5 Year Anniversary of Recovery (answers to your questions)

This is how I look these days

In August, I celebrated five years since I started my recovery process! This post is to address questions that I get from people about my recovery. I asked in some online forums what people wanted to know, and the answers to these questions are below. Also, as I say to everyone who searches me out to ask me questions, virtually all the questions everyone asked were already posted on my website. Avail yourself, please — it’s free and will save everyone time and trouble. Read all the neuroplasticity pages, including the recovery FAQ. Read the posts to the blog. (Yes, some are about dog training, but just scroll past those. Here are some of the recovery posts.)

Please, if you have questions about my recovery, read this post. Please don’t call me. Please don’t message or text me. You won’t learn anything from me “in person” that you can’t read here. I have moved on from my illness and I am doing different things with my time now.

Everyone has basically the same fears and questions, so it’s extremely likely that what you want to ask me is answered below. What most everyone asks is…

  • I have CFIDS, MCS, Fibro, Lyme, PTSD, etc. Did you have that? Did you recover? (Yes, I had those. Yes, I recovered. Read about it in my blog.)
  • I have X, Y, Z symptoms. Did you have those? Did you recover? (Yes, I probably did. You can read about my symptoms in my recovery story.)
  • How do I know that neural retraining will work for me? (You don’t. But I was sure it wouldn’t work for me, and it did. All I can say is that doing it is much more likely to lead to recovery than not doing it, that’s for sure. And even if it doesn’t lead to your complete recovery, it will most likely lead to you feeling much happier. As I’ve said in my FAQ.)
  • Are you really, truly recovered? I can’t believe it. (Yes, I am. I wouldn’t have believed it either. Yet, it’s true.)
  • Are you still coaching? Can you make an exception for me? Can you just talk to me on the phone? Can you just message with me online? (No, I’m not coaching. No, I will not make an exception for you. Please don’t call me at home or on my business line. Please don’t track me down on social media and message me. All the info you need is here on my blog. I am not magic. Talking to me will not cure you. You have to put in the work and do your recovery process like I did. You can get coaching from the DNRS or Gupta Programme coaches if you decide to move forward with neuroplastic recovery.)
  • Can’t I get coaching from you now, before I try one of these programs? (No, you can’t. I’m a dog trainer now. And it really doesn’t make sense to get coaching on something before you even know what you’re doing. Start the program, and then if you need coaching, reach out for it. You might not need it. Some do, some don’t.)
  • But I’m desperate. (Desperation is a gift. It makes you very motivated to train. You’ll need that. I have not seen any difference in recovery success between people based on degree of illness. I think more people are successful who are really sick because they throw everything into it because they feel like their life depends on it. I think that is much harder for those who are moderately or mildly sick and also working, raising a family, etc., and are pulled in many directions. If you feel like your life is actually pretty good and you have other priorities, it is harder to train. If all you want, more than anything, is to recover, it will be easier for you.)
  • Do you know other people who have recovered? (Yes, many. My friend Forest recovered from about 15 years of MCS about a year or two before me. I didn’t find out till after we both did. She has a Youtube DNRS testimonial but I can’t find it now. My friend Pru who lives near me also recovered from MCS before me and then I found out about it when I was already in the recovery process. Another who recovered before me, doing Gupta, was my friend Deborah who had been sick for about 30 years, I think, very very severely with MCS, EMF sensitivity, and CFIDS. My friend Lisa recovered from MCS and CFIDS after me because she was inspired by my recovery. My friend Karyn recovered from MCS and EMF sensitivity after me. I have friends who had great improvement in depression and anxiety from doing DNRS, too. These are just some of the people I know off the top of my head. There are many others. The DNRS youtube channel has a bazillion testimonials.)

Here are the questions from various people on my fifth anniversary, and my answers.

Jennifer: What helped you the most? And when did you feel like you were healed? Have you had issues since then?

What helped the most was DNRS. Many other things also helped, including the books I read on neuroplasticity which helped me understand why DNRS was working, and other activities like yoga, meditation, horse-assisted coaching, swimming, etc., also helped when I was well enough to do them. See my neural cross-training program for details.

It’s hard to answer when I felt like I was healed. First, let me preface by saying that my recovery was incredibly fast in comparison to most. Even so, it was not an instantaneous process. It took about 2 weeks to believe the very small changes I thought I was seeing might be real. It took about 4 months for most of the severest symptoms to recede significantly. It took about two years until I was pretty much not having any symptoms anymore because between about 6 months to 2 years post recovery, there were occasionally periods of a week or two where symptoms would reemerge, and then I would go back to neural retraining until they were gone again. However, even 5 years later, while I am free of all the physical symptoms I used to have, there are some issues I have had my whole life that I continue to work on. Healing is a lifelong process. However, I am very physically healthy now.

The main issues I had since recovery were

  • Deconditioning issues with my feet and legs relating to using them so minimally for so many years. My feet are now in really good shape! That took about two years. And due to so many years of such minimal movement, when I started to walk again, etc., I had chronic body pain from using my muscles. Basically, like what you have after the day you do an intense physical workout. For me, every day was like that. However, I was so used to being in chronic physical pain that it didn’t bother me. Now I don’t have that anymore, either.
  • Catching lots of colds and other viruses. I think this was in part because I had been living like a hermit and was now exposing myself to all the people and their germs and in part because my immune system was still overreacting to everything. This has gotten better every year. I have only had two colds in 2018, whereas the year I recovered, I had 3 viral infections just in the month of October!
  • Weaning myself off the last of the medications I was on. I have now done that, too. I am 100% drug-free now.
  • Some chronic anxiety is still an issue, especially relating to some social situations. But yoga, swimming, meditation, walking, and working with dogs really helps with that.
  • Insomnia, secondary to the anxiety. Still working on that, too, which is a lifelong issue.
  • Chronic issues with my wrists, particularly my left wrist. This is also a lifelong issue, and I do well with it as long as I stay on top of my physical therapy exercises.

Rebekah: Can you really do what you want? Eat what you want?

Yup! I work full-time, I travel, I exercise, I go everywhere, I smell everything.

For example, here’s what I did yesterday. In the morning, I washed dishes, cleaned my toilet, and did laundry. (Not exciting to the majority of the population, but as someone who couldn’t even go to the bathroom or brush her teeth by herself a few years ago, this would be a big deal.) Then I went into town to pick up my CSA share and to the post office for my mail, drove home, dropped off my veggies, pilled my dog, and drove an hour to meet my girlfriend at a candlepin bowling alley where I bowled three strings. (Scores were not great, but not terrible considering it had been about 30 years since I last lifted a bowling ball.) Then we went to a restaurant where I had a huge platter of nachos (corn chips, tons of cheese, jalapeno, olives, tomato, salsa, sour cream, etc.). On the way home, I stopped and bought some ginger beer because I can now tolerate alcohol, and ginger beer is my new fun “thing” where, occasionally, I drink a beer (or more accurately, half a beer. I’m a lightweight!). Then I got home and took my dog for a walk. Then my gf and I spent time together and eventually went to sleep. Not exciting by “normal” standards. Completely impossible by my standards 6 years ago.

Elizabeth: Congratulations! Thank you for offering to answer questions. What would you tell someone who’s one year into retraining and still bedbound with 4 foods?

Thank you, Elizabeth!

This is a great question! I would say a few things:

  1. Good for you! Keep up the good work. It is very very hard to keep training when your progress is slow.
  2. Retraining for food sensitivities (and EMFs) seems to take more time and practice than retraining for smells. It is totally doable, as I know people (including me) who have done both. But it does seem to take longer, so don’t give up if it seems like you’re not making progress at first
  3. I would encourage them to keep a journal where they make note of ANY progress, improvement, or good moments to help them motivate and remember that there is some improvement
  4. I would encourage them to get some coaching from either the DNRS or Gupta Amygdala Retraining Programme coaches in case they are not training inside their “zone.” Maybe they are taking on challenges that are outside their zone and they need to adjust them to make training more effective and efficient
  5. I would encourage them to look into supplementing their retraining with other activities that they enjoy that promote positive neuroplasticity. I think finding something you enjoy is helpful because you are more likely to keep doing it. I have had people contact me, when they see that swimming was a big part of my recovery, tell me, “But I don’t like swimming!” And I would say, “Then don’t do it!” I used swimming because I love swimming and love the water and always have. If you love jogging or tennis or golf or whatever, do those things instead. My cross-training list has some ideas, but there are others out there. Some people seem to do well by starting with one program and then when they’ve made some progress with that, they add in another. e.g., some people start with Gupta and then do DNRS, and vice-versa.

Georgie: How do you get over the fear that the program won’t work for you? I get scared hearing from people it didn’t help them.

Great question. First of all, I would say, try to avoid those people, conversations, websites, etc. It’s too hard to hear that stuff when you’re trying to recover. When you come across it or hear it unsolicited, smile, say thank you, then go do a round of retraining. I would consider it a POP. (For those not doing DNRS, this answer may not make sense. So you’ll just have to either trust me or ignore it.)

In terms of getting over the fear, I would fall back on some old aphorisms that are very true! The only way through it is to do it! What is worse, staying sick or taking the risk? If you don’t do the program, it definitely won’t work for you. So you might as well do it, put 100% into it, and not look back.

