Friday, March 23, 2007

journaling your recovery

Writing a journal is an important part of the recovery process with any illness. I feel that it is crucial to write a journal, not so that you can have a record of where you have been but more that you can process your thoughts at the end of each day, focusing on the positives and analysing the challenges. It is an excellent tool for personal development and sometimes you may find that you don't know what you think until you write it down. It therefore clarifies your thought processes. However, in my experience I have found that many people are not sure how to journal. I have also found that there is a danger of using the journal to exemplify the negative aspects, rather than analyse them. I have fallen into these traps when I have been in more depressive phases of the illness. I also realise that when recovering from ME/CFS it can take a lot of energy to write in a journal daily. However, as I have been writing a journal for some time (not always consistently), I have created a formula that really works for me, so I would like to share it.

Firstly I write my journal at the same time every night. This is because I am trying to develop some kind of routine. So by 10.30pm I make sure I'm in bed, and I write the journal before relaxation time and lights out at 11pm. This helps to sum up the day and focus on the positive in the day. The formula for my journal goes like this:

  1. GLAD OF THE DAY! I start my entry with this title. My glad of the day is the best thing that's happened all day. Some days it is making a new contact, others it's an email I received, others a goal I achieved, sometimes a visit from a friend, others a realisation that I've had, and sometimes a lovely moment that I've shared with my partner or a friend.
  2. OTHER GREAT THINGS IN THE DAY. I then make a simple list of all the positive things that have happened in the day. This is a great way to round up this section as when I go back over the day I am usually quite surprised at how much I have actually achieved. I list anything here from "I ate healthily", to "I did some cleaning up", to "I read an inspiring article", to "I stayed calm in a stressful situation." The key here is to celebrate the little things that you manage and to build on them.
  3. GOALS. I usually have a goal of the week. I believe that small, achievable goals are very important when you are overcoming long term illness. Past goals have included finding healthy snacks, walking for 5 mins per day, having 3 structured rests per day, only doing taxing activities for 20 mins at a time, etc. I use this section to review my current goal. If I haven't achieved it I ask myself what I could have done differently in order to achieve it, so I have a kind of action plan for achieving it in the future. I only move onto a new goal when the current one is firmly established.
  4. OBSERVATIONS. I make 1 or 2 observations about how I went through my day, and any triggers or issues that arose. I do this as though I am observing myself from the outside. Again, this is not to criticise, but to help me move forward.
  5. "TODAY I CAUGHT MYSELF......." The purpose of this section is to catch myself at any negative thinking. In the past I have been quite harsh on myself, so I use this section to check that I am keeping my thinking positive. However, I must stress that if I do catch myself negative thinking then it is not an excuse to beat myself up! Rather I celebrate the fact that I am becoming more self-aware, and moving towards being kind to myself all of the time!
  6. THE THING I LIKED MOST ABOUT MYSELF TODAY. This is a special focus on something that I have achieved on a personal level.
  7. MY FOCUS FOR TOMORROW. I've found it helps me when I wake up in the morning to have a focus, so I don't just drift into a task and then get lost in it!! This is a very gentle way of forward planning and trying to create some structure. Sometimes my focus for the following day is to get a task done whilst taking adequate rest, other times it is to structure the day so that I can have a visitor, other times it is to go our for a treatment and to rest on return. I have found with a bit of forward planning then I feel much clearer. Sometimes if I know the day is going to be challenging, I mentally rehearse the next day, and include rest time and food stops in my mental rehearsal. I do not create a rigid structure (although I used to try to!) There is always room for some change or spontaneity.
This may all seem like a lot but if you do choose to follow this structure it soon becomes quick and easy to make notes, providing you are able to write. You can simply shorten the headings to GLAD, OTHER GREATS, GOALS, OBS, CAUGHT, LIKED BEST, FOCUS, and make quick notes. If you are unable to write, and there is no one to make notes for you, or if this all seems too much at your present stage in the illness, a good place to start is to just say your glad of the day to yourself at the end of each day. Even if all you managed was 2 steps around the living room, celebrate this and build on it. As always, your mental attitude is everything on your road to recovery. Happy journaling!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Prof. Bassant Puri and VegEPA

I wrote a testimonial for the product VegEPA. This was written in Nov 2006. I thought I would include it here as the product is still very much part of my recovery programme. There have been lots of sceptics who have attacked Professor Puri's research on the VegEPA so before you read any further I would like to reassure you the Professor Puri IS NOT BEING PAID BY VEGEPA TO MAKE THE STATEMENTS HE DOES ABOUT THE PRODUCT. He has been falsly accused of this. Professor Puri is one of the few Dr's in the National Health Service that is wholeheartedly fighting the cause of those with ME. He is a kind and humble gentleman, a genious, and a compassionate human being. Please be reassured that HE ONLY RECOMMENDS VEGEPA AS IT IS THE ONLY PRODUCT ON THE MARKET THAT HE HAS FOUND TO WORK FOR M.E. PATIENTS. This is because it is the only DHA free EPA supplement and he has found high levels of DHA to aggrevate ME patients. Information in my testimonial will support me own personal experience of this.

"I started taking VegEPA about 6 weeks ago after reading the CFS/ME book by Professor Puri. I have had a severe case of ME for around 12-18 months. By severe I mean that I had to give up my career as a performing arts lecturer, I was unable to work, I had to give up my flat and become completely dependant on someone else to do even minor tasks for me. In fact, there have been times when I have been too weak to put my own socks on and when I have to crawl upstairs and go to the toilet. I have been so ill that I am under assessment for disability living allowance (a process which takes many months). Previously I danced and exercised every day, did yoga daily, and was very active and physical in my job as a drama lecturer. I was the kind of person that was always on the go, full of the joys of life and often described as "a fire ball of energy".

