Saturday, November 14, 2009

Faint Fatigueiness?

When I came down with Boo-Boo Kitty Syndrome on August 16, 2007, I had no vocabulary to describe it. The headache wasn’t technically a migraine, since it was my companion every waking minute, but sometimes it felt migraine-y, aggravated by overhead lights, headlights or neon that also made my vision swim. I’d have sharp pain in the lymph node areas of my neck, but the nodes weren’t swollen. My throat would be sore, but not red. I had a constant sensation, somewhere between tingling and burning, in various parts of my body. Sometimes I had constipation, sometimes diarrhea, cramping, gas, and bloating; sometimes a delightful mélange of abdominal woes.. My body ached like I had the flu, yet it was a little different from the flu. I felt feverish without a measurable fever. My muscles twitched and cramped for no reason, in no discernable pattern. My brain was fuzzy, and my project management skills felt impaired. I was lightheaded but not dizzy like vertigo dizzy, though I suffered from serious head rushes after standing up. And of course there was the

I could and did fall asleep pretty much anywhere, any time. I was lucky to be able to keep my job, though there was a period where my boss wondered if I needed to go on leave or work part time. I couldn’t afford to lose my health insurance or much income, so I dedicated myself to sticking it out at the office for a full day, four days a week (I already worked at home one day) even though sometimes I fell asleep in my chair or had to crawl under my desk for half an hour because sitting up made me so tired I hurt all over. When I got home, I’d flop into the Big Poofy Chair and, more often than not, fall asleep for two hours. I’d recover enough to watch TV until it was time to go to sleep for another nine and a half or ten hours. Sometimes on my way to work I’d have to pull over in Fremont or Hayward and nap for 20 minutes. Exercise, even easy walking, made things worse, so eventually I stopped altogether. Even walking 100 feet sometimes made my legs burn like they used to during the last 500 meters of a race. Now that I feel pretty much better pretty much all the time, I can’t believe I got through that ordeal without cracking up completely or losing my job. I’m not exaggerating my symptoms. In fact, I realize as I write this that just listing the symptoms doesn’t do justice to the miserable synergy of having them all at once.

Not having a diagnosis made it all much worse. I saw four doctors at Kaiser and one outside doc; but as I became more and more convinced that it was one of the many flavors of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Chronic Fatigue-Immune Deficiency Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, it became clear to me that having a diagnosis wasn’t going to help me in any way except to help me validate my horrid experience.

Now there’s a new study that claims to have found a particular retrovirus in the blood of 85% of CFIDS/ME patients tested. While there are still some methodological questions about the study, and it’s still not clear whether the X-somethingy retrovirus is a cause or effect, it’s encouraging to know that researchers are working on the issue. Even though the CDC recently published its own study claiming that CFIDS/ME sufferers tend to have a history of childhood sexual abuse (um, no) and an “inability to deal with stress” (hard to say), at least some medical folks are looking for a non-psychiatric explanation for the all-around awfulness.

In the midst of all this news, I have noticed a few disturbing trends. I’m sleeping longer lately, the last few weeks or so. Wednesday night I slept for ten hours and could probably have slept some more, though I hadn’t been particularly sleep deprived. I’ve had a few sporadic days of brain fuzz and dizziness - I have a bit of it right now. On weekends I’ve really had to push myself to get out and move around; I haven’t had the urge to exercise that I had even a month ago. In homage to Stephen Colbert, I coined the term “fatigueiness” to describe how I feel when the old symptoms flare up. It’s not the good, honest fatigue of three hours on a bike, or even a session mowing the lawn and sweeping the patio, or even working a couple of 12-hour days on a project. It’s fatigueiness, and I’m not happy to feel any trace of it. I don’t know why it’s cropping up now. My CPAP machine is controlling my sleep apnea just fine, my medications are unchanged, and I haven’t been under undue stress lately.

Michelle, who is my mentor in all things CFIDS/ME, reminds me that there isn’t necessarily a reason, or not one that we can easily discern. Her relapses don’t follow a logical pattern. I don’t think my couple of months of regular, not super strenuous exercise can be causing my faint fatigueiness, but I’m not sure. I’m not going to back off yet, anyway.


  1. All of that sounds dreadful! I hope your faint fatigueiness goes right away and doesn't become a full relapse. Sending you some good mojo!

  2. I'm so sorry for what you're going through. I sure admire your tenacity. Your books, especially "Shape Up," have done wonders for my motivation. Thanks for your practical insights and encouragement. I wish I could help your fatigueiness and such. You've certainly helped me with my procrastination and anxiety. Thanks! Sending good thoughts, and prayers, your way.

  3. Right now the energy is pretty much back again, though I had a couple days of "something" earlier this week. Very weird.