A Series of Unfortunate Events: Things I've Tried to Cure My Chronic Fatigue
I've never once doubted in the existence of a cure. When I first came down with CFS I didn't slack a single day. I got some x-rays and stuff, but I knew right away not to put all my faith in modern medicine and went straight to trying to heal by any means necessary. These are all the things that I can think of that I have tried for my health problems. Although some of them were truly unfortunate, for the vast majority the problem is not so much that they didn't help at all, or that I don't believe in them, but that the impact they made was much too small to justify the time and expense of continuing. If one goes to 12 sessions of something, they want to see a general trend of improvement over the sessions, not a slight bump in energy each time only to fall back into the same rut almost immediately, but that is what seemed to happen to me. Most people experience major breakthroughs using one or a combination of these approaches, but I am not most people. I am a sticky wicket.
Oh yeah, read about my symptoms here.
1) Exercise. That might not make much sense as a cure for adrenal fatigue, but I didn't know anything about adrenal fatigue for many years, and everyone pushes it for depression. I friggin' love exercise, especially hiking and even running, but it doesn't make me happier.
2) Yoga. Kripalu, ashtanga, kundalini, Bikram, vinyasa, etc. I even lived at an ashram for awhile (in the States) and did the physical stretching aspect 4 hours a day. Like exercise, it gets some energies moving, but doesn't "stick". I could probably do it every day for the rest of my life and it wouldn't heal me, but I'd sure be flexible.
3) Meditation. We did kirtan (chanting/singing) and meditated 2 hours a day at the ashram. I've also done tons of meditation on my own in various styles. When I was nineteen I'd do three hour Sunday sessions at the Shambhala center and participated in at least one intensive weekend retreat. Perhaps it has a subtle impact, but I would have to rate mediation as less helpful for improving the day-to-day quality of my life than exercise and yoga.
4) Neoshamanism. I've been to more neoshamans that you can shake a beaded rawhide rattle at. Most of them relied on the soul loss/soul retrieval style of Sandra Ingerman/Michael Harner for their conceptual framework, but had trained with a variety of people including indigenous shamans. I did private sessions, took classes, participated in group healings, and even arranged a healing just for me with my closest friends. None of this had much success and some of it really threw me off. Although, I have to give a shoutout to a lady named Karyn Chalice Armstrong because she made the most impact in one of her sessions where she convinced me to moan and groan no matter how stupid it felt and I released this crazy bubble of old stored traumatic energy out of my belly.
5) Antidepressants, Anti-Anxiety Medication and Sleeping Pills. There was one antidepressant I was on that sort of changed my personality and made me a more cuddly person, but didn't make me much happier, and the side-effects sucked. The anti-anxiety pills were really only useful for sleeping and not for anxiety. I love me some ambien, and so do my boyfriends since it makes me very, um, pliable at bedtime.
6) Energy Medicine. I've been to even more energy workers than neoshamans. Sound healers, DNA restructurers, jin shin jyutsu, reflexology, craniosacral, self-taught healers, in-person healers, and distance healers. All kinds. I like to do qi gong videos from time to time. I am also trained in reiki I and II, and studied Donna Eden style work on my own pretty intensely from her books and videos. I've always been able to feel chi, but my root trauma is highly resistant to this energy work, just like it is to all of these things.
7) Therapy/Counseling. I've been to a ton of therapists, probably around ten. I've been to a licensed Christian counselor who was pretty good, an unlicensed intuitive counselor who was equally good, a licensed intuitive counselor who worked on "the quantum level" and annoyed the shit out of me, a couple average/annoying cognitive-behavioral type therapists, and one who was very eccentric and looked like a cross between the mother on My Big Fat Greek Wedding and a stereotypical gypsy and used creative stuff like guided meditation but also thought everyone had ADHD. I've tried a little EMDR and a little Somatic Experiencing. I even saw a past lives/lives-between-lives hypnotherapist. That was kind of a disaster, and I didn't experience anything convincing or useful if you're wondering, but I do believe in past lives.
8) Guided Imagery. Lots of guided imagery tapes, CD's and YouTubes. The ones that work the best for me are the ones that put you to sleep and/or induce lucid dreaming. Lilian Eden is pretty good. I can't say I've had any truly stunning insights as a result of guided imagery. While we are at it, I'll throw in brainwave music (binaural beats). Does it work? Yes, but like meditation and imagery it mostly just puts me to sleep. I've also encountered some tracks that depressed me or agitated me.
