Overcoming chronic fatigue (CFS): Turning adversity into passion

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Toby Morrison: Overcoming chronic fatigue (CFS)


Bare with me here for a second. Imagine you are so exhausted you sleep for 18 hours a day and your exercise regime is to walk for a couple of minutes as you simply can’t walk any more. You are so burnt out, physically you can’t do anything. You begin to think you are dying and suicide starts to cross your mind.

This is what Health & Wellness Coach Toby Morrison had to overcome with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). He not only overcame the ‘untreatable disease’, Toby has turned his adversity into his passion and has inspired thousands of others to do the same.

This is a fascinating and uplifting story and well worth watching whether you suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or not. To learn more about Toby click here.

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Audio Version:

In this weeks episode:-
downloaditunesListen to Stitcher

  • From elite athlete to burnout
  • What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
  • Why high/over achievers are prone to CFS
  • Why mindset is everything & what Toby did to turn his life around
  • Turning adversity into passion
  • Where to start if you have/know someone with symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome
  • and much more…

You can view all Health Session episodes here.

Full Transcript

Guy Lawrence: Hey, this is Guy Lawrence. I’m joined today with no other than Mr. Stuart Cooke. Again, good to see you, Stu. And our very special guest today is Mr. Toby Morrison, who is a health and wellness coach. That would be fair enough to say, wouldn’t it, Toby?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, definitely.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Thanks for coming in, mate. We were just, myself and Stewie, had been talking this week and the one thing we are very excited about is that we love stories that inspire and then go on to inspire others, especially when I guess you take adversity into a passion and then that passion goes on and helps others. So, we thought our audience and ourselves would benefit from this greatly.

So, can you go back to the start and tell us a little bit about your story and what you’ve overcome?

Toby Morrison: Well, I was a very athletic kid and an elite basketball player at the age of 16. And I was training eight to 10 times a week so I was doing double sessions in a day. I was playing for four basketball teams, and I really was just; basketball was my life.

And I got struck down with glandular fever, which is very common with most people with chronic fatigue syndrome. And from there it kept persisting and I kept pushing through and pushing my body to the limit and then eventually I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue six months later.

And it wasn’t like I was just sleepy and tired. It was to the point where I was sleeping 16 to 18 hours a day. I couldn’t eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Stuart Cooke?: Eighteen hours a day?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, just to go to the toilet was an effort. I used to; the first I actually work up and was completely bedridden, I couldn’t even speak, so I actually had a bell that I had to ring to get my mum to come to my room and bring water and food for the first couple of month. It was quite severe and a huge shock to my system and my overall life.

Guy Lawrence: Right. Oh, my God.

So, how would you describe chronic fatigue syndrome, like, in a nutshell? Because there was a term I’d heard of but I hadn’t really looked into because obviously I hadn’t suffered it myself. How would you describe it?

Toby Morrison: Yeah. Look, it’s hard to understand it if you haven’t had it, but the way I would describe chronic fatigue is it’s like you’re jet-lagged or you’ve got that hungover feeling 24-7 and times by 10. So, you know, you sleep, usually, you’re lethargic. You’ve got flu-like symptoms so you’ve always got a sore throat. You usually get symptoms like dizziness, muscle aches and pains. And then it can lead to emotional things and cognitive things like your memory loss is high. Your concentration levels are low. You know, just to keep your eyes open for a certain amount of time is hard. Reading a book or a page of a book is quite the task for someone with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Guy Lawrence: Wow. OK. And would that be something that just hits you like a freight train from day one? Or are there symptoms that are just kind of slowly creeping up?
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Toby Morrison: Certainly. I mean, every case is different, but predominantly what happens with CFS; it creeps up on them slowly. So, usually it starts with a virus, light, glandular fever. Or a post-viral syndrome. And then if that’s not looked after or the health hasn’t progressed, then usually what happens is you’re diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

And it creeps up on you. I just thought it was a cold and flu, you know. And I honestly did. I was a kid, so you don’t think of it when you’re a kid, so you think, “I’ll be all right in a couple of weeks. I will just rest. I’ll have a couple of days off school. My main priority is to play the game of basketball.”

And so I would rest all week and then I would play the game on Friday night and then I’d be in bed for another week and play again on the next Friday.

So it was more; I was in survival mode rather than thriving. And then it got to the point where I played my last game and I just remember getting to the game and I felt I was way off. And to chase a ball was an extreme task. I mean, I remember shooting the ball and normally I’d hit that shot every time and I completely airballed it and I just knew that was game over. That night I went to bed and the next morning I woke up, opened my eyes, thinking that physically I was fine and I went to move mentally and I couldn’t physically move.

So, it just didn’t process through my brain. It was very neurological and, you know, it completely hit me for six.

Stuart Cooke: And were you instantly diagnosed with CFS?

Toby Morrison: Not at all. We freaked out. Your body feels like it’s deteriorating, and people would see this with CFS if you are watching, you’ll understand this, but you actually feel like you’re dying. I thought I had cancer at one stage, because your body starts to really disintegrate. You know, your muscles feel like they’re getting eaten away by something inside.

