Areas I cover include a bodymind understanding of chronic fatigue, Teal Swan: the thought processes underlining chronic fatigue, body-brain connections: the anatomy of trauma, the metaphysical anatomy of chronic fatigue, and healing chronic fatigue through food – outlining actions that can be implemented throughout each section.
BODYMIND UNDERSTANDING OF CHRONIC FATIGUE
“Both [Chronic Fatigue Syndrome] and [Fibromyalgia] make you stop, whether with exhaustion or pain or both. If you have either of these illnesses, there is little doubt you will spend some time resting. This is an important factor in your bodymind understanding. A large number of people affected by these types of illnesses – and there are many variations – are high-flyers already climbing their career ladders. If so, you may well be stressed, and this will certainly strain the immune system. But it may also be that you are going in a direction that is not true to your inner nature – as if you are going against the grain or against your spirit. And then you get stopped.
For others it is the opposite: they are not working, are depressed and inactive, and to some extent have already given up before getting ill. In either case it is as if your spirit is being ignored and is crying out.
These illnesses seem to be symptomatic of the present age, as if they have developed in response to the increasing pressure to succeed, often at the expense of your own dreams or aspirations. Some common characteristics include thinking that you are not good enough and need to keep pushing to be better or achieve more; or a giving up and inner lassitude that represses any sense of purpose; a tendency to be image-conscious and self-conscious; a strong desire to be in control so that it is very difficult to ask for help; as well as a resistance to facing your responsibilities.”
– Your Body Speaks Your Mind by Deb Shapiro
TEAL SWAN: THOUGHT PATTERNS UNDERLYING CHRONIC FATIGUE
What causes chronic fatigue? Chronically doing stuff you don’t actually want to do.
The reason people with chronic fatigue can’t find healing around this is because if they’re not doing things they don’t want to do, it’s constantly thinking about the fact that they should be doing things that they don’t want to do. Even if they’ve cut out all those actual activities in their life, their mind is still doing them.
Thought patterns of people with chronic fatigue: you’ve made everything serious; ‘I’m serious about my vegan diet, I’m serious about my decision to rest, I’m serious about accepting, I’m serious about goofing around.’ It is a sense of tension; ‘I have to get everything correct.’ The intensity of how life has to be; ‘It’s gotta be right, I have to do what’s good.’ There’s an underlying desperation for approval; ‘Please know I’m good, please know I got better, I need you to know that I got better.’ That’s tension too; that’s chronic fatigue. That way of being in the mind and the emotion is the cause of the physical exhaustion.
You are in total resistance to exhaustion by constantly thinking you want to get better in order to do things and think clearly. The reality though is that you don’t want to do anything. Your body has been begging you: ‘Stop doing something.’ As long as you remain in this resistance, getting better will take however long it takes for your body to incapacitate you in order for you to finally stop.
Even if you were on a holiday in Hawaii being fanned and hand-fed in the utmost luxury, your chronic fatigue brain still isn’t stopping: ‘I should feel better than this, this shouldn’t feel the way that it feels, is the tide gonna come in, I don’t know when the tide is coming in, what if my swimsuit is too tight, I should be working, other people are working, god I’m being lazy’ and so on and so on. Your mind doesn’t stop even if you stop, and so your body is basically saying that that is what has to stop. You have to stop the resistance to what is.
ACTION: Practise dis-identification; get less attached to yourself. Start conceptualising of yourself as a physical body, as an emotional being and as a mental being; separating emotion, mind and physicality. If you can observe your mind and your thoughts; you are obviously not your mind. Instead of your higher self being at the mercy of your physical embodiment; the higher self can now caretake the other aspects.
Teal’s youtube video ‘Dis-identification Meditation’ watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRfkTg8-I7I
The developmental trauma in your life if you have chronic fatigue was that everything was conditional upon what you did. The lesson for you in this life is that of unconditional love; learn what unconditional love has to look like for you, for example: ‘Do what I want to do, and express what I want to express, and for it to still be okay; nothing is going to happen to me and people will still love me.’ For someone further along in chronic fatigue unconditional love may become more serious than that; you have an aspect of you that is in pain, and that aspect that is in pain doesn’t need you to feel better; it needs you to be with it.
An example of what trauma was experienced as a child from their mother: ‘What can I do to get you to stop crying. Come on, we’ve got stuff to do. Why are you putting so much pressure on me? I give you everything that you need.’ The trauma is whenever you didn’t feel good there was no one with you in that mode; they just instantly rushed in with an attitude that you need to be different; that you need to be happy, successful, etc to make them happy. And so you become self-sacrificers who care so much about what you do; and life becomes “serious”.
