Are you tired? We’ve all been there. For one reason or another, most of us have struggled with fatigue. Perhaps, you couldn’t sleep the night before? Or you burned your candle at both ends until you were exhausted? It happens. A cold, flu, or other illnesses can also result in fatigue. But what if there is no reasonable explanation? Then, like the millions who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you may be more than tired. You may be living with a complex Chronic illness.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis as it is also known, is a complicated disorder. Symptoms of CFS/ME include:
- Loss of Concentration and/or Memory
- Unexplained Muscle and Joint Pain
- Unrefreshed Sleep
- Extreme Exhaustion
Since these symptoms can accompany other illnesses, it’s important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. And your patience is required. It isn’t unusual for the final diagnosis to take a while. Most patients will tell you that they waited months (years, in some cases) and saw more than one doctor. Age and gender play a role, with CFS. Women are much more likely to be diagnosed than men. Patients are usually middle-aged (typically their 40s), at onset. It is also believed that certain “triggers” may initiate the disease, i.e. viral infections, fragile immune systems and hormonal imbalances. Since there is currently no cure or specific treatment for CFS/ME, physicians focus on relieving the patient’s symptoms. This can be daunting and sometimes frustrating.
As with other Chronic illnesses, patients who live with CFS/ME must learn to manage their illness. Daily living becomes a juggling act. But with a few easily implemented tips, it can become easier:
- Low-impact Exercise done regularly, i.e. walking, Tai Chi, swimming, Yoga, Pilates, etc. It will keep you active & strong.
- Pay attention to your diet. It’s your fuel. The Mediterranean Diet has been helpful to many CFS/ME patients.
- Puzzles, Word games, Trivia, etc. will keep your memory sharp.
- Adjustments to your workload may be necessary, i.e. PT instead of FT, etc. About 50% of all CFS/ME patients remain in the workforce.
- If you need help, ask for it. Friends, family, co-workers and Support Groups can play an important role in CFS/ME management.
Last, but not least, it is important to keep your expectations realistic. Anyone with a Chronic illness will tell you that overdoing it, pushing yourself, and/or ignoring your illness/symptoms is a recipe for disaster. Be kind to yourself. Make the necessary changes. Stay optimistic. Move forward. Progress, no matter how small, is still a step toward better living. The triumphs do add up. And remember … every day is a gift. Some are better than others. But when you’re living with a Chronic illness, it’s key to make the most of each one. Whether it’s a day of rest in your jammies, or a day doing something really special, it’s important for your well-being. Enjoy it!
*Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash