Twelve Chronic Fatigue Triggers and Their Gifts

I happened to reconnect with my father’s sister shortly after I first fell sick six years ago. I hadn’t seen her since I was about seven years old. When I was having difficulty recovering from surgery about a year later, she mentioned that she’d gone through something similar. She too had undergone a myomectomy as a young woman and found herself unable to function afterwards. “How will I ever return to my law practice if I can’t even read the newspaper?” she’d asked herself. It took about six months but she eventually got better.

I now recognize her symptoms as meeting the minimum definition of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which suggests that I have (1)a genetic predisposition to this disease. Not only did reconnecting with her give me access to this information, I managed to summon the courage to tell her about the inexplicable, special connection I have always felt with her. She told me she’d always felt the same way…

Various childhood traumas including (2)my family situation, (3)feeling abandoned at a tender age on another continent, and (4)disordered sleep for as long as I can remember, probably combined with my own sensitive nature to trigger Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. However in accepting my past, I see these events as having also led to accessing depths within myself that would have otherwise gone untapped, a level of global independence that I took for granted and an understanding of the nature of addiction. In trying so many ways to solve my sleep problem (adrenaline addiction?), I find that I can better appreciate the struggles that accompany smoking, overeating or substance abuse. That serious sage Stephen Colbert has said that when we accept our own suffering, we understand other people better.

I won’t go into the gory details but it’s clear to me now that by the time I hit puberty, I had (5)a major hormonal imbalance. Other physical CFS triggers that apply to me are (6)yeast overgrowth and (7)a brush with life-threatening anemia. Solving these issues has given me a wealth of information which actually allowed me to successfully advise a friend with getting pregnant!

Coming to America for graduate school had the effect of taking me out of the toxic situation of my childhood. But being in that toxic state had set up patterns in my life that are taking much longer to resolve. They played out in my (8)professional settings and (9)personal relationships. I had developed (10)an attitude of “must do it all on my own” as an antidote to “it’s not safe relying on others.” America is the perfect place to foster this attitude.

These triggers had probably created a milder, functional version of CFS in my system when my mother, grandmother and half-brother died within a month of each other which completely stopped me in my tracks. The only thing I would change now about how I faced (11)post-traumatic stress and grief-induced CFS from October 1995 to mid-1997, is that I wouldn’t worry so much about how things were going to turn out. That’s a useful gift for me now as I face the uncertain path of healing from my current condition and graduate from independence to interdependence.

I am proud of what I’ve accomplished in my life and career despite being so much on my own. I learned to solve many challenging, seemingly impossible problems. I’ve also learned the building blocks of healthy relationships.

From the moment I heard a doctor say, “You’re in danger of anemic heart failure – we can’t let you leave,” in December 2004, to (12)surgery in September 2005, to being diagnosed with surgery-induced CFS in 2007, I’ve taken it one precarious moment at a time. And countless bits of serendipity seem to have conspired to keep me healing. That escalating spiral of providence is the biggest gift of all. It inspires me to keep breathing, keep walking through, keep doing my best.

Merry Christmas!

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