Treatment ~ it's about looking after you!

Sleep and rest issues:
The combination of deep distress and chronic fatigue can have very serious long-term consequences and I urgently counsel those of you affected in this way to get as much rest and respite from your troubles as early in the piece as possible.  

Proper, restful sleep is so important, as is having a buffer-zone from your own pain.  Talk to your doctor and to trusted advisers and friends about how this could be achieved for you.  

Taking adequate time out early on when a crisis occurs may make a significant difference to your chance of a full recovery.  Allowing yourself to be subjected to more wear and tear when you are already vulnerable until you are unable to continue may cause parts of your system to fail, making this hard or impossible.  I made this mistake with very painful results.

Getting help and treatment in whatever form it takes, isn't giving in to or avoiding the problem, it's looking after yourself, so that you can get through it and have the chance of a normal, healthy life in the future, and hopefully sooner rather than later.

Orthodox medicine offers:
Medication in the form of antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, pain killers, anti-inflammatory pills and sleeping pills. It may take time to work out what's suitable for you.  If you are fearful of these treatments say so to your doctor and those you're close to.  It may take time and a lot of reassurance to find what's suitable for you - don't give up.
     I've found pharmacists very helpful in discussing medications, and more forthcoming about them than doctors.
     You may like to gather your own information from reputable websites such as the New Zealand Medsafe site.

Medical doctors are also able to facilitate referrals for counselling which may then be able to be subsidized.

Other therapeutic treatments which may be available are:
Acupuncture, nutritional advice, and Ayervedic medicine and practices, and many more.
     I'm cautious about speaking of these forms of treatment as in my opinion they may promise more than they deliver, and there are fewer safety mechanisms with them than with orthodox medicine.  Medical doctors and other personnel can be called to account if need be, whereas alternative health practitioners do not operate within similar structures. I know it can be difficult to find the right doctor, but while that role can be supplemented by alternative health practitioners and treatments, it's important not to substitute alternatives for a regular doctor altogether.  If you've become seriously distressed and/or unwell, you need proper medical supervision.  This is one of the few instances in which I am making a bald statement rather than a suggestion!  I am speaking from considerable experience of success and failure in both quarters.

Adverse reactions:
Hopefully the medicines and treatments you choose are successful or at least satisfactory.  However, even the best of doctors and most routine of treatments won't be suitable for everyone - there are always exceptions and there may be no way of knowing that in advance.  I've had good and bad reactions to the most humdrum of orthodox as well as alternative treatments.
     Quite a lot of people think that if a remedy or therapeutic practice is natural it can't do any harm, or even that more is better.  Both concepts are faulty as I have found to my cost.  
     In my case four out of five serious adverse reactions resulted in  intense depression.  They resulted from transcendental meditation, a homoeopathic remedy I was not told the name of, Ayervedic self-massage, and the mildest possible dose of a widely used antidepressant.  These would seem harmless enough for most people but were clearly unsuitable for me.  (The homeopath was in fact delighted: "A classical response!" was her cheerful pronouncement, which was all very well for her, but  potentially dangerous for me!)  These episodes were widely spaced over three decades and were not preceded by anything that might have suggested this response.  In each instance depression receded after I stopped the practice, remedy or medication.
     I've said it before and I'll say it again, I do caution readers to exercise self-care before any other consideration in pursuing therapeutic options.  If they make you feel worse it may be wise to discontinue them, at least for a time.  An adverse reaction is our body's way of giving us important information.  Everything in the right time and place - don't push yourself.  Go gently.

Those interested in reading more about the possible adverse reactions that can arise from meditation may wish to read:
"Meditation, delusion and deception", by David J. Bardin and is about general problems which can occur.
"Warning: meditating may be hazardous to your health" by Sandy Brundage and is about transcendental meditation in particular.