And when you are a kid or even an adult, you’re healthy. I mean, I was one of the fittest kids at school. To, then, being one of the sickest kids, ever in school. So, it was very; in the time of six months you can’t really get diagnosed prior because they need to; your symptoms need to persist for more than six months for you to be diagnosed.

Guy Lawrence: So, you have to suffer six months before?

Toby Morrison: Pretty much. They’re trying to change it now. There is a new diagnostic system that isn’t really that recognized by doctors yet, and that’s a two months thing but still ongoing tests needs to happen all the time to exclude any other disease. Things like diabetes, cancers, and some serious illnesses that people might have.

Guy Lawrence: So, the catalyst for CFS, for our audience, do you think that that was just the extreme schedule of exercise that you were putting your body under?

Toby Morrison: Well, there’s a couple of different cases, but predominantly the people who have helped me and the people I’ve seen for chronic fatigue, they are usually high-achievers. And I was speaking to a doctor recently who specializes in chronic fatigue and he said the same thing. Ninety percent of his patients and the patients that I see are high-achievers or overdoers. So, they’ve got that personality type to really push through and push their bodies to the limit, either physically or emotionally. I’ve got a lot of academic kids at the moment who strive to get scores of 95 and 99 and they just don’t know how to stop. They don’t know how to do the simple things and they just burn out.

Guy Lawrence: So, would it almost cause, like, a snowball effect in the fact that you’re pushing, you’re pushing, you’re pushing, and then all of sudden you’re gonna get to a point where momentum takes over and you get progressively worse?

Toby Morrison: Yeah. These symptoms that we get, even if you don’t have chronic fatigue, there are symptoms like muscle pain, muscle aches, dizziness. It’s a sign that your body needs to change. You need to do something different in your lifestyle. You know, it’s a hint saying, “Hey, hey, slow down a little bit.”

When you’re a kid, you’re going a hundred miles an hour, and you guys will understand this. You’re going a hundred miles an hour, and you don’t stop and think, you know. You can keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing.

Nutritionally I wasn’t probably eating as well and I wasn’t getting anywhere near enough rest physically to perform at the best level I could.

Guy Lawrence: I mean, how much has your nutrition changed from when you had chronic fatigue to now? I mean, do you see that in many other cases as well? Do you tackle it from a nutritional aspect as well.

Toby Morrison: Definitely. And we’ve got to look at it like this: The car needs fuel to operate and run and to work. And the way the body works is the same, you know. If you don’t put the fuel in it, it’s just not gonna give you the energy that you need to get your body from A to B. And that might be walking one minute or it might be playing a game of AFL football. Everyone’s on a different level.

But, you know, food was huge. Before I got diagnosed, I was eating crap. I would wake up, I might have had 10 Weet-Bix for breakfast, which high GI food. Apparently, healthy for you. It’s marketed really well. And most of those cereal brands are. But when you’re a kid, you don’t really think about it. You just eat it, because the superstars eat it.

And I’d catch the train to school and I’d have a hot jam donut and a can of Coke for $2 every morning and then I’d go to school. It was kind of high GI food.

And there was no education, and I wish there was back then, for kids like me. But I guess that’s what I do now is I pass it on to young people.

Guy Lawrence: But you still see it in the kids today, you know.

Toby Morrison: It’s terrible. And I think we need to; people like you guys and myself need to spread that word and actually educate people on the importance of food and the types of different foods we can eat.

Guy Lawrence: Absolutely. Absolutely.

I was gonna say, like, where’d you start? If you were in bed up to 18 hours a day and I’d imagine mentally you’re not going to feel like you want to do anything. Physically, you’re not gonna want to feel like doing anything. And if you haven’t got the support from the doctors and things like that, they’re scratching at their head at it, I mean, where do you start?

Toby Morrison: Yeah. And, I mean, it took me four years to recover.

Guy Lawrence: Four years.

Toby Morrison: Four years. There wasn’t much help with it. So, I pretty much missed my senior years of school. I just scraped through. I ended with a score of 33 out of 100, which was just a pass. And I think I studied one hour in that year; in year 12. And I just passed it. And so, one of things is accepting that it’s a long process. And, I mean, there wasn’t much help then, but there is now. There’s a lot more help with CFS and there’s a lot more awareness.

But getting started on a minimum basis is the most important thing. And, when you are diagnosed with chronic fatigue, you freak out. And all you want to do is get better. And we all want to get better. We want the quick-fix solution. We want to get fit. We want to get healthy. We want the best for ourselves, but we want them overnight. And the problem with CFS is you just don’t physically change overnight. It takes time.

And I guess the biggest thing is not to look for those quick-fix answers, but look for the stuff that you can do today that will help you in the future and that might mean nutritionally, that might mean with your sleep, that might mean mentally getting some support and help. Physically, getting moving again. And moving is probably the hardest one because, like you said, you don’t physically feel like you can move. You know, there’s days where you feel like you can’t even get out of bed. So, the first exercise program might be getting out bed. Which is crazy. It’s as severe as that. I’ve got patients who can barely walk up their front stairs. I had one kid; he took 10 minutes to walk up the front stairs; it’s 10 steps.

