I recently discovered the cause of the fatigue I’ve been complaining about for three years now.
You know that frustrating feeling of knowing something is off but not having the right answer for it? I saw multiple doctors and had many, many vials of blood drawn, but everything came back fine. Even when my doctor thought my hormones were out of balance, they weren’t. Other than “being tired”, I was a model of perfect health. In fact, even my ovaries are “textbook perfect” (maybe someone should pay me to put sonograms of my ovaries in a textbook – any takers??).
Once we moved, I saw a new doctor and had new tests done and wouldn’t you know, I tested positive for mono. MONO. The most basic, teenage illness that almost everybody gets, usually from kissing. I remember sitting in high school health class, learning about diseases transmitted via saliva and other bodily fluids, thinking to myself that I would be in the clear for a long time given my social and relationship standing….
I wasn’t expecting to have mono at 25, let alone having mono symptoms for three years. That’s the key though - mono doesn’t last three years. But the virus that causes mono (EBV virus) does. Basically, once you have mono, you have it in your system for life. It lays dormant, waiting for your body to exhibit extreme stress and autoimmune failure so it came come back to life and make you all tired and out of whack. Most people, and when I say most, I mean like 99% of those who have the mono virus in their system never see it again. It usually takes an already-compromised immune system to take on the mono virus and let it remain in an activated state for so long.
So essentially, I have chronic EBV virus, or chronic fatigue syndrome, or some sort of autoimmune dysfunction. They all work in similar ways and present themselves with similar symptoms. While it’s totally possible that I do not have a “disease” per-say, my body is running on fumes. I feel the way that truck looks. Its not 100%. Its not even 60%. I’m sitting somewhere at maybe 40%, I would say.
While it’s great to finally – FINALLY – know what the deal is, it doesn’t help me feel any better. What has helped though, are some fairly major life changes. Through trial and error, a few test results, and willpower, these are the things that I HAVE to do if I want to function like a normal person:
- Eat Vitamin B12 like candy. Literally, I take up to five a day because I am deficient, per test results, and they do really help – the complex kind though, not the basic grocery-store brand.
- No dairy, no added sugar/artificial sweetner, and NO GLUTEN. This is tough yall. I have been dairy-free since I had C-Diff three years ago (another factor in my health saga) but the gluten thing is like brand new. I have kept a food diary for a number of years and recently noticed that I had major joint pain/inflammation, acne and headaches in the immediate days after eating gluten (which is typical with autoimmune issues). When I didn’t eat gluten, I had none of those issues. So by trial and error, I no longer eat some of the tastiest foods on earth…
- SLEEP ALL THE TIME. It’s not a new thing for me to take naps and generally enjoy slow weekends, but I have to set a rule – go to bed early enough to get 10 hours of sleep. Ten hours is my magic number, for whatever reason. Less than that and I can’t function. More than that and I’m pretty out of it for the rest of the day (not to mention more than 10 hours of sleep means fewer hours of productive work time).
- This isn’t a rule, because I don’t follow it, but I should – no caffeine and no alcohol. Let’s be honest, there is a very slim chance I will ever give up coffee. Not drinking alcohol is easier, because Ben can’t drink it, but I really enjoy wine… so I indulge occasionally. But alcohol gives me issues similar to what gluten does, while caffeine interferes with overall hydration.
So what is the point to this? I don’t write this to garner sympathy, I just thought it would be a good time to let family and friends know what is going on. I've had some super supportive friends and family (shout out to my girl Katherine, my parents and of course Ben). But I also get lots of comments and remarks when I politely request a gluten free version of something (oh, so you are gluten free now? *snicker*). It bothers me because everyone has a reason for making a certain choice, right? Why do we have to be judged for any of it?
So now you know – I don’t eat gluten because I don’t want inflamed joints and pimples and headaches for days.
BUT ALSO, the real meat of this blog post – the level of mindfulness I have achieved in this season of my life is HIGH. I must be mindful of what I eat, my time management, my attitude through it all... I posted a while back about not having the energy to care so much – it is totally true and totally awesome. It’s tough being too tired to care sometimes, but it has given me a new peace and a new sense of contentment. Sometimes I have to push myself to care more, as it ultimately means using more precious energy, but isn’t caring part of the point of life? Being mindful of how I spend my emotional energy is a life lesson that I’m learning in double time.
I’ve taken to appreciate the little joys in life and especially enjoy the time and energy someone else expends on their craft of choice. For example, art, artfully prepared food, blogs and articles, photography and editing, even technology advances I read about in the news. I have this newfound appreciation for time spent wisely. That doesn’t mean I always use my own time wisely, but I’m working on that.
I would like to close with this: find the time to fully appreciate what is in front of you, whether it is a plate of food, a project, a task, a coffee date – if you are engaging with another person, take the time to really understand them. They might have a lot more beneath the surface and everyone wants to be understood in some capacity. Be that good listener and take the little things to heart. It might totally change your life!