Chronic fatigue syndrome is a debilitating autoimmune condition. It’s often misdiagnosed at first, because some of the symptoms are linked to other health problems, including some nutrient deficiencies. Annoyingly it’s also a condition that you can’t fully treat. You can see some improvement but suffer relapses in the future.
This is a condition that affects every part of your being. This is more than just “chronic fatigue,” which is debilitating on its own. Here’s a look at all the ways chronic fatigue syndrome can affect your life, but what you can do to help yourself.
Chronic Fatigue vs. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Both conditions are bad, but when chronic fatigue becomes a syndrome it’s considered to be worse. Chronic fatigue is a precursor to the syndrome, but it can also be a condition on its own. If you have chronic fatigue for six months or more and have some cognitive issues too, you will likely meet the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome.
There are a number of reasons people suffer from chronic fatigue. Most commonly, the condition is caused by health issues or a virus. You can feel tired all the time. It’s as if your body never gets enough sleep and your muscles constantly ache.
If this continues for at least six months, your doctor will look into whether it’s actually chronic fatigue syndrome. All the known conditions that cause chronic fatigue are ruled out, so it’s no longer a symptom of a condition. Your doctor will then consider any concentration or memory issues, muscle pain, joint pain, headaches and tender lymph nodes. If you have four of the above with the fatigue symptoms, you will be diagnosed with the syndrome.
The tiredness isn’t just feeling like you haven’t had a great night’s sleep. This is more than just feeling like you need to get a nap in somewhere during the week. You feel fatigued despite sleeping. More than 24 hours after exercise, you still feel tired and lethargic.
Females are more commonly affected by chronic fatigue syndromes than males, and it’s also a condition that usually affects younger and middle-aged adults rather than teenagers or older people. Researchers believe that tens of thousands of people are affected, but not everyone will have a diagnosed. It can be overlooked due to other health issues or the belief of other conditions.
So with all this in mind, just how does chronic fatigue syndrome affect your life? Is there anything you can do? Here’s a look at all you need to know.
It Can Stop You Working
Some people with chronic fatigue syndrome find they have to stop working. They are too lethargic to get through the day at work, while also suffering from memory loss and concentration issues. It takes them too long to get through tasks at work and find it harder to stick to deadlines. Employees are also more likely to make mistakes in their jobs, so they have to repeat work. This costs the employer more money, so there are negative performance reviews that can lead to losing a job.
This is also a dangerous condition for drivers. Truck or van drivers will find themselves out of work because they are less likely to pay attention to road signs. Their tiredness takes over and they try to work on autopilot, which is extremely dangerous. Someone who is tired is just as dangerous as a drunk driver!
The self-employed are also directly affected. They find it hard to concentrate on tasks at hand, which affects their ability to learn. They will be more distracted by events happening around them and spend time on tasks that have no financial gain. There’s also a higher chance of mistakes happening, eating into time that they could be working with other clients.
Chronic Fatigue Can Lead to Depression
Those who have chronic fatigue syndrome are also more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Part of this is linked to the tiredness and the hormonal imbalance in the body.
When the tiredness becomes overwhelming, the body starts to release more stress hormones. You go into that fight or flight stage, and more often than not you will choose to fly. This can mean you don’t get all the tasks done that you want and it makes you feel bad for not completing it all.
The tiredness stops you from doing the things you used to enjoy. Going out with friends or taking part in that marathon is the last thing on your mind. It can feel like everything you were is stripped from you, as you just can’t get the energy to function. The muscle and joint pains can make things worse, as you just can’t feel like you can do it all even if you did have the energy.
And then there are the issues with losing your job. You struggle financially, which can put you under a lot more stress.
When you suffer from stress, your health issues spiral. The inflammatory response is kicked off and the immune system is put under unnecessary pressure. You can’t fight illnesses as easily and end up in more pain.
As you can’t do the exercise, it’s harder to release the positive emotions and chemicals around the body. The downward spiral continues, as you continue with this flight mode. It’s hard enough getting out of this when your physical health isn’t affected, but you’re dealing with problems all over and it’s extremely hard to fight.
You’ll Have to Change the Way You Do Exercise
One of the biggest changes some people find is the way they do or think about exercise. Those who were once happy to run 10K every day will find that they can’t do such a thing anymore. They have to give into the illness at times.
