This morning I simply want to share a useful article I “happened upon” because, for me, it shot such a bolt of light into my experiences of chronic fatigue that I knew it would likely be a blessed relief to others like me.
Not only does this article provide a sizeable chink of light at the end of the tunnel of chronic fatigue but some of the observations it makes about the way that chronic fatigue actually feels is music to the ears of anyone who has been there. A million miles from depression or an anxiety disorder – WE all know that; but convincing the medical profession is another matter. Feeling “tipped over” by body symptoms that have you vacillating between feeling comatose and highly adrenalised (often both at the same time – try that) is one of the most alarming things imaginable and yet, all along, I’ve known that my own experiences are a systemic, physiological issue; not anything whatsoever to do with the state of my emotions or my deeper psychology.
“Chronic fatigue – HOW can you be chronically fatigued when all you do is sit around at home and paint a bit” is a criticism I level at myself on behalf of countless imagined others and yet its very real when you are in it. A huge lightbulb in this article is its handling of (and theory about) the bizarre reality that symptoms become so much more profound after any time spent “upright”. Reading this comes as such an eye opener, helping explain away years when a short shopping trip, standing in the shower, standing up chatting for five minutes at a drinks reception and many other “perfectly ordinary” activities can leave me utterly drained-away like I just climbed Everest, like I just have to lie down, like I am utterly done-in and yet I can potter around the house well enough, doing chores and working at my own pace and anyone meeting me for the first time would never guess there was anything “wrong” with me from appearances. Even my precious daily dog-walks are sometimes about all I can manage for the controlled duration of about an hour (as long as I keep moving steadily on; don’t stop for a chat) before allowing the inevitable sofa-crash to happen afterwards. If I don’t, then, stop everything to allow myself to recover from that – of if anyone asks anything more of me at that point – I suffer the consequences of heart flopping around in the chest, extreme irritability, brain fog and mental confusion, random muscles twitching and (for me, with the double whammy of fibromyalgia) widespread pain switching on. I have to listen to this – and I do, living my whole life around it – but why does it happen? No one ever seems to address that and my own journey through the territory has been a piecemeal one of painstaking trial and error, endless research, seeking out the experiences of others in the same boat for some sort of clue.
Well, this article provided one and it turns out this phenomenon has a name – “orthostatic intolerance,” meaning a worsening of symptoms when in the upright position.
This article on Health Rising (an excerpt from Dr. Bell’s book “Faces of CFS – Case Histories of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”) sheds some extremely welcome light on the mechanism of this entirely physiological experience – through the experiences of a lady called Maggie who has been on her own long and relentless search of answers – so I will leave you to read the article itself rather than hear my paraphrase (and if chronic fatigue is your territory, I really recommend it).
As for the big question mark – why a sustained remission of symptoms didn’t occur for Maggie, any more than it has for me (yet…though I’ve made considerable headway for significant bursts of time and am relieved to report that experiences of being as consistently “crashed-out” as Maggie’s have not been mine for over three years now) – it seems there are more knots to be tied. For my own part, I am increasingly embracing a theory of body pH as a major (if not the core) factor on top of which other “triggers” such as hormones, electrico-magnetic (including geomagnetic and space weather) influences, circadian and seasonal rhythms, hormones, allergies (including food and mould) and yes even moderate exertion (as an additional challenge upon already struggling mitochondria; though exercise – to the right degree – is absolutely crucial to recovery) can act as a stretch too far. Certainly, if your body is going into adrenal overdrive just to get your blood to your brain, how well is it going to cope when solar flares and other environmental triggers pulse the kind of electro-messages that get everyone’s system subtly (yet measurably) ramped up – I’m literally typing this as a new coronal hole on the sun is giving my heart the usual flip-flop experiences that I have come to expect of certain “space weather”. Get the body’s core functioning into balance and the ability to cope with all the rest will surely fall into place, but more on that in my next post. Here’s Maggie’s story (with big thanks to Cort Johnson for flagging it up):