Recovering from Fibromyalgia: Am I Crazy?
by Jacob Teitelbaum, MD
After dealing with an insane and skeptical medical system, those of you with CFS or fibromyalgia, or even just day-to-day fatigue, often begin to wonder if you’re crazy.Well rest assured that you’re not! … at least no more so than than everyone else 🙂
Let’s take a look at this problem in a little more depth. The medical community has a bad habit: When doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with their patients, they too often resort to branding them “nuts.” Imagine calling an electrician because your lights don’t work. The electrician checks all your wiring, can’t find the problem, and says, “You’re crazy. There’s nothing wrong with your lights.” You flip the switches and they still don’t work, but the electrician just says it again, “I’ve looked. There’s no problem here,” and walks out the door. This is exactly what many people with CFS/FMS and day-to-day fatigue experience.(As a member of the medical community myself, I wish to apologize on behalf of my profession if you’re one of those who’ve been made to feel like you’re crazy just because one of my peers couldn’t determine the cause of your problem. It’s inappropriate, abusive, and downright cruel.)
The truth is that extensive research proves that CFS/FMS and day-to-day fatigue are very real and very much a physical issue. In fact I led a research effort that produced such a study. Published in the Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, our CFS/FMS study showed that 90% of study participants who received the S.H.I.N.E.® treatment* showed dramatic improvement in energy. Study control participants, who received placebo, showed no improvement. If it was “all in your head,” the placebo group would have improved as much as the active group. So any physician who tells you it’s all in your head is no longer simply wrongheaded. They’re unscientifically wrongheaded!
How to Tell If You’re Depressed
Fatigue can often mislead you into thinking you’re suffering from depression. But are you?
Ask yourself if you have many interests. If the answer is that you do, but you’re frustrated that you don’t have the energy to participate in them, then you’re probably not depressed. On the other hand, if you don’t have many interests or you’ve lost interest in the ones you had, then you’re likely depressed. If you’re depressed while you’re dealing with fatigue issues, you should seek treatment for that while following the S.H.I.N.E. protocol.
Whether or not you’re depressed, when battling an illness you may want to consider working with some type of therapist for emotional support and guidance. Be careful whom you choose, however. Make sure “psychotherapist” is one word—not two! Talk to your friends and relatives, or your physician, to find someone who’s good.
The Mind-Body Connection
I suspect that all illnesses have a psychological component.
I find that those of us who have or have had CFS/FMS, and some with only day-to-day fatigue, are mega Type-A overachievers. We’re approval seekers who avoid conflict to avoid losing approval. We often grew up seeking approval from someone who simply wasn’t going to give it to us — no matter how hard we tried. And we take care of everyone except one person — ourselves!
Being empathic, we also often find ourselves being emotional toxic waste dumps for anyone in our orbit. We attract every “energy vampire” in town — those people who, after interacting with them, tell you how much better they feel, while you’re left feeling energetically sucked dry!
So how do you break this psychodynamic? It’s pretty straightforward, and can be summarized in two letters:
Learning to use this wonderful word can set you free. If you’re asked to do something that’ll take you more than two hours, use that magical word. Tell them it’s doctor’s orders — that your doctor (that’s me) said he’d wring your neck if you took on anything more. Or just say that the answer is probably no, and that you’ll get back to them in 24 hours if you change your mind. Then politely walk away.
When you get home you’ll feel great, like you’ve dodged a bullet and you’re off the hook. And since you added that 24 hour reconsideration window, you can still change your mind if you truly wish you had said yes.
Simple, freeing and effective.
I generally encourage you to choose between yes and no more based on how you feel than what you think. You should of course think through what you’re being asked to do, but after you’ve done that, consider how you feel about it. If it feels good to say yes, then do so. Otherwise say no.
Why give so much weight to feelings over thought? Your mind is a product of how you were “programed” as a child. It pushes you towards actions that earn approval from parents, religious organizations, and God knows how many other authority figures. Your feelings, on the other hand, reflect your intuition and reveal what’s personally meaningful to you.
So always remember the wonderful word “no.” It’s a powerfully freeing word. And though it’s a complete sentence all by itself, you can elaborate when you need to, as in “What part of ‘No’ don’t you understand?”
Three Steps to Happiness
Having worked with thousands of severely ill patients over the last 35 years, I’ve found that there are three steps that will leave you feeling happy, no matter how ill you are:
- Be authentic with your feelings. That means truly feel all of your feelings, without the need to understand or justify them. When they stop feeling good, let them go.
- Make life a no-fault system. No fault. No blame. No guilt. No judgment. No comparing. And no expectations on yourself or anyone else. Change your habits of thinking. If you find yourself judging someone, simply drop the judgment mid thought as soon as you notice it. And no judging yourself for judging others.
- Keep your attention on what feels good. We’re sometimes given the misconception that we should constantly keep our attention on our problems. That’s nonsense. Life is a massive buffet of options. Pick the ones that feel good and give those your attention. If a problem truly requires your attention, you’ll find that it suddenly feels good to focus on it. After all, when you have hundreds of TV channels to choose from, why just just watch the ones you hate?
Get adequate sleep, preferably eight to nine hours a night. Sleep replenishes your body’s energy and helps heal your muscles. Inadequate sleep will leave you exhausted and in pain. Because your sleep center isn’t working in CFS/FMS, aggressive sleep support is necessary.
Hormone deficiencies can contribute to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Unfortunately blood testing misses the large majority of people with hormonal deficiencies in these illnesses. The large majority of people with fibromyalgia should do a treatment trial with thyroid. In addition, if you get irritable when hungry, adrenal support is needed. Most men with CFS/FMS find that their testosterone level is in the lowest 30% of the population. If a woman’s fibromyalgia symptoms are worse around her menses, estrogen and progesterone support may be helpful. Low blood pressure (hypotension) is also a major contributor to CFS/FMS.
Underlying viral, bacterial, bowel, sinus and yeast infections are common and can be contributing causes of CFS/FMS, or even the result of it.
To maintain normal health and optimal energy levels you need to make sure you get an optimal balance of nutrients, particularly as nutritional deficiencies can result from CFS/FMS. Vitamin B-12, magnesium, acetyl L-carnitine, glutathione, as well as your basic A, B, C and D vitamins are especially vulnerable to depletion.
Exercise as able. After 10 weeks on the first four steps above, you should be able to slowly increase your amount of exercise without being wiped out the next day. Don’t overdo it trying to follow “normal” exercise recommendations, as doing too much can result in Post Exertional Malaise, a condition that can last for days that leaves you feeling as though you were hit by a truck. But by following the S.H.I.N.E.® protocol, you should gradually begin to condition.