Guy Lawrence: Are there varying degrees of CFS? Would somebody with a poor sleep pattern and generally low energy levels, would that be CFS?

Toby Morrison: Most definitely. And, I mean, it would have be diagnosed, but there can be cases of mild chronic fatigue syndrome and certainly things that we can control that will help them enormously in terms of working on their sleep routine, their exercise on a regular basis. Eating the right foods day-in, day-out. All the things that we can control.

The severities of CFS are like this. It’s huge. You’ve got people who can’t get out of bed and sleep 16 to 18 hours like I was. And then you’ve got people who are quite actual, function, work full-time, got to school, play a sport. But they just don’t feel great.

Guy Lawrence: Right. OK.

Stuart Cooke: Just to go backwards a little bit, I’m really interested on, as well; I hate using the word “mindset” but I’ll use it in this case, because, you know, with myself working as a trainer for nearly eight years, the biggest let-down I used to see with people, all the way up to somebody who had cancer, to even somebody who just wants to lose weight or actually establish themselves in their athletic discipline or whatever it was, it all came back to how they thought, you know, and whether they would skip sessions or continue and things like that.

And, obviously, the more in need of help you are, I think harder it is to overcome something, because you’re already under much worse circumstances.

So, I’d love to hear some of the things you; because you must have done something, right, to start overcoming these things. So, I’d love to hear what things you would do.

Toby Morrison: So, the biggest thing that I learned from my recovery and my illness was being the victim wasn’t the answer. You know, as a 16-year-old, my life was basketball. My dream was to an NBL basketball superstar and that was it. I had no other option. That was my life.

And so I probably held onto that for a year and half when I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue, so I was frustrated, angry, anxious, pissed off, and what does that make you do? It makes you feel terrible, you know?

So, I probably got to about 16 and a half years of age and thought, “This isn’t gonna help my recovery. If I want to get better, I can’t think like that and I need to let go of the past and let go of the future and just focus on the now.”

And so that pretty means accepting where you are at and acceptance was a huge part of my recovery. And a huge part of anyone’s recovery is just accepting where you’re at and working with what you’ve got. You know, it was a huge part of the recovery.

Guy Lawrence: So, it’s almost like taking responsibility for yourself and these are the cards you’ve got and. . .

Toby Morrison: Yeah, and not wasting energy on things that you can’t control and I guess one of the things was holding onto things that were impossible at the time. Letting go of that was fantastic, because it allowed me to have the space and time and energy to focus on what I could do now, which might have been one minute walking, which might have just being proud of the fact that I could get out of bed and step into the sunshine for 15 minutes rather than think about not being able to play that basketball game that I could have won for the team, and things like that.

So, acceptance was a huge thing. Another thing was setting goals and being realistic. And that comes with acceptance as well. You know, people set the bar too high and they want to achieve amazing things and that’s fantastic but it’s not realistic and they’re setting themselves up for failure.

So, I made the goal of just being able to walk to start with. And this is coming from a kid who used to be able to do a beep test of 15.6.

Guy Lawrence: Did you really? That’s phenomenal.

Toby Morrison: I was super fit, so my whole mindset changed to focusing on the now rather than focusing on the past or the future.

And other big thing, in terms of being a victim, was realizing that there’s people worse off than you.

Stuart Cooke: No matter where you’re at, right?

Toby Morrison: And this is extremely powerful, because here I was as 15-year-old kid walking around the street moping around with my head down going, “This is so unfair, why me, I can’t play basketball, I don’t have any friends anymore, I can’t see anyone. I can’t even go to school.” And when I was walking down that street, I’ll never forget it, a guy in a wheelchair went past me and I looked down and he had no legs and he had no arms.

Well, and the funny thing was, he smiled at me. You know? And here I am about to cry thinking that my life; what’s the point of living, because I honestly didn’t want to live. There was no point. I couldn’t play; I couldn’t do the things I loved to do.

And when that guy smiled at me, I thought to myself, “How dare I complain about my life?” And from day onwards, I think I was 16 at the time, that day onwards I’ve never really complained. I’m very lucky to have legs and arms. Even though I could barely use them, at least there were still there.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, yeah.

Stuart Cooke: That’s right.

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Guy Lawrence: That’s a great one. It’s a powerful way of looking at it.

Toby Morrison: It’s very powerful. And I was only 16 at the time so I guess I didn’t know the power it had in terms of my recovery, but looking back now, you know, it’s amazing. And even more so now I look; I ‘m so grateful for my life. As you build up and you get more abundant, you appreciate your life much more. And just living and being able to open your eyes in the morning and tie your shoelaces together and have a shower; the things you weren’t able to do once before you can do now. It’s pretty amazing.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Right. So, for anyone listening or watching this, what would the takeaway thing be you could say, if they’re in a bad spot, I guess, is to focus on the gratitude and the things you can be grateful for, right?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, the first thing I do with my clients when they come in see me, I go, “All right. Tell me 10 things that you can do.” And they say, “I can’t. I can’t do anything. I can’t play a sport. I can’t go to school.” And they’re filled with all the “can’ts” so they forget what they can do. And, I mean, sitting in my office is something that they’re doing. So, walking, driving, seeing. Some people are blind. At least they can see.

