In my teens, I developed a sleep disorder, and I think this had a lot to do with my later developing chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia as an adult. After college, I began teaching elementary school. Although I enjoyed working with children, I was sick almost constantly with colds and viruses. (Kids are great germ-spreaders!) After a year or two of chronic illness, I left teaching and began doing office work. I missed the children, but my health seemed to hold up better working with adults in an office environment.
At age 30, while working under extreme stress as a legal secretary, I developed fibromyalgia and suffered from muscle pain, bizarre neurological symptoms, extreme fatigue and unrelenting insomnia. I also had bouts of depression, PMS, endometriosis, allergies, tinnitus, frequent sore throats, colds and sinus infections. I eventually had to quit my job due to the fibromyalgia. I felt useless! In order to cope with life, I had to reduce stress levels drastically and needed frequent rest periods throughout the day.
Several years later, we moved to a city which I later discovered was known as "the allergy capital of Florida!" Shortly after moving there, I thought I had caught the flu. I felt sick all over, my lymph glands swelled and I ran a low-grade fever. This continued for many months. I was terribly fatigued. I was under a lot of stress at that time for a number of reasons--the relocation, adjusting to a demanding new job and trying to paint the interior of a house we had just purchased. The doctors thought I had a virus that would just have to run its course.
My immune system was very weak and I seemed to have no resistance to illness. For example, one day my boss coughed on his hand just before passing me some papers. Within hours I had a full-blown cold sore!
My low-grade fever finally subsided and the lymph glands went down, but I was left exhausted! I often felt like I couldn't think straight. I kept contracting viruses that wouldn't go away. One year I caught a cold in January that didn't go away until June. It turned into bronchitis and then pleurisy. I took 6 different antibiotics, but nothing helped. Meanwhile, I had to quit my job because of chronic illness and exhaustion. My resume started to look like a checkerboard!
My allergist said that I was suffering from an immune deficiency that I was probably born with. When he reviewed my RAST (blood) test and skin test for allergies, he said that I was the most allergic person he had treated in 3 years. My main allergies were to pollen, mold, dust mites, cat dander and grasses, but I was also allergic to many other things. I went on allergy shots for about 18 months, giving myself 4 shots a week. The serum had to be diluted down tremendously in order for my system to tolerate the shots, but I felt that the treatment was strengthening my immune system. Even though I seemed to have more resistance to illness, most of the time I felt only "half alive"--or maybe I should say, "half dead!"
At times the fatigue was so incapacitating that I would have to go to bed. I would literally be too tired to hold my head up. My head felt extremely heavy, like a bowling ball being balanced on a pencil. However, since I couldn't sleep, I would just lie there feeling depressed, thinking of all the work that needed to be done. Typically I would only have energy until about 10 a.m.--then I could barely function. Even the process of eating--chewing, swallowing, digesting--was exhausting at times! Forcing myself to do physical exercise just made things worse. On days requiring a massive (for me) amount of energy, such as driving 4 hours to visit my parents on the other side of the state, I would be in an agony of exhaustion! This lifestyle was very frustrating for a "Type-A, high-achieving" person such as myself!
There were days when I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I felt like a fish trying to swim upstream. What was easy for other people was a Herculean feat for me. After quitting yet another job because of fatigue, I later found out what had been making my condition even worse--a mold-filled air conditioning return duct right beside my desk! The woman who replaced me also had allergies and she soon developed chronic bronchitis and had to quit also. Her husband came to the office and discovered huge globs of moldy dust in the duct! The building was 60 years old and had been renovated into an office. Since we were the only ones who were adversely affected, our complaints were not taken seriously.
Certain people in my life began to insinuate that the pain and fatigue were all in my head--that I was a hypochondriac or neurotic--and if only I would try harder, I could overcome my poor health. I would work myself up into a state of nervous energy (for lack of a better description) in order to seem bright and efficient at my job, but then collapse in total exhaustion at home! One day my boss called me "lazy!" This really hurt, since I have always been a very conscientious and hard-working employee. I was suffering from an "invisible illness" that no one seemed to understand! I was given a lot of drugs to help my various symptoms, but nothing really worked. Depression became a part of my daily life. At times I felt somewhat better and even had a good day here and there, but I was fatigued and exhausted 90% of the time because I couldn't sleep! My body ached all over. Life had become an endurance contest as I dragged myself through each day. Somehow I managed to keep up a smiling appearance, but inside I was miserable! I couldn't even remember what it was like to feel good anymore.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
In May of 1996, through a series of unusual circumstances, I met an elderly woman who handed me a large manila envelope containing information on some natural help for fibromyalgia. She told me that someone had given the packet to her, but since she was going into the hospital for surgery, she didn't feel up to reading it. I took the information home and began to study it, and my interest was stirred! I had just gotten internet access and decided to do some research about fibromyalgia. A whole new world opened up for me! I began experimenting with many natural products, making careful note of what helped me. I also kept experimenting with different meds, thanks to a caring doctor who was willing to prescribe new things I wanted to try. I felt like a guinea pig, but there was no other way to discover what would help, since there is no cure or "magic bullet" for overcoming this illness. Eventually I found some meds and supplements that helped me function better. If you would like info, please write me.
There is some debate among medical researchers over whether CFIDS and FMS are the same disorder or two separate illnesses. I personally believe they are two separate conditions with overlapping symptoms. I also have my own theory as to what causes it. During my 14 years of suffering with FMS/CFIDS, I learned many things that helped me. Please read my 100 Tips for Coping with Fibromyalgia and Insomnia. Also I have put many interesting and helpful links on my homepage at www.fms-help.com.
FMS/CFIDS is a disabling and frustrating disorder that ruins the lives of millions of people. Although I will never be Hercules, I am thankful to be at least a partly functioning human being again thanks to an innovative immune technology and some powerful supplements.
I am behind all efforts to increase public awareness of this devastating "invisible" illness. More medical research (and INTEREST!!) is needed regarding the causes of this worldwide epidemic.
Dominie Soo Bush
My Insomnia Story
What I Use
DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical doctor. I am a fibromyalgia / chronic fatigue syndrome survivor. The purpose of this website is not to diagnose or cure any disease or malady, but is presented as food for thought. This information cannot take the place of professional medical advice. Any attempt to diagnose and treat an illness should come under the direction of a physician. No guarantees are made regarding any of the information in this website.