Also, related to this: LITERALLY EVERYONE I HAVE SPOKEN TO HAS THOUGHT THAT IT WOULDN’T WORK FOR THEM, INCLUDING ME. Everyone thinks they are different, that they are unique, that their symptoms or problems are worse or special. I have not seen any pattern that suggests that having X symptom or having been sick Y years or whatever makes any difference.

Audrey: Do you have to continue to practice to maintain the improvements you’ve had? Congratulations and thanks for sharing to help inspire others

Thank you, Audrey!

Another terrific question. Yes and no. For the most part, I don’t do DNRS rounds/retraining exercises anymore. Maybe about once a year, something occurs and I think, “I have to start doing rounds again,” and then I do them for a week or so, and that’s that. I have a friend who recovered about a year after I did (she was inspired by my story so she did DNRS, too, and recovered, and then her wife also did it) who told me about a traumatic incident that happened a year ago (about 3 years after she recovered) which caused symptoms to return, and she went back to retraining for a period of time and they went away again.

On the other hand, I do seem to have to do more than most traditionally healthy people to maintain my general health. I think this is just the way that I am and I have come to accept it. It seems like most people can sort of abuse their bodies on a regular basis without feeling immediate effects, but that has never been true for me, and now I accept it. For example, when I used to smoke, it frequently led to upper respiratory infections, whereas most of my friends who smoked had no short-term impacts. Likewise, these days, I do lots of maintenance stuff that really helps me stay healthy which does not feel optional for me:

  • Yoga (preferably twice a week)
  • Swimming (preferably twice a week)
  • Walking (preferably every day, but many days I do not)
  • Meditating (every morning, without fail)
  • Eat healthy (relatively consistent)
  • Get enough sleep (biggest challenge)
  • Try to keep unnecessary stress minimal (varied success, but much better at it than I used to be)

Xenia: Did you ever have big spikes and detours along your training?

I think pretty much everyone has ups and downs. Some have bigger dips than others, but I had some. For example, about a month into my retraining process, my mouth filled with many canker sores. Which was a symptom I hadn’t had since I’d first gotten sick in 1995. That’s just one example, but I remember it well because it was so dramatic.

Xenia: I’ve been Retraining 9 months and still have my Retraining life and my medical one. I’m riding through both. Was that your case?

That’s a toughie. For the most part, I dropped the medical interventions as much as possible when I started recovering. However, a year or two after my recovery, I got a new (acute) case of Lyme and had to be treated for it, so that was a challenge. I tried to think about it as little as possible and did extra retraining to help with the limbic activation it triggered. (I recovered completely from that acute Lyme episode with aggressive oral antibiotic.) And I still am doing physical therapy on occasion for my wrists, and I also did need some medical care for my feet due to the deconditioning issues. I just try to afford as little mental real estate as possible to medical issues but I do take care of what needs taking care of.

Gerianne: Can you really, truly, do any physical activity you want, as often or intensely as you want, without issue?

Hahaha! YES! I swim a mile twice a week. In a chlorinated pool. It takes me about 45 minutes. That means I don’t stop to rest and on average, I swim a lap (50 yards) in about 1:08. That is not a racing time, but it’s not bad for an old fart like me. 😉 For a while, I was swimming with a coach who really pushed me (which was great) and I started training to join a Masters Swimming team. I was swimming 10×100 at 2:20 intervals. I did abandon that because it was too hard on my shoulders and wrists, and it wasn’t worth it to me to devote that much time and energy when I had other priorities. If it had been worth it to me, I would have kept at it and reduced some of my other time commitments and found a way to do more stretching and PT so that my joints could withstand that degree of pounding. But keep in mind that I am nearing 50 years old, and the intensity of my workout is considerable for someone my age who is not a serious athlete. Five years ago, when my body was younger, it would have been less of an issue. I can dance dance dance the night away, too, but again, not like I did when I was 20. But it doesn’t cause symptoms. I am just older!

Anne: Thank you for your great offer 🙂 My challenges is the visualizations. May I ask you to share some thoughts about how you made yours. Especial the positive memories…

First of all, this is a challenge for everyone, I think. In the beginning, it was very hard to think of anything. But eventually, here’s what I found helpful…

  1. After you come up with a memory or visualization, write it down. (I used notes cards. You could also use your phone or computer or a paper journal.) Write all the details down when they’re clear and you are thinking clearly. Later, when you have trouble thinking of something, you can look at your notes and you will remember all these wonderful memory/future that you had forgotten.
  2. If you have a positive memory/visualization when not training, write it down. Again, later you will need it.
  3. The more you get in the practice of thinking and remembering this stuff, the easier it comes to you. Practice, practice, practice.
  4. Don’t wait for only big, impressive memories/futures. For example, once I started recovering and had a good experience, such as going for a walk or going to a restaurant, that was a really huge deal. So I used those as my memories. A memory doesn’t have to be from 10 years ago, it can be from yesterday or 20 minutes ago, too!