So it’s about just seeing what you can do rather than what you can’t do and then focusing on building that up over time. That list would build from 10 to 20 to 30 to 100, you know, as time goes on and you start looking for more positives rather than negatives.

There’s a stat, we say it first, that every single person diagnosed with CFS has the thought of suicide once in their recovery; at least once. And so it’s quite debilitating and quite severe, so I guess finding something to live for, when you are at that desperate stage, and I know there are people out there who do feel life is not work living, and I was one of them.

My thing that I lived for was my family, because I knew that I didn’t want to be here or wasn’t gonna be here, how upset and how much grief I would cause them. So, you know, as crazy as it sounds, I actually felt for those couple of those years that I was living for my mum and dad and my sister to get through it, because they meant the world to me and they loved me so much that I almost felt like I wanted to live for them.

And it’s fantastic to repay that favor now and for them to see me, what I’m doing now.

Stuart Cooke: That just triggered off another thought. I’ve spoke about it before in the past, but I got involved with a charity that were helping people with cancer, and there was always about 30 people there who had cancer and the majority of them were in a bad way and fighting for their lives. But what was very humbling and good to see was when you put all these people that were in the same situation together, it kind of; there was a strength in that that they didn’t have when they were on their own as well, you know.

Toby Morrison: Yeah, definitely. And I think it’s amazing because before I set up the centre three years ago, there was nothing out there for people with chronic fatigue in terms of guidance and help from someone who had had it, been through it, and recovered from it.

And so 12 hours a day there’s people coming in and out who have either got chronic fatigue or getting over it and it’s fascinating to see their conversation and just their eyes light up when people see each other going for similar situations and surrounding themselves in that positive environment.

And I guess, in here, it’s more about we’re focusing on what we can do. We’re being proactive in the recovery, so, accidentally, I had a double walk-in the other week and there was four patients in the one hour sitting there and I sat there and I kind of introduced them all and I said, “Yeah, you know, Vic’s going through chronic fatigue and Mark is going really well; he’s training for 20 minutes now.” And it went for an hour and a half. There was laughter and fun. And I just sat back for an hour and thought, “This is just amazing.” This atmosphere and this space is just so positive. And even a couple of them text messaged me after said it was just so nice to see other people going through similar situations and getting better, you know?

Guy Lawrence: And did you ever think, when you look back to when you had chronic fatigue, to where you’re at now? I mean, did you believe it at the time? It must. . .

Toby Morrison: Look. It’s funny; when I was 16, so when I did make that call where I thought I’m giving up basketball and focusing on me and I’ve got to work on what I can work on now and not worry about basketball and the career. In year 10 English, we had to write a journal and the only thing I wrote in that journal (and I hated English) was, “One day I will help over a million people with chronic fatigue syndrome.”

Guy Lawrence: Wow.

Toby Morrison: Yeah, I know. And at the time I just wrote it down; I didn’t think much of it. And, to be honest, I didn’t think it would happen this fast. I didn’t think I would write a book and get it published and done at the age of 25.

But when I stop and think about it, it’s crazy, but I haven’t stopped, you know? Whenever I wake up, I just think about what I was like 10 years ago and wish there was someone like me back then. And I guess that’s a driving factor when I help people. And I do long days and I help a lot of people, and I’m blessed to be able to do that.

Because that’s what people need. And there was nothing there back then when I was suffering, and I guess I just had the drive and the dedication and commit to do it, but most people, when they’re that low, they can’t find that.

So, I guess that’s where my passion lies, and I get a tingle in the back of my head every time I think about it or talk about it. Even if I; I might come home from the office at 10 p.m. but still feel on fire because. . .

Stuart Cooke: On top of the world.

Toby Morrison: Yeah, because it’s just; there’s a need there for people to be inspired and to actually get guidance and I’m blessed to be able to do that now.

Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. Well, we’ve got a list of questions from our Facebook audience as well and we’ve picked out just a few that we think would be great for you to answer, and I think if we start off with; Melissa has a question regarding exercise. And she asks, “What exercise is appropriate when living with CFS? Prior to developing CFS, I was physically active on a daily basis. Now I don’t want to overdo it, but I do want to incorporate exercise into my routine. What do I do?”

Toby Morrison: That’s fantastic that Melissa actually does want to exercise, because most people with CFS don’t. So, going back to what I said before is forgetting about what you were like before; you can never compare yourself to your old fitness levels before you were sick, and you’ve got to start from a minimum. And we call this a baseline exercise program where you can exercise and perform exercises without worsening your systems. And it’s called graded exercise therapy.

So, you might start with; it depends where you’re at with your fitness levels, but you start with the bare minimum and it might be one minute walking or it might be five minutes walking. But you want to choose something that’s quite easy and simple and really where it’s low intensity. You don’t really want your heart rate to be over 120 beats per minute to start with.

