Nine Daily Check Points

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As promised, here are the Nine Daily Check Points for the Family and Friends of FMS sufferers from the book "Peak Immunity," by Dr. Luc De Schepper:

  1. Practice unconditional love. This is really the only rule, the most complete one and maybe the most difficult one to follow. Ninety five percent of all existing relationships are controlling, based on fears and conditions. "I love you, but...," or "I love you as long as you behave the way I want you to behave." Let there be no ifs, ands or buts! Unconditional love, found in any loving relationship, is the purest form of love. You love your partner or friend, with all the weaknesses and handicaps that they have, and you accept them the way they are.

  2. Love and forgive yourself. If you want to give love to the patient in your family, you had better start loving yourself. You might think you have contributed to the disease of your spouse, and sometimes you may have. You might feel guilty for not being able to help your spouse and find yourself trying to escape the situation. Say good-bye to guilt, forgive yourself and love yourself. You cannot possibly give love if you feel that you deserve no love. You do deserve love, and loving yourself is the most important love you will ever have.

  3. Forget the negative check-list. I have caught myself many times concentrating on some small negative characteristics of my friend. As a result, small remarks became monstrous, snowballing until they exploded, leaving us both in a daze. It is so easy to focus on those negative facts, because they allow us to avoid the work needed to improve the relationship. The list of faults inevitably becomes bigger and bigger until it takes on monstrous proportions, overshadowing any potential joy. Focus instead on the positive points of your partner. Sometimes even in their extreme illness, people can contribute to a relationship and society if they are allowed to do so in their own way and find a support group.

  4. Do some fun things with friend. Family members do occasionally catch the immuno-suppressed disease from the patient. I don't mean physically, but also emotionally. Most of the time there is no energy to go to restaurants, enjoy sports or go to parties together. Environmental sensitivities exclude an evening at the theater, because your hyper-sensitive spouse might have a seat next to someone wearing a heavy perfume. You feel like a prisoner. The patient needs to be understanding of the need of the spouse to go out and have some fun time to time with friends. As long as the action involved does not harm the relationship and the commitment to the partner is honored, it should take away some pressure from the situation, leaving room to breathe for both people involved. Having his or her batteries recharged, a spouse can dedicate fresh energy to the patient and actually have more empathy and compassion.

  5. Get a therapist on your team. For everyone involved in the family of a hypersensitive patient, a counselor is not only welcome help but a must. Especially for the patient--for the chance to unload the frustration of not being able to contribute more to society or family, for the guilt for being such a "pest," and for the mood swings fluctuating sometimes to suicidal proportions. Also the rest of the family needs to "unload" their frustration, because there is no way that the sick person, who requires all his energy for survival, will be able to carry them, too. The therapist, knowing both parties, can give suggestions. Being non-judgmental and not siding with either one of the parties, he or she will be intermediary help in helping to establish cohesiveness, which is necessary for the healing of each individual involved.

  6. Be honest with yourself. The first thing I had to do in coping with this problem was take an honest look at myself. Why did I react the way I did? I caught myself reacting in an insensitive way, as though I did not understand the situation and could not summon any empathy. I could not be the support my friend needed until I first resolved my own issues. This is the reason why a therapist is an absolute necessity; don't think you are smart enough to resolve your own painful issues. Understanding yourself will lead to better acceptance of your partner, bring you closer, and strengthen you in handling any future problems.

  7. Give the sick person space. As already mentioned, energy is the name of the game. If the patient needs to withdraw and be by herself, let her. Don't push her, because then she will have to spend precious energy trying to explain why she cannot accommodate you. No matter what, the result for you will be the same, she will not be able to go along with your desires. For the victim, the outcome will not be the same; exhausted because of the efforts to explain, she will require extra time to recuperate--precious time she could have spent with you or on some worthy goal. This necessity for space will vary from person to person, but also from time to time within the same person. During the premenstrual period, for example, the need for withdrawal may be greater.

  8. Be a team player. This is not in the least a minor rule. You can show understanding by sharing a special diet with the patient. You might be surprised how tasteful it is, how much more energy it will give you, and simply, how pleasant it can be to be innovative. Sharing in this way removes the burden of making two separate dinners. Besides, if the patient has cravings, it is no fun for her to see the other person gobbling down forbidden goodies. Actually, a very interesting phenomenon can occur. Usually my patients are well-motivated to follow the diet, but some of them receive "static" from their partners for doing so. What happens is that the other person feels guilty about his own lousy diet; it makes him think about it. So if you are someone's partner, don't sabotage the diet by buying all the wrong foods. Instead, start looking at the healthful food around you and try to develop a taste for it. Exercise together, stop smoking and drinking, and stay away from drugs. Help the patient organize and execute some of those daily routines; it feels very good to the patient when the daily check-list gets shorter instead of longer.

  9. Try to communicate better. Sometimes the patient already feels so guilty that s/he does not want to express certain wishes. The other partner, feeling so many times rejected, stops asking and assumes that the partner will guess his or her desires. Anger is the next step after not being understood. In fact, what happens often is that verbal communications becomes very difficult, because the other party always thinks that there is an "attack," so self-defense is in order. Conversations like that lead only to the destruction of any good feeling in the relationship. So if you have come to the point where verbal communication becomes impossible, write each other a letter. And write the whole truth, everything that you would like to express: your anger, frustration, fear, but also your wishes, desires, hopes and love. In fact, make sure you start with the negative feelings, and finish up with the positive ones. Be sure the harsh feelings don't outweigh the positive ones.