9) Massage. I've had at least 50 professional massages. I've tried tons of styles of massage including deep tissue, myofascial, shiatsu, Thai, abdominal, and hot stone. I love getting massages because they feel good while they are happening, and as with energy work, they sometimes give me a boost for the rest of the day, but have never made an impact that lasted overnight.
10) Acupuncture. I've been to quite a few acupuncturists of varying skill level and intuitiveness, gotten moxibustion, gua sha and cupping, and taken the Chinese herbs they've given me as well. Some were yummy loose powders flavored with roasted licorice, and I do love those little tea pills, so easy to swallow, and the packaging is so pretty. I wish western herb manufacturers would take the hint. I hate swallowing a handful of gelatin caps only to have them all gel together and get stuck halfway down my esophagus. Anyway, acupuncture has been very "meh". I think I might even have to rate it under energy work and massage in effectiveness, but I would love to see a real, ancient, Chinese wizard who knew their shit go to town on me.
11) Herbalism. I sought herbal help as a client and took many herb classes and workshops and taught myself all about herbalism from books, due to my love for plants. I worked as a professional herbalist and teacher of plant medicine at one point, so there is nary an herb I haven't taken. I've used both the intuitive "plant spirit" approach and the clinical approach, but I can't say any single herb ever relieved any single symptom, which is why I quit teaching, and also why I never delved into something like being an energy healer or yoga teacher, or counselor or shamanic practitioner myself. I always wanted to but it seemed kind of lame to recommend stuff that hadn't worked for me. My symptoms are just too deep and angry and intertwined to treat herbally, even when something is presenting acutely like, say, a UTI. I do utilize some herbs now as part of my gut healing protocol, but would never take them alone without the diet and lifestyle changes.
12) Diet. And speaking of diet, I've been on a bunch. I was vegetarian from age 18-23 or so, but not a super vegetable oriented one. I ate tons of dairy and wheat. Things did improve for me as a rawfoodist which I did in the midst of the vegetarian phase. I'd like to rag on raw because it is so extreme, but it helped me. I wouldn't know if the reason it helped was because it was raw and had enzymes and life force and all that, or because of what was put in (like a lot more mineral and antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables), or what was taken out (like grains, preservatives, and refined sugar) but it took away more symptoms that most of the stuff on this list. It was just too hard to do in the early 2000's with limited money, less raw stuff available in stores, and everyone thinking I was nuts and trying to talk me out of it.
From then on I've typically been various degrees of paleo or auto-immune paleo or ketogenic or at least gluten free/dairy free with random candida cleanses thrown in there like a stint on the Body Ecology diet. But I did try Matt Stone's Eat for Heat non-diet diet which involves a re-feeding period of eating hella calories of whatever you want, but especially carbs, salt, and fat, in order to boost your metabolism. That didn't kill me because I think the body adjusts to the junk and kinda numbs out, but I didn't see any results. As many of you already know, I'm on a highly restrictive diet once again.
13) Fasting and Cleansing. The opposite of diet. Fasting is sometimes contraindicated for adrenal fatigue, but I'm a proponent of fasting, having experienced some benefit from it, at least feeling pretty good and energetic and high vibration while I was on the fast. Some would say that is only the starvation adrenaline kicking in, but oh well, it's pretty sweet if you never feel good any other way. Besides, I think there must be something real behind fasting, cleansing and detoxing. It is such an ancient and multi-cultural technique. I've tried the master cleanse, juice fasting with some bonebroth in there for variety, maybe a few days of water fasting here or there. I don't remember how long anymore but I'd say I've done three fasts in the one week to two weeks range. With or without the fasts I've done a variety of colon cleanses and enemas and a couple of those hideous gall bladder cleanses where you drink the olive oil. I don't think those things that come out are gallstones, but I think it might flush out some yucky bile that would otherwise be recirculated.
14) Sweatlodge. I've participated in half a dozen formal sweatlodges. Many of those were led by Native American elders. Either way they were mostly of the Lakota tradition. I've also built sweatlodges on my own a number of times, for fun, with no spiritual intentions, and no rules about how to do stuff. I'll tell you what, it's probably better if everyone is praying but all of those sweat lodges were powerful. I like 'em. One time (after a native led ceremony) I got really ill and was in a lot of pain afterward. I think that wasn't so much because it destabilized me with my sensitivities but because I prayed for change when I didn't understand the changes that needed to be made. I unwittingly raised the energetic stakes in a way that highlighted my off-pathness in an attempt to force me back on path again. Not fun.