My story with regards VegEPA reinforces all the things that Prof Puri says about the product in his book. This is because six months before I started taking VegEPA I had my essential fats tested privately at Biolab in London and my omega 3 was extremely low. The Naturopath that tested me insisted that I try a non-vegetarian source of omega 3 (I have been vegan for many years), and recommended a product called Bioforce which is high in DHA and EPA. The product made me severely vomit, which backs up what Prof Puri says in his book about DHA for ME sufferers, although I didn't have this information at the time. I assumed that it was because I hadn't eaten fish for about 20 years and therefore had no ability to digest it anymore. I stopped taking the Bioforce and went to ask my doctor what he recommended I should take. He called essential fats "peripheral medicine" and claimed that it was my choice whether I took a vegan source or a fish source. He believed essential fats were only relevant in cases of heart disease! I therefore turned to an American product called Omega Zen 3. This claimed to be the leading vegan product on the market and I checked the research of the company who claimed that they had many cases of people being cured of omega 3 deficiency with their product. It was being recommended by a leading vegan doctor in America whom I had the greatest respect for. I took Omega Zen 3 for about 6 months. To purchase it in the UK it was £17.99 for 40 tablets which would last me about 13 days. This product is pure DHA from golden algae. It did not make me vomit like the fish product but it did not make a jot of difference to how I felt. I was just about to go and get my essential fats tested again when I came across VegEPA and Professor Puri's research. I decided to wait and try this product first as in reality I still had all the symptoms of essential fat deficiency, so it seemed a waste of money to test again.

I started taking the VegEPA and I had outstanding results. Within a week I started to sleep through the night. My cognitive function became clearer. I became much brighter, in fact, so much so that several people began to ask me "what are you doing, as you look much brighter?". I attend a training for naturopathic nutritionalists once a month for a weekend and this is the only thing that I manage to do at present. The weekend is usually a terrible struggle for me and often ends with me going home early. I made it through the whole weekend quite easily after a month on the VegEPA and even my lecturer commented on how clear, bright and mobile I looked. I am usually in such severe pain by the end of the weekend that I can barely get in and out of the chair, and I shuffle around the classroom, but after taking VegEPA for a month I could get up and down and walk around the classroom quite easily by the end of the Sunday. At the end of the Sunday afternoon we usually have an examination session and I am usually too ill to even be in class by this point, yet on 4 weeks of VegEPA I was actually able to volunteer to be the one being examined - something I'd usually be in far too much pain for normally. It was obvious that many people were quite suprised at my volunteering!

Similarly, my Aunt came to visit and the purpose of her visit was to help me around the house. My mum had been down to visit only 4 weeks before I started taking VegEPA as my day to day tasks had built up and I wasn't able to cope. However, when my aunt came down, just 4 weeks into taking VegEPA, it was a different story. We were able to go clothes shopping twice in Bristol city centre - something I haven't been able to do since I became really ill with ME. We went to the theatre in the evening - my first time since I have had ME - and I sat through the whole performance without paying for it the next day. I was also able to teach my aunt to meditate - the first time since I've been ill that I've been able to do anything for anyone else when previously my whole world had revolved around helping others.

So generally, since taking the product, the pain in my legs has subsided significantly. This pain was completely disabling. My cognitive function has improved, my outlook is brighter, and I have been able to deal with my depression and the emotional problems that ME has brought me. I have not had a panic attack or spiraled into negative thinking whilst taking the VegEPA in the same way as I was doing before I took the product.

It is also important to note that after the first month, I ran out of VegEPA so I had to ration my supplies until my new order came. This was only a couple of days as they always send the product at lightening speed, but I definately felt worse in those couple of days without the support of the product. Sceptics might say that this was phsychological. However, anyone with ME will know what I mean when I say that the pressure started to build up in the back of my head and I got that familiar flu like feeling back that signifies a return of symptoms. It is therefore vital to take the 8 - 9 capsules a day recommended by Prof Puri, and to do so consistently. This product really helps so it's importat not to take it for granted when you start to feel well again.

This is still early days for me. Last week I was examined by Dr Perrin, the leading chiropractor in the field of ME, who has been curing people of ME for 17 years. He outlined my physical symptoms of ME - I have a deformed spine between my shoulder blades, my lymphatic system is so blocked that it is pooling in my breast tissue and has formed hard lumps, and my cerebro-spinal fluid is not flowing properly and therefore not taking toxins away from my brain. He gave me a score of 4 (ten is well) and estimated that it would take 18 months to 2 years for me to get well again. It would be interesting if he had scored me before the VegEPA - I am quite sure I would have been at least a 3 (where 2 and 1 are completely bed ridden). I am now receiving treatment through Dr Perrin and it will be also interesting to find if the VegEPA speeds up his very skilled estimation of how long it will take me to recover - he also now recommends the product.

I would recommend VegEPA to anyone suffering from ME. As we all know, there is not one single magically cure for the condition, but this product has helped me control my symptoms so significantly that I feel like a human being again. It has given me hope. I feel different in a very positive way. In fact this testimonial itself is proof of my improvements. I have written it in an hour and a half when previously it would have taken me a week or more to get so much information down - the future is very bright!".

You will find more information on Prof Bassant Puri's research in his book: