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Foods For Your Soul



Frequently Asked Questions

Author, Gretchen Brooks Nassar, answers questions about CFS and her book.

-Are you recovered from CFS?  How did you heal?

This is the question that everyone asks me.
Yes, I have been healthy and without chronic fatigue for about 4 years now.  For me, healing was a very slow, progressive process.  My CFS was particularly severe for about 3-4 years and then gradually became less extreme enabling me to do more and more over time.  The worst years for me were 96-8 when I lived in Quebec for a year and after when my husband and I moved to Colorado.  Then, as I had more time outside, became more spiritual, and began to do a little more out in the world, my health began to improve. 
From the time I realized I was ill, I dedicated myself to my healing.  This commitment grew when I moved to CO and my attitude and conviction to make my life better helped me stay focused on my healing even when I felt terrible.

There are many things that contributed to my healing.  After learning energy healing and connecting to spirit, I discovered hormonal imbalances and hypothyroidism, which I initially got prescription hormones for.  Over time, I changed my diet, uncovered sensitivities, eliminated caffeine and sugar, and increased my energy. Writing my book galvanized my spirit and helped me believe that CFS had purpose and that I could still live well even while ill.  Every little thing that improved my energy level helped me to maintain hope for recovery and health.

-Why did you write this book?

I wasn’t trying to write a book.  I didn’t have any such plans.  Instead, the book just came through me when I was most needing it.  During my worst years of CFS in CO from 97-99, insomnia would break my slumber and I would find myself at 3 in the morning wide-awake with words and ideas floating in my head.  Taking a pen to paper, I wrote what was there and those journals eventually became my book.

This book helped me not only as I wrote, but also as I edited it and shared it with others.  I knew as I write more and more that the ideas were extremely meaningful to my healing and I believed that not only did I benefit, but other would too.  Ultimately, it was believing in the book’s message that spurred me on to publish the book.

-What has CFS taught you?

The biggest gift of CFS was to learn how to ‘be’ and just stay still and accept what was in the moment.  It taught me about the need for balance and the need for stillness, calm, and peace, and likewise the need for action and passion.

In many ways, CFS has blessed my life.  Today, I know I wouldn’t have found my current career and passion for healing and helping people heal without this experience.

-What was the hardest thing about CFS?

Honestly, CFS was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through. And CFS brought many challenges.  I think for me the overwhelming, life-sucking fatigue was the hardest part of being ill.  Fatigue enveloped me every day and most days left me unable to do much of anything.  It compromised my body, my mind, my emotions, and my spirit.  Fatigue robbed me in many ways of an identity.  Losing my identity was the hardest part of CFS.

-How were your relationships affected by CFS? 

CFS is very hard on relationships for many reasons.  I think one of the biggest problems is that when one is so fatigued one doesn’t feel like talking and cannot do much.  The people in your life don’t understand and want you to be active and participate in life, in tasks, in activities all of which you cannot do or can only do to a limited degree.  Then to top it off, CFS compromises your mind and memory, so that it’s difficult to communicate and think clearly.  Therefore communication gets strained and so does the relationship.

 There’s so many ways relationships get compromised by the illness and partners, friends, and family members don’t understand what is happening and are in denial about the effects.  They have little patience for the changes that CFSers go through and just want their loved one to be as they always were.  CFS makes that impossible and challenges both the CFSer and the others to be more compassionate, patient, and to be willing to do things differently.

- Did you work while sick?  How much of your life was compromised?

I became ill while in graduate school.  In my second year, I had to drop out because my CFS was too severe.  Once out of school, I was unable to do much of anything except concentrate on my healing.  I couldn’t work and could barely study due to poor concentration and focus.  After several years with pretty severe CFS (there are worse cases than mine), I began to get healthier and gain more energy and stamina.  I started out by volunteering and eventually went back to school. Much later I started working part time.

 It has been a progression for me, but the fatigue and insomnia have made it hard to work a lot.  And after living the life of an ill person for over a decade it has been hard to transition back to a life ruled by work.  CFS has taught me to stay true to myself and work part time as to allow for a more balanced life.

- What do you want most people to know about CFS?

I want people to know that CFS is a legitimate, complex, debilitating life-altering condition that needs to be taken very seriously. I want people to understand that while there are many things CFSers have in common, there are also individual differences. I want people to realize that healing, in my opinion, is an individual process that looks different according to each person.  And finally, I want people to realize the importance of self-care both for CFSers and for everyone’s welfare, in general.

 People on the whole don’t take good enough care of themselves and this is one reason I think we have CFS.  Also, diet is very important to healing as well as honoring one’s illness and oneself.  It’s a very hard condition to have, but it’s possible to live well while ill and it’s possible to heal CFS.  I want people to remember that, that it’s possible to heal CFS and to not get too caught up in the statistics on recovery and prognosis because I think these can limit one’s potential, drive, hope, and ultimately, get in the way of recovery.

You work with CFS Sufferers, don’t you?  How do you help people with CFS?

Since graduating from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2007, I began nutrition and wellness counseling as well as counseling people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  This counseling used to be broad-based and dependent upon a client’s personal needs.  It included a wide-range of topics, issues, and concerns; for example, I counseled people on health plans; helped them prepare for doctor’s appointments; helped them get organized with their medical papers and summarize their health history; made dietary and supplement suggestions, and counseled on spirituality, relationship, sleep, life direction, and family issues.

As of this Spring 2009, I am now offering CFS Sufferers what I call ‘CFS Healing Journey Counseling.’  This counseling typically lasts at least six months and focuses mainly on three objectives:  1) helping the client accept and embrace where s/he is in their illness, 2) Helping the client create a personalized health plan based on his/her particular symptoms, conditions, concerns, and medical orientation, and 3) Helping guide the client week by week through the plan.

This counseling is very personal, in-depth, and based on the same model I use in my nutrition and wellness counseling. At the end of each session, I give the client personal behavior/action recommendations based on what we’ve discussed, his/her goals, and health plan.  For two weeks the client tries to follow the recommendations and then we meet and see where to go next.  From month to month, there’s generally a progression of action and a progression of improvement.  Recommendations may include (but not be limited to) dietary suggestions, sleep suggestions, exercise suggestions, seeing other health practitioners, journaling, and much more.

(If you want to know more, please read the section on CFS Healing Journey Counseling on my website: www.foodsforyoursoul.com.)

-What advice do you have for CFSers?

People with CFS need to really commit themselves to their healing 100%.  They need to take extra good care of themselves and be willing to do whatever is necessary to get better. 

I have spoken with numerous CFSers over the past several years and a couple things have stood out. I have noticed, for example, that many CFSers lose faith in everything.  The losses and challenges they engender take a toll on their will and their spirit.  And while this is natural to a certain extent, I recommend that CFSers do what they can to bring back the faith in themselves, in healing, in the world, and in other people.  They need to believe in something and they need to learn to trust again.  In order to regain trust, hope, and faith, a person needs to get support, feel cared for, and feel understood.  They need to find people who can help them ride the storm and help them in their healing. 

CFS is very isolating and very hard on relationships, but it’s so critical that one doesn’t go through it completely alone.  It’s much easier to heal and to maintain hope and trust when one has people (or animals or a higher spirit) that love and care for them.

 

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