Thursday, March 09, 2006

CFS + stress = crash

Today has been one of those surreal days when I'm barely able to function at all, moving through the minutes and hours in a fog of pain and exhaustion.

The stress of this on-going school battle is taking a toll on me. I've been surprised to find, over the years, that emotional stress brings on the worst CFS crashes, even more severe and long-lasting than those caused by physical exertion. I understand the basic biology at work - how my brain and endocrine system don't respond to stress with the right amounts of various biochemicals, like cortisol and adrenaline - but I'm still unable to stave off the crash.

I've learned, through trial and plenty of error, that I can keep myself feeling better if I can maintain a zen-like sense of calm and serenity. I've succeeded to some degree in changing lifetime habits and learning to let the minor frustrations of life slide by. I'm better now at staying calm when a crazy driver cuts me off or I have a long wait in a doctor's waiting room. I remind myself constantly of how much I have to be grateful for and make a conscious effort to notice the small joys in my everyday life.

I've been amazed at how much my emotional state can affect my physical state. Understanding the biology helps. It's not that I think I can cure this very debilitating and real physical illness in my body; I'm just aware of how emotions - and especially stress - affect my biochemistry. This has worked fairly well for me much of the time. I'm definitely doing better overall than I was during those early days of uncertainty and depression. And whatever my physical condition, I feel better emotionally and am more content with my life.

There are times, though, that outside events get the best of me, and stress knocks me out like it has this week. Once that reaction begins, it's a vicious cycle that builds on itself. The worse I feel physically, the less able I am to control my emotional state, and the worse my emotional state becomes, the sicker I get physically.

I'm doing a little better this evening, well enough to type at my laptop in my recliner for a few minutes. I even came out onto the porch, to enjoy the last rays of sunshine on this beautiful day that has brought a hint of early spring to the east coast. The outdoors never fails to perk me up a little, even on the worst of days.

Now begins the slow climb back out of the crash, once again.

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