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Processing Emotions With ME/CFS

Processing emotions with ME/CFS isn’t the same as it was when we were healthy nor is it the same for healthy people.

First of all, if we have anything other than mild ME/CFS, we are so restricted in our physical movement and range of travel that we can’t do things that healthy people do to gain perspective. We can’t go on a drive or a walk, which gives us fresh air, a look at different scenery, and gets blood moving through our body and brain and all our organs moving. Most of us can’t leave our homes or our rooms when something hurtful, tragic, or difficult happens to us. There is no way to momentarily escape what we’re feeling in order to remember who we are and what we normally feel like.

We also have brain fog to some degree or another, and this makes processing traumatic events challenging simply because we can’t think as clearly as we used to be able to or as well as a healthy person can. We feel the pain of whatever has happened, but our minds are not nearly as good at sifting through the cause and emotional result to work it out and find peace.

So with both of these combined, processing emotions from trauma or traumatic events is a challenge for us. The emotions that come from traumatic things that happen to us tend to just sit in us like rocks and we have a much harder time moving them through us and coming out the other side to peace and often being wiser for having done the processing to get to the other side, because next time that same kind of thing happens, if you’ve done the work to get through it, you have a pathway already established to get through it that you can follow and sort of channel the emotions through a canal you’ve dug into your mind.

In my experience, processing traumatic emotions with ME/CFS is like letting a poison work through me. I have less control over moving it than I used to or than I would if I was healthy and I kind of have to just watch and feel it slowly move through my mind and body at full force. This can feel like it’s never going away or going to work through me, but it does. It just takes time and patience to let the emotional poison find it’s own way through us since we can’t do as much work to force it out.

The thing is that I believe having to sit with and confront any traumatic emotion for a longer period of time without being able to escape or process it as well makes us really confront that feeling in a way that other people don’t have to. We can’t suck the poison out, and have no way of getting it to work through us faster, so we must sit with it inside of us for longer and experience it for longer and ultimately really face it and explore what it feels like. This gives us a lot of wisdom into the nature of this poison and forces us to dig these canals through our hearts and minds to channel the trauma out much more thoroughly and much more deeply.

So while processing emotions is a real challenge for ME/CFS patients, I think it’s good to remember how much we wind up learning from them. But there is no question that we can feel swallowed whole by them because there is no way out, and if they are powerful emotions, there is nothing else to to think about or do but feel them.

Just remember that they are only emotions, they do not define us. We are still the same people we were without these emotions. Remember that they are passing blue birds, they are not the sky. We will get through them, it will just take time and we have to trust in our bodies and minds to do the work more slowly, but we will do the work to get through it and return to a state of peace, at least from whatever has happened to us (we may still not be at peace holistically due to the nature of the suffering caused by ME/CFS, but we can be at peace from whatever trauma happened to us). No emotion can conquer us, no emotional wound can kill us, they are fleeting, they are visitors, and passers by. Watch them, examine them, and learn from them. It is always a painful process; Much more painful than if we had better tools at our disposal, but we can also see it as a learning opportunity.

Emotions do not define us, they are but passing visitors, sitting in us until we kick their busted assess out. As long as you can remember this, it will make the pain easier to endure, and you will feel less stuck and overwhelmed by whatever happened to you. It will still hurt, sometimes a lot, but if we can separate the trauma from our identity, we can make it through anything.