• Welcome to Phoenix Rising!

    Created in 2008, Phoenix Rising is the largest and oldest forum dedicated to furthering the understanding of and finding treatments for complex chronic illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), fibromyalgia (FM), long COVID, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), and allied diseases.

    To register, simply click the Register button at the top right.

anxiety, internet addiction and CFS

hmnr asg

Senior Member
Messages
556
Hi everyone,

I had an internet and video game addiction in my younger days which was a way for me to cope with my anxiety/OCD but as i grew up and entered adulthood i adopted a very spartan and regimented lifestyle that didnt allow for time wasting or any idle time. I used to make daily schedules and go to work and then i would go to gym and then i would come home and meditate and read and fall sleep. And then this CFS curse hit me.

Now, I cant exercise, i cant work, i cant read. So all the tools that helped me focus my energy are gone. What i have now is countless hours that i can not really spend productively (or at least the way i have traditionally defined as "productive"). Instead i just lay in bed mindlessly browsing reddit and watch Family Guy youtube clips all day.

I am not worried that this is getting in my way of school or work because i dont have those anymore. But i think its getting in my way of recovery. I think this type of internet wandering can be very detrimental to recovery and doesn't allow one to rest deeply.

But the alternative is almost maddening. When i try to just lay in bed and close my eyes and listen to soothing music i get very anxious and my OCD just rushes back.

I guess my question is, how can i allow myself to rest when i feel like im losing my mind due to anxiety? and how do i stop the vicious internet addiction cycle?
 
Last edited:

wabi-sabi

Senior Member
Messages
1,446
Location
small town midwest
Oh I'm sorry to hear you're suffering so. It's terrible catch-22. I think your assessment is quite right- the internet addiction is getting in the way of recovery (I've had similar thoughts about my internet use). It's ironically cruel that the ME/CFS has stolen your anxiety coping.

When trying to switch healthy coping for unhealthy coping, it's good to start adding something healthy in before trying to get rid of the unhealthy one. Otherwise you just pull the rug from under yourself and feel worse. There's a mediation teacher (whose name I can't remember) that calls this planting flowers instead of pulling weeds.

Healthy coping that helps me is yoga and meditation. When I say yoga, don't worry I don't mean something that's really physical. I mean restorative yoga, which is basically building yourself the coziest nest possible with blankets and pillows and a heating pad for the pain and then lying there still. The idea is that putting the body in a position of ease and comfort sends out some happy neurotransmitters and the hopped up brain gradually calms down. Someone watching you might not see any difference with you lying in blankets, but it feels different on the inside. While in the pose I think to myself, I am lying here doing restorative yoga, instead of thinking here I am lying here too sick to move.
That also allows me to forgive myself for getting sick.

When I meditate, I don't do silent mediation by myself. Too much opportunity for the mind to get scared and wander. I always listen to a guided meditation so I can follow the voice, and hopefully by soothed by it. I have some favorites on youtube (so no internet searching since that makes things worse!) that I go to when I need them. Some nights I do loads in a row and some nights an hour is fine.
 

geraldt52

Senior Member
Messages
602
I guess my question is, how can i allow myself to rest when i feel like im losing my mind due to anxiety? and how do i stop the vicious internet addiction cycle?

Have you considered audio books? If you're in the U.S. you would qualify for getting books and a player at no charge through the Braille and Talking Book Library.
 

wabi-sabi

Senior Member
Messages
1,446
Location
small town midwest
Oh dear. I keep running out of space. No one to talk to about any ME/CFS stuff for so long and now that I have a place I can't stop.

So to finish the meditation thing- pick out your go-tos when you're feeling the least anxious. Searching frantically for help in the midst of an anxiety crisis will nearly always make you feel worse. If you're up listening to them all night, that's OK. It beats berating yourself for insomnia.

The real life saver for me was Jon Kabat-Zinn. You've probably already heard of him since he's so well known. Anyway, he's got a series called Midfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain or similar. It taught me about self-compassion.
 

hmnr asg

Senior Member
Messages
556
hi @wabi-sabi , that is helpful advice!
The sad thing is that back in my pre-CFS days i was deep into meditation and yoga. I have read many of Jon Kabat-Zinn's books and others authors in that genre. I also have the audio book for the "mindfulness meditation for chronic pain" book.
The problem is that once CFS hit its like i lost all that i had learned before. Before CFS i was struggling with anxiety and OCD and self esteem issues and mid-fullness was allowing me to work through them slowly. But i find that now the level of the anxiety and hopelessness is so extreme that i can even begin to approach it and escaping through internet seems to be the only way to survive. It's like i was a beginner in martial arts and suddenly i was thrown in the ring with some heavy weight UFC champion.
I guess i have to start from scratch; and this time its the real deal. The pain is real and the depression and anxiety are dialed way up.
Not sure if you have heard of Pema Chodron, but she used to be a big inspiration to me before i entered this life of hopelessness. I think this book is a must read for anyone with CFS: "When Things Fall Apart"
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BBXJH2C/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

@geraldt52 Not sure if i could qualify for that service? (i do live in california)
I do have audible and unfortunately most of the time i seem to gravitate towards cheap entertainment rather than listening to audio books :(
 

wabi-sabi

Senior Member
Messages
1,446
Location
small town midwest
I'm glad it's helpful to you. How to really rest is an issue I also struggle with and these are the best answers I've come up with so far.

Your analogy about suddenly being thrown into the ring is an apt one. As JKZ says in that recording I listen to so much "it's where the rubber meets the road of mindfullness meditation". You may be right too, in that you have to start from scratch. This time it's really real, and the stakes are higher. But keep in mind what you said about sometimes needed to zone out with youtube to survive. It's totally OK to do that when you really need it as a matter of survival. Recovery is important, but survival comes first. You really, really don't have to be the perfect meditator. good enough is good enough. Go as slow in re-learning as you need and be patient with yourself (hard as that is).

I've read a bit of Pema and I know she's well regarded, but her writing rubs me the wrong way. I prefer Tara Brach. She's both a therapist and meditation teacher. Some books, but also dharma talks on her website if you're not up to reading. She comes by it honestly with some years of chronic pain herself.
 

Wolfcub

Senior Member
Messages
7,089
Location
SW UK
@hmnr asg
Many people when they are tired out (naturally) find it hard to do anything productive and watch movies, or read etc. Or even flick through mindless celebrity gossip magazines.

Now with CFS you have an enforced rest situation. And it can be boring to just rest with nothing to do. I know. I find it hard. I also love lying on the floor listening to classical music but there seems to be only so much of that I can do.

The only thing I have otherwise is my laptop. I don't have TV. I don't even have Netflix subscription.
I'm interested in adventure/outdoor survival, so end up watching lots of my subscribed-to outdoor self-reliance videos.
I'm also interested in animal rescue, so watch those as well, and often do support and give a little money to worthy rescue charities, for strays and street dogs etc.
So I am grateful for the internet to put me in touch with so much that is creative.

But yes....I also end up on the "what am I doing on this part of you tube??" video section. I strayed into it this evening watching made up rubbish about the Queen of England and Meghan Markle ....etc/. Narrated by a robot.....(What the heck am I watching THIS for?)
I have to laugh at myself.

Well at least I'm not mixed up in online poker!

So when we are resting, unless we have a marvellous meditation method going 24/7 we do need things for distraction or entertainment.

I hear you about audio books too. They are great but for some reason I would rather "surf" videos than listen to one. Now that's because of concentration I guess. But there are times I could do that.

Get into the things you like best and try not to stray into mind numbing areas of the internet (like I did tonight! hahaha!)
 

wabi-sabi

Senior Member
Messages
1,446
Location
small town midwest
Ooh, I think I've seen that robot voice video too!

