This is the second post in a series exploring my journey living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME, where I explain all the things I am doing to recover from it, how I manage it day to day, and the improvements I have seen since following these practices. Part one sets the scene and explains what CFS is, how it first developed and how it shows up in my life now. Part three will explore my daily healing routine in more detail.
This is a long post, so you will probably want to dip in and out of it. I contemplated breaking it into smaller chunks, but decided it was ultimately more useful to have all the information together.
I’ve wanted to write this post for so long - and have often drafted parts of it in my head - but something always stopped me. I think I felt that I needed to have all the answers and needed to have healed before I could share my experiences and what I’ve learnt. But of course I don’t have all the answers (I’m still very much learning) and neither have I healed yet, although I do believe I’m making progress now. Yet I know that if I had read this blog post at the start of my illness - or even just a couple of years ago - it would have helped me so much. And I know I’ve benefitted hugely from reading the information and insights so generously shared by others who are healing and learning and going through the same thing. I’ve also been asked quite often over on Instagram about what I’m doing and how I’m getting on, and it’s very hard to share anything meaningful in a short DM. So it’s in this spirit that I’m sharing my imperfect and incomplete perspectives on healing from and living with CFS.
I also believe that healing looks different for everyone and I believe there are many different paths to healing - there is not a one size fits all. We are all different and struggling with slightly different things with different severities, based on our unique histories and experiences in life. I have read recovery stories from people who have healed from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in many different ways, and it’s usually a combination of lots of different things. So please don’t think I am trying to sell you my particular version of healing as the only way - I completely respect there are many different routes to get to the goal we all want - a healthy body and mind.
What I'm doing to heal
There are a wide variety of different things that I’m doing to help myself recover from CFS. I’ve tried to group them under several headings to make them easier to read, but they all overlap. You’ll find the following sections in this post:
What changed everything for me, was to really believe that healing is possible and to take responsibility for my own health and healing, rather than leave this in someone else’s hands. This has meant putting in a lot of time and effort to read and research and learn and apply and reflect and try lots of different things. It has meant giving myself permission to put my healing first.
If I can urge you to do anything, it is to be curious, to seek and learn, to be open to different ways of healing, to explore and experiment, and to believe that it is possible. But above all, be kind to yourself.
Before I get stuck in to explaining how I’ve changed my diet, I thought it would be helpful to explain the reasoning behind it. It all stems from the discovery of the Medical Medium information about the root cause of CFS/ME and what to do about it….
The Medical Medium theory about the cause of CFS/ME
Medical Medium, Anthony William, believes that the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) is the root cause of CFS/ME, Fibromyalgia and many other illnesses. It can lie dormant in the body quietly multiplying and gathering strength for many years, before making a move when your body is weakened due to stress or trauma or other illness. It first appears in many people (but not all) as Glandular Fever and goes through four different stages. The final stage of EBV is when it inflames the central nervous system, causing severe neurological fatigue. It is this stage that Anthony Williams believes is what we know as CFS.
He recommends a two pronged approach to deal with it:
Starve the virus of food by removing its food sources
Attack the virus with appropriate anti-virals to kill it off
He recommends cutting out the following foods completely from your diet, as they feed the virus:
dairy products (including products from goats and sheep)
rapeseed oil/canola oil
MSG & natural flavours
artificial flavours & sweeteners
Instead, he recommends focussing on eating fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices.
He also recommends eating a combination of foods daily to help remove heavy metals from our system, as these are also a major food source for the EBV virus. We can absorb these heavy metals from the environment, from our tap water and foods, and they can even be inherited from previous generations. These foods are: Barley Grass Juice Powder, Spirulina, Dulse, Coriander and Wild Blueberries. The easiest way to consume them is to make the Heavy Metals Detox Smoothie.
Another key part of the recovery plan is to drink pure celery juice on an empty stomach every day. Celery juice “Strengthens hydrochloric acid in the gut and helps the liver produce bile to break down food. Provides mineral salts that are anti-EBV and help support the central nervous system with powerful electrolytes while they stabilise and support the adrenal glands. Celery has the ability to cleanse the thyroid of EBV toxins. Also bolsters the production of the thyroid hormone T3.” (Extract from Thyroid Healing* by Anthony William).
It is impossible to do justice to the breadth and depth of the information that Anthony William shares in just a few paragraphs. So if you are interested, I would strongly urge you to read his books and his blog posts (links below).
