Stress and Me: My Story of Recovery from CFS

Some years ago—in the mid-1990s—I literally fell apart— physically, intellectually and emotionally. If you are familiar with the Holmes-Rahe stress inventory, I was at the top of the chart. I had developed a multitude of allergies. These led me to a series of bouts with bronchitis that quickly turned to pneumonia. My immune system was compromised and I was having more and more trouble. I had a tumor of the parathyroid gland removed— fortunately, it was benign but had caused any number of physical problems before we discovered its presence. My marriage was going down the tubes, I had a new business that presented multiple stressors each day, my boys had both left home and I was caring for my elderly mother.

Off the stress charts

I crashed.

My thinking was fuzzy. I found myself shuffling the paper on my desk from one place to another without processing it. Exhaustion made it impossible to function and I could barely drag my body to work and back. I had started gaining an inordinate amount of weight without changing my eating or exercise habits. And then one day I answered the phone and my voice would not work. Barely able to speak, I called my doctor who saw me immediately.

I was diagnosed as having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and was told there was no treatment.  If I wanted to get well I would have to do it myself.  Luckily, I stumbled upon Emmet Miller’s work and later that of Jon Kabat-Zinn.  I could not read more than basic information because my mind would not process it but I found audio and videotapes dealing with deep relaxation and visualization—both new concepts to me.

Deep Relaxation and visualization

For the next three months, I spent most of my time in bed. But the deep relaxation did its job and I was able to go back to work and eventually be in the office—and functioning— within a few months. Not only did I get better but the experience taught me the amazing power of my own mind to heal my body. It sounds strange to say that I am grateful for having a dreadful disease like CFS but that’s the truth of it. It changed the course of my life, demanding that I take control of if it and that I take care of myself emotionally, spiritually and physically.

Stress is real

Stress is real. It is harmful. It can be deadly. Take learning to relax, dealing with the stressors that impact you and staying balanced seriously. It’s up to you. No one can do it for you. You can take a pill but that is not a long-term solution and there are negative effects of many medications that are prescribed for stress.

It has also been shown that what you believe about stress influences how it affects you. It can prove to be a very positive experience. See the video below by Kelly McDonigal.

This is your body and this is your life. Getting in control of stress and changing your ideas about stress should start now. I encourage you to watch the videos below that deal with stress so you can take care of you more effectively.


1 Comment
  1. Dr. Irene says

    Actually, Stuart, I did address the stressors. I filed for divorce the next year and following that sold my company. I wish I could say that I have been “stress free” since then but, that’s unrealistic. I meditate regularly and am careful about how many things I say “yes” to that stretch me too far. I have done a great deal of “inner work” and will continue to do so.

    Great point. Thanks.

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