My positive youtube addiction is watching the Royal Ballet. They are so beautiful it makes me feel happier just to see them move and they have master classes too, so I can learn something about the dance I love to watch.
 

Wolfcub

Senior Member
Messages
7,089
Location
SW UK
Ooh, I think I've seen that robot voice video too!

My positive youtube addiction is watching the Royal Ballet. They are so beautiful it makes me feel happier just to see them move and they have master classes too, so I can learn something about the dance I love to watch.

Yes I too absolutely love the ballet videos. And there are the composer biography videos.
I have guilt about being on the internet ALL day, but the more ideas are thrown out here, the more tempted I am!
 

hmnr asg

Senior Member
Messages
556
thank you guys for the suggestions. I think its time to dust off my old zafu and meditation books. I am not sure how much success i will have because the few times i tried after my cfs began i realized that fatigue and mindfullness somehow dont work so well for me. Mindfullness meditation is a very active practice and i found that the feeling of the deep fatigue that comes with CFS is much harder to work with during mindfullness meditation than any pain that I ever had. Has that been your experiences as well?
I think using a guided meditation or doing body scan or loving kindness meditation might be easier with CFS though, so i should try those for sure.

My problem with internet is when i go on a long string of useless videos and i dont pay attention how tired i have gotten from watching and clicking. so i am in bed but exhausted from all the silly videos. I watch a lot of animal videos as well!
 

Wolfcub

Senior Member
Messages
7,089
Location
SW UK
@hmnr asg I too have found many times when focus on my usual spiritual uplifting things has been very very difficult -sometimes not really possible, which has caused a form of dismay.
Until I looked at it as a meditation in itself. Maybe a letting-go of a certain habitual form-dependance? Maybe it is a better meditation? I don't know yet but it is teaching me something.
Heart- focused things are sometimes hard to do for me, and that was the core of my Being.
I am thinking it (in my case) might be that it involves a certain visualisation, and that is harder. Not sure yet. But I'm veering towards physical illness being a strong distraction from the "inner world".
We are so attached to these bodies! I see it as a spotlight on that state we are in.

And yes, I often go to bed all crammed up with silly videos that I have wandered into just because I was too wired to go to bed, and not enough compos-mentis to do anything useful too. Never mind. Tomorrow is another day I guess.
 

wabi-sabi

Senior Member
Messages
1,446
Location
small town midwest
Yes, the fatigue and lack of concentration really impact my ability to mediate. Sometimes I can only do 5 minutes. It's just that if I do the 5 minutes I feel better and if I give myself the anti-pep talk on how worthless it is to do only 5 minutes I feel so, so much worse.

The other issue is the physical fatigue. No zafu sitting for me! that would require this lovely thing I'm lacking called core strength. My meditating is in the cozy arm chair or flat out on the sofa. I look at it as another ego battle. Ego says "It's useless if you don't use the zafu. Just give up now". Compassion says "Just do the best you can with what you've got right now in whatever position that works". Guess which voice helps when I listen to it!
 

wabi-sabi

Senior Member
Messages
1,446
Location
small town midwest
Meditation is one of the few things that helpd my pain. The meds I've tried only made me crazy and sicker. Sometimes I am so tired I fall asleep when I meditate on the couch, but then I just figure that's what my body needed most. When I recharge enough the I can stay awake. Take a page from yoga nidra teaching. It's most beneficial if you can stay awake, but still good if you fall asleep. My yoga teacher says the unconscious mind still hears and benefits from the meditation. Works for me!
 

hmnr asg

Senior Member
Messages
556
I look at it as another ego battle. Ego says "It's useless if you don't use the zafu. Just give up now". Compassion says "Just do the best you can with what you've got right now in whatever position that works". Guess which voice helps when I listen to it!
I think this is the heart of the problem. The ego thinks i suck at meditating now and i have CFS and can do very little meditation and so whats the point.
I am going to try to not listen to it too much and do some guided meditation. Thanks for all the helpful tips!
 

pamojja

Senior Member
Messages
2,377
Location
Austria
I am not sure how much success i will have because the few times i tried after my cfs began i realized that fatigue and mindfullness somehow dont work so well for me. Mindfullness meditation is a very active practice and i found that the feeling of the deep fatigue that comes with CFS is much harder to work with during mindfullness meditation than any pain that I ever had. Has that been your experiences as well?