The information he shares just made so much sense to me - it was the most viable and comprehensive explanation I had read about what I was experiencing, and explained how the various different illnesses and problems I had experienced throughout my life were related and connected. It made sense that we need to focus on the inputs to our body (food, liquids and thoughts) if we want to help it to heal. NB. the Medical Medium approach is not just about food - it is about compassion and meditation and so much more.
Further Reading: Books
I would recommend starting with the first three Medical Medium books:
Medical Medium: Secrets Behind Chronic and Mystery Illness and How to Finally Heal* is his first book and there is a chapter dedicated to CFS/ME, explaining the root cause in detail. He also shares his advice on how to heal. This is a good starting point.
Thyroid Healing* is his third book and is all about the Epstein Barr Virus and how to heal from it, so don’t be put off by the title if you don’t relate to having a thyroid issue - it is highly relevant to those with CFS/ME. I found the section on “Symptoms and Conditions” particularly helpful. It also covers the foods, herbs and supplements that will help you to heal and sets out a 90 day programme to kickstart your healing, along with useful recipes and more. This was the first book in the series I read and I highly recommend it.
Life Changing Foods* is his second book and it is absolutely beautiful. It provides detailed information on the most important fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, and wild foods for healing, with lots of beautiful photos, and some recipes. It is very easy to read and dip in and out of, and is more of a reference book. It also includes a section on fertility. I come back to this time and time again.
*These are Amazon.co.uk affiliate links, so if you make a purchase using these links I may receive a small payment.
Further Reading: Online Information
The Medical Medium website has a wealth of information. I recommend signing up to his mailing list - he regularly shares useful articles via email.
He also has a whole section dedicated to Celery Juice.
Another good starting point is the MM101 section, where you can find some of the key recipes for healing and free downloads about the key healing foods.
The Epstein Barr Virus blog post is basically the chapter on Chronic Fatigue from his first book. It’s long, but bear with it as there’s lots of useful information, especially towards the end.
The True Cause of Asthma blog post is a very interesting read.
It is also worth following the Medical Medium Instagram account - he regularly shares lots of inspiring healing stories as well as lots of key information.
Now on to the juicy stuff - all the things I’m doing to help me recover from CFS/ME.
Diet / Supplements / Herbs
This was probably the biggest area of change for me, despite always eating what I thought was a healthy diet. I have never eaten junk food, I have been a coeliac for the last 20+ years and so have avoided gluten, I avoided most dairy products as it triggered my asthma (however, I did drink goat’s milk on a regular basis and ate butter) and I have always eaten lots of organic vegetables. But it wasn’t enough.
Now my diet is very simple.
I strictly avoid this list of foods: eggs, dairy products (including products from goats and sheep), gluten, corn, rapeseed oil/canola oil, soy, pork, MSG & natural flavours, artificial flavours & sweeteners, citric acid.
I also avoid eating meat, fish, grains, beans and legumes to help keep my digestion process as easy as possible, so my body has maximum resources available for healing.
I eat fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices in abundance. I eat raw food up until dinner to ease the digestive load on my body and promote detoxification.
I sprout seeds (alfalfa, red clover, fenugreek, radish) and eat them daily.
I hydrate well and start the day with a large glass of lemon water with honey (900ml water, juice of one lemon, spoon of honey) and have another one or two of these later in the day.
I make the heavy metals detox smoothie for breakfast everyday, along with some other fruit (usually half a melon or a mango or papaya).
I make a large salad for lunch with leafy greens and usually some oranges or a grapefruit, and include raw garlic in my dressing.
I eat steamed veggies for dinner everyday with either potatoes, sweet potatoes or winter squashes for carbohydrates, and more raw garlic. I also vary this several times a week and swap the steamed potatoes for baked oil-free “fries” or wedges for a change of texture.
I eat very little fat (even healthy fats) to help support my liver (usually just 1.5 avocados a week and a tiny amount of coconut oil).
I snack on fruit.
I avoid caffeine completely to keep my nervous system calm.
I drink several herbal tea blends to assist with healing:
nettle and raspberry leaf for my reproductive system
dandelion root, burdock root and red clover for my liver
fennel, lemon balm and thyme for my thyroid and EBV
I take a handful of core supplements to support my immune system: liquid Zinc, liquid B12, Ester C, and a few herbal tinctures for anti-virals: Cat’s Claw and Licorice Root. This list has changed over time and I have recently had to cut back as I can no longer afford all the tinctures and supplements I would like to take.
I have made all these changes slowly, over time, giving my system time to adapt. As far as possible, I try to only change one thing at a time, so I can see what impact it has on me.