Guy Lawrence: So, is this something that you would keep a log book and you’d record this?
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Toby Morrison: Definitely. So, what I do with my clients is I’ve got a daily activity log book and they’ve got to record what they do on that day. And, you know, you can overdo it with exercise. You can overdo it with daily activities: things like housecleaning, driving, school, work. So, it’s just about making sure that you’re doing the right amount for you and not going backwards.

And the best way; the only way you can learn is from trial and error. But you want to have more ups than downs. And the problem is, if you go up too high and you’re trying too hard, the down recovery phase is too long and you’re bedridden. And you can be bedridden anywhere from two to seven days, really.

Stuart Cooke: Oh, wow. That’s insane.

Guy Lawrence: We got an interesting question from Carla, which I thought was quite appropriate as well. “I want to know how I can help someone with chronic fatigue because I feel so helpless sometimes.”

Toby Morrison: So, she wants to help someone else with chronic fatigue?

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Exactly. What can she do to help others.

Toby Morrison: OK, so, I mean, if she has had CFS herself or hasn’t, I guess the biggest thing is understanding and being empathetic with a friend or client or spouse or whoever’s got CFS. And just encouraging them to be positive and proactive rather than always talking about the negatives.

And it’s quite hard, as a friend. I only had one friend who stuck by me. I was the most popular kid at school before I got sick. And then, as soon as I got sick, all my friends dropped off because I wasn’t that sporty or I couldn’t do anything. And I had this one friend who was a girl who used to pop over to my house every afternoon and just check up on me and say hi and just have a general conversation.

At the time, it didn’t feel like it was that important and I kind of didn’t really care if she came or not, but looking back, that’s what got me through it. Because I needed someone there just to be there for me, you know? And so it’s very important, when someone’s got CFS they have support around them. So, it’s fantastic that she wants to help her friend with CFS. You know, just being supportive and being positive is a great help and it’s so beneficial.

Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.

Stuart Cooke: If you’ve got CFS, is it easy to be in denial about it, kind of thing, and not face up to any of it and just shut down?

Toby Morrison: Very much so. And  that’s a typical trait of the person dealing with CFS is the, “Oh, no, no, I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine. I’ll keep pushing through it.” In a week or two’s time you’re gonna break down and collapse again.

Stuart Cooke: So, I guess they have to get to that point where they’ve the made the decision where they want to do something about it.

Toby Morrison: There’s one bit of advice is you can only help people who want help. And the problem is, with friends and stuff, as much as your friend does want to get better, they might not want to right now and they might not be ready to get better. So, just be patient. Be kind.

And, I guess, do a little bit of research. Read books on chronic fatigue just so you can get an understanding of what it is actually like to have it. It’s extremely difficult to get your head around what it feels like to have chronic fatigue, because sometimes it looks like it’s all in their head. They look physically fine, they might have a laugh, they might have a chuckle, but inside they’re still feeling terrible.

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Stuart Cooke: Yeah, they’re crumbling.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah.

Toby Morrison: Educate yourself; yeah.

Guy Lawrence: Some great points. Alex has asked, “Any particular supplements or foods that you notice which might just help increase energy levels overall?”

Toby Morrison: Yeah, look, I mean, I obviously can’t be specific with that person, but in terms of a general guideline with food, you want to eat regularly. Skipping meals like breakfast, lunch, or dinner is not really ideal. And I know it’s hard with CFS because you might sleep in till 1 p.m. and then miss breakfast and lunch.

Guy Lawrence: Right. Yeah.

Toby Morrison: So, you want to set that routine around your food, and that means having breakfast at a certain time, having lunch at a certain time, and having dinner at a certain time.

The other; in terms of food, we want whole foods. Things that are gonna fill us up and make us feel good rather than eating crappy kind of, you know, fast foods that will only give us energy for a short period of time and leave us feeling lethargic again.

Guy Lawrence: For sure. I mean, I always use the analogy, if anyone asks me, “What do I eat?” just think about what your grandparents used to eat and start from there.

Stuart Cooke: Sticky toffees.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, yeah, right.

Toby Morrison: All in moderation, but with CFS I guess you just want to eat simple, clean food. I mean, most people know what’s healthy and what’s not healthy. You’ve just got to choose consciously to eat healthy on a regular basis.

Guy Lawrence: That’s right. We always use the term “real food.” “Clean food.” Just, you know, just eat real food. Meat, fish, veggies, fruit. Keep on top of your water and most things will work out for you.

Toby Morrison: I was gonna say one more thing with food. Try and listen to your body. You might go and see a naturopath or a nutritionist and they’ll tell you one thing, but your body knows what it wants and if you feel sick when you’re about to eat something, it’s probably not a great food for you. And you learn over time and you guys will be good with it because you’re used to bodies and you guys are your best teachers, but when you start out, if you eat something that makes you feel sick, probably don’t have that for awhile. Just stick to the foods that work for you.

Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. All right.

Janice has mentioned sleep. Now, sleep; we had a lot of people; a lot of questions regarding sleep and how to wake up refreshed and not feeling like they’ve been hit by a truck. Best remedies, ideas, or support mechanisms. So, what can we do here?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, look. Sleep’s very tough. And it’s one of the hardest parts of the recovery process, actually. It’s huge, because medication comes in which can leave us feeling with really bad side effects. Most people with CFS sleep during the day or started sleeping during the day because they’re so exhausted, which then affects their night sleep, which then affects the quality of their overall sleep.

