Q: What are the three most important things, in your opinion, that you need to combat CFS?
A: Commitment to doing whatever it takes to heal yourself, enough self-love and compassion to put yourself first and the ability to hold onto a belief in a better future and keep the commitment going even in the times of inevitable relapse.
Q: Why do you think that so many spend time, as you put it in your book, "chasing a cure"? How can a person shift from chasing a cure to chasing joy?
A: I think itís perfectly reasonable to focus your attention on a cure. In my case, I found it to be acting as a substitute for getting on with my life; for climbing out of the rabbit hole, dusting myself off and figuring out what kind of life I was going to have, if not my old one.
It can also be a distraction and a form of denial or even bargaining. Itís resisting where you find yourself. I found it to be energetically draining with its tendency to build hope and then dash it. To me, it was a sign that I was unwilling to accept that my old life was gone. But what had I substituted it with? Many people I know have two, three appointments a week between their primary care doctors, their endocrinologists, their psychiatrists, their acupuncturists, physical and massage therapists. This is their new life. I didnít want that for myself. I knew that I didnít want my new life to be focused on the fact that I was sick.
In my case the shift came when I accepted the reality of my situation and saw clearly that I needed to change the way I had been dealing with my illness. Following the instructions in My Own Medicine for making a joy list should be enough of a wake-up call to shift behavior. When we see how little we tend to such a simple thing, it is a call to action.
And joy, as I like to point out, is so exquisitely powerful that a little goes a very long ways.
Q: How do you keep joy in your life on a day-to-day basis?
A: When I first realized how important joy is in the healing process, I had to be kind of vigilant about it. I had made my list, as outlined in the book, and had added many of the simple joys. Even today, I have to check my closet a few times a year to be sure my clothes are colorful and that I own some things in periwinkle, my favorite color.
I acknowledge the financial reality, as many of us must. Still, I can easily have lilac in my yard and bring a bouquet into the house so I can smell that wonderful scent. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I see is the adorable faces of my dogs, eager for me to get up and start a new day. So, I always start out with a smile.
I make sure I take the time for joy. So many things that give me joy can only do so if I am noticing them. I canít enjoy a sunset if I donít make the effort to slow down and look at it. Our culture is all about Fast! Fast! Fast!
At one point I attempted to work a 40-hour week again and I had to bail. It just didnít leave time to notice the changing of the seasons. It seemed like forever since Iíd seen a squirrel in the yard. They were there - I just was pre-occupied working so many hours. There was no room for joy.