I think giving up rice and quinoa was probably the hardest and biggest adjustment for me, as this used to make up half my plate at most evening meals (and often lunch too). Without it, there is much more room for vegetables, which offer more healing power, are more alkalising to the body and are easier to digest. I don’t miss rice at all anymore.
I am always tweaking things so they feel right. Last summer I ate 100% raw for a month, but over this winter, I ate more cooked food as I felt my body needed it. I eat more fruit over the summer when it is readily available and also drink more green juices, such as apple, cucumber, parsley, ginger & spinach or swiss chard. Fresh juices are a brilliant way to get more nutrients into the body in an easily digestible form, so the body has to do minimal work; they also help promote detoxification.
I also want to say that I am not perfect. I’m only human and don’t manage to stick to these guidelines 100% of the time, but it is the majority. I don’t see it as deprivation, I see it as an abundance of beautiful living foods that are helping me to heal. My motivation is strong and my “why” is strong - it is 100% my choice to do this, no one is making me. I want to heal and I believe this is my best route to help my body heal.
Movement has always been a key part of my life and critical to my wellbeing. It helps the process of detoxification and encourages the body to eliminate properly.
I have practised yoga for the last 20 years or so, and have had an established ashtanga self-practice at home for many of those years. So I just carried on when my CFS developed. I adapted the sequence to suit my energy levels and I just do about half an hour every week day. It helps to calm me and ground me and bring me back into my body when my mind is very active. It is also great for toning muscles that otherwise don’t get much use. And the breath work really helps my asthma too.
If you have never heard of it before, rebounding is jumping up and down on a mini trampoline. I started rebounding last summer, after reading about how beneficial it was to get the lymphatic system moving (this helps to remove waste from the body). I slowly worked my way up to bouncing for 10 minutes a day.
I get out for two 30-40 minutes gentle dog walks every day. This is so important for me to get some fresh air and sunlight and get my body moving first thing.
I do a daily meditation for 15 minutes at the end of my yoga practice whilst I’m lying down in Savasana. I use the Headspace app, which I can highly recommend if you are new to meditation - it explains the process very clearly and simply. This has helped to bring awareness of my thoughts and helps me to stand back and observe without getting so involved. I feel much calmer and my life feels more spacious as a result. This is an area I want to explore more - I have recently bought Dr Joe Dispenza’s book Becoming Supernatural* after seeing it recommended by @julieshealing. A key part of this is doing meditations that help you get into the optimum state for healing, calming the central nervous system. It focusses on FEELING (rather than thinking) to get beyond the analytical mind into the subconscious, spending time in states of elevated emotions such as love and joy, where different parts of the brain can resynchronise and communicate better and healing happens. I will report back when I’ve learnt more.
I started a gratitude practice a couple of years ago where I write down 3 things every day that I am grateful for. It’s been a huge help to refocus my mind on all the positives and all the lovely moments, people and things that are already in my life, rather than the things I am missing. I notice and appreciate the little things so much more now and I know I feel happier for it. I no longer dwell on the negatives for the most part, and am able to catch myself when I do. I look back over my gratitude journal when I’m feeling low and it always gives me a boost - it’s also a lovely thing to review at the end of each month.
Affirmations about healing
I started dabbling with affirmations about a year ago and initially designed some cards with various statements on, like “I am healing” and “The beautiful foods I eat are healing and nourishing me. Food is my medicine”. I looked through these cards and read them every night after writing in my gratitude journal to help reinforce these messages in my brain.
More recently (the last couple of months), I have started saying these affirmations out loud whilst I do my rebounding. What I say varies from day to day as I don’t have a script, I just basically talk to myself and reinforce my belief in my healing and my recovery and give thanks and love to my body for all it is doing for me.
I also spend quite a bit of time visualising my recovery and describing what I’m doing when I’m healthy and fully recovered and what it feels like. Both these practices feel very powerful indeed, and I now look forward to my rebounding time every day and see it as a positive happy space. Even on days when my energy has been very low and I really haven’t felt like it, I’ve done it and it always makes me feel better.
Visualisations about being healthy
Prompted by a practice I read about in Faith Canter’s book Living a Life Less Toxic*, I wrote down a visualisation of what my future happy healthy self was doing, feeling like, looking like, with as much detail as I could manage. I then recorded myself reading this out, along with some of the words from Faith’s book and listened to the recording every day after my meditation. It felt very strange and awkward at first, and somewhat at odds with accepting where I was currently at. But I had faith that this practice would help to retrain my brain and soon it began to feel natural, and importantly, it began to feel possible.
