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Living With Chronic Mononucleosis (Epstein Barr Virus Or Glandular Fever)
The Epstein Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis or glandular fever, can establish a lifelong presence in the body. In most people, a healthy immune system prevents mononucleosis. However, some people develop recurrent or chronic mononucleosis for weeks, months or years after the initial infection.
Symptoms of mononucleosis are usually fatigue, weakness, sore throat and swollen lymph glands. These symptoms can vary from day to day, as well as week to week. Periods of feeling better are followed by relapses, when people try to resume normal activities or exercise.
Living with mononucleosis can be a stressful and frustrating time. Chronic illness, financial worries, loss of employment or education, loss of independence, isolation, and limited access to support are just some of the things you may have to deal with. For some people the future is unknown. You never know what’s around the corner. You don’t trust your body. Will you be good or bad? Can you get help and support? Are there any ways to help? All of these things can lead to anxiety, depression and a feeling that your health is out of control.
So what can be done in the midst of serious illness to find peace of mind and happiness? According to spiritual teachers such as Dr John Demartini and Eckhart Tolle, instead of worrying about the past and the future, we can all be brought into the present moment to find success. Constantly thinking about the past or the future can lead to negative thoughts that prevent you from living a fulfilling life.
Although mononucleosis can make things worse, we can find comfort and joy in the little things in life. For some people with mononucleosis who are bedridden, simple entertainment can be listening to music, listening to stories, meditation tapes or listening to birdsong outside.
For those who have phones, simple hobbies can be as simple as cooking, painting, decorating the house or garden, cleaning the cupboard, putting family photos in an album, finding interesting hobbies or meditation or yoga. Some people find joy in helping others – this can come from reading to children, socializing with friends and family, looking after pets or joining online forums or support groups to share your mononucleosis experience and advice.
After suffering from mononucleosis for over 15 years, my hobbies were something I looked forward to doing every day. They gave me strength and pride, and I believe they kept me safe. Some of the things that helped me were spending time in the sun every day, enjoying hot chicken soup, relaxing in hot Epsom water, doing yoga every day and immersing myself in books on health and other therapies. In fact, at this time I decided to study a naturopathic degree and start my career in a different way.
For one of my Epstein Barr patients who was very ill, all he could do was lie on his back in a dark room. His eyes were so swollen and painful that he could not even read a book or watch TV. Instead of feeling sad and depressed, he concentrated on listening to good music that would inspire and motivate him.
One of my patients who was a teenager was estranged from school friends and society because of Epstein Barr. She had severe symptoms such as redness, sore throat, extreme fatigue, depression and low appetite. His mother kindly went out and bought him the entire series of the TV sitcom “Friends”, which they watch together on the couch. His mother says this gave him a chance to laugh and focus on the disease more often.
Even with mononucleosis, there should be many things in your life that you love and enjoy. Starting to reflect on your daily life and see if there is anything you can appreciate is a good start. Enjoy the beautiful and special moments of your day. You can also write them in a diary or newspaper, or draw them.
I recently read an article about female artist Hailey Bartholomew, who started her project called “365 Days of Gratitude”. Every day for a year Hailey took one picture of something she was grateful for. Her photos range from simple foods she loves, autumn leaves in her garden, shells on the beach, her warm socks, growing herbs in her garden, her craft, scented candles and photos of her family. The simple daily act of focusing on the positive things in her day transformed her feelings of depression into hope, fulfillment and joy.
Teaching yourself to be mindful and appreciative of every little moment in your day can enrich your life and make your journey through mononucleosis easier. Life will always have ups and downs. Appreciating what you have is a very important lesson for all of us. Even after going through mononucleosis, being grateful is a life skill that will never be forgotten.
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