One of the illnesses that I have seen clients deeply affected by, is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), or ME. An illness that causes overwhelming tiredness, even after rest or sleep, CFS impacts significantly on the emotional and physical well-being of those who suffer from it. In those of a working age, there is the added impact of family and working life being disrupted, by CFS, in the crucial years when earning money, parenting and career development are most demanding.
When you ask people what CFS/ME is, they will usually say something about extreme tiredness but many people will not be aware that the illness comes with a variety of physical and emotional symptoms, such as:
- sleep problems, such as insomnia
- muscle or joint pain
- a sore throat or sore glands that aren’t swollen
- problems thinking, remembering or concentrating
- flu-like symptoms
- feeling dizzy or sick
- fast or irregular heartbeats (palpitations).
(Source; NHS UK).
When people come to see me, they are usually trying to cope with the emotional and psychological impact of CFS. Many will be suffering increased anxiety, depressive feelings, pessimistic thoughts, low self-esteem and a sense of being defeated by something more powerful.
Some people will come to me because the impact of the illness has caused difficulty within relationships, holding down a job/career and simply managing day to day life.
The work that I do with people living with CFS is to explore their thoughts, feelings and emotions. I try to help the person to reconnect with who they were before the symptoms began and to consider where there are now genuine limitations caused by the illness, versus a sense of defeat that comes from the effort it takes to simply be.
Together, we explore options for how to live within new limitations, caused by CFS, while also looking at how to retain as much of the desired way of life as possible. This involves reaching a point of acceptance about the past, present and the future but the focus is on helping the person make decisions about the future, that can then be reinforced by healthy and positive choices, going forward. For example, my work focuses on taking a ‘What I can do’, rather than a ‘What I cannot do’ approach.
Mind, body and spirit. Well, you will no doubt heard of these three aspects of being human. In practice, my work focuses on developing healthy responses to emotions and thoughts and on developing physical well-being through healthier lifestyle choices. I also look at how a person may gain a sense of spiritual well-being by investing more in connecting with nature, the environment and playing a role in contributing to their local community and society. Where self-esteem is low, this is important.
Therapy models such as Gestalt, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Humanistic Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy are but some of the methodologies that I use within my work with CFS. Each individual is different and so, as an Integrative Counsellor/Psychotherapist, I am equipped to use a variety of therapy models and to tailor those to meet individual need; as I do no matter what issue a person comes to see me about.
For some people, the support of a medical professional, such as a Doctor or specialist Nurse is of benefit and so I will sometimes link a person to support through their local Doctor, alongside the work that I do. Some clients will benefit from being prescribed pain medication and sleeping medication, for example, while working through therapy.
In many cases, I will also recommend a variety of complementary therapies; acupuncture, massage, carefully planned/graded exercise, the services of a nutritionist, Qi Kong, Tai Chi, to name but a few that can be of benefit. These can run concurrent to counselling therapy or they can be planned to follow.
I would certainly recommend that anyone experiencing CFS aims to contact a support group, over time, in order to benefit from meeting other people with the illness. This can add a sense of helping the person living with CFS, and their close loved ones, to feel less isolated by the condition, to build a social support network and to simply share what it is like to be a person with CFS.
Counselling and psychotherapy are a great means of either short-term or longer-term support, both in terms of developing coping strategies and in discussing more significant change that may be required, for example considering making changes to work or career and changing key aspects of daily lifestyle.
Help is available. Contact a local therapist or do go along and speak with your Doctor or Practice Nurse.
(C) Dean Parsons 2018.