Tag Archives: CIFDS

The Pain and the Presence

Having suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome for a number of years has  given me a just an inkling of what it could be like for someone who has experienced far greater pain than me.

Lying here, Father,
I know You are there.
I don’t feel your Presence, but
I do feel the pain and discomfort
that tries to take over
and invade my fatigued soul.
Every aching muscle and sinew
vying for attention and
threatening to melt away the hope.

But as I look to You,
I know You are with me,
feeling my every feeling.
And as I keep on looking
and looking and looking,
reaching out to You,
minute by hour,
heart to Blessed Heart,
Your love seems to take over,
in a way I don’t understand.
Fear goes out the window,
faith and hope rise
and the pain grows dim
just for now –

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My Clifftop Cabin Retreat

An important and significant two weeks.

I had entered my third year with Chronic Fatigue and although there was some improvement, I still experienced considerable physical restriction and the occasional relapse. I felt the urge to get right away on my own for a time. Some friends of ours had a cliff top cabin which became available for a couple of weeks and I jumped at the opportunity. This was the first time I had arranged to spend such a length of time away completely on my own.

At the end of a narrow Cornish lane, I eased open an old wooden gate and fought through overhanging foliage to reach a grassy clearing. Halfway along stood a bungalow. The cedar wood shiplap was bleached white with years of sunlight and salt-laden winds. Cared for, but it had seen better days. On three sides, trees and shrubs affording absolute privacy and seclusion, but allowed magnificent views out to sea.

The interior was very basic and functional, but I had all I needed. After unloading my belongings, I settled into an armchair and looked around. I took note of the thoughtful provision of little extras, like the bowl of fruit and selection of books. I had arrived! This was to be my home, my refuge, for the next ten days. No distracting phone calls, television or radio. Closed off from the world. It was a good feeling. I just sat for ages and feasted on the panoramic ocean view. Passing clouds cast moving shadows over the dappled surface of the sea. A coaster slowly disappeared over the horizon and fishing boats returned to port with the day’s catch.

I decided on an early night and snuggled under my quilt. The cabin didn’t have the luxury of insulation – not ideal for someone with a wonky body thermostat – and I soon woke feeling cold. I piled on extra blankets and pulled on a woolly hat, before trying to settle down again. As I lay there, the sound of the sea had increased to an incessant roar. The Atlantic rollers pounded the length of the bay below. I listened, fascinated, before eventually dozing off.

Next morning, feeling dazed and bleary-eyed, I sat with cornflakes and coffee, contemplating the first day of solitude. I just wanted to ‘be’, Father and I, drawn into intimacy. I needed to hear what He had to say to me, but realised I couldn’t force anything. It would come in His time and His way. I wandered outside and breathed in great gulps of the stiff Atlantic breeze as the gulls circled squawking overhead. It felt like taking in life itself and I wanted it to go on for ever!

The honeymoon period didn’t last however, as by the next morning doubts began to creep in. I was getting restless and began to question what on earth I was doing such a thing for. Perhaps I should call it a day and return home to reality? Thankfully, I dismissed the doubts and fears and pressed on. Sure enough, by the next day a peace began to set in. It’s hard to describe, except to say that I felt settled, stilled inside, at one with Father. Even when I ventured out for a very short walk, my ‘retreat’ went with me. I felt cocooned, set apart.

The following days fell into a sort of routine. Bible reading, listening, writing and journaling and more listening. Whatever thoughts and feelings came to the surface I explored them to see where they would lead. One day an emotional ‘wound’ that had dogged me for years was uncovered, cleansed and healed. As the truth took hold, I became aware of a tremendous sense of freedom and elation. On another, the reality sunk in concerning an important decision I had to make. I just knew what I had to do.

There were no further revelations during the remaining days, just a cementing-in of what I had already heard and received. My wife joined me for the last two days and we revelled in the fresh air and coastal scenery together. All too soon the day of departure arrived.

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You Are What You Eat

Those who take food and diet seriously, sometimes quote the phrase, “You are what you eat!” I looked it up and found it originated in the 1800’s or earlier in Europe. The German, “Der Mensch ist, was er ißt.”translates into English as ‘man is what he eats’. Much later in the 1960’s, it was adopted by the champions of healthy eating and is currently the title of a popular TV dieting series.

After I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue I looked into diet in some detail, partly because I became intolerant to certain foods. My wife and I tried various recommended diets, but they didn’t seem to produce the promised results and in any case they began to take over our lives and was in danger of becoming a god.

