6 characteristics shared by people who recover from CFS/ME

by Alex Barton

In my experience people who recover from CFS/ME share certain characteristics. All these characteristics can be cultivated. Personally, self-discipline was the hardest lesson for me to learn and change was what I was most afraid of.

The 6 characteristics I have noticed most in clients who recover are …

1. A belief in the possibility of recovery
2. Self-discipline
3. Determination and a refusal to give up
4. Willingness to change
5. Non-acceptance of limits
6. They are prepared to pay the price

1. Belief in the possibility of recovery
People who recover usually believe it is possible to get well and have tried many different ways to get better. If you don’t believe you can recover you see no point in trying – and so you don’t, and your chance of recovery is therefore lessened. If you believe in recovery you start looking for ways to achieve it and you will do what you think you need to do. The outcome is a greater chance of recovery.

If you find it hard to believe in recovery start gathering evidence that recovery is possible by reading recovery stories. All 50 authors in the book “Recovery from CFS – 50 Personal Stories” were diagnosed with ME or CFS by a specialist and made full recoveries. That should help convince you.

2. Self-discipline 
People who recover need self-discipline to make themselves do the things they think they need to do to get well – for example eat a good diet, rest, pace and so on. You are not born with self-discipline – it is an ability you can cultivate which needs practise to become strong.
How do you that? One way is to choose one thing you think you should be doing – for example taking your cod liver oil (ugh) every day. Make a graph and give yourself a tick every day that you do it. When you have a month full of ticks give yourself a reward. When taking cod liver oil (ugh again) has become a habit then you can add in something else. Your ‘self-discipline muscles’ will start developing and the more self-disciplined you will become.

3. Determination and refusal to give up
People who recover have the determination to keep going and pick themselves up after every dip. The best way to keep determined is to have a belief in the possibility of recovery. Think of something nice you would like in the future – a goal – perhaps you would like to go skiing for example. Keep that thought at the forefront of your mind. Think about where you would like to ski, imagine yourself skiing, collect pictures and brochures, keep a card in your pocket reminding you about skiing. Every time you crash concentrate on what you want most, the skiing, and it will help you to pick up and carry on.
Remember, recovery is not smooth, it is all ups and downs.

Don’t let the downs beat you. Concentrate on what you want and you will naturally steer towards it. It took me years to find my answer. If I had given up I would still be ill now. And skiing was my personal happy thought which helped.

4. Willingness to Change
People who recover make changes. Something about your life was off kilter before you got CFS/ME, leaving you vulnerable to getting sick. Was it your diet? Your lifestyle? Your relationships? Change whatever you think may have contributed to your poor health and anything that you think might be keeping you ill now. Your previous life resulted in CFS/ME. Change something.

Personally, I was terrified of change. I thought I had to change my personality in order to get better. I didn’t want to change my personality and thought it would be impossible anyway. However, my ‘personality’ was adrenalin-driven and by balancing my blood sugar levels my ‘personality’ became more relaxed. The dietary change helped my recovery.

5. Non-acceptance of limits
People who recover from CFS/ME push their limits in order to expand them. Some people are understandably so afraid of relapse that they never push their limits – this means their limits remain the same or may even diminish further. In order to get well you need to push your limits …… carefully.

Just as repeated stretching of an elastic band makes it bigger, so does repeated stretching of your boundaries. When you use muscles which haven’t been used for a long time you will suffer for it to a certain degree – even healthy people do – so don’t be so afraid of the effects that you don’t use your muscles at all. Keep pushing gently and your strength and stamina will increase gently.

I started walking a minute down the road. I increased gradually until I was walking half-an-hour with no problem. After that I was away.

6.You have to pay the price
Recovery costs. You have to pay the price – is recovery worth the cost to you?  I had to change my diet and change my lifestyle to recover. What do you have to do?

The above 6 qualities I have noticed in people who have recovered.  All of them can be developed and practised by anyone. Any of them will help you in your recovery.

Good luck. I’m sure you can do it!

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