I owe a deep debt to the community of people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), and in particular, a good friend who helped me recognize some of my symptoms early enough to address them. ME, called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the past, is a chronic, debilitating neurological and immune-mediated disease. In mild cases, it can reduce activity levels by 50%; in severe cases, it can leave people bed-bound for years on end.
One defining characteristic of ME is Post-Exertional Malaise (PEM). Usually, when you exercise or perform mentally strenuous tasks, you can tell how tired your body is from moment to moment. You may feel tired, but in a day or two, you’ve bounced back. With PEM, you may feel fine during the activity, but sometime in the next 72 hours, you crash hard. It’s hard to get out of bed or even think, and it can take days or weeks to recover. PEM often occurs after viral illnesses, and if handled improperly either post-virally or in mild ME, can lead to more severe ME.
Thanks to my friend’s descriptions of her own experiences and her advocacy for other people with ME, I was able to recognize that I was experiencing PEM after a bout of pneumonia. I also learned from her that the worst possible thing to do would be to try to “push through” and try to exercise my way back to strength and health. I credit her wisdom for preventing further deterioration of my health.
The community of people with ME predicted in early 2020 that Covid would likely bring with it a wave of ME-like illness. Researchers are now starting to draw on what we know about ME as they study Long Covid. I adapted many ME coping mechanisms to my own situation, and those became the basis for this course.
I also am grateful that my doctor took my fatigue seriously and gave me additional tools for coping with what he called Adrenal Fatigue. While it may or may not be true that my adrenal glands were tired, the protocol he gave me was very helpful, and it led me to other resources, such as Dr. Michael Lam’s extensive writings on adrenal fatigue protocols.
Finally, the body of work on active recovery helped me understand some of the physiology behind the balance between rest and activity while recuperating.