Matt Sibert grew up in an violent neighborhood but says catching Covid last August was the scariest experience of his life. His body tremored out of control. He sweated profusely, losing 30 pounds in several weeks. The fit 47-year-old San Diego man wasn’t sure he’d make it.
“I grew up in a tough neighborhood in Chicago,” Sibert says. “I’ve seen things people couldn’t even imagine but this is the most scared I’ve ever been. I thought I was going to die. I think that triggered some rage and fear. All the emotions came up and made it worse.”
Sibert overcame the acute virus, but he didn't feel better. The fatigue and body tremors persisted. Pain moved around his body. He had headaches, heartburn and tennis elbow.
Doctors didn't know how to help him, a familiar story with post-Covid symptoms. Sibert turned to alternative medicine. He did vitamine IV's and took 50 supplements a day. He was still so exhausted, he couldn't run his consulting business.
Then Sibert remembered Dr. John Sarno’s books, which helped him overcome back pain twenty years prior. He wondered if his long Covid symptoms were also caused by the mind-body connection. Sarno explains how the brain can cause a dizzying menagerie of chronic symptoms when it’s under heightened psychological stress.
“If somebody asks who your hero is I say doctor John Sarno,” Sibert says. “So I got The Divided Mind and The Mindbody Prescription books and read through them voraciously because I wanted to get better. Within two days of reading those books, I was at least 60 percent better."
Sibert knew that an incurable disease doesn't get 60 percent better by reading books. He was sure he had what Sarno called Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) or Mind-Body Syndrome (MBS). He looked for long Covid recovery stories and happened across my interview with Sarah Rainwater.
When Sibert reached out to me, he was also concerned that one of his doctors diagnosed him with Epstein-Barr. Physicians had often blamed my 13 years of Chronic Fatigue Sydrome on EBV. I came to realize that more than 90 percent of adults test positive for Epstein-Barr virus. As Dr. Howard Schubiner explains, those tests measure "harmless antibodies" and don't cause chronic fatigue.
“The doctor said I had Epstein-Barr virus which got me worried,” Sibert says. “You took me off the ledge from thinking I had to get this virus out of me.”
Sibert stopped battling his body and embraced his whole self.
He launched into somatic meditations and expressive writing to explore the rush of feelings. Emotions are cues that tell our nervous system whether we’re safe. Sibert realized that in order to calm his nervous system he had to face his emotions.
“I cried when I was doing some of the written exercises—crying good tears, not bad tears, just releasing things,” Sibert says. “I think it’s important if you’re going through pain to write out the emotions behind it. There’s always a root cause beyond the pain… Once you make that connection the pain gets better, just like Dr. Sarno teaches.”
Like most of us, Sibert had endured hard times by pushing down emotions. The stress of Covid stirred up unprocessed traumas. For about a month, Sibert focused solely on his recovery by journaling, reading, breathing and meditating, particularly somatic tracking—a practice in which we observe uncomfortable sensations with a neutral mindset.
“Everything that I learned to survive growing up is to ignore it, just push it down. Doing somatic tracking is the opposite of that. You focus on the pain. It was hard for me to do that but once I did the meditations, it was so powerful.”
Through Sibert’s dedication, his brain got the message that all is well. He regained his energy and wellbeing. Sibert says he’s about 95 to 99-percent recovered. Occasionally, he gets rotating symptoms, what Sarno called the symptom imperative, but he knows that’s a signal to tend to his emotions.
And he doesn’t let symptoms hold him back. Sibert is back to running three businesses, working out, and making new friends. After his recovery, he even picked up and moved to Austin, Texas!
Sibert says his motivation in sharing this interview is to help others. If you’re facing long Covid, Epstein-Barr, ME/CFS or any other mind-body symptoms, Sibert says there is a way out. But you won’t find it by chasing after the physical symptoms.
“You have to address the root cause first before you start going down all these rabbit holes. That’s the number one thing. Focus on the mindbody connection because you’d be amazed. If you think that long Covid will never go away, you’re going to get better if you just do the work.”