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Coping with Fatigue

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by Sarah Dorrance

I have chronic fatigue syndrome, related to chronic Epstein-Barr virus. It's mostly in remission, now, although back in 1998 when I was diagnosed, I was in terrible condition, and it took me nearly two years to get back to some level of health.

I got my lab results back a while ago: EBV (Epstein-Barr Virus). I remember being relieved that I did not have systemic lupus, which can be fatal as well as annoying. It killed Lorraine Hansberry, author of A Raisin in the Sun and To Be Young, Gifted, and Black before she turned 40. At the time I didn't know that CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome) can also play havoc with your T-cell count and lower your immune system drastically, just like systemic lupus sometimes does.

At some point I contracted mononucleosis without even knowing that I had it (glandular fever, to those of you who are Brits). This seems to me a little odd. Three out of four times, when you come down with mono, it's pretty obvious. Mono, the so-called "kissing disease" because it's passed on via saliva, creates symptoms of total exhaustion and sleepiness. The glands swell, so your throat hurts and so sometimes do your groin and armpits. You have a fever. If you don't rest, you can put yourself at risk for things like scarlet fever, meningitis, and other dangerous conditions. It's not a laughing matter. I do remember a summer three years ago when I was so tired that all I did was lie around the house and sleep; I didn't read or do housework and going for my daily walks made me break out in uncontrollable shaking and sweating. That summer I was a gate guard at the Ohio Renaissance Festival, and I honestly thought I just had severe heat exhaustion compounded with...hunger.

Nope.

I spent most of late 1998 and early 1999 in bed. By April, I was able to work again, but my powers of concentration were shot. It took me another year to get to the point where I could get through a volume of Shelley or Milton and comment critically on what I'd read. It also took me that long to work up enough stamina to go on the daily five mile walks that I'd hitherto indulged in. I had frequent migraines -- sometimes one every day for weeks at a time. Feeding regularly helped a little, but it didn't make the problems go completely away. Since I wasn't much fun to be around when I was spending so much time lying on the couch napping or chatting via e-mail (one of the few activities that required little to no concentration) my social life suffered. So did my mental state; without exercise or a social life, I got depressed.

It was not a fun period of my life.

All this fatigue and depression played havoc with my close personal relationships, which meant that I didn't feed regularly from my fiance anymore, which made me very stressed.

Fatigue and stress are not minor problems. Never say "Oh, it's only stress" or "I'm just tired." Fatigue and stress zorch your immune system, cause nightmares, cause mood disorders, and if prolonged, cause death. Heart attacks, poor/inattentive driving, etc...think about it. And of course, there's always the old cliche about how warriors contract "battle fatigue", AKA "post traumatic stress disorder". Tell a veteran that stress is nothing to worry about, I dare you.

You have a condition that causes chronic fatigue? It's not something to ignore or conquer. It's a serious problem that needs to be monitored. Don't ever let anyone tell you that "it's all in your head", or "you're only tired", or "stress is nothing, we all put up with it these days". Just because fatigue and stress are common does not mean fatigue and stress can be laughed off or endured with stoicism and ignored. Take care of yourself.

Now for the psychic-related stuff. Yes, it's tied in.

Vampires are prone to stress and fatigue disorders because we are like black holes - sucking in massive amounts of energy, then blowing it back out. We're the original "gas guzzlers" -- fuel-inefficient in the extreme. We burn out easily. Being told that we're nuts because we think we are vampires doesn't help matters any. Donors are prone to fatigue as well, if they are drained too much or at inopportune times. Donors can also suffer from stress due to empathic links with their vampire contacts.

We should all be practicing basic stress management. Perform yoga or meditation; exercise regularly to work off steam; watch cartoons; whatever. Eat right. Don't live on a diet of caffeine if you are one of the lucky people who can have caffeine without getting migraines.

Sleep is also important -- get at LEAST six hours of sleep a night if you can, unless you really don't need much sleep. It takes a few hours to hit REM, and people who don't get a chance to dream or have an uninterrupted sleep cycle suffer from fatigue and often delusions. This has been proven in laboratory experiments. It is very important that you allow yourself enough sleep that you actually have dreams. If you are having a problem with nightmares, and wake up in the middle of the night, consider seeing a doctor about it, and do something about the stress in your life -- occaisional nightmares are normal, frequent or repeating nightmares are a sure sign of stress.

Recognize the stress in your life and try to find ways to relieve it.

Being under stress or severe fatigue also leaves you open to psychic attack, by the way; most supposed psychic attacks are symptoms of severe stress, but severe stress can make things easy for people who really do want to hurt you. The best way to combat psychic attack is to reduce stress, make yourself calm, and get enough rest and eat a good diet. Strengthening your body strengthens your shields, and makes concentration (necessary for visualizing shields or doing protective spells) infinitely easier.

As I mentioned earlier, I am now mostly in remission. Every so often I start to feel the characteristic "brain fog" of CFIDS coming on, and I feel tired and achey and run down. I've noticed at these times that if I cut myself, I taste a lot more watery than usual; well, hey, it's one way to test my blood to see if I'm running a high white blood cell count and am producing antibodies to Epstein-Barr virus. I never push myself anymore. If I feel exhausted, I go to bed and rest until I feel better. This, I think, is how I managed to get my condition under control -- that, and I take multivitamins and try to eat a balanced diet (something most Americans seem to have problems with, for all that they give lip service to healthy eating). I also feed regularly (that "other part of a balanced diet"!) in order to cut down on stress.

Getting enough rest, eating well, reducing stress, and trying to exercise moderately when you are healthy enough to do so might seem so elementary as to be idiotic, but it's amazing how few people these days do it. We work in offices where pressure from both co-workers and superiors makes us feel like wimps if we take time off to recuperate when we get sick; we work so many hours that we can only fit in time for recreation if we reduce sleep. This isn't healthy. Work normal hours, rest if you need rest, give yourself adequate time to take care of your needs. Pay attention to your own needs and don't be afraid to pamper yourself. There's nothing wrong with wanting to preserve your good health.

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