More recently I have started saying these visualisations out loud, together with my affirmations for healing, as part of my rebounding practice (see above). The act of speaking them out loud every day feels very powerful and just right and I’m excited to see what effect this will have over time.
Epsom salt baths with essential oils
I have regular Epsom salt baths to help my body to detoxify, relax and soothe my muscles, and help with Magnesium absorption. They always feel like a lovely treat.
Dry skin brushing
I try to do dry skin brushing daily to help promote lymphatic drainage and flow and thus detoxification. The lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump like the circulatory system, so relies on the movement of your body to move your lymph fluid and remove toxins. Here is a YouTube video showing you how to dry skin brush for lymphatic drainage: The correct way to skin brush.
Getting restful sleep when you have a chronic illness is so important as this is when the body repairs itself. I’ve made my bedroom a sleep-only zone and removed all technology - my body knows that when I come to bed I am ready for sleep. I’ve also added curtains as well as blinds to make sure it is as dark as possible. I don’t drink any caffeine at all and the food I eat is easy to digest.
After dinner, I dim the lights in the sitting room so my body knows it’s time to adjust. I also try and put down my phone/iPad/tv a while before bed to reduce mental stimulation. I have to say that this is probably the advice I find the hardest to follow, as this is usually my only time in the day to check Instagram or watch TV and we often don’t sit down until 9pm. I know the solution is to eat earlier and shift my whole routine earlier so I can get to bed by 10pm, with an hour of no internet or TV beforehand. In an ideal world, I’d like to do an evening meditation to help calm my nervous system - it’s a work in progress!
Spending time in nature
I find it so soothing and calming to spend time in nature and I know it helps to calm my nervous system. I now consider it part and parcel of my healing process: - fresh air, sparkly blue seas and the energy and sound of the waves, bird song, leaves rustling in a forest or park, walking under a canopy of green with dappled light filtering through, expansive blue skies, sitting on the grass, walking bare feet on the grass or sand, hunting for pretty shells or pebbles, pottering in my garden and growing things - all of these things help to calm, soothe and rejuvenate me.
Removing toxins from my environment
I am hugely sensitive to many chemicals and especially artificial fragrances, as they trigger my asthma. Since learning more about the impact of chemicals and toxins on the body (both Faith Canter and Medical Medium write a lot about this) I have done a thorough audit of all the personal care products I use, as well as cleaning products and the pans and dishes I cook with. I am now very careful to read labels thoroughly and wherever possible I make my own products.
The skin is the largest organ in the body, and anything you put on it gets absorbed easily, so it is important to choose wisely. Also consider what you are inhaling into your lungs (perfumes and air fresheners are highly toxic).
The other thing I did about a year ago was to install a water filter system under my sink, which means I now have filtered water on tap. Previously I had always used Brita water filter cartridges, but I wanted something more robust that would also filter out heavy metals. This is a huge topic, so one for a separate blog post I think.
Living with a chronic illness for many years is an incredibly challenging thing to do and many emotions will understandably arise. I’m learning to acknowledge these difficult emotions when they surface and sit with them for a while, allowing myself to feel them, before releasing them and letting them go. Crying, talking things through with someone, and journalling are all things that help me to let go.
I’ve also found it easier to notice when I’m emotional, upset or irritable since I started meditating regularly and this helps me to get some distance from it and observe rather than always being carried away in the thick of it. When I’m able to do this, I can play the detective and try and figure out what is triggering the emotions - often with me at the moment it’s detox, which can be very powerful, or my menstrual cycle. I find sitting quietly and treating myself with love always helps the emotions to pass too.
Community & Connection
One of the biggest game changers for me was connecting with other people who were also living with CFS and chronic illness. Until then, I had always been surrounded by “normal” healthy people and inevitably ended up being influenced by them and comparing myself to them and always coming up short.
Once I started reading about the lives of others with chronic illness, it helped to normalise my experiences and gave me new ways to understand and manage my illness.
Having someone else explain the different levels and stages they go through in recovery and how they manage when they are at a certain stage has been so incredibly helpful. Even and especially just having an alternative definition of what “normal” looks like when you have CFS was so wonderful - I finally felt understood and a part of something, a community, instead of completely on my own.
I have also learnt so much about how to manage and pace myself day to day, as well as the things I can do to help myself heal.
And I have made friends, a wonderful bunch of people who help to cheer me on and celebrate my wins and empathise and truly understand what it feels like when your body has crashed.
Most of my connections have come through Instagram and I will list below some of the accounts that have been so helpful and generous in sharing about their experiences of healing.