Recently we watched a TV programme about families who were following an extreme raw food diet, omitting all meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, wheat and flour and certain fruits. The food preparation room looked more like a laboratory, rather than a kitchen. They appeared physically healthy, but we were given the impression that it had become the top priority in their lives. A filmed teaching session was shown, that appeared very much like an evangelical Christian service of praise and worship.

So we continue to eat sensibly, buying plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and keeping fat and sugar to a minimum, plus taking certain vitamin supplements. I still avoid foods that don’t agree with me, although now most of the intolerance seems to have vanished. Having said all this, I admit that whenever diet and exercise is mentioned, I always have that niggling guilt that I am not doing enough!

My top priority however, is taking food of the spiritual variety. I have found that by opening up my life to God and seeking what He says about me personally, is life-changing and healing. When I take in His Word and inwardly digest it, it has an amazing freeing spiritual, emotional and physical effect. It reaches the inner parts that other foods just cannot reach.

I think however, that many of us would rather pop pills, follow a diet or even take part in a sponsored walk across the Mongolian Desert, than allow God to show us what is going on inside and heal us. It can be just too scary to let the hurting recesses of our hearts be exposed. The truth is that He is very gentle and we can trust Him.

I continue to enjoy my food and follow a balanced diet, physical and spiritual – I am still learning.

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It’s Under My Nose

tn_source-of-the-derwent.jpgI am light years away from the busyness and activity that was my world before I was laid low and diagnosed with CFS/ME! Gone are the ‘badges’ I used to wear and polish with pride: ‘engineer’, ‘manager’, ‘chairman of trustees’, ‘counsellor’, ‘prayer minister’, ‘regional leader’, ‘mountain climber’.

The only badge I have now is ‘beloved of Jesus.’ My favourite Bible character then, was Elijah strutting his stuff on the top of Mount Carmel. A more appropriate personality now, would be Amos, sitting under a fruit tree keeping an eye on his sheep.

This is one of my oil paintings. It’s of the source of the River Derwent in the Peak National Park of England. On one of those sort-after sorties into the wilderness. I followed the river as a stream, winding round higher and higher through the moorland heights. The sides of the valley were splashed in heather in bloom and the banks of the tiny stream rippling between banks covered in vivid green moss. A beautiful stimulating scene, it still stirs me when I look at it.

I have since had to learn new ways, working with ‘what is!’. No more assaults on moorland crags and traversing mountain ridges to complete a challenge. I have become content with a few hundred yards gentle amble – at the most, on the flat, with the wind behind me, on a good day – just to ‘be’ and taking in what is close to. There wasn’t time before, I was in too much of a rush. I now appreciate what is ‘under my nose’ so to speak. This was what my heart longed for, what my soul was crying our for. Be still and take it in. The blackthorn blossom on stark black branches, the kestrel poised for the attack, the early powdery willow catkins shaking in the breeze.

I have found that there is life in the solitude. A change from ‘head’ to ‘heart’. Much-needed time for relationship, first with Father, then my wife and family and the occasional friend. To stop and listen and consider.

The transition between the two worlds was hard, even painful, devastating, and at first most unfair. It was like being catapulted into the unknown. The way forward through the fog was only indicated by a signpost with one word, ‘God!’ I am so glad that I was given the grace to go this way.

But note: there came a time for Amos to go in obedience and deliver his message.

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It’s Lonely In Here

tn_dark-night.jpg

I was catapulted into chronic fatigue after a feeling of loneliness that defied a human solution or change of situation. It was a most painful emotion of abandonment, as if I was the only person in the whole world. Whereas before I was aware of the presence of God, it felt He had gone. This was my own Dark Night of the Soul. I knew I had to trust Him to take me through the chasm of pain to the other side and that He did over a period of several months.

 

It’s lonely in here, very, very lonely
as if I’m the only person
in the whole wide world
and I’m frightened and hurting
I feel so helpless
I want to go back to how it was before, but I can’t
I want to escape, to run away.

Where are you God?
You seem so far away!
Why have you left me all alone?

In reality he is close
not the feeling, but the real thing
Jesus kneeling at my feet
“What would you have me do for you?”
What a God! at my feet!
Waiting patiently for the word
Waiting, waiting…
Yes, yes Lord, but .. but I need a lifeline
but yes, yes Lord, yes!

And as the yes’s and the trusting grew
and except for the odd backward glance
the journey entered upon
standing empty in the barren desert
feeling the feelings with Him
I remind myself
he will not let me down
he will not let me be tempted more than I can bear
and …

as my eyes become accustomed to the darkness
I find beauty to behold
diamonds and precious stones
hidden behind the pain
memories that heal and not hinder
heart to blessed heart
words of love
the pain starts to lift
and the anxieties start to melt away

Until the time when I feel His embrace
and do you know
it can actually hurt to be loved
but Lord don’t stop

Is this the end
no, it’s just the beginning.

