Originally published in Premier Christianity.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a illness from which an estimated 1 in 300 people suffer, a good number of whom are active evangelicals. Some recover fully. Some recover partially. Some never recover. Let me share the story of my CFS with you.
My own story of battling this illness begins in January 2005 when I was taken ill with a virus. Initially I could still cycle the 5 minutes to the doctor to get advice, though a couple of weeks later I needed a taxi. A couple of weeks more and I couldn’t even manage twenty paces outside. For the next year and a half, I would go to bed at nine and sleep twelve hours a night as well as need to rest during the daytime.
During that time, people were keen to tell me what I needed to do – so I put a bowl of water on my radiator, I ate ‘Indian mud’ (don’t ask…)… however, in the summer of 2006, I met someone who had actually had Chronic Fatigue and was healed due to Reverse Therapy. The approach argued that much of CFS was psychosomatic.
I wasn’t at all impressed. Many people had tried to suggest CFS was in my mind, but mentally, I was doing fine. I wasn’t down – I knew I didn’t have to be healed for life to have a purpose and I was relaxed about that. And I had been a missionary for two years. I couldn’t have any problems mentally could I?
Well it turns out I did. And I discovered it by journalling.
As I journalled, I began to note that some of my symptoms were related to things which would happen in my life. My sore throat came on when there was even a slight conflict. My sciatica when I did too much of the same activity. I started adjusting my life so my symptoms reduced, and my energy started returning.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the founder of Reverse Therapy had drawn from a Christian book – Don Colbert’s Deadly Emotions which explores psychosomatic illness from his experience as a doctor.
These principles gave me a significant step forward – I now only slept 8-9 hours a night. I had more energy than at any point in two years. I was close to being back to normal again! However, I was terribly unstable. This emphasis on my symptoms and my emotional state left me constantly checking my symptoms for their deeper meaning. Every indigestion, every muscle twinge was analysed and reanalysed to see what changes I should be making. I would go to church or church meetings, but at the instigation of a symptom, I’d get up and walk out again. I was not an easy person to be around.
I needed to do more, but Reverse Therapy wasn’t able to take me there.
It was here that I managed to speak to someone who had gone through the Lightning Process. This is an approach that works on how you think. Eliminating negative thinking and seeing things positively. I decided not to go on the course (I didn’t fancy shelling out £500 for one, but also frankly, I didn’t want them to undo the progress I had already been making). But I started working on my thought patterns, noting when I tended to despair and challenging those thoughts (similar to other standard cognitive behavioural approaches) . I did this while maintaining sensitivity to my psychosomatic nature. This process of readjusting would months but ultimately it completed my recovery.
As I look back now, I am grateful for this difficult period of illness. Why? Well I discovered that God was enough when I had no energy. I didn’t have to get better. I didn’t need to fulfil my plans or my dreams. He was – and he is – enough.
I also thank God that when my illness was getting worse and worse and I even wondered whether this might be the end – I still felt peace. God’s spirit was real and present even in those dark moments.
And I thank God for training me in psychosomatic issues. As I’ve shared my story and my weaknesses, I’ve been surprised how they’ve helped a range of people get better with issues from marriage problems to sleep disorders to depression.
Each situation is different and each person unique so recovery is never certain. However God is with us, whether we get better or not and that is where our real hope lies.
 Prevalence rates of 0.2-0.4% according to https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg53/chapter/introduction.
 More than would be expected: pers.comm John Eaton, founder of Reverse Therapy. Jun 2008.
 5% recover fully according to Caines and Hotopf: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15699087.