So, I mean, it’s all about just getting restful sleep. One of the best things you can do is cut out sleep during the day, OK? If you are sleeping three to four hours during the day, you need to try and decrease that slowly over time and try and get that back to about half an hour rest during the day rather than knocking yourself out for three hours and then feeling awake until 2 a.m. in the morning.

So, it’s about decreasing the day sleep and then, obviously, trying to get that 9 to 12 hours of sleep a night. Everyone’s different. For me, it was one of the hardest things. But I tried every sleeping tablet under the sun and it still didn’t work.

So, I guess in conjunction with eating well, moving on daily basis (and that might be on a minimum basis to start with), resting minimally throughout the day, and it might; resting’s fine but sleeping is different. If you want to rest, that’s totally fine. But sleeping

during the day is a big no-no. And trying to get that restful sleep from about 9 or 10 p.m. through till the morning.

Stuart Cooke: Can you, like, especially in the early phases of chronic fatigue, when people may not even know or recognize it, could a symptom be the opposite? Of actually not being able to sleep?

Toby Morrison: Yes. Right. Yes. So, people who don’t have chronic fatigue think, “Oh, all you do is sleep.” You know? “You’re sleeping too much.” Actually, what happens, in the long run, sleep is a bit of a cycle. You’re exhausted to start with and then you start to become irritable and your sleep patterns are completely broken up.

I’ve had clients who actually can’t fall asleep until 6 a.m. in the morning. All right? And it’s broken sleep for 12 hours. Because it’s like you wake up every third or fourth hour completely awake and you find it very hard to go to sleep.

So, there’s a couple of things. There’s environmental stuff that you can work on. So, making sure that your room’s tidy and clean; there’s a bit of fresh air coming through and that you’re not too hot. So, if you’re overheated, your body’s just gonna stay awake all the time.

Another thing is not eating too close to bedtime. All right? On a full stomach you’re gonna keep yourself awake for a longer period of time. And another great thing that I have learned: Use your mindset around sleep. Because usually what happens is you overthink it. You start to think, “Oh, I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight. I’m going to feel terrible tomorrow.”

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. You almost make it happen.

Toby Morrison: Yeah. Putting in practices to relax yourself. So, it might be slow music; slow, relaxing music. It might be reading a little bit of a book. For me, it was closing my eyes and visualizing myself running along the beach completely healthy. And this is when I was completely debilitated. So, I was taught by someone to visualize and I’d close my eyes and think about something positive and gently fall asleep like that.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right.

Stuart Cooke: If, then, you wake up three hours later, tactics to address that?

Toby Morrison: Well, it just depends why you’re waking up. It might be to go to the bathroom. Sometimes; it’s usually muscle spasms. Symptoms are usually sore legs. So, to combat that, you can either ice your legs, you can elevate your legs so the blood flow comes back down; that’s really useful. And some people benefit from hot and cold baths or showers. I didn’t, myself, but I’ve had a lot of good feedback from doing that.

So I guess, you know, managing the symptoms as best you can. And, I mean, the problem with sleep is, if you have a bad night’s sleep, then what happens is you go, “Oh, I need to sleep during the day. I need to catch up on my sleep.” It’s one of the worst things you can do because then you’re just gonna be stuck in that really negative cycle of oversleeping because you can feel quite groggy, you know?

Set your alarm at a certain time and be kind to yourself. Start with, maybe, a 10 a.m. wakeup rather than a 7 a.m. wakeup. And decrease the time down slowly so that eventually your body gets used to it. I know for a fact if I sleep in too much, I feel 10 times worse, whereas if I have my six to nine hours now, I feel great. But anything over that, I feel tired, groggy, the rest of those symptoms.

Stuart Cooke: What about the “power nap”? Everybody hears the wonders of the power nap throughout the day.

Toby Morrison: Look, it depends where you’re at with your recovery. But, I mean, 20 to 30 minutes of shut-eye during the day is OK if it’s needed. I mean, I used to sleep two to three hours every day, and I needed that.

Stuart Cooke: That really is a power nap.

Toby Morrison: Yeah, it was. But the worst thing was that I’d wake up and feel even worse than before.

So, I mean, resting throughout the day is obviously needed when you’ve got chronic fatigue and that might be: bring you legs up, elevated on the couch. And it might be mediating for 20 minutes to half an hour. And if you feel like you do need that sleep, then you probably do.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Right. Maybe just go to the; look at the environment with sleep and things like that. Have you looked at or any thoughts on electromagnetic fields? EMF? We met a lady, the weekend, because we were at the Mindd Forum Foundation, and she was; like, some of the things she was saying about it were quite incredible. I mean, we were aware of it, but, God, she really made us look at it.

Toby Morrison: With that kind of stuff, it’s hard, because if you get too involved in it it becomes a little bit obsessive.

Stuart Cooke: I can see how that would happen.

