Healing chronic illness and pain: Calming the nervous system

In the pre-pandemic times, I received lots of diagnoses for all sorts of chronic pains and illness, and I had symptoms of numerous conditions, including: endometriosis, migraine, histamine intolerance, gluten intolerance, chronic sinus infections, anxiety, adult acne, eczema, and countless others. Then during the pandemic, I got Long Covid.

It was a “new” condition that somehow exacerbated all of the symptoms I’d had for decades and produced dozens of new symptoms. For a year and a half I suffered with this condition, often unable to leave the bed for weeks at a time, while doctors told me they didn’t know what to do.

I’ve since recovered, and not just from Long Covid, but from every other chronic condition I had, because, as it turns out, I only had one condition the entire time: my nervous system was broken.

That may not be the best terminology for this condition, but I like it because I think it compares nicely to a broken bone. If I broke my leg, especially if it was a more basic break or a hairline fracture, doctors probably wouldn’t do a lot to fix it. They would likely set it and cast it up; they’d probably give me some painkillers to help me manage the pain symptoms of a broken leg; and they’d tell me to keep my weight off of it so that it wasn’t subjected to unnecessary stress. And then, my body would repair the bone itself. How amazing is that!?

But if I didn’t give my body the physical support, rest, and time it needed to repair the bone, the bone might not get fixed properly. I might keep exacerbating it by placing weight on it, or it might not set properly and I could end up deformed or with a leg that no longer functions properly.

I now believe my nervous system is far more similar to that example than I ever could have imagined prior to my recovery. Over the years, I had countless, small “breaks” in my nervous system. Each was quite minor, and I never suffered “big T” traumas, but no one, including me, ever recognized that anything was going wrong. So I never had the physical support, emotional support, rest, and time that was necessary for my particular nervous system to repair each of these “breaks.”

As the years went on, more and more things went wrong with my body because my nervous system—which automatically regulates how my body functions—couldn’t function properly itself because it had never been allowed the time and support necessary to repair itself.

Again, this is an analogy. It’s not an accurate representation of how the nervous system works or what went wrong with my nervous system. But I hope it’s a helpful starting point for rethinking the role of our nervous systems in relation to chronic conditions, and I really hope the broken bone analogy can help make it clear that these are real, physical issues.

None of this was “in my head,” and other people who are suffering these conditions are not just imagining them either. Moreover, as with x-rays proving the bone is broken, many of these chronic conditions will have real, measurable indicators. But in the end, just like a broken bone, doctors couldn’t fix my body themselves. The more severe the bone fracture, and the more complicated the nervous system problems are, the more we may need to turn to doctors for surgery and/or medication that can help us heal, but ultimately, I needed to give my body the physical and emotional support and the time it needed to fix itself.

Why did I put this site together?

I want to help people heal, and I want the process to be easier for others than it was for me. However, we’re all different, and I don’t believe in a one-size fits all approach to healing.

I’ve shared the things that worked for me here, and I’ve highlighted some of the ways in which I recovered that are in complete opposition to commonly held beliefs about recovery and about how the mind-body works. I’m also including what I can of things that worked for other people, but that were not helpful for me.

In theory, recovery should be possible for no more than the cost of a few books. I do recommend working with a therapist if that’s possible, and that’s obviously more expensive than a book, but if therapy isn’t an option for whatever reason, the resources here should still help anyone “fix” their nervous system and many chronic health issues.

A couple of other disclaimers and things to note:

I'm not a doctor, and nothing on this site is intended to replace necessary medical care.

I reserve the right to update my understanding as I learn new information.

Again, I am not a doctor or any type of health practitioner. I have a scientific background and have tried to apply that to my understanding of my own health, but much of my recovery flies in the face of my understanding of currently accepted medical science claims. Therefore, I am documenting my experiences in the hopes of helping other people, but I do not claim that I’m “right.”

Because I have a science background, I'm particular about what I'll cite as scientific. I've seen many websites list resources as scientific, which are either unscientific or bad science. As I find good science to back these techniques up, I will share those sources here. Some of the resources on the resources page are scientific and some aren't. The important point is that I'm sharing the techniques here because they worked for me and countless others, and as far as I know, there aren't dangers or problematic side effects from doing this work.

I got really tired of people charging hundreds of dollars for recovery “programs.” I’m putting this website together to give people knowledge about my own experience and to share as many free resources as I can. Some books that I found helpful and list in my resources page will cost money to buy if you can’t find them at the library, but nothing I recommend is more expensive than the cost of a book and I strongly encourage taking advantage of your local library.

I am not currently making money off of this website. I’m sharing this information in the hopes it will help people and because I want to better understand what happened myself.

There are likely good resources and programs that cost a lot of money that might help you recover faster than going through these processes as I did. If people convince me they recovered 100% by using these programs, I may link to specific programs on the resources page, but I recovered without paying for such programs, so I’m not convinced they’re necessary.

That said, my recovery was not without help: I worked with a somatic therapist because I had to learn how to access and feel many of the emotions that I was tapping into. I’m fortunate that I was able to find and afford a good therapist. If you can find and afford a good, somatic therapist, I recommend the help. If you can’t access a therapist for whatever reason, I think you can still fully recover with the help of the resources I’ve put together.

There are a lot of tips and advice on the internet that could make you worse if you’re not careful—all manner of foods to eat/avoid, vitamins to consume, and “all natural” herbal remedies to ingest. As someone who’s spent thousands of dollars on these things and who ultimately recovered by ignoring it all, I’m very conscious that I don’t want this site to make anyone worse, cause any adverse side effects, or waste anyone’s money. At the very worst, the stuff I talk about here just won’t help and you won’t be any worse off than you are now.

EXCEPTION: I am a little worried that if someone with a traumatic past starts delving into things before they’re ready, they could feel worse. I do not have a traumatic past, so I wasn’t worried about uncovering more than I could handle. If you do have big T trauma in your life, or if you have issues with severe self-hatred, severe depression or suicidal thoughts, you may need to find a therapist to help you work through some of this.