Maybe a good idea to reevaluate what success in mindfulness meditation really means. Long before the onset of ME/CFS I did those rigorous 10-day retreats. And funnily, the first day on such a retreat I've always been so sleepy from the abrupt lack of stimulus. Therefore that first day seemed to pass always the fastest, because with the little awareness I was rather half-a-sleep, sitting there. But going trough after, on the second day, awareness always seemed to come out much stronger. After all, 'sloth-and-topor' is just one of the hindrances to mindfulness meditation to be aware of, as any of the 4 others.

Nowadays I adapted my practice to my condition, and do mostly lying-down and for something like 20 minutes at a time. Which at times naturally extents to much longer periods. Also whenever nothing to do with my mind for short periods.

Mayby because we are all different, but having experienced some unceasing pain and illness during 10-day retreats, I must admit that was the hardest for me to be aware off.
 

wabi-sabi

Senior Member
Messages
1,446
Location
small town midwest
Pamojja, I'm sorry to hear you had such pain even before your ME/CFS. Is that what drive you to the retreats? Or do you think the retreats caused the pain?

I didn't really start meditating until after the CFS pain started, so I have no prior experience of mindfulness to compare to. On the other hand, my cognitive problems have gotten progressively worse, so I can compare that way. I'd done and loved yoga for years, but even it alone wasn't enough to keep the pain at bay.

The pain is what gives me the impetus to meditate now. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'd have the discipline. :) It was JKZ's meditation for pain relief that first taught me how to meditate, so that strongly flavors my practice now.
 

pamojja

Senior Member
Messages
2,377
Location
Austria
Pamojja, I'm sorry to hear you had such pain even before your ME/CFS. Is that what drive you to the retreats? Or do you think the retreats caused the pain?

It wasn't physical pain which was making me do retreats, but rather to explore what drives me in everyday's life. Of course, one of the general mechanism what's drives us is general avoidance of pain. And so in a way these retreats are even tailored for how to be with pain, in a less driven way.

But in my particular case I was alluding to I just got completely constipated, causing pain and then some fever. Where I had to quit to sit within the retreat. And the management brought a physician to me.

It was JKZ's meditation for pain relief that first taught me how to meditate, so that strongly flavors my practice now.

Didn't read JKZ. But traditionally meditation isn't practiced for pain-relief only. Though by easing up mental tensions around pains, and seeing it in a more compassionate way, it very often does that. Just not guaranteed.
 
Last edited:
Messages
97
i’m finding this post interesting to read as there seem to be many of us who were so actively involved with yoga and meditation practices before becoming ill. For me, I see the time spent on internet activities as a way to cope with being less physically and socially active. Pre illness I had taught yoga for many years, and actually attended weekend, week long, and month long meditation retreats. My physical yoga and mindfulness practice now just consists of the bare essentials - short periods of time focusing solely on the in breath and out breath. Sometimes it can be as short as only several cycles of breath, but I give it my full attention.
 

wabi-sabi

Senior Member
Messages
1,446
Location
small town midwest
I'd be very interested to hear about your yoga teaching. What style did you teach and what benefits did you are your students experience?

I did a teacher training program early in my illness, before I understood what was going on as a way to cope with pain. I did a bit of teaching, but then couldn't sustain that, energetically. (Still working now, but not full time and at a fairly sedentary job.) My physical yoga practice is mostly Restorative, sometimes yoga nidra, and tiny amounts of Soma (the style I trained in) as tolerated.