I suppose I have to address this topic, eventually. I am reluctant for a couple of reasons.
One is that it is sixteen years ago, now, and feels like ancient history. The other - and probably more important reason - is that I know now that if I had done things differently then, I could have avoided a lot of the problems that came later. It's difficult looking back and knowing that fact.
It began in 1997. I was living in
teaching English, twenty-five years old. The previous year I had been living in
and began getting these sore throats that took ages to clear, and which really
took it out of me. Iceland
This continued in
Any time I went out late, or drank too much, I would inevitably contract a
cold, a chest infection or a sore throat two or three days later. I initially
tried to continue working through them, but eventually ended up having to take
a lot of time off to recover from my various ailments. Portugal
It was a very stressful time. I was living in a foreign country, getting ill all the time, and then developed stomach problems, reflux, bloating. I later discovered that it was largely down to a candida overgrowth, because of the all the antibiotics that I had been prescribed, but I didn't know that then.
1997 was a horrible year, yet it was my last pre-CFS year. I was getting these constant infections, taking a few days off, returning to work before I was really better, and then getting ill again. My immune system felt like it was moving at snail's pace.
So the illness created stress, which in turn made me more prone to getting sick again. I crawled through most of the year, with some periods of being well before being hit again with another infection. Eventually, at the beginning of December, I got a cold. The symptoms passed in three days, though the fatigue didn't. I ended up managing to work through that month, I don't know how, and made it to Christmas, when I returned to
I was still exhausted, though began to feel a little better with rest. And then came the nail in my coffin.
I decided to get my tonsils out. I felt that I had to do something, and seeing as the majority of the issues I had were in the throat, I figured that the tonsils would be a place to start.
I had the operation in early January, and nothing has been the same since. I don't mean to say that there was anything wrong with the operation, by all accounts it was perfectly standard. The problem was that I was suffering from what was then post-viral fatigue. Some energy had begun to return during my three weeks off over the Christmas period in
but I was still a long way below recovered. Ireland
I believe that if I had just given myself another month of rest, before putting my body through such a trauma as an operation, I would have been healthy enough to go through it as anyone else would.
Yet I felt that I had to get back to work, and went through with it in early January. I was exhausted after it, and wasn't feeling any better over the next weeks. I began to spiral down, sleeping fourteen hours a day, exhausted when I was actually awake. Any kind of exertion seemed to totally wipe me out. For six months I was in bits, and had no idea what was going on.
And that was that. I made a partial recovery, got back to full time work eventually, had relapses, made other partial recoveries, more relapses, and fifteen years later, here I am.
The onset of this condition for me was clearly down to a number of factors. There was the combination of my slowly collapsing immune system and constant infections with the immediate trauma of the tonsilectomy. Those two factors have brought me to where I am today.
It is hard to look back on it, as it was all avoidable. If I had known then some of the things I know now, I could have saved myself.