Exercise can leave you feeling extremely tired of 24-48 hours afterward. That means you have to work on doing less throughout the week, which can leave you feeling negative about your health. However, focus on the fact that you are still doing something and you are working with the limitations life has thrown at you.
Your life is affected by the intensity of the exercise too. You’ll have to reduce the amount that you do if you don’t want to pay for it later. Muscle pains will be worse if you push yourself too much. It’s all about learning your new limitations. Instead of feeling bad about them, accept what you can do and enjoy that as much as possible.
By pushing yourself too much, you increase the chance of developing injuries. Your body can’t recover as quickly as you used to. This can play on your mind, but it’s important not to let it affect you negatively too much of the time.
You’ll Learn More About the Battles to Fight
It can feel like your life is a never-ending battle. You have to constantly fight against some of the pain and the tiredness you experience. However, you will actually learn more about yourself.
Chronic fatigue syndrome will involve battles. You just have to choose the ones that are worth fighting and those that you should leave for another day. For example, you may want a late night with friends, but that doesn’t mean you can do it twice in a week. Sometimes it means reducing your social calendar to once a week because of your condition.
There’s no need to always say no. Sometimes the battle is more than worth it risk of losing it. Say you want to see your favorite celebrity at an upcoming Comic Con. You can go, but you need to keep your limitations in mind. Go with a plan. What will you do when your legs ache too much from walking around? How can you minimize the pain before you see the celebrity? Going in with a battle plan is a great way to improve the chances of succeeding.
You’ll Need to Be Ready for the Relapses
But done worry about not winning a battle now and then. You’re not always going to win. Relapses happen. It can feel like you’re winning daily and then suddenly you wake up in excruciating pain and have no energy to even pull yourself out of the bed for food. This is known as a relapse and it’s something that you need to be ready for.
Your life will likely be spent looking for signs of the relapses. They can happen without warning, but you will often start seeing a pattern in your life. This will also help you develop a plan for when the relapses occur. You can find things you enjoy without them taking a lot of effort. Binge-watching shows on Netflix, watching your DVD collection, and even reading short books are great ways to spend your relapse time.
There are also going to be times that you’ll need to find ways to battle the relapse. This can be a struggle, especially when it’s something you’re not 100% enthusiastic about. It’s essential that you find a way that works for you.
It’s Possible to Gain New Friends
Chronic fatigue syndrome doesn’t just have to be something negative in your life. While there are certainly days that you feel the world is a nightmare, there are some good things to come out of this. One of the most important things is a support network.
Remember that there are tens of thousands of people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. You will likely know someone without even realizing it at first. Working with this knowledge is essential.
There are support groups, but off and online. You can make new friends and find people who have common interests and struggles. This is a great way to learn that the illness doesn’t have to define you. You’ll gain tips on looking out for relapse signs and ways to tackle the days when your body just seems totally to you.
This support network is also going to be understanding when it comes to social events. If you’ve given up a meeting with your own friends because of your illness, you can feel completely alone. This can lead to a higher risk of depression. Having friends who understand and help overcome the problem will help to keep your mental health on track.
When it comes to finding support groups, use some common sense. You want a group that has both new sufferers and those who have dealt with the condition for years. This will help to get advice on both sides of the coin. You want to avoid the groups that promise immediate cures or advice you to go against your doctor’s recommendations. Look out for established groups, as they already have a proven track record of helping members.
You May Need Medication
There are times that you will need to talk to your doctor about medication. While you can’t completely overcome your chronic fatigue syndrome, there are medications to help with the symptoms. You can help get painkillers to ease the feeling in the muscles and joints and support for your mental health. There are drugs to aid with the blood pressure issues that you have or managing your energy levels throughout the day.
Talk to your doctor about all your options. This isn’t just about pharmaceutical drugs but herbal remedies. Discuss any homeopathic remedies you’ve researched or heard about. This will not only help to get a medical view of them but also make sure they don’t interfere with any medications you are taking.
You Can Live with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
It can initially feel like chronic fatigue syndrome is going to take over your life. You have all these limitations that you didn’t use to have; limitations that you never imagined for yourself until you got much older. Your mental health can face a decline because of that. However, your chronic fatigue syndrome doesn’t have to control your life. You just have to find a way to live with it to support your overall health.