Well, actually there are many things about chronic fatigue. The first is that no one else can see it – you’re not coughing or gasping or limping or dragging an IV drip around so to many people chronic fatigue equates to “lazy bum” . And it’s surprising—at least to me—how many people feel no compunction about letting you know that’s what they think of you.
Here’s the best description I ever came up with to make it have some kind of reality for those who don’t have it: imagine the worst flu you’ve ever had. Think of yourself on the worst day of the worst flu when you’re so sick you’re not sure if you’re going to make it and you want a cup of tea but you can’t walk that far because you have no energy at all. Add in the stage of flu when you’re feeling well enough to get up and finally take a shower and fix a meal but you’re so weak that the shower leaves you shaking so you have to sit down before you can make toast. Put together the overwhelming lack of energy and the shakiness every time you make any exertion (subtract the sneezing and coughing) and that’s what chronic fatigue at its worst is like 24/7.
Everyone I’ve known who’s had it –absolutely including myself—has had a history that made a life of being isolated and cut off unsurprising; so chronic fatigue is generally a perfect expression of emotional issues. Although western medicine is learning more there still isn’t a cure or even agreement about cause and you’re really on your own to find your way out. It adds up to a slow process and what I’m discovering as I get better is that fatigue becomes circular—you don’t do things because you’re tired and you’re more tired because you don’t do things. Exercise is important to recovery but in the early stages it takes everything you’ve got to do it. Later, with more energy, you can get into resistance because the strengthening and chi building exercises are making you better and, I think, on some level, there’s fear of being well and moving back into the world.
I’ve also found that living a quieted down, isolated and inward life becomes a habit. It’s been so long since I had an active social life or said “yes” to life that I’m struggling a bit to shift my mind to a new way of thinking about being out in the world. I’m moving forward but just staying aware that these threads run through the process.
I’m talking about chronic fatigue but I think these kinds of issues are there for lots of people not only with other illnesses but also with emotional issues. Do you ever get caught up in a circle that keeps you stuck? Do you ever resist moving on to a new phase because the old one has become so comfortable that you don’t want to change? Be kind to yourself if you do. If you’re mindful enough to realize it you can find your way outward and onward.