Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The horrible truth

  • Read this if you’re feeling tired all the time
  • The horrible truth about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Nine ways to combat constant exhaustion and stress

Imagine part of yourself gone forever.

That bit of your personality that defines you.

That thing which makes you “you”.

Well, this is what can happen with serious chronic illness.

And can be devastating.

This is what I was thinking about last week when I read an online extract from a book by Mike Mariani, an American lecturer in English Literature.

In his early 20s, he got home from a session in the gym and readied himself for a night out with friends.

All of a sudden, he felt weak and disorientated.

“My balance became wobbly,” he wrote, “and my stomach lurched forward and back.”

For several days, Mike was completely wiped out with tiredness but believed it to be a bug of some kind.

He’d get over it soon enough.

But the symptoms never went away.

Mike experienced exhaustion, dizziness and nausea after any form of exertion at all – which must have been traumatic for someone who loved sports.

Sometimes he’d also get migraines, sore bones or weak muscles.

This nightmare continued for months and months, to the point where he had to carry on with his daily lecturing work, regardless of the agony.

“My workdays were acts of endurance and concealment,” he says. “First I would push my pain and exhaustion down to a place where nobody, including myself, could see them, and then – like an actor who’s mastered the lines and gestures for a play he silently resents – I would assume a brittle mask of healthful calm.”

If you suffer from chronic fatigue, you’ll probably know this feeling only too well.

The horrible truth about chronic illnesses

The problem is that other people cannot see any injury or understand the severity of your condition in the way they might do with something like cancer.

They only have your word to take for your suffering.

After a while, their sympathy can drain away and you might begin to feel you cannot share your feelings with them – or that you’re becoming a bit of a drag.

You might even sense that they think you’re weak, or exaggerating, or just not making enough effort to sort yourself out.

“Whether anybody else could see it or not,” writes Mike, “I had lost someone: my former, healthy self.”

This is something that I know will strike a chord with many readers.

Because often it’s not the illness or condition that’s the hardest thing to bear, but what it takes away – what you lose.

It might be that sport you loved… the social events you used to attend… the hobbies that you enjoyed.

Or it might be that part of you which has been suppressed by the exhaustion… the talkative person, the joker, the high flying worker, the creative mind with great ideas.

Sometimes, you can’t focus on books and films like you used to.

Maybe you struggle to play with your grandchildren, take long walks, or go dancing.

Losing this part of you becomes a form of grief, which can further exacerbate the problems, throwing you into depression.

So how can something like this happen?

In the book extract, Mike Mariani described how he was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

This is common in people over 40, with more women than men suffering it. People who are highest at risk include those under physical and mental stress, as well as covid and flu sufferers.

The exact cause is unknown but some scientists think it could be viral infection or an immune system reaction to an infection.

If you’re lucky, the condition will last weeks but more likely years – and for some people, forever.

After his diagnosis, Mike started a desperate search through the dense maze of online content, hoping for an answer.

He read online articles and scanned message boards for anything that might give him hope. But the “list of ex-doctors and their failed treatment protocols piled up.”

And it’s sadly the case…

GPS will often throw drugs with horrible side effects at this problem, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and antihistamines.

Other options include Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve the pain (with side effects including stomach bleeding) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) which can cause kidney and liver damage when taken in large doses.

They sometimes also give patients stimulants to reduce fatigue and boost concentration.

None of these worked for Mike.

Of course, I advise you talk to a medical professional if you suspect that you might have Chronic Fatigue.

But once you know the score, there are five broad natural measures you could try out:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Take up meditation
  • Learn yoga
  • Go for counselling
  • Employ some stress management techniques

There are also some specific things you can try:

  • Magnesium may help reduce fatigue – you can find out more here: MAGNESIUM
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil and krill oil may also help reduce fatigue. Find out more about KRILL
  • DHEA is a hormone produced in your body that can improve energy levels.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiencies are shown to reduce energy levels – you can read more here. VITAMIN B
  • L-carnitine is known to support energy production in your cells.
  • Melatonin has been shown to improve fatigue symptoms.
  • A natural energy booster which targets the mitochondria in our cells is CO-Q10.
  • Ginseng and echinacea may help reduce fatigue and boost the immune system.
  • Essential oils (jasmine, peppermint, and rosemary) could help lower your stress.

These are no cures or magic bullets, just some ideas on ways to try and improve your energy levels.