Extreme fatigue is just one of the symptoms that comes with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Despite the name, chronic fatigue is not the only symptom or ailment that accompanies this illness, but it can be an intense and debilitating one, and it is often hard to manage and measure.
I think its fair to say that the average person experiences being tired or feeling fatigued on a regular basis, even more so in todays modern world where we are all taking on so much and trying to be everything to everyone. It is often normal or appropriate to feel fatigued after a long day at work or exerting ourselves with daily chores, lots of socialising or exercising.
So when does this feeling of being tired or fatigue represent Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or 'CFS Fatigue'?
In simplistic terms CFS fatigue is fatigue that cannot be overcome initially by bedrest. It is usually a constant feeling where everything feels like an effort to do, things as simple as doing the grocery shopping can leave you feeling completely wiped out, like you have run a marathon. Basically CFS Fatigue is like suffering from a permanent hangover without consuming the alcohol, now where's the fun in that!
For those in recovery from CFS, it can be very difficult to manage and measure your symptoms of fatigue and to understand when it is appropriate fatigue or when it is 'CFS Fatigue' Fatigue can mean very different things to the individual and comes with a myriad of emotions, it often causes anxiety and fear that you could 'relapse' and end up in bed for weeks. The fear of relapsing or going backwards can send someone with CFS into a tailspin, making symptoms worse and fuels the illness.
Navigating CFS recovery and managing CFS fatigue is like walking a tightrope, meticulously planning out each step, ensuring you don't overstep the line, as any form of slip can potentially see you plummet to the ground into the black hole again for days, weeks or even months. It is something that takes a long time to master and understand your limits, during recovery the body is very fragile and sensitive to the slightest movement of the rope, trying to constantly balance on the rope and not slip also causes fatigue and anxiety.
During my recovery I have become very in tune with my body and I have learnt the ways in which it tries to communicate with me and fatigue is one of its languages. Like many languages there are different tones, contexts, volumes and messages coming through all of which are telling you when your fatigue is 'appropriate' or 'CFS Fatigue'.
The following 5 signs alert me that my fatigue is not 'appropriate' and I know that I am experiencing CFS Fatigue;
CFS fatigue has a unique feeling of heaviness, as though the whole body is weighted down by a weight belt. Each leg can feel like lead, your head to heavy to hold up and you can feel as though you are moving in slow motion.
I can sometimes eel dizzy when I try to stand up, not necessarily too fast and can also experience some random dizziness, this is usually a sign of extreme fatigue.
Deep Uneven Breathing
My breathing gets very deep and heavy, even when resting almost as if my body is struggling to breathe. I have also woken myself up sometimes with intense breathing almost like snoring and notice that heavy feeling in my body like I am pinned down to the bed unable to move.
Tired and Wired
Even though exhausted you find it difficult to get to sleep, your body feels so tired but your mind is wired, but not necessarily stressing over a particular issue. It can be a sign that your body is in a stressed state and excess adrenaline and cortisol in the body is keeping you alert.
Chronic Fatigue can make you overly sensitive and emotional to things you wouldn't normally be affected by. I burst into tears one day for dropping an egg on the kitchen floor.
I know when the above symptoms start I have ignored the whispers of appropriate fatigue and now my body is SHOUTING at me, SLOW DOWN ALLOW ME TO HEAL. Even if the kitchen is a mess or there are jobs to do, I will focus on my health first, I choose to accept myself and the situation I am in at the time and I love my body for protecting me and giving me warning signs.
It is very important to learn how to listen to your body and understand the different volumes and levels of fatigue. Clients sometimes call me in a panic crying thinking they have relapsed, I talk them through their day and we more often than not identify that for the amount of activity they have done, a 'normal' healthy person would feel fatigued so the body is whispering to us, 'slow down hun, I am struggling to keep up'. If we determine it is CFS Fatigue, then we know that the body is now SHOUTING at us that we are getting to the danger zone and the need for rest and healing is more urgent.
As you master the language of your body you start to hear the whispers and therefore have a better chance of preventing CFS Fatigue. You also learn to love your body and its messages, even when it isn't performing at its best and choose to nurture it back to good health rather than push through.