Toby Morrison: And I did go through that phase at around 17 and I met and old kooky guy, I think he was 75, and he wanted me to throw out my mobile phone and get rid of my computer and the rest of it. And I did for awhile. Because, you know, I just wanted to get better so I’d do anything. But I guess you can’t just hope that that’s just gonna change your life. You know, I think the most important thing that you can do is focus on what you can control on a day-to-day basis.

Guy Lawrence: Absolutely. That’s really good advice.

Have you got time for a couple of more Facebook questions?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, certainly. Yeah.

Guy Lawrence: All right. Barack asks: Are adrenal fatigue, insomnia, and chronic fatigue related?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, they certainly are in some contexts. The symptoms are quite similar. You know, adrenal fatigue can be treatable, though. So, when people say adrenal fatigue leads to chronic fatigue, it’s not really true, because adrenal fatigue, there is medication for it, whereas with chronic fatigue there is none. So, they’re not really the same. The symptoms are quite similar but they’re not the same.

Guy Lawrence: OK. Not a problem. Last question, from Tracy: Can you discuss the causes of brain fog; short-term memory loss. Anything special to help these symptoms?

Toby Morrison: Look, there’s no cure for chronic fatigue and there’s no knowledge behind the symptoms like brain fog, cognitive issues, short memory loss. But it definitely is a symptom. It’s a major symptom.

One of the ways to decrease the brain fog is to give yourself rest breaks throughout the day and concentrate less or stimulate your mind less or for lesser amounts of time. It doesn’t mean that you don’t read or you don’t go to work, whatever, but you have breaks.

I’ve got a few people who are writing books who have got chronic fatigue, and, you know, they write for four hours straight because they’re in the zone and they’re flying. And then after the four hours, they sit back and go, “Oh, my God. I’m so dizzy. I need to rest.” And then they get bedridden for a couple of days.

So, it’s about breaking those spaces up where you’re doing maybe a half an hour block here of mentally stimulating yourself and then half an hour block here. You know, building up slowly. The same goes with exercises. The same goes with mindset; building up your mental stimulation over time.

Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.

Stuart Cooke: So, wrapping it up then, if anyone wants to know more, where’s the best place to come?

Toby Morrison: They can go to my website www.cfshealthcenter.com.au. I’ve just released my first book, which is called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Guide to Recovery. And there’s heaps on online help and support on my website, which will give you the mental strength and the physical strength just to get started again.

Guy Lawrence: Are you holding seminars as well? Is that something that’s gonna happen?

Toby Morrison: Yeah, I’m holding a seminar in Melbourne on the 23rd of June, so you can book tickets on my website. And I’ll be going around to each state eventually and helping more people. But, yeah, if you do want to get in contact with me, the best thing to do is email me and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Stuart Cooke: Well, we’ll put all those details on our website as well. And thank you so much for your time.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, thanks Toby. And for anyone that was sleeping 18 hours a day, you know, getting up to walk for a couple of minutes a day and has now turned that away is fantastic and I think there’s a message in there for everyone watching this, whether they’ve got chronic fatigue or not.

Toby Morrison: I have to pinch myself sometimes. I guess, looking back, I did everything I could in my power to get better and I did. It took four years to recover, but I’m so lucky now and blessed to have the life I’ve got.

Guy Lawrence: It’s fantastic, mate, and I really appreciate the time.

Stuart Cooke: Thanks, Toby.

Guy Lawrence: Bye.

Toby Morrison: Goodbye.

 

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    6 Responses to Toby Morrison: Overcoming chronic fatigue (CFS)

    1. Lyn
      May 29, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      Thanks for sharing guys! I don’t think it is talked about as much as it use to be. I suffered 7 years of CFS from the age of 14-21 and it’s a very lonely and frustrating illness.

      At my worst I felt like I was going to die I was so ill and then there were times I wished that I would because I was in so much pain. People think it’s just about being tired but I had over 50 symptoms the worst being the exhaustion, dizziness, muscle weakness and pain (I am talking not being able to walk kind of weakness and pain!) constant headaches, stomach ulcers, general weakness, constant nausea to name a few.

      I totally agree that it’s very much a mindset to recover from. A few months ago I went to a reunion of a support group I was a part of all those years ago. It had been 10 years since I had seen some of my old friends and they all asked me the same thing, what was my secret to recovery. Sadly 10 years later they were still suffering.

      Not only have made a full recovery but I have just become a Personal trainer. I went from bed bound to gym junkie! I also blog all things health and fitness at both http://www.stilettosandgreenjuice.com and http://www.fitgirlsecrets.com (find both on FB – sorry harmless plug!)

      I did whatever it took to recover. The most success I had was with Chinese medicine. I found a GP who did acupuncture and herbs and vitamin injections. But I think the main reason I recovered was because I made the decision to be fully healed. I decided I would not listen to anyone else’s opinion or story. I pulled away from my CFS support group and just spent every day meditating and believing I was healed.

      There may be some saying that they are trying this too but just be patient. It took me 7 years to recover but I did.

      As much as people will hate that I say this, sometimes there is a pay off for being sick so you have to be fully ready to let go of your illness and the identity it creates.