I have also participated in several groups doing raw cleanses for a month or a few weeks, based on the information shared by Medical Medium. I found these tremendously helpful - I couldn’t afford to work with a practitioner one on one, so this gave me an opportunity to ask lots of questions about how to implement the information, what symptoms meant and so much more. It also provided a community, sometimes with a closed Facebook group, that I could chat to and swap knowledge and stories with. This has been so helpful in my healing process and I have learnt so much. I’ll list the groups/cleanses I joined below too.
Instagram accounts that have helped me
There are so many I could list here, but the ones below all regularly share information and advice that have helped me (and continue to help me) so much on my journey. I highly recommend joining in conversations and connecting with others who are on similar paths to yourself. I love to read the comments on posts that resonate with me and then go and visit their accounts - I have made so many lovely connections that way.
@julieshealing is super knowledgeable about healing and detoxification using raw food and herbs. She generously shares information about all the things she has tried that have helped her recovery from Lyme, including a 7 part overview of her protocols: Part1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. I have learnt so much from Julie.
@consciouslyhealthy.emma shares lots of helpful insights about managing life with CFS and dealing with setbacks. Also see her blog Consciously Healthy for a deeper dive into lots of CFS/healing-related topics.
@beahboso is well on her way to recovery and shares lots of insights about her journey and always the most beautiful reminders about the importance of rest.
@mindfullyevie is the most beautiful positive soul and always reminds us that how we look at the world changes everything. Evie also has a blog Mindfully Evie with some helpful articles about living mindfully with CFS.
@healwithamber is a Medical Medium health coach and has healed herself from many issues. She explains things very clearly and I always find her posts super helpful.
@laurenhenryhealth is another Medical Medium health coach who has recovered from Lyme using the Medical Medium information. I love her happy, positive, fun and down to earth outlook.
@freeyourglow is such a beautiful account, all about healing gently using the Medical Medium information and lots of self-compassion. I have done many raw cleanses with Ally and have learnt so much about all aspects of healing.
Raw Cleanses based on Medical Medium Information
DIY Intuitive Cleanse with Muneeza Ahmed - Muneeza shares a wealth of knowledge about how to apply the Medical Medium information in this programme, with a comprehensive guide and lots of FAQs that I found really helpful. She also includes a series of videos explaining some of the key body systems and their inter-relationships, as well as how to detox safely. She also has some helpful free resources to download and a Facebook Group with lots of recorded live sessions where she answers questions and discusses interesting topics relating to Medical Medium.
Free Your Glow - I have done several seasonal cleanses with Alana and her wonderful team and have thoroughly enjoyed them. They helped me navigate my first experience of eating 100% raw and provided lots of guidance understanding the emotional and spiritual side of healing too. There are no cleanses available at the moment as I type this, but worth following @freeyourglow on Instagram for notifications of new programmes.
Other Self-Care Practices
I started to keep a journal a few years ago, so I had a record of how I was feeling and any changes in my symptoms etc. I found that my recollection of these things was so vague and fuzzy as time went on, that it was impossible to know if things were getting worse or better, let alone figure out what might have triggered a flare-up. I also found it very helpful to note when I started taking supplements or making changes to my diet, so I could figure out what difference they made.
Another very therapeutic practice is to do a brain dump of all the things whirling around my head, from frustrations to ideas, so that I can release them instead of trying to hold on tight and remember them. It’s helped me to discover patterns of behaviour that keep repeating and make sense of them - and reading my own advice on what to do in certain situations has been very helpful!
Monthly achievements list
At the end of every month I make a list of all my achievements that month, big and small. It’s helped me to feel as though I am making progress and moving forward. When we are struggling with chronic illness and spending a lot of time “being” instead of “doing” it can be easy to feel as though we are getting nowhere, as we are so used to measuring and valuing our successes through what we have done/produced. Recording my own version of success and achievements has helped me to shift away from this view. Things on my list vary and can range from things I’ve learnt and books I’ve read, to how I handled certain situations, to big wins when I’ve been able to walk a distance, or managed a social situation without crashing.
List of ways my health has improved
I also keep an ongoing list of all the ways my health has got better. Because healing from chronic illness is a very slow process and a very windy journey with lots of bumps in the road, it can be easy to feel as though nothing is changing and we are not progressing or getting any better. I’ve found keeping a list so helpful as it’s so easy to forget all the small ways that things have changed for the better (oftentimes these are not directly related to our CFS but are still an indication that other parts of our bodies are healing). I can then use this as evidence to support my belief that I am healing. I have shared my list of how things have improved for me since I started following the Medical Medium protocols and all the advice in this blog post, below.