Nancy: Did you have MCS and how would you describe your style of incremental training?

Yes, I had very severe MCS. Read my recovery story here.

My style was swashbuckling! No, I’m just kidding. I don’t know what you mean by style, but what I did was follow Annie Hopper’s instructions. In the beginning, I did rounds in bed because I couldn’t stand and often couldn’t sit up. I was often nonverbal, so I couldn’t say the words out loud, but I could mouth them. And I couldn’t do the memories and futures at first. Once I could start on all that, I did the whole thing but didn’t start with any actual exposures. I started with just THINKING about fragrances. Then I moved to looking at youtube ads for them. That is staying inside your training zone. Over time, as I got better, I was able to stand some of the time and to speak all the time, etc. The most important thing is to stay inside your training zone. Work at the level where you are experiencing more mild stress or mild symptoms. Read all the instructions in the tips section of the booklet. There’s gold in there. Also get on the DNRS forum and read the piles of helpful tips there.

Meredith: Did you ever over do it while healing and have setbacks?

Yes, I overdid it sometimes, and then sometimes felt sicker. But I didn’t view them as setbacks. I viewed it as useful information for staying inside my training zone. Probably the most useful thing I did was to view eruptions of symptoms as “training opportunities.”

Various people: Have you tried other neural retraining techniques like Faster EFT or Lightening Process, etc.?

No, I haven’t. So I have no opinions on them because I don’t know anything about them. Here is a website that gives an overview of a bunch of them (including some I haven’t even heard of). Just because I don’t know about them, doesn’t mean they might not be helpful. So if they help you, great!

Janet: What do you believe was the turning point in your recovery? What do you think contributed most? And what do you want to say to those of us still dealing with serious illness that you think would be most helpful to us?

I think there were several turning points. For me, practicing NVC (nonviolent communication) for a few years before I even considered recovering was probably pivotal as it taught me that it was possible for me to change, especially to change the ways I thought about and reacted to things emotionally. Having that experience made me more open to the idea that I could also change the way my body reacted to things physically.

And I think also having improvement in the pain and limitations in my wrists by doing physical therapy right before I got DNRS DVDs gave me a real boost, as that was the first time in 20 years that I had had ANY significant improvement with any health issue. It gave me hope. Until then, it just seemed like it was impossible for me to recover in any way and that I was in an inevitable slide to an early death.

But the biggest turning point was obviously watching the DNRS DVDs. However, I would probably not have been open to doing it at all and taking the risk if I hadn’t had those positive experiences that let me think that there was any possibility that recovery was even worth considering.

For those of you still dealing with serious illness, I would say that if you have any of the things I used to have, and it’s a goal for you to recover your health, and you are willing and able to dedicate a lot of time and attention to it, I’d recommend getting either DNRS or Gupta and dedicating yourself to your recovery. I have not tried Gupta, but based on what I’ve heard, if you’re not sure which to try first, generally I say if you have MCS, get DNRS. It’s the easiest way in. If you don’t have MCS at all, and you have CFIDS or fibro, get Gupta. (If you have MCS AND fibro/CFIDS, get DNRS.) What I have heard is that Gupta takes a little bit more of a gentle approach and is a little more flexible and keeps updating his materials. The good aspect of Annie’s approach is that it’s so structured. It’s also easier to translate to those with MCS, I think, though you can use it for other things if you understand how to apply the concepts.

If you have other chronic or serious illnesses, I recommend Norman Doidge’s two books or Donna Jackson Nakazawa’s book, The Last Best Cure. There are other good books on neuroplasticity, too. These give you a sense of what’s possible. It is always possible to improve aspects of your health — reduce inflammation, improve mood, etc. — with an understanding of how to apply the concepts of positive neuroplasticity to your life and behavior.

I hope this is helpful and wish you all the best!

Please note: Comments are CLOSED on this post. Again, unless we are already friends, acquaintances, family, etc., please do not call or message me. I will not respond to calls or texts from strangers who want to ask me about my recovery. There are other people who will be happy to work with you on your recovery. But that should not stop you, believe me — all the information you need is here or elsewhere online. For example, here is a cool website on Limbic Retraining that has info on many of the different programs and many success stories. Only you can change your brain. The tools are out there. You can do it!

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