My rule is this, and yes, it is a rule, which I urge you to follow: if a treatment makes you feel more stable and steady, fine; if it doesn't, stop!  Practitioners who are otherwise intelligent may encourage you to persevere, to push through a difficult patch in order to clear out old blocked energy or resistance.  My advice is the complete opposite!  You have enough difficulty in your life already.  What you need is respite from it. It's vitally important to go slow and allow your system the time it needs to clear itself at its own pace and in its own style.  Struggling may be what landed you in your present predicament and you don't need more of it!  Do you walk on a broken leg?  No!   Do you go out into the cold and snow if you have pneumonia?  No!  Do you recover from violent upheavals by forcing yourself to take on more hardship?  No!  If you think you can sense the steam pouring out of my ears you're right - and it still is!
     I think a lot of health professionals don't comprehend the hyper-sensitivity which can result from distress and an overwrought nervous system.  What is needed are calming influences and quiet, and some serious rest.  The instinct for self-preservation is to block out further disturbance and this should be respected.

The healing power of contact with the natural world and its peace and quiet is considerable: when most unwell, I spent a lot of time in an easy chair at an open door, wrapped in blankets and resting my eyes on the big trees and watching the birds come and go.  Unable to find rest and respite in sleep which was routinely a kaleidoscope of nightmares, and plagued by headaches and other troubles by day, I found that sitting gazing out into the natural world and breathing the fresh air was a life saver - literally.  Gradually things calmed down.  

More about medications I've tried:  (This passage added 29th August 2011)
Please note that what I say here is not medical advice, but the sharing of my own experiences.  I wish someone had talked to me about this sort of thing when I was making these choices myself.  As with so much of what I was coping with when my difficulties were most severe, no one talked to me about it in the way that I could take in or identify with - so here you are: this is the path that I took:
     Lacking knowledge of better choices, there were a number of years when I took Ibuprofen (also known as Nurofen) regularly, which I found helpful for settling what I call 'a bad head', when my head ached or I couldn't think straight or see clearly.  And when my nerves felt completely out on stalks or I simply couldn't sleep I found that Panadeine helped.  Both can be bought over the counter here in New Zealand, but I had mine prescribed by my doctor.  For a long time he was happy for me to take them as long as I stuck to the recommended dose.  (Exceeding that can have dire results so care is important.)
     More recently my doctor expressed concern that my regular usage of painkillers could be contributing to my lowered state. He said that research now shows that use of painkillers on more than ten days a month can actually cause headaches and suggested I try a different strategy.  As a result I drastically reduced the amount I was taking, and did feel considerably clearer as a result, and surprise - experienced fewer headaches.
     Having established what was something approximating normal for me I then started on the mildest possible dose of Citalopram, an SSRI medication used for treating depression and anxiety. This has turned out to be much more effective.  Although there were some side effects initially, they did fade in about a week, and an almost immediate benefit was that I am now able to get to sleep relatively easily most nights.
     I have never accepted that my main problem was depression, but could identify that I suffered from chronic anxiety and nervous tension.  The major benefit from the new medication has been that I now feel more relaxed generally and have a bit more ease in my nervous system.  I wish I'd tried this out years ago.  It hasn't magically set everything to rights or blotted out my 'issues' but it has helped, and I've needed that.
     It's important to be clear that medications work very differently on different people, so what has worked for me may not work for others the same way, and having a bad experience can be very off-putting.  For example, my system can't tolerate Amitriptyline at all, an older style of medication, and the appalling reaction I had to that totally put me off trying anything else, which in hindsight is a pity.
     So one more time, I'll say firmly: Do get adequate medical support when making these choices and do not hesitate to phone up your doctor, and / or consult your pharmacist if you have any concerns at all once you've started trialling any new medicine.  Let them help you.  Keep that support close at hand and improvement will hopefully become evident with time. 

In conclusion:
During that most difficult time I did try to find a suitable doctor, but when it was most crucial I lacked the medical support I needed.  If I had had proper medical attention things could have been so much easier.  For this I was partly responsible as I did largely resist orthodox medication.  This is why I'm putting these points so strenuously - I'd like it to be easier, less harmful, for others.  
All strength to you.

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / M.E. ~ comments and links

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