I often try not to get too personal via social media these days. I am careful with what I share, post or what images I upload for the world to see. Not to say that I think it is bad to be real and open via social media…it’s just a personal choice I made. In saying that though, I am about to write and publish a personal blog post.
In the past month, I have met some new people as well as reconnected with some old friends. Through these conversations and interactions with people the topic of health always arises. Questions and statements such as “how are you?” “how have you been going?” “I hope you’re well” etc can lead down two different paths. I can take the easy option and respond with very general answers “good thanks” “not bad” etc. Or I can take the honest option, assess how I am actually feeling at the time and not be afraid of the *awkward route the conversation may take when it comes to the question “what is chronic fatigue?”
*mostly for me, I am not sure if other people feel awkward discussing it.
It is logical for people to assume that chronic fatigue means being tired often, or associated with not getting a good night’s rest. Everyone experiences fatigue from time to time, however tiredness is only one of the many symptoms associated with chronic fatigue. The best way for me personally to describe it is “it’s like having the flu constantly”. Most people at one stage or another have had the flu or a head cold, and can understand the discomfort of body aches, headaches, sore throat, dizziness etc. In addition to these symptoms, there is also cognitive dysfunctions (Brain fog) and post exertional malaise. These symptoms can come and go, one day I can feel fine and the next day I can struggle to even stand for long periods of time. Another way of looking at it is that my immune system is in constant over-drive which saps energy very quickly.
Some people have had to give up work and significantly cut back on social activities. This can be extremely isolating and symptoms of depression and anxiety can arise. Fortunately, I was able to reduce my hours at work so I could keep my job, without pushing the limits of what energy I still have. I have to carefully plan my weeks in hopes to avoid “crashing” – this is when the symptoms are overwhelmingly strong and I have to spend the day in bed.
Exercise is a vital part of treating chronic fatigue, but that too needs careful monitoring. It has taken a lot of time, trial and error for me to figure out how long I can exercise for without over doing it. I can do yoga, swim and take short walks now without feeling like I might pass out. I have been experiencing all of the various chronic fatigue symptoms for a year now, and while I can see and feel an improvement, I have to remain patient and not push myself too far too fast.
It can be a very isolating and frustrating illness. I am very lucky to have two women in my life who suffer chronic fatigue and we are able to support each other through the good days and the very difficult days. (side note, all 3 of us are doing much better than we were a year ago yay!) My husband is great at reminding me to take it easy and soothing me on the days when it’s all too much – he also makes great at home coffee! My managers and team are supportive, encouraging and understanding and my family and friends have been so patient and kind this past year. I am hopeful and prayerful that my health will continue to improve over time.
Thank you for being patient with me.