fight or flight response/immune system/heart/digestion) – was malfunctioning. In essence, I understood that the part of me that normally controls and fixes everything now needed my support to help fix itself. I was doing all I could physically by eating healthy, taking supplements and my homeopathic remedies. Now I understood that I had to tackle my lifestyle choices and change my behavior. I looked for other ways to also actively relieve the autonomic nervous system. We moved out of the city to the suburbs, and very importantly I learned how to say ‘NO’ and do things more on my terms. My journey of recovery began with the words ‘I need….’ and it took me a good 18 months to get fully back on my feet.
From the moment I made the connections I have wanted to share this information with others, and share that recovery is possible! I took to writing about my experience, and also work as a healer and life coach helping others on their journey of recovery.
If you have any questions visit www.helengermanos.com.
Silent Pain, How Stress and Trauma may lead to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.