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Keeping it Real: Self-Talk for
By Gail Caissey,
CFIDS is a difficult illness
to live with because thereís so much negativity associated with it. Having to
continuously and simultaneously deal with debilitation, ongoing losses and
lifestyle restrictions ó plus physical pain and mental distress ó can certainly
Because the potential for depression and despair is never far
away, itís essential that people with
(PWCs) keep their spirits up by finding ways to mentally cope with the illness.
One of the most effective ways to do this is by developing a positive attitude
and using appropriate self-talk to control negative thoughts. This is not about
Pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky thinking. Itís about developing realistic thoughts and
responses to situations that we face every day.
Talk to yourself the right way
encounter a situation, they mentally evaluate it and instruct themselves how to
feel about it using a silent inner voice. This is self-talk. People can talk to
themselves positively about an event or negatively about it.
There is a direct relationship between how people think and
how they feel. If they think positive thoughts, they feel positive emotions. If
they think negative thoughts, they feel negative emotions. Similarly, if people
interpret an event in a positive light, they will have positive thoughts about
it, which in turn will generate positive emotions and feelings.
It is not the occurrence of an event that causes people to
feel a certain way about it. Itís what people tell themselves about the event,
or the way they interpret it, that determines how they will feel and react to
it. While we donít always have control over what happens to us, we do have
control over our thoughts and feelings about what happens to us.
Positive means realistic
Positive thinkers have
a hopeful attitude about the future, but their thinking is accurate and
realistic. Having a positive attitude means trying to make the best of every
situation as it happens. While positive thinkers recognize and acknowledge the
negative aspects of a situation or event, they do not dwell on them. Rather,
they look for the positive aspects or the good that can come from negative
situations ó even if itís the fact that things canít get any worse.
Simply thinking or saying the words that everything will be OK
when in reality things are not isnít positive thinking. Idealistic, wishful
thinking and mindless optimism arenít, either. People engaging in this type of
behavior are not coping realistically with a situation. Rather, they are
deluding themselves into thinking that things will work out simply by telling
themselves that they will.
Positive thinkers may not like the circumstances they find
themselves in, but they recognize that they can handle things as they are.
Because positive thinkers are realistic thinkers, they know that things arenít
going to go well all of the time, and they donít expect them to.
Positive thinking and positive self-talk go hand in hand. One
is used to achieve the other. Developing a positive attitude about life,
including a life with
CFIDS, can make a
tremendous difference in how you experience it. While it wonít make the illness
go away, it can help you deal with daily difficulties and help keep spirits up,
hope alive and despair at bay. Best of all, itís something you can tap into and
use any time, anywhere.
Putting it together
Positive self-talk can be
used in a variety of circumstances associated with
CFIDS. Here are three examples:
Nixing negative thoughts.
Instead of saying: ďI feel
awful. I hate being sick. I canít stand it. Iím never going to get better,Ē say:
ďLooks like Iím having another bad day. Thatís what happens when you have
CFIDS . Thereís no use getting upset. I donít
like it but I can handle it. Iíve handled bad days before and I can handle this
I find it useful to apply the One-Third Principle here. I know
Iíll have bad days (weeks, months) about one-third of the time, good days a
third of the time and neutral days a third of the time. The fact that Iím having
a bad day today means that Iím getting another bad one over with, and that Iím
closer to having a good or neutral day. I have planned how Iím going to make it
easier for myself on a bad day ó so now that itís here, Iím going to follow
those plans and get through it as best I can. Tomorrow is another day.
Instead of saying: ďThere it goes
again! My heart is racing faster and faster! What if it doesnít stop,Ē say: ďIt
looks like my heart is racing again. Well, Iím going to lie down, stay calm and
not panic to help keep it under control. Then Iím going to wait it out. It
usually only lasts for about 10 minutes, so it will probably do the same this
time. In the meantime, Iíll count to 1,000 to distract myself. If my symptoms
get very bad, my doctor told me what to do (call 9-1-1).Ē
Instead of saying: ďOh no! My
sonís birthday party is tonight and I canít function. How am I going to prepare?
Iím going to disappoint my son. What a bad mother I am. I hate
CFIDS,Ē say: ďI donít feel well at all but Iíve
done what I could in advance to prepare. My family knows I have this illness, so
when they come over, Iíll apologize for not feeling well and ask them to help.
Iíll call my sister now and ask if she can pick up the birthday cake. Iím
disappointed that I wonít be able to participate much but at least my son will
have his birthday party and heíll be happy about that. Now Iím going to lay here
and rest. Who knows? ó I might feel better in a few hours.Ē
In each example, youíre accepting the reality of your
circumstances. Youíre not pretending that nothing is wrong. Youíre dealing with
difficulties realistically and practically and making the best of things as they
are. Most importantly, you are not allowing yourself to be consumed by negative
We all have times when it is difficult to be positive. But if
we can keep those moments to a minimum by using positive self-talk and having a
positive attitude, we can live more comfortable, less stressful lives while
maintaining a sense of hope for the future. Even though it is not always easy to
have a positive attitude with
CFIDS, when you
consider the alternatives ó depression, despair and hopelessness ó the choice is
easy to make.
Gail Caissy, EdD, is a PWC who lives in Clarence, N.Y. She
is author of ďUnlock the Fear: How to Open Yourself Up to Face and Accept
ChangeĒ (Perseus Books, 1998).