The Epstein Barr virus that causes mononucleosis or glandular fever, has the ability to establish a lifelong presence in the body. In the majority of people a healthy immune system keeps mononucleosis in check. However some people get recurrent or chronic mononucleosis for weeks, months or years after the initial infection.
Chronic mononucleosis symptoms typically include fatigue, weakness, sore throat and swollen lymph glands. These symptoms can fluctuate from day to day, and week to week. Periods of feeling well are often followed by a relapse, as people try to resume normal activities or exercise.
Living with chronic mononucleosis can be a very worrying and frustrating time. Feeling constantly ill, worrying about money, loss of employment or study opportunities, loss of independence, social isolation, and getting little support are just some of the things you may have to cope with. For some people the future is uncertain. You don’t know what’s around the corner. You don’t trust your body. Will you get better or worse? Can you get help and support? Are there any treatment options? All these factors can lead to anxiety, depression and a feeling that your health is out of your control.
So what can be done in the midst of chronic illness to help achieve inner peace and happiness? According to spiritual teachers like Dr John Demartini and Eckhart Tolle, rather than worrying about the past and future, we can all be brought into the present moment in order to find balance. Always thinking about the past or the future can cause negative states of mind that distract you from the potential of enjoying a fulfilling life.
As bad as things get with chronic mononucleosis, we can hopefully find more comfort and joy in the simple little things in life. For some people with chronic mononucleosis who are bedridden, simple pleasures may be listening to music, audio stories, meditation tapes or hearing the birds singing outside.
For those who are more mobile, simple pleasures could be as easy as doing some cooking, painting, pottering around the house or garden, cleaning a drawer out, putting family photos into an album, finding an absorbing hobby or doing some meditation or yoga. Some people find joy in helping others – this could come from reading to kids, talking with friends and family, looking after animals or joining online forums or support groups to contribute your experiences and advice on chronic mononucleosis.
When I had chronic mononucleosis myself for over 15 years, my simple pleasures were things I could look forward to doing every day. They gave me a sense of accomplishment and pride, and I’m sure they kept me sane. Some of the activities that helped me were sitting in the sun everyday, enjoying a hot spicy chicken soup, relaxing in a hot Epsom salt bath, doing some daily yoga and immersing myself in books on health and alternative therapies. In fact it was during this time that I decided to study for a naturopathic degree and launch my career in a different direction.
For one of my very ill Epstein Barr patients, all she could do was lie flat on her back in a darkened room. Her eyes were so swollen and sore that she couldn’t even read a book or watch TV. Instead of getting depressed and sad, she focused on listening to beautiful music that would inspire and renew her.
Another one of my patients who was a teenager was isolated from her school friends and social circle because of Epstein Barr. She had terrible symptoms like a red, raw throat, extreme lethargy, depression and little or no appetite. Her mother kindly went out and bought her the entire series of the TV sitcom “Friends”, which they would watch together on the couch. Her mother says this gave them a chance to laugh and focus on something rather that the illness all the time.
Even with chronic mononucleosis, there should be many things in your life that you truly love and enjoy. Starting to reflect on your daily life and seeing if there is anything you can be grateful for is a good start. Enjoy the beautiful and special moments in your day. You might even want to write them down in a diary or journal, or photograph them.
I recently read an article about a female photographer Hailey Bartholomew, who embarked on a personal project called “365 Days of Gratitude”. Every day for one year Hailey took a single photograph of something she was grateful for. Her photos range from the simple delights of her favorite food, autumn leaves in her garden, shells on a beach, her cozy warm bed socks, growing herbs in her garden, her craft work, scented candles and images of her family. This simple daily act of focusing on the positive things in her day shifted her depression and stress to a mood of anticipation, fulfillment and joy.
Teaching yourself to be aware and appreciative for the little moments in your day, can enrich your life and make your journey through chronic mononucleosis that little bit easier. Life will always have its ups and downs. Being grateful for what you do have is a valuable lesson for us all to learn. Even when you are over mononucleosis, being grateful is a life skill that will never be forgotten.