Graded Exercise Therapy Was My 'Medicine' for ME/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
I have had ME/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 4 years. Three years ago I couldn't work or walk for more than 10 minutes at a time. Now, after a combination of self help using relaxation, sleep hygiene, nutrition, mood management techniques and a hospital-led graded exercise therapy course, I am back at work, writing a book about my experiences and living a full life again. (at a much slower pace)
Graded Exercise Therapy is not 'traditional' exercising as you might think of it: It is calculated to be within your current level of stamina, no matter how small this is.
Graded Exercise Therapy (GET) worked for me but it was the hardest thing I have ever done. It takes a long time (for me 18 months). It takes daily effort, motivation and focus and it may seem pretty strange.
The programme that we put together consisted of 11 small sessions a day of various exercises including step, standing, walking, exercise bike, dancing - beginning at 2 minutes and working up to bigger blocks, done every day.
Bad days were adapted by slightly reducing the amounts but once it began to have an effect doing the sessions made me feel better even if I was feeling ill that day due to the endorphins, burning off of excess adrenaline and relaxing properties of exercise.
The idea is that Graded Exercise Therapy reverses the physical changes in the body so that you begin to recover. It resets the body clock by regulating sleep, builds muscle strength back and reduces the adrenaline that drives a lot of the symptoms.
I believe the reason a lot of people don't find it helps is that, to get it right you need one-to-one medical supervision. You also have to accept the slowness of the progress and stick to level you are up to and you have to make it the most important thing in your life until you are better.
I believe that, once you recover you do need to realise that to stay well relaxation and balance are lifelong commitments, so it is not helpful to try to be back to the way you were before M.E. / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
The lessons of recovery are useful to anyone. You have to look after yourself. If changes are not made you will be likely to relapse. This is what I will be living by forever, not least because of the effort it took me to follow the Graded Exercise Therapy!