Practicing self compassion and learning to really listen to my body
One of the most important things we can do is learn to really listen to our bodies and then act upon that information. When my body is letting me know things are getting too much (when my fatigue and aches are increasing) I am learning to stop and rest, and let go of whatever I was supposed to be doing, before it gets to the stage where my body is screaming at me and I have no choice but to rest.
I am getting better at accepting how things are on a bad day and not trying to fight it or resist it or push my body to do things it’s just not capable of doing in that moment. Instead, I try and rest gracefully and release the frustrations of not being able to do what I had planned. I try and make rest days as special and nurturing as possible and see them as a treat - I might burn some essential oils, make myself a hot water bottle if it’s cold and get cosy under my favourite blanket, pick out a magazine or book I’ve been wanting to read for ages and start with a few pages, and listen to some meditations or maybe an audio book if I’m up to it, in-between quiet rest time. I try to savour the stillness and space and remind myself that this is exactly what my body needs in this moment.
I’m also getting better at recognising when I’m overwhelmed or stressed and taking immediate action to remedy that (often this means letting go of a deadline and just choosing one thing to focus on). It’s super important to keep the adrenals calm and not overstimulate or stress them by pushing through - too much adrenaline is very toxic to the body (it’s the favourite food of pathogens and viruses). The body heals when the nervous system is calm and relaxed - you want to aim to be in this state as much as possible. So going slow is good, keeping calm and making time for rest and meditation is so important.
Self-love and patience
I am learning to love and appreciate my body that is working so hard to heal me and keep me safe. It’s natural to be frustrated when we are physically unable to do what we want to, but accepting where we are and sending love to our bodies, rather than negativity, helps so much.
At the start of my rebounding and affirmation sessions, I always take time to thank my body for all it is doing for me and I often sit with my hand on my heart to connect to my body and the feeling of love when I am meditating. Healing chronic illness takes a long time, so learning to be patient with ourselves and enjoy our days and accepting of where we are helps a lot.
One thing that I think is incredibly important to navigate the sea of information out there about healing, is to work on developing your intuition, and making regular time and space and quiet to listen to what your body is trying to tell you. This helps so much in figuring out whether something is right for you or not.
I’m still working hard at this and I know it’s very difficult at the beginning, especially when there is so much conflicting information out there and you’re not sure what your body’s response means. But it is so important and needs regular practice - it’s a muscle that needs to be used. No one knows ourselves better than ourselves, so tuning in to this wisdom is so powerful. I found Susannah Conway’s e-course on developing your intuition really helpful.
Careful use of social media
As I’ve mentioned above, social media is such a helpful way to connect with other chronic illness warriors and build a supportive community around you. In fact, it is pretty much my only social life, as I rarely get out to see other people. But it is also really important to recognise when it is too much, and I need to step away and have some quiet and rest, and to focus on my own journey.
It is so tempting to read about what everyone else is doing and then compare myself or want to do everything I see others doing to heal or wonder why I’m not healed yet when others seem to be recovering more quickly. Yet we are all different, with different histories and experiences, different sensitivities and different severities of symptoms, living in different environments etc. Being aware of this helps a lot and I often need regular reminders.
So I think it’s a helpful tool that needs to be used mindfully, with regular breaks taken when it gets too much and we feel the need to come back to ourselves and tune in to our needs and our journey.
Controlling my intake of TV/books/news etc
I filter out what I watch and read and try to only consume things that make me feel good and avoid things that cause stress and upset. I rarely watch the news. I read books about healing and self care. I don’t use Facebook (other than closed groups linked to courses) as it always leaves me feeling inadequate and an outsider.
As for TV, I’m a bit more relaxed about what I watch as this is a shared activity with my husband. For the most part I find it relaxing, but I stop watching things if they get too tense, as I’m very aware of the impact it can have on me. As I’ve mentioned above, it’s important to keep our nervous systems calm, so watching tense thrillers and horror movies is not the best idea for me.
I make time for things that make me happy
I think it’s really important to carve out time and energy for activities that bring you joy. It can be all too easy for these to get de-prioritised when you can only manage the essentials. But I now regard them as essentials, as they have a big effect on my wellbeing and happiness. For me it’s things like pottering in the garden, reading, doing creative things like my photography, going out for walks and gentle adventures with my husband and dog. I make sure to write these on my to do lists and give them equal, if not greater, importance than all the chores and other commitments.
