It might come as a surprise to some, the idea of being afraid of being well! But I think it is a core issue for those of us with illnesses like CFS and related syndromes.
Ashok has pointed out that in most cases, our illness began with three strands coming together: intense stress (either acute or long-term), a viral or bacterial infection of some sort, and possibly an inherited disposition towards this type of syndrome.
The fear of healing comes from the first of those strands: the intense stress we had found ourselves under. For me, there were commitments and obligations I had made that my amygdala was telling me – in no uncertain terms! – were dangerous to me: a threat to my life, in my amygdala’s opinion. But these commitments and obligations felt like they were at the core of who I was as a person. I couldn’t imagine myself not living up to them. At the same time, I was totally stressed out by them. On some level, I knew I didn’t want to meet those commitments, but I judged myself a terrible person if I didn’t.
So my body took over and “protected” me from meeting those commitments.: I came down with a virus and then developed CFS.
And guess what? The world didn’t stop turning on its axis.
I suspect that this sequence of events might be fairly similar for many of us with these illnesses, if we look closely at what was going on in our lives when we first became ill. It set up the repeating loop between our hypervigilant amygdalas and our immune systems. And what seems to naturally follow is a fear of getting better.
If getting better means going back to the life we were living that made us sick in the first place, it would make sense to be afraid of that! The lives we were living then were not feeling healthy and nourishing. We intuitively knew this, even though our minds were telling us this was the way we “should” conduct our lives.
I must admit, unlike some others, I didn’t realise this early in the course of doing the Gupta Program. It took me some time to come to this self-knowledge, and in a way this is my answer to her question of what the adjustment was like. It was, and is, an ongoing adjustment.
Through retraining my brain, I started coming face to face with the messages I was telling myself, the sense that I was “not good enough” unless I was doing things in the way I’d been doing them for most of my adult life. It took time to come to grips with the fact that I was wrong: I am good enough just the way I am.
It’s funny: I have a deep respect and love for all of humanity (and the natural world). It feels perfectly right to love others just the way they are, but I was holding myself to a different standard. In order for me to be okay, I had to be perfect, always doing for others (people pleaser) and never thinking of myself. It was the Gupta Program that opened my eyes to this double standard and how negative its effect was on me.
My advice is to look at that fear of being well to see what negative messages and patterns underpin it. What is it about your pre-illness life that you’re afraid of going back to? What is your illness protecting you from? What changes do you need and want to make in your life so that you can look forward to being fully healthy again?
For each of us, this will be a different answer. In my case, I was already retired before getting CFS, but was so deeply involved in anti-racist community organizing work that it felt like the world was on my shoulders. Of course, it wasn’t. I’ve been able to pull back from some of the tasks I’d taken on while still remaining true to my principles. Instead of the organizational work, I’ve been able to contribute by writing (a recently published novel: Freedom Soldiers, about black young adults in the struggle against slavery in the US and Canada) and by offering support, information and education to younger people involved in the same work. And I’ve freed myself from thinking my only worth was in what I do for others and now allow myself to do things just because I enjoy them!
I take online courses in subjects that interest me: birds, dog training, clouds, photography, mindfulness. I hang out with my dogs, do a little gardening, sewing, knitting; I walk, hike, ride horseback and swim. I hang out with friends who are positive, upbeat and mutually supportive.
And I meditate, do yoga, and do ART as needed on issues and emotions that inevitably come up in life. In other words, I continue to use the tools in the Gupta “toolbox” that set me on this path of opening my life to true healing in all senses of that word.
When I had CFS, I realized one thing I could do while in my reclining chair was to write a novel based on some historical research I’d done. I’m happy to say it has now been published, although I haven’t had much time and space to promote it recently! It is a historical novel about the fight against slavery in the US and Canada focused on two young people working in the Underground Railroad while also falling in love with one another. It has gotten good reviews! If you’d like to read it, you can find it on Amazon, have a local bookstore order it, or order direct from the publisher, Hardball Press: https://hardballpress.com/new-titles.html
It is called Freedom Soldiers by Katherine Williams.
I developed CFS at age 62, following a traumatic series of events. This was on top of a lifetime of political activism, raising five children, teaching high school, and the loss of my beloved husband ten years earlier. I was a very good example of a people-pleaser, helper and achiever, all wrapped up in one. I only valued myself when I was in one of those roles!
After three years of researching and trying everything I could find to heal myself, I stumbled on the Gupta Program. Five months later, I had achieved full health and, as Ashok suggests, spent the next year rebuilding my physical and emotional conditioning. Meanwhile, while ill, I had done something I’d privately aspired to since childhood: I wrote a novel. So I can now (amazingly) call myself a writer, and I’d like to use that skill to assist and hopefully motivate others to retrain their brains and emotions to recover full health, as I have been fortunate to do.
Now approaching 70, I live most of the year in my late husband’s village in rural Jamaica with my three dogs. I also spend time in my old hometown of Chicago and keeping up with my five children and numerous grandchildren, who are scattered around the world and are my greatest love. I’m dedicated to doing what I can to create a just and equal life for all of Earth’s people. My love of Nature keeps me in the countryside and motivates me to help preserve this beautiful planet we call home.