Saunas are nice too. And hot springs...Mmm, hot springs. I'm a hot springs fiend and have probably checked out 30 or 40 in the West.
15) Prayer. Speaking of being careful what you wish for, that everything-falling-apart-and-looking exactly-the-opposite-of-the-miraculous-healing-I-wanted thing has also happened after intense prayer. I had this one boyfriend and we would fight (about something completely spontaneous and unrelated) whenever I'd secretly prayed hard for healing that day or the day before. In retrospect it is clear we should have broken up. I've enlisted other people to pray for me as well, online, or put little notes into church boxes and that sort of thing figuring it can't hurt. I've prayed in very special places like the posito in El Santuario De Chimayo in New Mexico which is a famous pilgrimage site. Along with this I suppose you can count all forms of magic that involve altars and candles and crystals.
16) Ritual. Ritual fits in there somewhere in a netherworld between prayer, energy medicine, and shamanism. I've been a part of many rituals for many purposes: Wiccan ceremonies, multi-faceted personal healing rituals like one that involved herbs, psilocybin mushrooms, a specific outdoor setting I dreamed of, and energy work by a fairly powerful friend of mine. I did a group Munay-Ki training which is a series of Andean rites. I had a boyfriend who led me through a series of cleansing flower baths from the Santeria tradition. I've done two grief rituals with 100 or so other people led by Sobonfu Some, an African spiritual teacher (I just felt alienated because I couldn't muster up a single tear either time). I even hired one of Sobonfu's top students to lead a different sort of community healing ritual for some friends of mine.
17) Ibogaine. An entheogen derived from the African iboga root used for psychospiritual healing (but most popularly for drug addiction). I took this legally in Mexico, but I hesitated to include it in the list mostly because it was a bad experience that I do not wish to talk about right now, kinda like if I were to start telling you about the times some boyfriend hit me. Yeah, that bad. But I swear, it isn't just because of my bad experience that out of all the things on this list I recommend psychedelics the least. I think that while they are the most adept at opening people up, they are the most likely to cause subtle but long-term imbalances in the energy body.
18) Awareness. I've done a lot of awareness practices in the vein of the Power of Now, like when you just try to make everything you do a meditation. It can shift some anxieties I suppose but, didn't do much for me. I actually think I brainwashed myself into staying in a non-reactive observer mode in some situations where it would have behooved me to be freaking the fuck out.
19) Self-Help/Spirituality Books. Besides Ekhart Tolle, I've read/worked with a lot of self-help books like Louise Hay and her affirmations, Byron Katie and her four questions, Don Miguel Ruiz and his four agreements, Neale Donald Walsch and his conversations with God. Things like positive thinking and the The Secret have never been up my alley, but I've dabbled in them too. I have three or four old vision boards stashed away in the closet. They all look more or less the same since all the things I've wanted have not yet manifested!
20) Naturopathic Medicine. I've seen maybe five naturopathic doctors, and been through the typical testing for food allergies, and put on a bevy of supplements, one for each symptom, along with anti-candida diets and the like. One dude was a kinesthesiologist. The most comprehensive and long-term of these was the two years or so I was seeing Dr. Werner Vosloo of the Restorative Health Clinic in Lake Oswego, OR. He was a really nice guy (and they had an office dog!). I had money at the time and threw my all into my treatments, but we really didn't make much if any progress. Under his reign, in addition to your typical supplements, I tried autohemotherapy (getting shot in the ass with your own blood to stimulate the immune system). It works! It just kept stimulating me to get sick though without any real progress at getting better. I tried neural therapy (getting shot with Novocaine in specific points to reset the nervous system), If crying really hard for no reason as if releasing all kinds of stored trauma counts as "working" that worked too, but didn't appear to impact my overall well-being. I also tried cortisol and thyroid meds, oxytocin shots, B vitamin shots, parasite medication from India that made me very irritable, heavy duty anti-viral drugs like they give to AIDS patients, prescription antibiotics, homeopathics, DMSA for heavy metal chelation, and probably other stuff I am forgetting.