This mindset is driven by a fear of loneliness; you fear if you’re not “good” people will abandon you, but in reality you are abandoning yourself. Your quest to get better is self-abandonment. What you really need is for you to be unconditionally present with your pain and the aspect of you that ‘doesn’t feel good’ and say ‘I’m never going to leave you.’ That aspect is screaming out saying ‘You’ve got to stop telling me I need to be different’ and when you continue ignoring it you will get sicker and sicker and sicker until it’s not a choice to be present with your pain.
ACTION: Let yourself feel bad and let people in on it too. You need to get as fed up as your body is of the message that you need to get healthy and happy and everything else into a perfect state for someone to be with you.
Michael Brown’s ‘Presence Process’ is a 10-week experiential process that would be a great practical resource to learn how to both be unconditionally present with yourself and learn how to practise mindfulness and dis-idenficiation.
Purchase his book here: https://www.amazon.com/Presence-Process-Healing-Journey-Awareness/dp/0825305373
You make meaning out of your life; it becomes like glasses you put on and everything gets filtered through that lens. For chronic fatigue thought patterns everything gets filtered through the lens of ‘I’ve done something wrong.’
You don’t think it’s okay to not feel good, as the trauma in your childhood was the constant message from mum/dad/etc saying ‘You need to feel better. How can you put this pressure on me do you see how much pressure I’m under. I need you to feel better. I need you to feel better. Do you get that I need you to feel better?’ In order to get her love you needed to feel better, and if you didn’t feel good you would become isolated and alone.
The message you need to start hearing now is: if you don’t feel good you deserve people to be there with you.
ACTION: You may find it beneficial to watch Teal’s video on how to change a core belief, in order to dislodge this current belief that it’s not okay to feel bad because people will leave you.
“Once you find a core belief, ask yourself ‘What would I rather believe?’ And begin looking for proof that this new belief is true. Read and watch and seek out any material that supports this new belief. As you go about your daily life, ask yourself ‘what would I do right now if I believed this new belief with all my heart?’ And do those things. With enough focus, you will manifest more proof that the new belief is true and the belief will become stronger and stronger until it has completely replaced the old core belief.”
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtK8VBpJfjc
The only reason chronic fatigue people adopt the mindset that they do is to try and get people do be there with you. It’s not about feeling energy and having a clearer mind and being able to do things; it’s really only about love. It was never about anything other than getting people to be with you. It’s not even about getting better from chronic fatigue; it’s about connecting with people.
There’s a difference between you connecting to someone and them connecting to you. For someone to connect to you you have to hand yourself to them; you have to hand them your stuff and say ‘Look I’m in a lot of pain, look I’m going to let you in, this is what my life is like, this is the truth about me, here – I’m struggling with this’ and you give yourself to them; that’s the level of availability you have to people; that’s the only way you get true companionship. Stop trying to get better in order to get people and just start going for people! We often try to prevent the very thing that we want; but you want connection – and you’re exhausted because you keep trying to earn it.
ACTION: Something you could try is Teal’s process on connecting with yourself. By learning to open yourself up and connect with all aspects of yourself it could help you practise unconditional presence with yourself, and make the idea of opening yourself up to others less daunting.
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eHVH3iuRig
– Annotated from Part 4 Dublin Synchronisation Workshop led by Teal Swan
Visit here to view full workshop or donate: https://livestream.com/accounts/2213907/events/6155600/videos/141802322
BODY-BRAIN CONNECTIONS: THE ANATOMY OF TRAUMA
“Under normal conditions people react to a threat with a temporary increase in their stress hormones. As soon as the threat is over, the hormones dissipate and the body returns to normal. The stress hormones of traumatised people, in contrast, take much longer to return to baseline and spike quickly and disproportionately in response to mildly stressful stimuli. The insidious effects of constantly elevated stress hormones include memory and attention problems, irritability, and sleep disorders. They also contribute to many long-term health issues, depending on which body system is most vulnerable in a particular individual.”
“Traumatised people become stuck, stopped in their growth because they can’t integrate new experiences into their lives… Being traumatised means continuing to organise your life as if the trauma were still going on – unchanged and immutable – as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past.
After trauma the world is experienced with a different nervous system. The survivor’s energy now becomes focussed on suppressing inner chaos, at the expense of spontaneous involvement in their lives. These attempts to maintain control over unbearable physiological reactions can result in a whole range of physical symptoms, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and other autoimmune diseases. This explains why it is critical for trauma treatment to engage the entire organism, body, mind, and brain.”
“Suppressing our inner cries for help does not stop our stress hormones from mobilising the body. Even though Sandy had learned to ignore her relationship problems and block out her physical distress signals, they showed up in symptoms that demanded her attention.
