I am so fortunate to share my full recovery story from moderate Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / M.E., recurrent EBV, and IBS with you.
For context, for 2.5 years my ‘radius’ was generally my house and my corner grocery store less than two blocks away. I had better and worse days, and I had many small wins and major setbacks along the way.
When all the pieces finally came together at the end of 2018, my physical and mental capacity then expanded over the next 6 months. I have remained in full health for over a year.
Here are 10 things that helped me reclaim my health:
1. Healing my gut
Early on in my journey, I took my gut to calmer waters by avoiding triggering foods (avoiding caffeine, any form of added sugar, gluten, cheese, alcohol, and artificial ingredients).
Through my own trial and error and advice from practitioners who earned my trust, I ate foods that my body could best metabolize and that kept my blood sugar levels stable. For me, that was a mostly Paleo diet during recovery, for you it could be very different. My body also did better with warm, cooked foods.
I also addressed pathogens like Candida, mold, and parasites through diet and herbs. While most supplements I tried went in the garbage, I found several naturopath-recommended supplements to be supportive of my energy, microbiome, and my immune system.
My diet has now significantly expanded post-recovery, as I have also done a lot of work to get into a parasympathetic state. Our parasympathetic nervous system controls our “rest and digest” state.
When we are in a calm state, our body can more easily digest the food we eat.
Now that I’m on the other side, I only take one supplement daily, Magnesium, which weren’t just not getting enough of in our soil.
2. Reducing mental stress
I had to quit my job (which I held on to part-time for waaay too long), stop side projects (like the time I tried to restart an old startup with a nonprofit angle or the time I tried to take down a Facebook scam ring), and Internet activism.
All of these things set back my recovery.
Unfortunately, no one ever showed me a chart of how much money I’d ultimately lose because I was afraid of seeming lazy or like a bad citizen.
I had to reassess my over-achieving, external validation-seeking, defensive, rescuer ways and learn to turn inwards and seek peace within.
Today, I’m able to give more to the world, sharing my truth with love to support those on the road to recovery, because I allowed my body and brain to heal.
3. Creating calmness
Keeping my brain calm supported my resilience to all forms of stress and exertion.
I did this through twice daily meditation, avoiding all Internet and TV news and high-adrenaline shows (no more Handmaid’s Tale), and unplugging (my healthy morning routine and nightly routine were key).
If you are to take one actionable thing away from this post, consider a calming, device-free morning and nightly routine.
4. Fixing my sleep
Improving my sleep (where our repair happens) quality by getting into a healthy circadian rhythm was essential for my recovery. I thought I was doing everything right with black out blinds, screen dimmers, and all. It turns out there were a few important things I wasn’t doing.
I wrote an article about how I fixed my sleep. I found the book Sleep Smarter very helpful. I’d even call it a game-changer and recommend it to everyone I know.
5. Having help
I can’t underestimate how helpful it was to have help. For me that was my saintly husband. It also involved asking for help. I learned to let him take over most chores.
When he wasn’t away at work or traveling, he’d give me a “tush push” up our stairs or a “back push” up our sidewalk incline to catch some sunlight on our street corner.
6. Setting healthy boundaries
Letting my body know I was looking out it by setting healthy boundaries (or “conditions to facilitate thriving” as I like to call them) which included learning to say “goodbye,” a no excuses needed mindset for putting my health first in any given moment, and setting my own pace.
If you join the newsletter at the bottom of this page, you’ll receive the Permission Slip I made for myself to put my health first.
I also reassessed relationships where boundaries were an issue and established healthier dynamics.
Here are 9 healthy boundaries I set to live my best life.
7. Moving to a healthy home
Early on, it was helpful for me to switch to green cleaning products and use HEPA air filters to be able to function and breathe more easily.
Over 2 years in, I’d discover I had extreme inflammation in my body caused by a very extreme level of a mold mycotoxin thanks to extensive testing by an ME/CFS specialist. (The tests that caught this were the C4a inflammation test, TGF-Beta, and the Great Plains Lab mold mycotoxin panel.)
Moving out of our water-damaged 105 year old bungalow and into a sunnier, healthier 5-year old home was helpful.
8. Getting out the toxins
Getting out the unhelpful things in my body, like the mold and mercury found my body, in a gentle way my body could easily handle at the time, was essential for my recovery.
9. Getting into nature
Over Christmas 2018, I went to the desert (a much shorter trip than flying home) and unplugged. I was hoping to jumpstart healing by relaxing in the calmness of the desert with a funny book.
Arriving in the desert where the healing really started to happen.
When I went to the desert, I actually was just coming out of a bad crash and viral relapse triggered by minor mold exposure and physical exertion.
I knew I didn’t want to have to avoid these things and need airport wheelchair assist for the rest of my life.
Though I wasn’t back at Square 1 (I knew many things by then how to support my body’s ability to recover), there was still some element missing. Then I found the missing puzzle piece.
10. Healing my brain’s fight-or-flight response through neuroplasticity
While meditation helped a lot, my brain needed the extra boost of neuroplasticity to fully heal.
Doing steps 1-9 first made this have much more impact for me.
I believe my body knew on a cellular level it was finally in “healthy soil” and could now thrive.
Soon after arriving in the desert, I stumbled upon an online neuroplasticity program called the Dynamic Neural Retraining System.
I believe my Grandpa, who had just passed away, was looking down on me when I discovered this program after seeing its creator, Annie Hopper, on the speaker’s list at the Toxic Mold Summit.
The DNRS website has a nineties vibe (LOL), but the content is amazing. I did their newer online course, but I have friends who’ve watched the DVDs – link and info for DVD program. It’s the same material.
The program explained how long term mold exposure, trauma, and other stressors can injure the brain’s limbic system, driving chronic illness. It clicked for me.
My brain’s fight-or-flight center certainly felt it was dialed up to level 11.
It’s more simple that it sounds ‘dynamic neural retraining’, but requires dedication and consistency. The program involved using healthy visualizations to calm my brain’s overactive lymbic system and generate new, healthy neural pathways.
More than positive thinking, it involved positive feeling.
A big part of it involved making happy memories and future dream vacations come fully alive in my imagination. I also benefited from the lifestyle advice, loved the complementary meditations, loved the recovery stories, and found the structure of it very helpful for me. With the pieces in place, my capacity really began to expand.
There are several other neuroplasticity programs, too, and also one-on-one NLP (neurolinguistic programming) coaches.
My personal advice is to make it fun and always do any program at a pace that’s easy!
For instance, for an online program, perhaps you need to break up watching the videos which can be stimulating for the brain. For a coaching session, perhaps you need to keep the session short, or do a modified version of any technique offered so it’s easy for you.
I hope something I said was helpful or resonated with you.
Remember, our bodies heal at our own pace, and no recovery journey is linear.
This list does not contain everything I had to do to heal from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / M.E. and is not medical advice.
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