When fellow blogger Brian Bixby of sillyverse emailed to say he’d be in France this late summer, how would it be if he detoured to England so we could meet, I confess, despite the friendship that had developed between us, my immediate reaction was panic. But let me explain.
Most people are aware that CFS is characterised by excessive tiredness—the name gives it away: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. But not so many know of its other main symptom: high anxiety states and panic attacks. Logical, if you think about it. With the muscles unable to use its daily release of adrenaline said chemical floods the brain instead. Adrenaline-saturated (thus sleep-deprived) the brain then manufactures all kinds of scary scenarios . . . or at least mine did . . . high anxiety and panic attacks are the usual result.
When I first developed CFS it was minor (mild); I mostly managed to work through it, taking a couple days off if needed. But after being zipped into hospital with meningitis and encephalitis the CFS hit hammer-hard and down I went into lethargy-land. For someone who’d always been active (with a capital A, C, T) this wasn’t nice. But the energy deprivation wasn’t the worst of it. It was those anxiety states and the accompanying loss of confidence.
Was I really the same woman who had thrived on negotiating the best deals for the theatre from visiting shows, who had happily given live interviews on radio, who had been teaching in the adult education programme at the local college when the illness first broke, who thought nothing of nipping off to London and beyond? Now I couldn’t go beyond the doctors, the dentist, the library and the supermarket without someone beside me to lend me support. And as for doing anything new . . . no, that was a no-go.
To protect myself from the stresses of modern living I more or less sealed myself into a bubble. Locked my door on the world. No newspapers, no TV, no radio, no contact except close family.
For how long did this last? The first bout of mild CFS was late in August 2001. Severe CFS hit in November 2005. By 2010 I expected never to recover. Yet my sanity during these self-inflicted closeted years had focused on writing. I had manuscripts. I wanted them published. How was I to do that when I’d become one step removed from agoraphobic?
I gave up on that thought, though not on the writing. At the none-too-gentle nagging of my eldest daughter, I took a deep breath and initiated this blog— crimsonprose—to carry my writing. Not an easy procedure when to attempt anything new was to invite yet another crash into exhaustion and anxiety. As I remember, after the set-up procedure it then took several more days to recover sufficiently to publish a post.
Immersed in my writing and blogging, nothing much changed—except for my weight. Odd how the appetite doesn’t diminish despite the body is closed into sleep. And it was that which ‘saved’ me. Oh what a surprise, I had developed Type II diabetes.
No, I said, I’m not having that. And there followed a complete shake-up/shake-down of my eating habits. Whether it was that, or the prescribed meds, I wouldn’t like to say but I do know that energy now began to flow.
Weight loss, energy, activity . . . Lo! Had the CFS gone away? No, it had not. An unexpected dose of stress could still send me into relapse. And that was why I panicked when Brian suggested the meeting. Particularly since I had a holiday of my own booked for the following month (and that was a landmark event considering my past). I was supposed to be walking. Every day. I couldn’t do that if again hit by CFS.
I am pleased to say that, not only did we have a wonderful meeting, a great success (see Brian’s write-up Reaching out to a fellow blogger) but there has since been no hint of a CFS reaction. That puts my last relapse way back to eighteen months ago. Wow!
In truth, I ought to have known I’d be okay, having spent those eighteen months walking the green lanes and footpaths of Norfolk, jumping on buses (sometimes as many as three to get where I want), talking to all and anyone met on the way. Yet to pass the time of day with a stranger is not the same as to spend even half a day in the close company of an as-yet unmet friend. Moreover, previous to our meeting I’d had little contact with Brian’s partner E.J. (as it turned out, we managed quite easily to find common ground).
So, upshot of this story? My door is now officially open. I am no more the recluse. As with the diabetes (which I reversed and was declared free of within nine months of diagnosis) CFS is now a thing of the past. To which I say—Yippee!