Somatic symptoms for which no clear physical basis can be found are ubiquitous in traumatised children and adults. They can include chronic back and neck pain, fibromyalgia, digestive problems, spastic colon/irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, and some forms of asthma.”
ACTION: In his book, Dr Van Der Kolk outlines a vast number of therapies and practises that are beneficial to treating trauma and its various symptoms, with much detail on why they are effective and beneficial. I go into more detail on my pinned post ‘Developmental Trauma’ – below are some particular therapies and practises that may be beneficial for chronic fatigue.
1. Practise mindfulness.
“At the core of recovery is self-awareness. The first step is to allow your mind to focus on your sensations and notice how, in contrast to the timeless, ever-present experience of trauma, physical sensations are transient and respond to slight shifts in body position, changes in breathing, and shifts in thinking. Once you pay attention to your physical sensations, the next step is to label them, as in, ‘When I feel anxious, I feel a crushing sensation in my chest.’ I may then say to a patient: ‘Focus on that sensation and see how it changes when you take a deep breath out, or when you tap your chest just below your collarbone, or when you allow yourself to cry.’ Practising mindfulness calms down the sympathetic nervous system, so that you are less likely to be thrown into fight-or-flight.
A further step is to observe the interplay between your thoughts and your physical sensations. How are particular thoughts registered in your body? Becoming aware of how your body organises particular emotions or memories opens up the possibility of releasing sensations and impulses you once blocked in order to survive.”
2. Communal rhythms and synchrony
A person can incorporate sensory integration experiences into their lives through the healing power of community as expressed in music, rhythm, chanting and movement. This enables them to become physically attuned and experience a sense of connection and joy.
Choral singing, aikido, tango dancing, kickboxing, communal mantra meditation (check out Gabby Bernstein’s meditation albums at https://gabbybernstein.com/shop/meditation-albums/ or Jai Jagdeesh’s music at http://jai-jagdeesh.com/), improvisation exercises (such as those found at http://learnimprov.com/) are all great ways to help people connect with others in joy and exploration.
Being touched, hugged and held through bodywork is a powerful way to calm the body’s distress, feel safe, protected and in charge, feel a connection with another person, and release tension.
Bodywork therapies to explore could include: therapeutic massage, Feldenkrais exercise therapy, craniosacral therapy, reiki massage, reflexology, somatic experiencing, kinesiology, and so on. As you are seeking more than just physical “touch” but rather a feeling of connection and being able to trust someone with yourself, it is important to find someone who is mindful, who you feel safe with and who is able to attune to you and hold space for you during the session.
Bodywork practitioner Licia Sky speaks of what bodywork does for people: “Mindful touch and movement grounds people and allows them to discover tensions that they may have held for so long that they are no longer even aware of them.
The body is physically restricted when emotions are bound up inside. People’s shoulders tighten; their facial muscles tense. They spend enormous energy holding back their tears – or any sound or movement that might betray their inner state. When physical tension is released, the feelings can be released. Movement helps breathing to become deeper, and as the tensions are released, expressive sounds can be discharged. The body becomes freer – breathing freer, being in flow. Touch makes it possible to live in a body that can move in response to being moved.
People who are terrified need to get a sense of where their bodies are in space and of their boundaries. Firm and reassuring touch lets them know where those boundaries are: what’s outside them, where their bodies end. They discover that their body is solid and that they don’t have to be constantly on guard. Touch lets them know that they are safe.”
4. Somatic Therapy
Somatic experiencing is a powerful body-based therapy that explores the physical sensations and focusses on discovering the location and imprints of past trauma on the body. Somatic therapies can help patients to relocate themselves in the present by creating resolution to the trauma and experiencing that it is safe to move.
A therapy procedure called eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing involves going back into a past trauma and reintegrating it.
Dr Van Der Kolk states: “EMDR loosens up something in the mind/brain that gives people rapid access to loosely associated memories and images from their past. This seems to help them put the traumatic experience into a larger context or perspective. People may be able to heal from trauma without talking about it. EMDR enables them to observe their experiences in a new way, without verbal give-and-take with another person.”
“As we begin to re-experience a visceral connection with the needs of our bodies, there is a brand new capacity to warmly love the self. We experience a new quality of authenticity in our caring, which redirects our attention to our health, our diets, our energy, our time management. This enhanced care for the self arises spontaneously and naturally, not as a response to a “should.” We are able to experience an immediate and intrinsic pleasure in self-care”
– Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope
If you’re looking for a fun yoga experience that you can do for free outside of a gym or yoga studio, watch Sean Vigue at https://www.youtube.com/user/motleyfitness
One style of yoga I absolutely love is Jivamukti Yoga. It combines vigorous hatha yoga with a vinyasa-based physical style, and combines five central tenants of scripture, devotion, non-harming, music and meditation. These classes often start with a focus theme that is discussed through “dharma talks” and followed by Sanskrit mantra chanting, and closes with a period of relaxation and meditation.
