This is a time in my life that I will always look back on as a real low point. So low in fact that I never, EVER thought I’d ever be able to write about it. Not because it was too painful or too draining but because it was such an intense, surreal time that it was impossible to even put into words for family, friends and doctors.
A part of me feels incredibly over-dramatic even talking about this because I was lucky. At this time in my life I was ill, I was struggling to exist but frankly, I wasn’t suffering like so many others out there are with an indiscriminate form of cancer or a lifelong debilitating condition; fighting with remarkable courage like so many out there do. I had no clue whatsoever what was wrong with me. Really, not a clue. I just knew something was really so very wrong.
I was in such a great place in so many respects. I had wonderful family and wonderful friends – a consistent theme throughout my life and one for which I am eternally grateful. It had been a difficult time for us the year before having lost my Auntie whom we all loved dearly but if anything notable had to come out of the sadness, it was the reaffirmation of the strength of our family unit and the confirmation that, when the chips are down, we are always ready and willing to pull together for each other. Aside from this, I had (and still have) the most incredible boyfriend by my side, a one bad flat purchase under my belt (with a little, ok a lot, of help from my parents!) a brand new job with a compassionate company whose values I truly believed in and felt strongly compelled to help drive forward and the good fortune to be leaving my old job on great terms, having felt blessed to have been so supported in my employment for the past 7 years and having made some lifelong friends. It should have been the most wonderful time.
But I couldn’t feel it. I was genuinely numb. Not unhappy and therefore not depressed but numb.
My symptoms? First and foremost unbearable fatigue. Not the kind of fatigue that comes from a string of bad night’s sleep or from having overdone it through exhaustion and stress but a bone-achingly sense of tiredness that shook me to my core. Or that would’ve done if I’d had the energy to shake. I carried on day to day because I had to. Particularly with the start of a new job. I carried on, acutely aware of the need not to let anyone down or look like a particularly bad new hire but I was flagging constantly. I didn’t know who I was or where I was half the time. I was doing a terrible job and I knew it. I just couldn’t focus, concentrate or even think. Which leads me on appropriately to the other associated symptom I experienced that I now know to be classed as “brain fog“. If I thought the fatigue was debilitating, this was a whole new ball game. It added to the inability to think clearly 10-fold. I look back on that time now as a blur. I say that I wasn’t suffering from any sort of depression but I’ll admit that, when in the thickest of it, in the days when I couldn’t recall what I’d done an hour ago let alone yesterday, I felt like I just wanted to give up. Not because I was “sad” but because I was blank and non-existent. It was like a cape of cloud was over me. My new colleagues (and in fact anyone who came into contact with me) must have wondered what the hell was going on…as did I!
Along with the above came a whole host of other peculiar symptoms. They came and went but largely stayed put and were so diverse that you can imagine the challenges this presented when trying to communicate to doctors. I could practically feel medical staff poised to type “hypochondriac” into their computer systems. Symptoms included;
Hot and cold flushes
Excruciating period pains (when Aunt Flo actually arrived that is – for the first 7 months of 2015 I had no periods at all)
Anxiety, panic attacks and general confusion
Shakes, light headedness and nausea from random attacks of hunger (often after having only just eaten)
Terrible digestive issues, alternating regularly between cramps, bloating, flatulence, constipation, diarrhoea, upper and lower sharp pains, indigestion, gargling sounds (?!)
Numbness in hands, legs and feet
Derealisation and the feeling of being “outside” myself
Weight gain and then sudden weight loss
Yellow soles of feet
Stiff hips and clicking joints
September was the turning point. Things had got so bad that I just couldn’t go on in this same way. Something had to be done. I resolved that I’d find some answers and improve my health. I’d been backwards and forwards to so many doctors, so many times; blood tests, scans, different test results were all coming back negative. I’d spent a fortune on supplements, self help books and even the odd private GP in an endeavour to see me back to me again but nothing had worked. Eventually something gave, as I knew it eventually would, and I ended up in hospital with abdomen pain. I’d just gone to the doctor with pains and flu symptoms but he had suggested that this combined with a sky high temperature was grounds for me to be admitted to a ward. A haze of catheters, CT scans and canulas followed ending in nothing more than a 2 day episode of non-stop (literally) diarrhoea – sorry if TMI – and a consequently consistent low blood pressure level. When I was released, having felt like a fraud and with yet more negative test results (other than some inflammation indicated “somewhere” within my body ) I strengthened my resolve to find some answers myself. Clearly doctors had done all they could. The offering of a stress-induced diagnosis had been handed across to me again and again and, call me stubborn, but I knew that wasn’t what it was. Sure, there were times (often, actually) when I too was considering that it must all be in my head. This added massively to the fatigue and to the anxiety but deep down I knew I wasn’t crazy…
Today, I’m feeling better. I’m me. I got to this stage through what I’d learnt by myself.
I’m not 100%. I’m still having issues, specifically relating to digestion right now but it seems the haze is lifted and I can feel that I’m returning to the world – I’m registering and appreciating what’s going on outside myself. To get to this point I engaged in an enormous amount of research and trial and error. So, I’m setting up this blog to help others. I know that serious fatigue in particular is an issue that plagues so many and I’d like to share if I can some of the things I learnt and tried which have helped me in the hope that they can help others too. In addition, it’s a thank you to those many, many super intelligent individuals out there whose articles, posts, blogs and forums helped me more than they could ever know at a time when I felt so alone.
Wow, intense first post!
I’d like to think that I’ll post the odd uplifting and engaging post too! I’m excited to see the direction I’ll go in.
We all have our “stuff.” I wish everyone health, strength and happiness. When you’ve been through the tough points in your life, what was it that helped you?