Me & ME/cfs
I’ll admit I’ve wrestled for quite a while with whether or not to put this on my blog page. But I was recently asked by a fellow blogger what ME/cfs is, and realised I have skirted around the subject a little. After some thought, I’ve decided it makes some sense to explain, so here goes…
ME/cfs ~ Myalgic Encephalomyelitis ~ also known as ~ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
It’s really not something I enjoy talking about, but I hope it will give a bit of a picture of where I am emerging from. It is a bit upsetting, so if you’re feeling delicate I suggest you leave it for reading at another time. ME/cfs is categorised as a Neurological Condition.
I think I have had ME most of my life, past toddler hood. I had masses of energy, but was always the one who threw up on long journeys. On one particularly long journey through France & on to Spain by car, I remember asking my mum if we could stop one night longer before another full day of travelling…I was just so weary & felt ill. I was about 10 years old at the time. I think this was my first real awareness of fatigue, apart from during childhood illnesses.
My childhood was fun, but also challenging…which I suppose most people’s are, in some way or another.
There have been various phases of exhaustion during my life, after surgery in my 20’s to try & repair the damage done by BTOS…I couldn’t hold a cup! It’s still quite a problem. Post study, career moves & stresses of life…but not on every occasion. I’d say I’m a good coper.
The exhaustion started to rear it’s head again in my 30’s, whilst I was living in Asia with my husband & children. Life there was a wonderful experience, along with challenges which I won’t go into. There were other factors too…pesticides, pollution etc..
We settled back in the UK in my late 30’s, I was pretty under weight, but doing ok. I resettled our family & became very busy. Overlooking the fact that the wonderful support network I had been a part of in HK, was not with me in the UK…but I developed new, & thankfully maintained some long established, friendships. These were to be, unbeknown to me, priceless.
I secured a job, (which for the most part I enjoyed), juggling motherhood, running a home, worship life, volunteering etc (I liked to make the most of time). I had made plans for the future. I was happy. I increased my work hours, then in 2003, I started to get really weary. I ignored it. Big mistake!
My father had passed away unexpectedly a few years earlier & that exposed wounds & of course grieving. Then the crunch…on my sons birthday in 2004, ME hit, full on (although I didn’t realise at the time). I had what I thought was a virus, then became infection, went to bed, after barely being able to walk in the park on that day & wham!! That was it. All system shut down….I was 41. I’m now in my early 50’s.
It then all began… the vile fevers, drenched in sweat, horridly vivid dreams, endless acute nausea…and I mean endless. All day & night for weeks, months & years. Insomnia day & night (still happens). Night horrors. I went weeks/months on end barely sleeping at all…the sleep problems have continued. Acute pain…which went on & on..and which is now kept under control through medication & rest. Additional pain, akin to being stabbed with a protactor. Body tremors (still happen), neuropathic twitching (which is vile, disconcerting & exhausting). Acute emotion & insecurity, fear, crying all the time. The indescribable weakness throughout body and mind, was totally alien to me. And to be honest, still is!
Not tolerating noise, light or glare, touch, smell, (these 4 still happen), clothes felt like lead, grainy eye sight, my hair fell out, my skin turned yellow & my nails stopped growing. I couldn’t eat, acute diarrhoea & gut disruption for years …the list goes on. Loss of balance. Further weight loss. Acute weakness, breathing difficulties, heart palpitations & the horrendous brain fog, cognitive problems, sensory overload, spacial awareness problems, clumsiness all of which I still get. Loss of balance. The so called, tired but wired, went on & on. ‘Brain burn’ as I call it, like your skull is on fire on the inside. Weeks & months on end stuck in bed…barely able to function. I basically existed. Crash after endless crash.
I fought & fought through it, along with test after test and kindness from my GP. I retrained myself to eat, morsel, by tiny morsel…finding any food I could tolerate…& then ever so slowly started to add minute amounts of supplements into my diet (that took years & I am not exaggerating). Other things have helped too, some medicines, & B12 injections (which enabled me to read again after 7 years of not being able to). I could barely speak & my voice was a whisper for years… my speech was slurred (& still can be) ), I called a pencil celery (words still get muddled & the wrong ones come out), I couldn’t read or write…both are still a challenge, my face was numb on one side..which still happens. I couldn’t listen to anything either. Memory problems & not remembering what someone just said to you. My speech is still weird.
I couldn’t wash (still a problem) & sometimes couldn’t pass water. It was a living nightmare. I needed Osteopathy on my back, as due to being bed bound so long my disks started to slip…agony, along with massive muscle spasming. I’m being honest when I say, sometimes I can hardly believe I survived it. But I did & I carry on. Thanks to my faith in God, my dear, dear husband, my children, my friends, my family (especially my mum), my GP, 2 Neurologists, 2 Occupational therapists & a number of test technicians…and ultimately dogged perseverance.
I still have severe ME & have to manage my life ultra carefully, but many sufferers are affected far more severely and remain bed bound in darkened rooms, with some folk having to be tube fed. I recognise that I am so very, very fortunate. And feel as I tap the words in here now, it seems only right to have given more detail. There are many who can barely communicate.
I call the shots now…not the ME, unless I push it & the claxon sounds..too late, you’re in SETBACK (or worse, RELAPSE. A word which makes any MEep shudder, and cry probably), there are still alot of those. Rest, relaxation, pacing (as opposed to PACE), peace & quiet & reasonable routine help. But that has taken time & alot of effort to learn living in a different way, with what you have and on many days, that’s not alot…and to stop comparing yourself.
ME basically deconstructed my life overnight…now, ever so slowly, I’m reclaiming whatever bits I can. This is why I’m writing this blog. To share faith, hope, encouragement & discovery, and to attest to the harsh realities of ME/cfs, that many think is all in the mind. Believe me, it most definitely is not.
It took over a year for a formal diagnosis or rather exclusion… 13 years on, there still is no formal form of diagnosis. I lost my job, so did my husband as he had to give up work to become a full time carer for a long period & still is a carer, whilst now working full time.
It messed up our finances, we spent a year with no heating & have had times when we couldn’t afford food. It’s been tough and still is, on our little family, but we survive. Travelling of any sort has been a problem from day one for me & continues to be, so I can’t go far or often… this is the person who used to travel long haul solo with 2 under fives.
This isn’t intended as a bleat or a pity party, it’s simply to convey what this particular condition can do and does. Some folk may not comprehend what happens behind the scenes when health fails. Also that the term Chronic Fatigue, implies simply fatigue…and as you have read, there is unfortunately so much more to it than fatigue.
You need rocks when your health changes, & thanks to God, I had and have them. And, if you’re in need of a good cry out, listen to the song below…music so often expresses emotion I simply can’t put into words.
So there it is…my story in a nutshell. What relief to get that over with! I hope it hasn’t upset you.
Thanks so much for reading & I do hope you’ll read & enjoy my blog posts…they are in the majority on a far, far lighter note.
Some ME/cfs terms
MEep or PWME ~ a person with ME.
Pacing ~ managing energy available for the day without using it all. This is very difficult when you really don’t have enough at all. This goes from pacing the next 10 minutes, to the day, week & months.
PEM~ Post-exertional malaise. Can kick in hours, a day or days later.
Payback ~ exacerbation of symptoms following activity, be it cognitive or physical.
Crash ~ when you push beyond available capacity & have to lie down immediately, or you would simply collapse.
Setback ~ can last for days, weeks or months.
Relapse ~ can last months or years.
I must point out & stress that – The information in these blog pages in no way replaces the need to seek professional medical advice & attention in connection with the condition or symptoms mentioned or described. Thank you.