The main thing is to be gentle and considerate of yourself so a beginner’s relaxation yoga class is always a great option. Find a studio that focuses on really attuning to your body and breath.
– The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk
METAPHYSICAL ANATOMY OF CHRONIC FATIGUE
“People suffering from CFS spent a great deal of their life feeling like they had to be on guard. It is almost is if there is a danger in their life which they cannot identify.
Their adrenals worked over-time, holding them in a constant state of fight or flight. The body can only withstand this behaviour for a certain amount of time. In this case, CFS is a symptom of the body’s depleted ability to respond to the constant state of threat. The body is often stuck in survival mode, without the resources to maintain this state. Any energy that the body creates is immediately used by the body’s survival system, meaning the benefit from rest is very short-lived.”
“The fatigue unconsciously gives you an alternative option to keeping trauma from surfacing… Fatigue often kicks in when you are feeling scared and lacking confidence to step into a new direction in life. The fatigue is an unconscious way of avoiding change.”
ACTION: These are some of the key points Evette mentions;
- There is an auto-immune (self-sabotage) element here: This is related to success. What is your fear of success? Why are you punishing yourself? How does it make you feel? Explore further possibilities.
- What and who do you need to get away from in your personal or professional life? Who is draining you? Why? How does that make you feel?
- Holding onto big disappointment. What made you feel this way? What long-term resentment do you have in your life? Why?
- You have given up hope on your goals in life. Life has become too hard. You have disconnected from your passion in life. You feel that your only purpose in life is to live for others and serve others. What makes you happy? Do you have a hobby that you’ve abandoned, etc?
- You may feel that it is safer to hold onto the trauma so that it cannot happen again and the cycle of abuse, stress and anxiety will not repeat itself. If you have this fear then know that letting go of this trauma does not mean that you will be vulnerable again. If anything, the experiences may have made you stronger. What do you need to change in your life that no longer serves you? This could include habits, boundaries and patterns. Explore further.
- You often suffer from fatigue due to the intensity of stress experienced in the womb. The body’s fight or flight instinct did not switch off during the womb stages. Explore the womb trauma that contributed to existing stress. Do not stop working on the womb and foetus until it feels calm and you feel balanced and calm.
- Do you know who you are without this condition?
- What have you discovered in your life now that you would not have discovered when you were healthy?
HEALING CHRONIC FATIGUE THROUGH FOOD
“Those with [Chronic Fatigue] have an elevated viral load of the [Epstein-Barr virus], which systematically afflicts the body by creating a neurotoxin that inflames the central nervous system. This can eventually weaken the adrenals and digestive system, and create the feeling that you have a low battery.”
– Medical Medium by Anthony Williams
ACTION: The Medical Medium recommends healing foods such as wild blueberries, celery, sprouts, asparagus, spinach, cilantro, parsley, coconut oil, garlic, ginger, raspberries, lettuce, papayas, apricots, pomegranates, grapefruit, kale, sweet potatoes, cucumbers and fennel to be incorporated into your diet to help your body rid itself from the virus.
Herbs and supplements such as cat’s claw, silver hydrosol, zinc, vitamin B12 (as methylcobalamin), licorice root, lemon balm, 5-MTHF, selenium, red marine algae, L-lysine, spirulina, ester-C, nettle leaf, elderberry, star anise and curcumin can further strengthen your immune system and aid your body in healing.
To deeply repair your digestive system and further strengthen your digestion of the foods you eat for the rest of the day, he recommends drinking 16oz/half a litre of pure celery juice first thing in the morning on an empty stomach (having other foods in your stomach will disrupt the effect of the celery). This will rebuild your stomach’s supply of hydrochloric acid, strengthen your digestive enzymes and provides mineral salts to the central nervous system.
Foods to avoid/limit in your daily diet include corn and all corn products (tacos, corn chips, corn cereals, anything with corn syrup, etc), soy and all soy products (soy sauce, soy milk, miso, soy meat substitutes, tofu, etc), canola oil, processed beet sugar, eggs, dairy, pork, farmed fish, gluten, MSG (or “natural flavours), artificial flavours and sweeteners, whey protein and iron supplements.
In his book, Anthony Williams goes further into the Epstein-Barr virus and explains why these foods and supplements are good or bad, and also outlines a 28 day detox diet with menu samples.
Purchase here for more information: https://www.amazon.com/Medical-Medium-Secrets-Chronic-Mystery/dp/1401948294