CFS (CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME) & ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) ME/CFS is a variable & multi-system condition. This means that there is a problem affecting a range of key bodily systems.
It affects people in different ways with a wide variation in symptoms and severity.
Physical fatigue is a primary symptom and it is not improved with rest and comes on with little or no activity.
Other symptoms may include:
- Digestion problems (food intolerance, bloating, mal-absorbtion),
- Immune system (expressing as an auto-immune response or depleted immune response), inflammation, regular flu like symptoms, rashes
- Muscoloskeletal issues– pain and weakness in muscles, joints
- Endocrine –dysfunction in various hormone levels
- Sleep – sometimes too much, sometimes too little but always unrefreshing.
- Cognitive functioning (“brain fog” – mental fatigue with difficulties in memory, thinking and clarity)
- Other symptoms can include noise, light and chemical sensitivity, tinnitus, orthostatic intolerance, dizziness, nausea.
But if you are reading this then you probably know this already.
There isn’t a single path to ME/CFS. I see some people whose ME/CFS began with a lingering virus like Epstein Barr virus (Glandular Fever), Ross River or Barma Forest. (In America it is sometimes known as Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome).
But it might not always start with a virus. For some the trigger may have been a chemical exposure, an injury or operation, immunization or a period of physical or emotional stress. Or a combination of these.
It appears any lingering physical, mental or emotional stressor can be the trigger to the body going into the ME/CFS state – a dysfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System (the system which controls many of our basic bodily functions). Some stay in that state for months and some for decades. But people do recover from ME/CFS. I often remind people ‘Chronic’ just means its been going for a while. It doesn’t mean permanent or broken.
So the Lightning Process looks at how we can use our brain and body to address the cycle of ME/CFS – to train the Autonomic Nervous System to operate appropriately.
The Lightning Process looks at the role that an automated Physical Emergency Response (PER) plays. The Fight or flight response is designed as a short term response to a stressor. The stress hormones divert energy away from high energy systems that are not needed in the moment of danger to ensure your survival (noteably the suppression of the immune system, as well as digestive interference and cognitive dysfunction). This is fine in the short term but it detrimental to our health over the long term.
Chronic Stress is showing to be a key feature in many chronic illnesses.
But what if the stress response becomes automated. What if rest, slowing down or relaxing doesn’t turn it off?
This is one of the things we look at with ME/CFS. The body is still fighting a trigger that is no longer there.
This continual release of stress hormones has the body operating in the wrong physiology and functionality becomes limited. With repeated crashes the brain learns that certain activiites (or triggers) are dangerous and so any interaction with these activities or triggers produces a stress response. So we have a vicious cycle.
The Lightning Process looks to break the cycle and restore the hormone production to normal. With that comes relief from symptoms and a return to health.
It like the body is fighting a lingering stressor and continues to be in ‘fight’ mode or ‘high alert’ even after the original trigger is gone. So under this high alert mode, the body begins to respond to normal stimulus as if they are dangerous. So people become ‘intolerant’ to exercise, movement, food, light, chemicals, sound, even standing up for some.
Read here for a more detailed over view of the Fight or Flight Response and the impact of getting stuck in the PER.
So activities (or stimulus) that should be registering as normal / safe are being registered as dangerous and set off the PER.
The Lightning process trains people how to spot when they are going into this response and to retrain their brain and body out of this cycle. It’s not just a case of resting of course otherwise there would be no such thing as a bed bound person with CFS!
With focused effort the brain begins to correctly read incoming messages as ‘safe’ and responds physiologically in an appropriate way.
Many people try to ‘manage’ their Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by avoiding any things that set off symptoms (eliminating food, avoiding exercise, touch, lights, sounds, people etc etc etc), and carefully manage their energy or pace them self to avoid over doing it. (Others just push through the fatigue and suffer the physical consequences).
While a management approach may be a useful way to bring back an element of control and avoid the major crashes, I would say it has nothing to do with recovery and often leads to a very restricted life and risks increasing stress through the emotional stress that comes with having such a frustratingly limited life.
The management mind set can also put into place some consequences that can play a role in keeping people stuck in the state of ME/CFS.
Managing energy and pacing can make people even more hyper-aware of body sensations, which plays back into the brains requirement to look out for ‘dangerous’ messages. So you can stay stuck managing ME/CFS.
The Lightning Process teaches a totally different way. Avoiding things and triggers creates a very restricted life and pushing through and ignoring symptoms doesn’t work. There is another way.
Instead I teach people to utitlize how the brain and body interact to change their physiology so they are not running on fight or flight, retrain the brain to properly interpret situations as safe and address any issues they may be impacting on their stress response.
In the past approaches have either focused on the body OR the brain. Cognitive based approaches like pshycho therapy or CBT, miss the point that these are real physical conditions, not solely driven by thoughts.
A purely physical therapy misses the point that the brain plays a critical role in the working of our body. Even with the skills to control the physical body sensations, the fear or crashing or over-doing it, for example will create adrenaline, that will keep the body in the hyper-sensitive state.
Armed with all the skills needed to take control again, people then find that they are able to return to normal functioning surprisingly quickly. With ongoing practice, this becomes easier and then automatic.
Eventually, people can get to a point where they forget what is was like to have had ME/CFS, as it is no longer a part of their daily lives, just a distant memory.
While retraining the automated PER, it is critical that we also address any other issues that may be influencing it. So it is critical that we address other issues at the same time.
If anxiety is present, whether it was present before the onset or as a result of having a chronic unpredictable condition, it is now a part of the problem and must be addressed. Similarly, other emotional and stress related issues must be addressed at the same time. So the LP is a framework under which I work that must be tailored to each individual. Each person must also be ready to address anything that might be playing into the ME/CFS state and be willing to make changes in their lives to address this.
Issues that may need to be addressed include retraining sleep patterns, returning to socializing or work or school, addressing worry, anxiety, low confidence, perfectionism, depression. While these things are not CFS and don’t apply to everyone, their presence will influence the production of the stress hormones.
Addressing these things alone will also not beat ME/CFS.
So full and permanent success with the Lightning Process requires people to be ready to retrain the body to respond more appropriately to activity and stimulus while addressing all of these other issues.
The Next Step
Some people may have suspected that the stress response has been playing a role and for others this might be a new way of thinking about the condition. It is important that the approach does make sense and that people are willing to commit to doing the work. It is after all a training.
So I encourage people to look through the website, read my BLOG postings on ME/CFS or sign up to facebook.
Probably the easiest way to find out more is to email to arrange a FREE phone consultation. We can talk more about your situation and how the LP can help.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that the information found in this site should not be used for the purpose of diagnosis. A proper diagnosis of ME/CFS is important as fatigue can be a symptom of a range of other conditions.