September - October
The Silent Teacher
Linda Carol Baker
It has taken several years and quite a few relapses before I figured out
how to effectively
fight back from the devestation of chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS). Sparing little,
taking plenty, CFIDS is a very thorough disease.
Before I became ill with CFIDS, the notion of
"being still" was impossible for me. Like many persons with CFIDS (PWCs), I led a very active lifestyle
and had the classic "Type A" personality. I had little idea how harshly this way of living was about to
blow up in my face. In 1993, CFIDS arrived in my life and I no longer had the luxury to go and do as I
pleased. Quickly I became aware of all the ordinary things I had taken for gratned. I spent a lot of time
sitting around trying to convince God to "fix things."
In my desperation to escape the grip of
CFIDS, I tried any remedy with promise. Unable to rely on my bodyís performance, I struggled to find a
way to re-establish my quality of life. I spent most of my time coping with CFIDS by either denying the
entire thing or rebelling against it. I treated myself as though I still had a normal amount of energy
and tolerance to stress. I didnít take my medicine, ate poorly, did too much and didnít rest enough.
I struggled to come to terms with this mysterious syndrome, the subject of "surrendering" kept coming
up. To a person who is fiercely independent, this idea is not appealing. This was the enemy, so why should
I give in to it?
Attempting to put things into perspective, I called upon my training in the field
of psychology. The power of thought has been well documented, so I turned my attention to my own thoughts
and soon realized how much negative thinking I engaged in. I began to see a connection between my physical
pain and my negative thinking.
I decided to try a little experiment by focusing on something positive
each day. I kept a running list, so on especially challenging days I had an instant reminder that there
are some things I can still do. Nothing was too absurd. For example, I have developed champion TV channel-surfing
skills thanks to the days when my brain fog is severe and I am not able to do anything else. I have become
more efficient on the computer. I can still bake a delicious chocolate cake. Some days I really have to
stretch to come up with something, but find it worthwhile to focus on what I can do, not what I canít
I also spent more time exploring the concept of accepting and "surrendering" to the lessons
CFIDS has to offer. I had always viewed surrendering as a type of giving in or giving up and feared that
by doing so, Iíd remain ill forever. But I came to realize that surrendering means admitting something
has tremendous power over me and learning to work in harmony with it. By doing so, I became more in tune
with my body and making healthy choices became easier.
Through meditation I learned to relax and
become more honest with myself. I realized that in the past I had not taken care of myself as well as
I convinced myself I had. I now set appropriate limits on my physical activities and eat well.
with CFIDS has become easier with my new approach. I encourage you to find what works for you. You might
just find a few positive surprises. It may sound odd, but in many ways CFIDS has improved the quality
of my life and has become my "silent teacher." It has taken me a long time to learn that serenity is not
freedom from the storm, itís freedom amid the storm.
CFIDS has taught me that quality is better
than quantity and, most importantly, that I donít have to be the Queen of Perfection to be loved or to
make a difference. I may not be able to do all the things I used to, but now I do things I
never would have considered before CFIDS. This wasnít quite the reality I was expecting, and it may require
some creative thinking on my part to reach my goals, but that doesnít mean my dreams canít come true.
I discovered that I already have what is most important to me: good friends, plenty of laughs and the
ability to love and be loved.
I share my experiences to lend hope and help to others. The moral
to my story is if you canít change something, then change the way you think about it. Iíve learned a lot
about myself and now see that I am more than just CFIDS. It hasnít been easy, but the choice was mine
Linda Baker resides in Fayetteville, Ark. With a masterís degree in social
formerly worked in the mental health field. Linda is presently writing childrenís books.