21) Psychics. I've been to a couple dozen different psychics who worked with tarot or runes or palmistry or no gimmicks at all, just their own inner vision. Two of them were medical intuitives. The rest were general psychics. I thought maybe if the energy healers and the doctors couldn't fix me the psychics could at least tell me what the origin of my problem was, or what type of person to see for it, or at least help me improve the rest of my life. Most of them were halfway decent, good for help making big decisions, and gave accurate enough insights into my present to establish their credibility along with predictions for the future that came true maybe half the time. I feel the future is too full of competing possibilities and choices to predict most of the time, and the way psychics work isn't all that great, but the most helpful psychic was probably Kristeanna Shelton of Memphis, TN. She supported me during a very challenging time.
22) Chiropractic. I've been to may different chiropractors including two or three times weekly adjustments. I have to say it does some interesting things to the energy system, since one or two little cracks that took all of five minutes could leave me feeling quite drained and exhausted, similar to having an intense hour-long massage. My body just keeps going back to the same old patterns though.
Other Random Stuff
- Family constellation therapy (a strange sort of family systems therapy that uses intuitive psychodrama to explore the energetic ties in a family or group. Can be useful for identifying and disintegrating intergenerational traumas. Other people stand in for your family members, or a set of cards with pictures and words or even lego people can be used.)
- Astrology. Hey, with all this other wacky stuff, why not?
- Cutler Protocol. A chelation protocol using low-doses of alpha lipoic acid. May have some merit. I had some pretty optimistic days on it. But the bitch of it is you have to wake up every three hours during the night to take it.
- Drinking my own urine. So as not to tarnish my *stellar* credibility, I hesitated to include that one. But yes, I've tried it. Frankly it isn't that gross and I'd love it if that were the solution. It's free. It's easy. If it worked I'd stand up proudly and shout my praises to the world. But it didn't work.
- Magnesium baths/spray to raise cellular magnesium levels.
- Dream interpretation. Tons of that. I still do it, but mostly for fun. Actually, I've had lots of specific lucid dream/sleep hypnosis/astral projection energy healings and received advice, but very little of it has been fruitful or meaningful for my waking life.
- Changing to a less toxic lifestyle. Water filters, shower filters, switching cookware, swapping out soaps and products for natural versions.
- EFT and Faster EFT. Energy psychology.
- Breathing exercises/Pranayama.
- Journaling. You can bet I've done plenty of that since I love writing. Some of my journals are very Jungian and involve conversations with or between disparate parts of my psyche. Some of them are attempts at channeling guides. Some of them are for expressing anger. Have also had many chronic illness penpals to commiserate with.
- Neurotransmitter building supplements in the vein of The Mood Cure and Nutrient Power (orthomolecular medicine).
- Member of spiritual development group that included giving each other channeled messages.
- Experiments with baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, sea salt and other cheap "miracle" substances.
- DIY lymphatic drainage (quite interesting, can provoke nausea. I think there is something to it).
- Moving. I've lived in dozens of houses and climates, so we know the problem isn't household mold or anything like that.
- CFS and fibro support group.
- TENS stimlulator (too sensitive to electricity, freaked me out).
What I Haven't Done and What I Would Still Try
Of course, there are many things I haven't tried. I'm sure yinz are goin to tell me about them right now. I have not tried amygdala retraining (though it seems to involve a lot of relaxation techniques to tone down the sympathetic nervous system). I have not gone on a prolonged retreat away from all man-made electromagnetic forces. I have not tried hyperbaric oxygen treatment, any sort of IV therapy (other than a saline IV to pump up my blood volume), stem cell therapy (available in foreign countries), UV therapy (blood irradiation, also popular abroad), ozone therapy, network chiropractic, rolfing, Alexander or Bowen technique, hair analysis and nutritional balancing, a Vipassana retreat, colonics, psychic surgery, shamanism performed by an indigenous tribesperson, therapeutic horseback riding...
There are infinite healing modalities, variations, and combinations. Someone might say, "Well, you've tried xyz diet, but did you take out pork. Taking out pork is what really did it for me." Or they might say, "You really need to take this specific liposomal nanotechnological monk-blessed version of this supplement. It is a billion times more potent than the stuff you're taking." At this point in my life I'm pretty satisfied with the healing path I'm on and only try new things when I'm heavily guided to through synchronicity, or if I'm feeling particularly impatient and desperate, or just playing around, or someone offers me something for free that would be silly to pass up. Even when free, seeing a new practitioner can be exhausting and I don't take it lightly.
I feel that the path I am on now, which I call soul-hacking, incorporates the very best of all of these worlds. I hope to explain more about how and why that is in a future post, so please consider subscribing.
Emily, The Super Sensitive Human