      Lastly I’d like to say for anyone reading this with CFS. You are not your illness. It’s just a label and if you’re body has the power to manifest illness it can manifest good health. Our bodies are intended to heal so they will. Believe you are perfect health and sooner or later your body catches up with you!
      Lyn x

    2. 180nps
      May 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      Hey Lyn… Thanks for the honest and inspiring response. I’m sure many CFS sufferers will benefit greatly from your comments! Cheers, Guy

    3. Elizabeth Sargent
      May 30, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      Great interview on a subject that’s really important when you’re in the ‘Paleo’ world – I think a lot of recovering or recovered CFS people naturally head towards that kind of eating – it’s about the only way you can go to regain your health.
      I also had/have CFS. I was your classic over-achiever. Started in advertising at 15 and had worked my way to management. Held awards from London and the US … all of that crap. On my holidays, instead of winding down and relaxing from my very high-stress job I would go jaunting overseas – because life was too short to hang about. Every night I was up to something, I wrote a cook-book and got it published, yoga-teacher training, belly-dancing, salsa-dancing, roller-blading, boxing, kick-boxing – you name it – I probably tried it and was awesome at it because there was no just being ok at anything.
      Then I got glandular fever, bugger that, I’ll work through it! So for about a year I slogged away at work doing my 70 odd hours, then I would sleep all weekend. Then I got severe tonsillitis – quinsy. I was half an hour from having my throat close over when I got to the specialist. He called an ambulance and I spent 3 days in hospital with 4 kinds of antibiotics running through my veins.
      It was time to give up advertising ….
      I left Melbourne and moved to the Sunshine Coast and retrained as a massage therapist. Where I did my training was actually a college for Seventh Day Adventists (I had no idea at the time). The great thing about these guys is that they have been using alternative and natural remedies for ever. The lady that ran that college, told me about egg therapy to help with my CFS. It actually put me back on my feet. I was up to about a year after my diagnosis. I steadily improved, and my love of all things natural became my new passion.
      So, 10 years later I had a few bouts of stress for all different things. My husband and I moved to a small country town in the middle of nowhere and I steadily have become tireder, and I’ve been sick with a couple of really bad infections. We’ve been eating Paleo for a couple of years and I’ve eaten clean most of my life, I do all the right things. It seemed like my CFS was coming back again. The shitty thing about CFS is the sadness and depression that comes with it. Frustration is paramount. I was so relieved with what Toby said about CFS usually attacking the high-achievers. It all started to make a bit more sense.
      I also read a book called the Nourished Metabolism, and this is why my CFS feels like it’s coming back. During the first bout 10 years ago, I trashed my metabolism. I always wondered why anything I did, I could never lose weight. Personal trainers, dietitions you name it – I tried it and it never worked. I’ve the classic athletic body with a fat tummy.
      So now, I’m trying to nourish my metabolism and hopefully I can start to feel better soon. I should be the picture of health, but at the moment, I feel like a tired, old, flabby, coughing waste of space most days. I would say that once you have had glandular fever and/or CFS – it is something that you have to be conscious of for the rest of your life – because stress – even 10 years down the track will put you on your ass again.
      I’m also wondering about my amalgam fillings … I have 6 from childhood (perfect teeth since then). And now info is coming out about Wi-fi. It never ends lol!
      Anyway – thanks for posting this subject that not many people (including the sufferers) understand.

      • 180nps
        June 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm

        Thanks Elizabeth, you’ve certainly had an interesting journey so far. It seems like you are now following all the rules where health and nutrition are concerned so I’ll be interested to cover EMF/EMR shortly. I want to rule out external factors with creating a safer home environment in mind, it could be the missing piece in the puzzle… Cheers.

    4. Tracey Mills
      April 5, 2016 at 10:49 pm

      Hi Toby, thanks for all your information. I am a parent of a 14 year old boy who has recently been diagnosed with CFS. It breaks my heart to see him go from basketball rep player to being bed ridden and unable to attend school. Like yourself, basketball was his world and his passion and he was good at it. He played rep as a point guard and was so fit and healthy. He became ill after a viral infection and the rest has been a road of ups and downs. He used to play rep for the Steelers and that is where I was given your name from your cousin. He has good and bad days and it is hard to comprehend how he can be as bright as a button and his usual cheeky self and then be totally the opposite and back to not being able to walk. He was upset when the doctor told him that it could last for up to 4 years! The first goal is to get him back to school slowly and then to get him maybe back to training. At the moment he takes the stats for his rep team on the Friday night and is helping the coach. I truly understand the term of silent diseases after going through this!!

      • Toby Morrison
        April 12, 2016 at 3:22 pm

        Hi Tracey,

        Wow your sons story is very similar to my past and many of my clients I see now.

        I would suggest booking in a call with me to get some help in terms of moving forwards. A statement from a doctor to say it can last 4 years is certainly subjective and not factual. Gotta be careful with who you get advice/opinions from and whether or not they are life enhancing and useful.

        The best thing you can do is email my assistant Lani on info@cfshealth.com – Tell her I said for you to book in a call for you and your son and we can have a proper chat.

        All the best for now,

        Toby Morrison
        http://www.cfshealth.com

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