Let’s Talk About Long Covid

Dr Peter L Johnston

MBBS FRACGP

 

Let’s Talk About Long Covid

 

The mainstream media is creating much fear about ‘Long Covid’ in an attempt to frighten younger people into getting the jab. The story being told is that Covid-19 can create long-term sickness lasting months and characterised by these symptoms:

Fatigue and exhaustion,

Muscle and joint pains,

Insomnia and problems with memory and concentration,

Fast or pounding heartbeat,

Cough or shortness of breath,

Depression and anxiety,

All of these symptoms worse after physical or mental activities.

 

Long Covid is a new name for an older disease which came into prominence in the 1980s. Producing exactly the same symptoms, it was initially thought to be caused by a virus, as it often came on after flu, glandular fever and even a common cold. So it was initially called ‘post-viral syndrome’.

However, when many people were coming down with it without having a viral infection, it acquired a new medical title, ‘Myalgic Encephalopathy’, shortened to ‘M.E’. Translated from the Greek it means ‘muscle pain and disease of the brain’, reflecting the belief it was a physical disease.

Later, the disease was divided into two, according to which component was more dominant. The problems with memory, concentration, mood and sleep came to be known to the public as ‘brain fog’. When these were more prominent and combined with lack of energy, it was diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, shortened to CFS. If muscle and joint pains were the dominant feature, the diagnosis was fibromyalgia.

Whichever it was, there was no joy for the patient or doctor, because there was no medication that gave any significant help. It’s still the case now. Doctors can offer pain relief for muscle pains but opioids lead to addiction and accidental death from overdose. So they can only be used sparingly.

Affecting both mind and body, CFS lies at a difficult interface in the medical world because the traditional conventional approach views mind and body as separate. Research over recent years has shown mind and body to be unified but traditions persist. Psychiatric patients are kept separate from those with physical illness.

With no miracle drugs available in the 1980s and 1990s, patients with CFS sought GPs who used unconventional approaches. Hence, I saw many people with CFS. What I discovered, through trial and error, was that therapies which stimulated the immune system helped. Herbs like echinacea and vitamins, including intravenous vitamin C, relieved the symptoms but did not cure the disease.

Some alternative health systems postulate disease to arise from obstruction to the flow of energy in the body. Traditional Chinese Medicine, Bowen Therapy, Ayervedic Medicine and Chakra balancing, by improving energy flows in the body, gave temporary help for chronic fatigue but were rarely curative.

Underlying the dysfunctional energy systems of the body, I found one factor to be constantly present – stress. Distress is  more accurate, as what they felt was anxiety. Many insisted their problem was entirely physical. They saw themselves as hardworking, ambitious and focused on doing their jobs well. To be lying around doing nothing was totally out of character for them. These upwardly mobile people copped the label ‘yuppies’ in the 80s, and CFS was referred to in public jargon as the ‘yuppie flu’. Their chronic fatigue was more a result of ‘burnout’.

Those who stayed with the treatment eventually recognised underlying fear of failure was the driving force behind their state of perpetual motion. They learned that in their single-minded focus on achievement, they’d been focusing on the destination rather than enjoying the journey. Some had ignored the steadily increasing difficulty they were experiencing in achieving their goals. Only in retrospect did they see they had lost their sense of humour along the way. So many had missed these early signs. They only realised they had a problem when they suddenly hit the wall – when their bodies went on strike and refused to follow their orders. I have to confess I was one of them.

There was another group of CFS patients who did not fit this pattern. The natural human response to fear is to fight, take flight or freeze. Rather than fight their fears, this other group responded by taking flight or freezing. They were people who were living in frightening or abusive situations. Some had survived frightening situations but were still reliving it, in what we now know to be PTSD, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Over twenty years of treating CFS, I slowly learned that managing it was less about what we could do for our patients and more about what patients could do for themselves. CFS was a holistic problem, requiring a holistic approach to therapy. While healthcare workers could aid in the process, the major part of healing required patients to address their whole being –  physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects.

 

  1. Physically

Aiming at a healthy diet, free of food polluted by chemicals and pesticides.

Drinking water free of fluoride and not overdoing the coffee and booze.

Addressing any food intolerances.

Getting adequate fresh air and quitting smoking.

Having regular exercise and adequate holidays.

 

  1. Mentally

Being selective about the quality and quantity of what we watch on TV and electronic devices.

Seeking purpose in life and finding time for creativity. Learning mindfulness and meditation as excellent ways of keeping the mind in the present – away from past regrets and worry about the future.

 

  1. Emotionally

Observing emotions, knowing they represent what we genuinely feel about any situation. Looking for the false belief that lies beneath any negative emotion.

Realising that resentment is a boomerang, a body poison, which hurts the sender more than the recipient.

 

  1. Spiritually.

Realising we are eternal spiritual beings, who’ve chosen to have lives on this challenging planet.

Being aware that we project our negativities onto others. As we learn to withdraw our projections, we can more easily forgive the idiots and annoying bastards that seem to populate our families and workplaces!!

Recognising that compassion for ourselves and others is the most powerful healing force in the universe.

 

We say about computers, “Rubbish in, rubbish out”. It’s a similar principle with health. Violent movies and videos reinforce the erroneous belief we are only bodies, fragile beings vulnerable to many forces. This focus leads easily to fear and victimhood, both of which undermine our immune system.

When our focus is on our true nature, we realise we create most of the events of our lives, including our state of health, with the thoughts we entertain, the beliefs we hold and the intentions we pursue. These are all immensely powerful and have the potential to heal any disease.

I have gone into more detail on this because I see this approach to CFS as a possible template for doctors to approach chronic illness in the future.

When the truth about the pandemic comes out, people will realise pharmaceutical companies have betrayed them.  Politicians will try to divert blame by saying they were only following science. They will point to the medical authorities they appointed. Faith in scientific medicine and medications is likely to collapse. As it was, the jewel in the crown of drugs for eighty years has been antibiotics, but they are losing their effectiveness. Vaccine is likely to become a dirty word, while drugs may be viewed with suspicion rather than trust.

The word ‘doctor’ derived from the Latin word meaning ‘teacher’. Perhaps the role of teacher will become as important as that of therapist for doctors? Maybe doctors will revert to their old role of teaching patients and become practitioners of health care rather than just disease care? It would be a positive move to scale back the number of pharmacology lectures and devote the time to teaching life skills to medical students.

 

So where does long covid come in? It holds the same place as other corona viruses like influenza and the common cold. The virus is the TRIGGER for CFS – NOT THE CAUSE. Long covid is what we used to call ‘post-viral syndrome’. It is the form of chronic fatigue triggered by a virus. The virus is the final assault on a body already struggling with overwhelming stress. It is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

In a similar way, Covid-19 is the final straw for those with serious pre-existing disease or advanced old age. It gives a final push to those whose immune systems are depleted.

For people who are young and healthy, or older and at peace with themselves, there is nothing to fear from the Covid-19 virus. We already know the mortality rate is virtually zero for anybody without pre-existing morbidities under forty, but people in their fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties with no pre-existing disease also have immune systems eminently capable of seeing off corona viruses. The same can be said for long covid. It will not hit those who have adequately performing immune systems.

You won’t hear that when you listen to the propaganda coming from the medical authorities, politicians and the mainstream press. As the greatest philosopher of the western world put it, “Know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

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