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The Fog of Fatigue

tn_fog.jpgI found one of the most horrible symptoms of CFS/ME, is what I call the fog of fatigue. To have aching and painful muscles and joints with little energy is bad enough, but it seems cruel that the fatigue creeps like a mist into the head as well. It felt like part of me had got left behind somewhere and was accompanied by feelings that I was growing old before my time.

At it’s worst my thinking became dulled and my short term memory would suddenly go. A reminder of the times when I had nodded off in the middle of a business meeting and was jerked to attention by being asked a question. Similarly, I would use all sorts of ploys to get round the problem. That was another aspect; I looked normal and healthy enough, but the cloud within had the effect of partially separating me from others.

Slowly I came to the conclusion that I needed this. My mind needed rest, so not to fight it, but try and go with the flow. Things wouldn’t fall apart if I had a fogged mind, in fact it was the way forward for me for a time.

The depth of fog fluctuated and could go on for days and weeks on end. Occasionally, as the fatigue lessened and I headed for recovery, the cloud would lift for a few hours or a whole day. My mind became icicle sharp and I could think straight. At first, the release and relief was such that I would cry with the joy of it – it was like being in heaven. The next day though everything turned back to ‘normal!’.

The most challenging aspect for me was that this fog interfered with prayer, which is my lifeline from God, my love source. I had to learn new ways of maintaining this relationship, which continue now even though the fatigue is less. Just to sit quietly, accepting in faith that Father is with me, even in me, is one of the most basic and powerful ways of prayer. As I surrender to Him there is a heart to heart bonding without words. I have even found that after an hour or so, tiredness and fatigue begin to diminish. Powerful stuff.

The other side of the coin is that fatigue has a way of slowing down the mental processes and can result in lethargy. Dare I say it, but it is even possible to accept the fatigued state as normal! So as a part of the recovery process, I find a need to be more disciplined, sharpen up and learn new ways. Not just in prayer and bible reading, but in my whole approach to life and the daily routine, because there is truth in the saying, “Use it or lose it!”

Not easy. It can seem like a hard battle at times, but not to forget that God is readily available. He’s on our side!

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Does God Heal Chronic Fatigue?

tn_dove.jpgDivine Healing has been the subject of many books, periodicals, journals and essays and written from the whole gamut of viewpoints. I am not even attempting to go into this, I leave that to the theologians and biblical scholars. But with my wife suffering from an incurable chronic illness and then I am diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome – CFS/ME/CFIDS – with no complete medical cure, it sharpens things up and makes things much more personal. With my ‘back to the wall’ I have been desperate for answers and I looked to God for the solution.

I’ve been a Christian for many years. For some of the time I have struggled and have even been rebellious, especially in situations where it felt like I was being dragged by my hair through a hedge backwards. Even so, I have long believed in a God who heals. The Bible tells me so and this has been born out by what I have seen for myself. I have witnessed others being healed instantly and also experienced minor and gradual examples within our family.

I have long believed that healing was all part of the ‘salvation package.’ But I came to accept that you can’t receive the gift without receiving the Giver, and He has an interest in the whole of me – body, soul and spirit – He doesn’t split me up into compartments. I would love an immediate miraculous release and have been prayed for a number of times, but I believe that on the whole it is a gradual process, a journey of love. Right from the start, once I had tasted that love, I longed for more, it was something I needed. However, even though it comes without price, it costs and takes all I have.

If there was some wonder pill or food that I could take for an instant cure, I would probably be the first in line for it. I’ve always been the one to look for the quick escape. But circumstances have forced me to go ‘through’ and not hide from the difficult issues, emotional pain and troublesome memories long swept under the carpet where they fester away. As I have learned to face these things with Father, I have realised a greater degree of personal freedom and gradual emotional and physical healing.

I feel that many physical illnesses, especially auto-immune conditions like chronic fatigue can have an emotional and spiritual root cause and dealing with these is at least part of the solution. This doesn’t mean that I discount lifestyle issues, eating sensibly and carefully or even taking vitamin supplements. I have tried following a rigid diet regime, but this did not show results and tended to take over my life. Anything that can threaten to take over the love relationship that I am totally committed to, I am wary of.

So I am on the way and I am changing. I just cannot tell God how or when He is to heal me of course. If Jesus can restore a man’s hearing by spitting on his tongue and another’s sight by rubbing mud in his eyes, I need to be open to what He sends my way. I am expectant for more, much more. Some of the symptoms have gone and I am stronger. I still long to be fully healed, whatever that means, but I trust Father who knows what he is doing. I have a greater longing that has become my life.

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