Living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is different for each individual. I’d like to share with you my personal experience with this debilitating illness and how I contracted it in the first place.
It all started with my mindset and how I thought I was pretty tough, in fact, I thought I was some sort of modern-day superwoman. I led a pretty healthy lifestyle, ate healthy and mostly organic food, didn’t drink or smoke, and got regular exercise.
However, I was pushing myself and working too hard day after day and this eventually took its toll on my body. I mistakenly thought that my generally healthy lifestyle was good enough insurance to ensure robust and glowing good health forever, no matter how hard I worked.
I had a lot to learn about living life in a balanced way. It would take me years to eventually begin to get work and relaxation into some sort of normal ratio.
Little did I realize that getting up at 5 am most mornings to exercise, putting in a long and stress-filled day at work along with lots of business travel, would after a few years eventually take its toll on my health. I didn’t know then that the effects of stress on the body and mind would eventually lead me to be unable to work in a full-time capacity.
My job was challenging and whilst I was working in the politically charged and male-dominated environment of a large corporate business I loved what I was doing and knew I could make a difference in the role.
There were many improvements I could make in the division I headed up, ultimately making more money for the company and its shareholders. This is what I was employed to do, make money and improve the bottom line for the company. I thrived on the challenge, at least at first I did or thought I did.
The first sign of my faltering good health started to show itself about two and a half years into the job after a particularly stressful period in the workplace. I was fighting to show the changes I had made would bear fruit and struggle with the never-ending office politics, constant company policy changes, and brutal backstabbing in the office.
I knew my business strategies were right but I needed time for the changes I was making to flow through as a positive result and show up on the bottom line.
At first, the only symptom I had was feeling a bit ‘off’ and a general lack of energy. I didn’t feel sleepy but felt as if my body lacked enough energy to get me through the day.
After work, I would arrive home and flop onto the sofa, and remain there watching TV all night until it was time to go to bed. After a few weeks of feeling extremely tired all the time, I visited my local GP as I thought a check-up was in order.
My GP advised that I most likely was suffering from Post Viral Fatigue. Post Viral Fatigue? As far as I could tell I hadn’t had any virus, so how could I have Post Viral Fatigue? This diagnosis didn’t make any sense to me.
I’ve always leaned more towards alternative health methods rather than western medicine, so after a few more weeks of still feeling bad, I decided a visit to a naturopath was needed. Blood was taken and tests run which showed I was anemic and that my thyroid hormone levels were on the low side of normal.
Finally, after several months I had a diagnosis that made some sense to me. I started on the supplements recommended by my naturopath, and after a month or so started feeling better. During this time I continued to get up early each morning to work out at the gym and work full time in my enjoyable if busy and demanding job.
After a few months, the symptoms of fatigue started to become apparent once more, so I returned to my naturopath who tested my thyroid again. The tests revealed that my levels had dropped to a lower level and it was unlikely that the homeopathic supplement she had given me for my thyroid would be able to raise the levels back to normal.
This time I started to take a natural form of desiccated thyroid hormone. Once again after a couple of weeks, I started to feel normal again. I continued on the natural hormones for several months and felt good.
I was starting to see good results in my professional life from the hard work I had been doing. I knew that I had achieved what I set out to do and began to ask myself ‘what next?
At this time, on the lookout for my next professional challenge, I asked the company to transfer me to their office in China.
A challenge it certainly was, living and working in China was new, interesting, and a huge adventure. Every day in the professional environment was grindingly frustrating. Just trying to be understood in a culture completely different from the one I had left was brutal.
Once again I was working hard and traveling for business even more than before. In addition, I was dealing with the stress of living in a very foreign environment dealing with a completely different business culture whilst trying to learn the rudiments of a new language.
Besides the business stressors, there were also some obvious physical ones. I was living in a city of 14 million people, a concrete jungle. I badly missed natural spaces, clean beaches, and green parklands.
Air pollution levels were shocking. Some days I couldn’t see across to the other side of the road. Looking out of the office window, the view or should I say lack of it, was nothing but dense grey smoggy pollution.
You guessed it, after about eighteen months my fatigue symptoms returned. At this time another symptom made its appearance. I was waking up at around 3 am every morning, wide awake and unable to go back to sleep again. This was strange, I had always been a great sleeper.
On doing some research I found a western naturopath in Hong Kong who diagnosed me with Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Nowadays the term Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome is quite common. In those days it was just starting to appear and I had certainly never heard of it.
Luckily I had a week-long holiday at that time and he told me to go home and do absolutely nothing for the week. No travel even for pleasure, no socializing, do nothing but rest.
I was to sleep as much as I could to catch up on lost sleep, eat healthily, and take the prescribed natural supplements. Sure enough, following my naturopath’s advice once again I rebounded and made a good recovery.
However, I did nothing to change my attitude towards the way I worked and continued on with business as usual. Of course once again after several more months, I was back in my naturopath’s office. This pattern continued for several years leading me to be almost bedridden for one month.
By this stage, I realized my condition had deteriorated and was now not just adrenal fatigue, but I now had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
My naturopath tried suggesting that my attitude towards the way I worked would need to change and that living in China was not the best choice for me. But I wasn’t finished with my China adventure and his good advice fell on deaf ears.
In order to keep on keeping on, I swallowed a ton of supplements and herbal remedies which were propping me up and allowing me to be semi-functional, but my health was in a slow decline. I could no longer exercise and could barely function each day.
After each business trip, on arriving home I would drop my suitcase and crawl into bed spent, with not an ounce of energy left.
The light bulb moment finally occurred when I was dealing with so many symptoms that I could no longer function normally. I had to face the fact that my lifestyle had to change. Perhaps, more importantly, my attitude towards thinking I was superwoman had to change.
Every person has their own individual limit as to how far they can push themselves. Personal tolerance to various forms of stress is different for everybody. I now understood mine.
I moved out of China, reduced my workload, and enlisted the help of a wonderful naturopath specializing in fatigue issues.
With her expert guidance, I finally got to the bottom of what was causing my personal form of chronic fatigue syndrome.
We worked slowly and surely towards reducing all of the various symptoms I had. This time I listened and fully complied, finally making a full recovery that took two years. I hate to think what my life would be like today had I not met her.
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