Sunday, 6 April 2014

Living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.


Today I wanted to write a bit more of a personal post, as when posting about beauty it can be a little difficult to know about the person behind the blog. As you may have guessed by the title of this post, I have chronic Fatigue syndrome. Now, it's nothing all that serious, there are much worse things to have, but its quite frankly a pain in the ass. I've been suffering with chronic fatigue for about a year and half now, though i was only properly 'diagnosed' around a year ago. I say 'diagnosed' because its not really something you can test for, but i'll get into that later.

Right, so starting from the beginning. It all started at the start of year 11 around september/october time, after getting quite ill with a form of the flu. It can be difficult to describe to someone what its like to have chronic fatigue syndrome, as no day is the same and its not really something you can 'see' effecting someone. For me, when i'm at my worst I constantly feel like i haven't slept, regardless of how much sleep i've had the night before or how many naps i take. It can make you lose your appetite and also effect your overall health. When i first started getting the symptoms, i didn't even know what chronic fatigue syndrome was, it was out of sheer chance that my mum knew someone who had a son with it and told us to investigate. Whilst at school it was really difficult dealing with it, as they didn't really believe me and just thought i was skipping school. Having them not believe me was really hard, as it made me feel like maybe i was making it all up in my head and there wasn't actually anything wrong with me. Sometimes i'd try and power through because of this, but it only made things worse. If you need to rest, rest. Regardless of what your school say, they're only trying to look out for themselves as they want the school to look good, you need to do whats best for you health wise. So i started to go to the doctors and they said i might simply have 'Post viral fatigue', which is essentially the same as chronic fatigue syndrome but only occurs after illness for a couple of months. Having post viral fatigue wasn't something i could use to validate my attendance, so my only option was to attend school or have a bad attendance mark. Now it seems simple just having to get out of bed, but sometimes i would feel so tired i physically felt ill, sick and dizzy. And this would stay for the whole day if i didn't get more sleep. This occurred for a while, constantly having to have meetings with the school and having numerous tests and blood tests done, until finally i was referred to the hospital for a thorough review and to see if i really had chronic fatigue syndrome. I still believe that had my mum and i not constantly went on at the doctors to refer me to the chronic fatigue clinic, they would have continued parring me off saying i didn't really have anything wrong. Chronic fatigue doesn't show up on blood tests like something like glandular fever, it's really just a group of symptoms under a label, so you really do have to be assertive that you want to be reviewed for it.

I truly feel for you if you're at school with chronic fatigue, as it can be so so difficult dealing with it whilst having to be in education 5 days a week. Since finishing school and starting college, i can say my chronic fatigue is barely there anymore. The main things which bring on my chronic fatigue are stress and drinking alcohol, so i try to stay as calm as possible, and basically just stay at home and avoid parties! At the start of college i must admit that due to the stresses of changing school and other things happening in my life, it was just as bad as during the worst period i had at school, but since then i feel pretty healthy and energised a lot of the time.

Onto how to deal with it. Now everyone had different symptoms and also different factors which bring it on, but it really just takes time to learn what makes it worse and what makes it better. I find that although i may feel tired, sleeping for 12 hours makes me feel just as bad as only sleeping 6, so i try to get a good balance of around 9-10 hours. This may seem like a lot to some, but chronic fatigue is essentially being exhausted all the time, so sleeping 9 for me is probably like sleeping 6 for you! Having naps can also help, so if i do feel tired, rather than sleeping more, i tend to get up and on with my day and then nap later. As i touched on earlier, stress is my main drawback. It can be difficult to avoid being stressed with college and everything else going on, but the key is time management. During my exams at school, i basically had to prioritise what i wanted to do well in. Being me, i wanted to get as higher grade as possible in everything, but that just wasn't plausible health wise. Instead i focused on a few subjects which i really wanted to do well in, and revised when i could for the others. This really helped to minimise stress and meant that i didn't end up crashing and failing everything. The hardest part was knowing that had i not had chronic fatigue syndrome, i could have easily passed all my subject with really high grades, instead of letting some fall. If you feel like this then you need to remember that it's not your fault and you just need to do the best you can, rather than worrying about what could have been. Now i'm at college i find that getting as much work as possible done during college means i can relax a bit more at home, and gives me time for blogging and relaxing without feeling like a should be doing work. I also had to drop down from 4 A levels to 3, which was a huge help. I was really struggling to keep on top of 4, so although it meant dropping textiles which was one of my best subjects at school, i knew i just would not have been able to cope with it in the long run. Whatever causes your stress, i think the key is to not worry so much, as what happens, happens and theres only so much you can do and deal with. All of this was the hardest for me to figure out, but you'll get there eventually and accept it as something you cannot control and just have to make the best of. I also noted that another factor that worsens my chronic fatigue is drinking alcohol. Now i don't drink much anyway, but now it really is hardly ever as the effects are so much worse. Although i don't get hangovers as such, the effects are drawn out for weeks on end, leaving me feeling exhausted, sluggish and just a bit bleh. Chronic fatigue weakens your immune system, so with the damage of alcohol on top it just hits an all time low. So if you can, i would highly suggest avoiding alcohol if you have CFS, although i know it can be hard if your friends are all out having fun! Blogging has been a great distraction for me as it means i don't feel like i'm missing out and doing nothing. Find a hobby that isn't too strenuous, and it will make it all a little bit easier :)

Lastly, i'm going to mention a bit about diet. Now i'm by no means perfect with my diet now but as i said my chronic fatigue is more manageable now, and as long as i still have a balanced diet and get my vitamins it doesn't make it worse. When it was really bad, i'd find that eating healthily but still getting a good amount of carbs was the best way to eat. Sugars and processed carbs made me feel a lot more sluggish, so getting my energy from good cards and eating lots of fruit and veg made me overall a bit perkier. It's difficult to make this change if like me you don't really gain weight anyway so would have no other reason to change, but being healthy can only ever be good! I also took multivitamins, vitamin b for energy and cod liver oil. Sounds a lot, but they help your hair, skin etc too so bonus!

I hope this post has helped anyone struggling to cope with CFS, or anyone who feels this way but has yet to be diagnosed or didn't really know what was causing their exhaustion. I don't know about all the symptoms, only the ones i have, so i'd recommend giving it a google as finding out you have it may take away a lot of stress. If you ever need anyone to talk to about it, drop me a tweet or email me and i'll help as much as i can. Remember, chronic fatigue syndrome is a real thing, although it cannot be diagnosed through blood tests, so don't feel silly or weak if you feel like you have it.
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