Saturday, March 28, 2009

Drowning in an Invisible Flood

In July of 1999 I was 24 years old, a college graduate, and recently returned from a 1 ½-year mission for my church to Russia. I had just gotten my first real job working as a lab technician at an immunology lab on the campus of Florida State University doing research on nut allergies.

I was healthy, or at least I had no reason to believe I wasn’t healthy. I was exercising, getting adequate sleep, eating from the four food groups, and I had my whole life ahead of me. I was ready for the next step in life.

The next step came, but it wasn’t what I expected. It’s been 9 ½ years now since I woke up that morning in July 1999 with a flu bug, and I unwittingly began a journey that would effectively shatter all but a few core layers of me over the course of the next 6 years.

My roommate Rebecca was the one who gave me the bug – she got it from someone at work. Strangely enough, Rebecca’s co-worker recovered after a week or two. But somehow she and I plunged into the abyss commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

I got much sicker much more quickly than Rebecca. And besides the fact that both of us eventually went from fully-functional, active and contributing members of society to pretty much the exact opposite of that, it wasn’t immediately apparent that we had the same illness.

I honestly don’t remember everything about those early days of my illness, and don’t want to. I do know that I called in sick to work about every other day. I couldn’t sleep when it was time to sleep, and I couldn’t function when it was time to function. Some mornings I couldn’t move – brushing my teeth was so laborious that I would have to crawl back in bed after the exertion of it all.

I was thirsty -- all the time. And nothing helped. I would wake up in the middle of the night to pee from drinking all that water, but I was still thirsty.

Sleeping pills didn’t help me sleep. I remember some nights I would finally fall asleep just as the sun was rising. Any little sound in the night would jar me out of my semi-conscious state, flood my body with adrenaline, and make my heart race.

Exercise didn’t help me either – I remember one day I decided to walk up one flight of stairs. I spent the whole next day in bed. Occasionally, I would force myself to take a walk around the block. Each and every time, I paid big-time by needing to sleep the whole next day, or being extra exhausted the whole next week.

And what did my doctor have to say? My well-meaning doctor had little to offer me. Over the course of the next several months, she ran every test she could think of. Nothing significant was found to be wrong with me.

On the outside, I didn’t really look sick. I didn’t have any tumors or growths, my eyeballs didn’t turn yellow, my teeth and hair didn’t fall out. I didn’t become emaciated or morbidly obese.

But day by day, something very wrong was taking such an extreme toll on me that I was losing myself – my personality flattened, my sense of humor went into hiding, my previous drive to do my best at whatever I was doing in life took a serious beating, and I couldn’t be counted on to show up for work. I couldn’t move my body half the time, and I couldn’t function in society.

It’s like I was slowly drowning in plain sight to everyone in my life, but while they could see that I wasn’t my usual self, the deepening flood of water that was overtaking me was completely invisible.

On this blog, I will share with you my 6-year journey with chronic fatigue syndrome, and how I was finally able to find healing. If you have chronic fatigue syndrome, you may see some similarities with my story. You may also see some differences.

Either way, my hope is to share how I overcame the odds and recovered from this devastating illness. You may not like everything I have to say. In fact, like some others with chronic fatigue syndrome, I might make you mad with some of the conclusions I have come to.

I am not here to prove that chronic fatigue syndrome is a “legitimate” illness, whatever that is supposed to mean. I am not here to petition the CDC to increase funding for research on the illness. I have no interest in pushing for a miracle drug that will magically remove the causes and effects of the disease.

I am simply here to share how I have healed. I have healed. I am still healing. But I lead a full and active life without the constraints I was previously under, and without the laundry list of hundreds of random and unpleasant symptoms I previously experienced.

Do you want to know how I did it? Do you want to know how you can heal?

Keep reading . . .

1 comment:

  1. Ooooh, you've really got me hooked on this story, I can't wait to hear the rest!