One thing that I have always struggled with is being able to calm and quiet my mind.
As a self confessed over thinker, unlike my body, my brain seems to have unlimited energy and an incessant need to work things out, organise, solve and plan. That was even before my crash into CFS/ME, and after, it was 10 times worse.
With juicy topics such as:
“What is happening to me? My body doesn’t work. There’s no-one that understands. Is this depression? Why can’t I think straight? Where’s my memory? I can’t even speak! What will happen to us? I can’t look after myself let alone the kids”
my thought processes had a field day.
Add in emotions of fear, hopelessness, frustration and anger to name but a few, my brain had limitless possibilities to explore all day and well into the night. My stress response was continually on. I was anxious, couldn’t concentrate on anything, overwhelmed and scared. I had knowledge of biological systems and knew I couldn’t heal if my body was in fight or flight mode, with stress hormones coursing through my veins. No-one heals during a battle!
I was told to rest. But how could I rest when my mind was in a whirl of confusion? I could not switch it off. It was one of the first symptoms that I noticed after my crash. My mind was flooded with negative, fearful thoughts full of doom and gloom and I felt terrible. My brain was recklessly spending what little energy I had in fatalistic, catastrophic thinking. I knew I had to try and calm things down if I was to get any rest, and conserve my precious energy for healing, but how?
Common sense told me to get out in nature, get some sun on my face and do things that I enjoyed. I was so ill that I couldn’t tolerate or enjoy anything, and everything exhausted me.
My nursing background told me to trust in the medical professionals, and although they tried their best and gave me what they had to offer, their offerings made me worse not better. I just was too sensitive for drugs or group therapy. As a complementary therapist and into things that many people find a little weird – energy medicine, hypnosis, sound baths, tapping, I had a barrage of tools and techniques at my fingertips. However, I was so overwhelmed with no control over my thought patterns or clarity of thinking, that I couldn’t do anything.
I remember one night lying in bed, exhausted and wired at the same time, mind racing and buzzing with energy, and just gave in. I stopped fighting it. I surrendered. Somehow I felt like I took a big step back from all the commotion in my head and was able to see it from a distance, observing, impartial, removed.
I sunk beneath the chaos and visualised dropping below this dark stormy cloud of thoughts to a quiet space of stillness and peace, and rested. I repeated the word “relax” slowly to myself, but it was like someone else was talking to me, soothing, reassuring, leading my mind and body, and they followed.
I focussed on that word and only that. It gave me something to hold on to like a life line. I rested and slept. I woke the next morning after a good night’s sleep, with the same sense of calm. In days to come I practiced this simple thing. Just one word to rest my mind on.
Some days were easier than others. I used different words depending upon what I needed at that time, “calm, peace, safe”. One part of me was giving love and support to the part that needed help. When I stopped having the ability to work it out with my brain and moved away from the noise to a quiet space, I was able to hear what my inner wisdom had to say. The message was clear, don’t over complicate, don’t overthink, be still.
I am reminded of a recording I heard of the spiritual teacher and author of ‘The Power of Now’ Eckhart Tolle, when in answer to the question “How do we quiet the mind?” he said: - “Find the field of peace, find the space”.
As I continue on my journey of recovery, simple tools like this have stayed with me. Another one that I like is to notice a place in my body that is comfortable or feels neutral (i.e. no pain) and go into it with my awareness. Be in this place in your body where all is well and you can be at peace, no matter what else is going on around you.
Feel safe, comfortable, at ease and rest.
I’m so glad to be able to share what has helped me along the way, in the hope that it may be useful to others.
With love and best wishes for your recovery
*Congratulations to Jo for doing so incredibly well in her recovery, it wonderful that you are now able to inspire others with your successes and support someone else's recovery.