14 August 2011

Getting Sick

"The world has teeth, and it can bite you with them any time it wants." Those words, from The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon had always felt true to me. But I think the quote should read that it will bite you with them. Because none of us escape its bite.

It started in November 2908, with a sinus infection. It didn't really start there. I knew there was something wrong with me. There were signs before, for years prior. But let's keep it simple and say it started then. Because though the signs were there before, November 2008 was when it grabbed my life in its teeth and shook it hard.

I had a sinus infection while I was visiting the family. I went to the walk in clinic, got antibiotics, felt better, flew home, went back to work. I was only there a day or two before the infection came back and I had to leave work again. More antibiotics. Then back to work. It was very stressful. There were employee evaluations - god, it was so awful that even typing those words brings it all back. My chest gets tight, tears start to well up. I wasn't sick any more. The infection was over. But I was so stressed out that I had to leave. I got a letter from the doctor to sign me off for stress for 2 weeks. But I should have known it was more than that, because the day I walked out of the office, I called a cab instead of taking the ten minute walk home.

The 2 weeks turned into longer, but I was sure I knew the answer. It was my depression. I had been managing it for years with antidepressants, and every so often I had to change the drug. SSRI poop-out they called it. So I'd get a new drug, go through the adjustment period, and I'd be back at work.

The drugs were changed. I was referred to some stress management workshops and went to about 4 of them. The others, I was too tired to make it. But it was okay. Fatigue was just a symptom of depression, and my depression was getting better.

And then, my depression was gone. I could imagine going back to work. I even had a meeting with the woman from HR about how to manage my return to help alleviate my stress. But I was still... so... tired...

And it was just getting worse.

It was at my GP appointment in May 2009 that he first mentioned Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The diagnosis felt like a punch in the gut. I had read about it, and even though the symptoms fit me to a T, I had clung to the first line: "Have severe chronic fatigue for at least six months or longer with other known medical conditions (whose manifestation includes fatigue) excluded by clinical diagnosis." Since I had depression, and depression includes fatigue, then I couldn't have CFS.

Except of course I did. And I knew it was true as soon as I heard him say it. I knew I had been deluding myself. And I knew it had no cure.

But even while most of me was in shock and grief, there was also relief. Now I know what it is. Now I know why all the work I'm doing to get over the depression isn't giving me more energy. Now I'm free to stop trying to get back to work and get back my old life. Because now I know my old life is gone.

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