Tag Archives: muscles

Are You Sitting Too Comfortably?

If someone had said to me over the last few years, I was lethargic and lazy and must pull myself together, I would probably have felt like hitting them. As a good Christian, I would of course restrain myself? Some may have thought it but kept quiet. The fact is, you just don’t say that sort of thing to someone with chronic fatigue syndrome – CFS/CFIDS/ME – or a similar chronic illness. Right now however, there is some truth in the statement.

It took quite a while for me to learn to be kind to myself. After all it was probably because of the lack of that, because I was pushing myself, that was one of the contributing factors to the illness in the first place. But there is a difference between looking after yourself and over indulgent comfort. I found that the years of fatigue can have a dulling, if not soporific effect upon the mind and body and it is possible to develop ‘lazy’ habits and attitudes that can become the norm.

Now that I am in recovery – by that I mean most of the peripheral symptoms have long gone and the levels of fatigue are much lower – there is a need to sharpen up. I am keen therefore to recover that which has been lost. I don’t mean that I can go back to how it was. No more mountain climbing – possibly? I have let go of what was and have to go forward into the new things and ways and recovery is a process of discovering what these are. One thing is for sure. They will not be handed to me on a plate. That means taking action. No matter how seemingly small and insignificant, any action can be powerful. I am discovering over and over, what can be achieved with God’s help and strength, with very little physical effort upon my part. Something I needed to learn long ago!

I still have to be kind to myself, but things such as falling asleep in front of the TV of an evening or eating just too much, must stop. Any lazy habits that have been picked up must change. Just as muscles that have atrophied must be carefully and slowly brought back to life – and that can be painful – so the mind needs to be exercised and sharpened.

I looked up the dictionary meaning of comfort: “The act of consoling: giving relief in affliction:receiving moral or emotional strength: to make physically comfortable: a state of ease and satisfaction of bodily wants, with freedom from pain and anxiety:” I have also discovered that there is no real comfort that can rival that which comes from God. Any other comfort addictions such as sex, drink, chocolate, food, warmth, sleep, television or any other distraction are just a pale shadow of the real thing.

So, forward with changed attitude, sometimes with difficulty, but with God all things are possible!

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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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A Surprise Victory

tn_lake.jpgI sat in a deserted seaside parking lot. My wife was taking part in a reunion and I was left to my own devices. I was in to my second year with CFS, my fatigue level was average to high – at least three out of a maximum five – and I wondered what I had the strength to do?

I eased myself out of the car, slowly crossed the road and was transfixed by this ‘jewel!’ A large lake or ‘mere’ – as they say in those parts – nearly a mile long, tree-fringed with an island in the centre. The unbroken mirrored surface shimmered in the early autumn sunshine, inviting, everywhere quiet, not a soul about. Tidily moored up to a deserted jetty, old traditional clinker-built rowing boats, just waiting to be taken out.

I have a love of boats and water, ever since my father taught me to row on our local river as a boy, so my heart longed to be out there. But my head doubted whether rowing was the right action for a fatigued body. I paced back and forth debating and my heart won. A surly young man untied my selected craft and I cast off.

Gently, ever so gently, so as to make the least claim on my limited energy, I dipped the oars in now and again to gain momentum as we slid away from land. Resisting the temptation to pull with force, I continued at an almost effortless pace, feathering my oars on the return stroke like a professional.

After a few minutes I shipped the oars and listened. I, man and boy, enthralled with the experience! You could almost hear the silence, which was only broken by a flock of coots. Reluctantly I made to return, but took my time, determined to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment out of the half-hour hire.

It’s hard to explain to someone with normal energy what that experience meant to me. But I stepped out of the boat as if I was Captain Horatio Hornblower or Captain ‘lucky’ Jack Aubrey himself – of “Captain and Commander” fame – to the applause of the gathered crowds. It was a brilliant victory! “I’m proud of you son!”

Back in the car I was full of gratitude towards God, for arranging and enabling. Yes, I did suffer a minor relapse for a two or three weeks afterwards. Not sure whether it was the rowing or something else, but it didn’t matter. No one can take that achievement and memory away from me.

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My Name is Chronic Fatigue

It was suggested I write this as if it was ‘Chronic Fatigue’, the illness speaking.

tn_cfs.jpgMy name is Chronic Fatigue although some call me ME, I like that.

I’m your constant companion. I’m always with you and want your full attention. You see, I like to be centre stage. I’ve sapped your energy and weakened your muscles, so that you can’t work properly or enjoy the things you used to. Like going on walks with friends and social activities and things normal people do. There were times when you even thought you would end up in a wheelchair. I’ve watched some of your friends fall away, one by one, because they didn’t understand that you couldn’t keep up with them.

You are getting to know me quite well although I’ve plenty of tricks up my sleeve to get you puzzled. But others don’t understand me, even your doctor doesn’t know what to do for you, except offer pills to ease the pain. You’ve tried extra vitamins, diets and exercise regimes and they didn’t do any good.

I really don’t like it though, when you ignore me, but I have special ways of getting your attention. At the end of the day when your head is aching and every muscle in your body hurts, I whisper sweet nothings in your ear, like “It’s helpless!” or “You’ll never get through!” or “No one cares!” In the night I make my presence known so you don’t get much sleep. If you do drift off I sometimes wake you up drenched in perspiration and feeling chilled, so you wonder what’s happening. Just for good measure, when you do get out of bed, I fog your mind so you can’t think straight and forget things. My speciality is to knock out your temperature control – you call it your thermostat – so you feel you are either going to boil over or freeze to death.

I do worry at times when you start to get stronger and think you are getting better. I have to come in then with a big surprise and knock you down, so you are right back to the beginning again. That throws you, I’ve even heard you cry. The problem is you don’t take it lying down. You get up and start over.

Some people think I’m a control freak, but that’s not true. I just like to be in charge.

I want you for myself and so you feel lonely and afraid. I don’t like it when you spend time with others who know me, I can see that helps you. What I really hate is when you talk to this special friend of yours. I don’t know who he is, I’ve never seen him, but you call him “God!” or “Father” or other names like that. He seems to make you happy and contented. Even when you are very fatigued and weak you seem to have some sort of energy inside. It’s strange, because you get some strength from him to do things that you thought impossible. I really don’t understand that and it leaves me feeling left out and powerless.

So I’ll just bide my time. There must be a way to win this battle.

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