Pacing & Day to Day Management
I give myself more time and space to get things done than I think I need and reduce my expectations for what I can do
I have to say this one is super hard for me and still very much a work in progress, as the driven-achiever-perfectionist in me is still very strong. But awareness is a great starting point.
I try and keep things as simple as possible and my to do lists short. I avoid deadlines wherever possible, keeping myself free to adapt to how my body is feeling and keeping my stress levels as low as possible.
When I feel the overwhelm building and notice I’m giving too much of my energy to figuring out how I’m going to fit everything in and how to juggle it all, I stop and re-evaluate and then decide on one thing only to focus on. And I do that until it’s done, and then move on to the next thing. It feels like a huge weight is lifted when I do this and I am so much happier.
I also break big projects and tasks down
This means that even when my energy is low, I can still start to make small steps towards something much bigger.
For example, I really want (and need) to be able to start working and earning money again. This will be a huge change for me, so my plan is to start small by working on my blog again and starting to build a routine with regular working hours in the week (a few hours three afternoons a week).
Once I’ve got a few blog posts published, then I’m going to start work on some new designs for my Etsy shop (I have so many ideas for affirmations and inspirational quote prints using my photos and typography). Again, there are so many aspects to creating work for an online shop, including styling and photographing it when it’s complete, listing it, marketing it, figuring out postage and packing logistics, etc. So it’s a case of one step at a time and doing things in small chunks, like first of all working on a couple of designs and that’s all.
I write down all the other stuff that’s in my head to stop it swirling around, but then let it go and focus on the one thing I am working on that day. As for all my other ideas and all the other things this might lead to, I write them all down and tuck them away. One small step at a time!
I have a structure for my week days, with a specific routine that I follow
This means less energy is spent making decisions and weighing up options and I can just get on with things, without having to think about them. As well as regular tasks that I do every day, I write a to do list at the beginning of the week, split out day by day. This way, I can stand back and try and make sure that I’m not asking too much of myself, and plan in space around tasks as much as possible. But I also recognise that it’s fine to not do everything on the list if my energy is low - it’s just a guideline, not the law. I’m going to write a separate blog post (Part 3 of this series) to talk through my daily routine.
I plan my meals for the week and do my food shopping online
This helps for much the same reasons as above, and avoids last minute panics about what we’re eating for dinner when my energy is low, and means we eat much healthier. It also makes shopping easier, as I know what I need to buy. Ordering online helps massively too as I tend to order many of the same things each week, so it is super quick to find these and add them to my basket. Also having the shopping delivered to my door is so helpful as it means I can put it all away slowly at my own pace, and means that this is a task I can do by myself (I don’t drive, but wouldn’t have the energy to do a big supermarket shop by myself anyway).
I say NO to events and plans when I need to
Even at the last minute, when it is inconvenient to others, if I’m not feeling up to it. I am constantly reminding myself to put my health first, and to be realistic at what I can manage, given my current energy levels. I have got much more comfortable at asking others to adapt their plans to fit in with my requirements. It really helps everyone when you can be as clear about this as possible and avoids lots of stress.
I plan rest after activities/outings
This sounds like an incredibly obvious one, but it can be easy to get carried away when you are surrounded by people who are healthy. I now know that if I am going out anywhere, I will need several hours of complete rest when I return, so it is not realistic to expect myself to launch straight in to cooking a meal, for example. I will also rest when I am out as well when I need it, and often sit with my eyes shut in the midst of family gatherings (ideally I would go and lie down somewhere, but this isn’t always possible).
I make changes slowly
I’m naturally an all-or-nothing kind of person, so am always tempted to throw myself passionately into something and give it my all, wanting to do my absolute best and a thorough job from the outset. However, I’ve learnt that this approach doesn’t work well when you have CFS. I’ve found it much better to just try something tentatively and see how I go, and then slowly start to do more if it feels right. So, for example, when I wanted to start getting up earlier with an alarm, I first set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier than I usually got up. Once my body had got into a routine and got used to this, I adjusted it by another 15 minutes, and so on. This was done over quite a long span of time. The same with rebounding. I started just with 2 minutes a day, and slowly increased it by a minute every week or so until I reached 10 minutes.
I ask for help with household management tasks when I need to
When I worked full time, my husband and I would split all the household tasks between us. But since I’ve been unable to work, and have a lot more time at home than my husband (who works full time with a long commute to support us), I’ve taken on responsibility for most household tasks and these take up a good portion of my energy and time each week. However, I will still ask for help when I need it if my energy is low.
