I always considered myself to be a “high achiever” in life. I was very driven and kept myself working at what could be defined as a race-horse pace. When I was 34 years old I found myself working three jobs, supporting a family of four, and dealing with mental health issues in my spouse. My life had reached the height of stressful and everything I knew about the world was about to come crashing down around me.
Crashing is the perfect word too because that is exactly what I did. One day I was functioning well, working as a professional in high-stress jobs, and maintaining a hectic social schedule. The next day, I was falling asleep at the wheel of my car, the desk of my office, and even the couch in my living room because I was too tired to walk to my bedroom. My body hurt, my mind felt numb (the best way I can define it is to say it was like running a really high fever, the body tingles and hurts, the mind is numb and rummy, and all you want to do it sleep), and my memory seemed to have disintegrated over night, I thought to myself, “I must be really sick”, and I was sure it would pass in a few days.
Unfortunately, days spread into weeks, into months, and now it’s been over a year. I lost my job, my house, my social life, and eventually divorced my spouse. This is the face of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is ugly, it is long term (thus the “chronic” in the name) and it is something that isolates you from the majority of the world because it is not visible or accepted as an illness in society.It steals from you your sense of self, your friends, and in many ways your sanity. I find myself questioning myself all the time. I ask myself “Am I really sick? Am I lazy? Is there hope in my life?” These are only a few of the questions I ask myself every day.
Finding doctors to help you, understand you, or even believe you is the first struggle – and one that I spent months fighting. I wish I could say that I have solved that problem, but its one I’m fighting still today. This is such a misunderstood illness that many in the medical community themselves are conflicted about what it is and if it’s real. Let me assure you, however; anyone who experiences this does not have to question whether or not it is real.
My next installment will outline my struggle with getting diagnosed. In the end, I ended up with a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia, and Depression. Getting there was the first challenge, knowing what to do with it the next. There is no miracle drug or cure to solve this problem. But this will be a future discussion since my goal in this first installment was simply to identify how I encountered it. Maybe your experience was similar, or possibly it was very different. These are stories that need to be told so understanding and empathy can begin to emerge for those of us who struggle with it.