It is so important to communicate well about things like this and to discuss division of responsibilities openly, rather than build up resentment about things not being done or things you wish were different. It’s also important to not feel guilty when you need to rest, which means other people need to do more. I know not everyone is fully understanding of CFS and what it feels like to struggle, but I have always found being open and talking about how I am feeling and what I am experiencing to help.
I’m now at the stage where I need a bit more regular help from my husband with some of these household tasks, so that I can free up some time and energy to work on my blog and Etsy shop. We’re figuring out what makes most sense, but my husband is now cooking a couple of meals a week, for example.
Improvements I've experienced since following Medical Medium advice for a year
Several people asked me on Instagram what improvements I’ve seen since following the Medical Medium advice, so I started to note these down. Of course, I have been doing lots of things over a long period of time to improve my health (as noted above), so it’s difficult to attribute changes to any specific thing. However, I do feel that the changes I made to my diet were probably the biggest changes I made and my sense is that those have made the biggest difference, along with my restored belief that healing is possible and that healing is happening.
I think the first thing I noticed after starting to drink celery juice daily for a few weeks, was that my brain fog improved - everything felt lighter, brighter and clearer, as if a fog had been lifted. I still struggle with memory, information retention and word recall sometimes, but my mind feels sharp again. I still have a long way to go, but I remember these changes being very marked. The only thing I had changed at the time was to introduce celery juice, so I am pretty sure this attribution is correct.
My digestion has improved and I am now able to eat and drink oranges. Previously, if I ate or drank oranges or anything acidic, I would get terrible stomach pains. I think this was due to low levels of Hydrochloric Acid in my stomach, which celery juice helps to restore. It is such a pleasure to be able to consume oranges again and I now enjoy 3-4 a day.
My energy levels have been more consistent over the last year, with no real crashes to speak of. I think I’ve only had a few days here and there where I’ve had to go back to bed in the daytime or rest all day. These occasions were either when I was eating 100% raw for the first time which caused lots of detox and increased fatigue, or when I had over-exerted myself with activities or during my menstrual cycle. I take this as a *huge* win and is probably the most significant change.
I have more stamina and am able to keep going for longer without much rest.
Less rest time is needed to bounce back when I’m tired. Rest feels very effective now. Previously, it would take several days or even weeks to recover from over-exertion - now I respond well to several hours rest.
I am able to get up much earlier, consistently. On week days I now get up at 7am with an alarm - previously I struggled to get out of bed before 9am and could never contemplate an alarm.
I am now able to work at my computer for 2-3 hours a day consistently. Previously there would have been many weeks and months when sitting at a desk was not even possible.
My anxiety has greatly reduced. I can’t remember the last time I had an episode of nausea or a significant anxious episode.
I have lowered my Seretide dose for my asthma (inhaled corticosteroids) by 1 puff a day, which is a big win. I have tried and failed countless times to reduce it previously. I haven’t managed to reduce it any further yet, though, without a flare-up. I’m also clearing lots of mucous daily, which I attribute to the dietary changes I have made.
My PMS is much improved and I no longer suffer with swollen and tender breasts or terrible night sweats. I’m still massively impacted by my menstrual cycle and my energy always drops significantly at this time (and at ovulation), so now I plan to take things extra gently. Anthony William explains that the menstruation process takes up 80% of our bodies reserves, and the 20% left over cannot manage the health conditions that our immune system normally keeps at bay, hence the reason we are vulnerable to viruses and why symptoms can flare at this time.
The dark circles under my eyes are not as bad.
I still have a long way to go before I reach full recovery, and I still start my days with a lower than normal battery charge. I still experience fatigue and aches on a daily basis and have to plan my days and energy very carefully, but I really do feel that these changes are significant and that I am on the right track as far as my healing is concerned. So I plan to keep on keeping on.
I am learning to read my body better and can now understand when the increased aches and fatigue are due to detoxing (usually due to me introducing something new into my diet - the latest thing to kick start more detox was starting the daily ginger, garlic, turmeric, orange juice, which is very powerful). Detoxification really is an art form and needs to be handled very carefully, especially when you are sensitive - if you detox too fast and flood your body with toxins, the liver has to work twice as hard to mop them all back up again and it’s counter-productive. I found the online courses/cleanses I mentioned earlier, really helped me to develop my understanding of this area.
I hope that this post was helpful and has maybe given you some food for thought. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help. I’d also love to hear about the things you are doing to heal that have made a positive change to your health. So please do leave me a comment below or reach out to me on social media - I’d love to hear from you.
You can read about my daily healing routine in my next post: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ME - My Daily Healing Routine - Part 3 of 3.
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