I’m often asked, how did it all start? How did you know something was wrong? Truth is, I didn’t know, in fact I was foolish enough to ignore all the warning signs, and hindsight is a wonderful, wonderful friend of mine these days, but I’ll try not to punish myself to hard….
To explain how it all started, we have to take our minds all the way back to last year (remember THAT year?). At the start of 2016, many of you will recall that I was in training, looking and feeling great. This time last year I had just completed my first ever half marathon and was feeling EPIC. I had another half marathon coming up, the London Marathon was on the horizon, and I was raising a good amount of money for charity, with a plan to complete 12 races in 12 months. It was all looking splendid. I look back fondly on these times, and realise now I may have taken them for granted.
Fast forward to the warm summer air and June 2016. I had just finished my 6th race and I was starting to feel tired. I had a niggling achilles injury that wouldn’t go away, and I knew that I shouldn’t carry on training. But I did, only lightly, but still it proved too much and it ended sorely for my poor ankle. Training was off, and the pain was unreal. I remember thinking that maybe I should now actually listen to my body, and rest. Maybe I had taken on too much this year. No, that can’t be it, I just needed to rest I told myself. But still, I had a lot to be thankful for, a great family, wonderful friends, and a good job with a fantastic team. I had already completed 6 races, which was amazing. Already half way. It was warm, it was summer and all I needed was to ease off my training plan for a week or two….. or three?
The weeks went by, and the summer was glorious, but still the pain wouldn’t subside. I started to get annoyed by my body’s inability to heal itself. I was doing all of the things the books and physiology told me to do, but still it wasn’t getting any better. We went on a great holiday to Cornwall and I went for some gentle runs in the tranquil Lizard countryside. Still the injury was niggling. Before I knew it, it was 6 weeks and my race plan was literally falling to pieces. However, not one to be defeated easily, I still remained positive and made ambitious plans of how I could ‘catch up’ once my fragile achilles started co-operating. I laugh in the face of the past me, how fickle I was.
My hairdresser told me my hair was falling out (massive deal). Expensive shampoo will fix that right? This by far has been one of the most distressing symptoms.
We roll into September, and this is truly when I started to wilt and where my old friend hindsight now teaches me a lesson or two. I developed an ugly looking rash on my legs, which lasted for about two weeks and boggled the minds of all my wonderfully clever colleagues at work. Even the consultants were perplexed. Now, I’m not a vain person ordinarily, but this rash looked so peculiar and like I had some horrific contagion straight out of a Sci-Fi TV series, that I even wore black tights, in a hospital, while we were having an Indian summer. To say I was hot would be an understatement, and foolish would be spot on, it only made it worse.
Then came the coughs, colds, urine infections, chest infections, pylonepheritis, norovirus and generally feeling crap. I felt eternally fatigued, looked terrible (even with make up cemented onto my face), and would barely shift one opportunistic bug before the next came along and made itself at home. This went on for eight weeks, and once again, hindsight (there she is) reminds that I really should have taken more than one day off sick in those weeks. All of those times my friends and colleagues were concerned because I looked so dreadful, and I paid no attention. That’s the problem with healthcare professionals, we are so busy caring for others that we forget to look after ourself. Quite a phenomenon amongst the healthcare workforce.
Eventually, I went to the GP. Some routine blood tests revealed Vitamin D, Iron and Folate deficiency. Great, thats an easy fix, off I went on my way with some over the counter supplements to pop. At least I knew why I am was tired and getting so sick. A few weeks and I’d be right as rain. I still went to work, feeling terrible, but was certain it would pass. What followed however was an increasing lack of concentration for my managerial responsibilities (I’m forever thankful that my capacity for clinical work was unhindered). I was becoming forgetful, and felt dazed and sometimes even confused when not at work. I was developing a lack of patience for everyday things and had waning energy for anything at all. I had convinced myself that I was ‘just feeling blue’ and that I needed to ‘snap out of it’. Pull my socks up as my parents generation would say. So thats exactly what I tried to do, I even started running again. I carried on working and put a brave face on it.
Then the day came that I could ignore it no longer. I simply could not plough on anymore.
Mid November, in my dark windowless toilet, getting ready for work at 5.25am. I felt nauseous, then dizzy, then sweaty. The realisation that I’m about to pass out comes to me. Luckily for me, I’ve felt this way before when I was pregnant, so I immediately knew I needed to lower myself to the floor, before I fell. Damn, can’t go to work today.
I lay on the toilet floor pondering my next move, a day off work for sure. Just a day of rest and I’ll be fine, must be getting ill again, another cold, that will be it. I’ve only been on the supplements for a few weeks, they just need a bit more time to work.
A day turned into a week. A week of fatigue, the onset of pain and boredom. I slept……. and slept and slept. The GP diagnosed burnout, and at that point I agreed with her. But three weeks of ‘rest’ later (basically time off work, not sure how much you can really rest as a mother), and I was actually feeling worse and not better.
The fatigue remained, the pain was worsening, I was getting strange rashes, I had IBS symptoms, my hair was still falling out, and I was terribly grumpy but the GP couldn’t find anything. Diddly squat. I was offered some painkillers, they didn’t work. I was being told that my symptoms were too vague, that nothing was wrong, and asked if I was ‘feeling ok?’ ‘Just rest’ was the remedy…… I couldn’t rest anymore, I felt like I was losing my mind! I felt like nobody was listening to me (more on that in another post) and whats more, insomnia was now settling in for the long haul. I was frustratingly being told that I couldn’t be referred to any specialist until I had been symptomatic for at least six weeks…… SIX F*@!ING WEEKS?! OK, I’ll just sit and wait then…….
If you know me you will of course know that this is not what I actually did…. Off I plodded back into the hospital I work and was kindly referred immediately to the rheumatologist. Many weeks of blood tests, x-rays, pokes and prods later and the diagnosis finally comes (see my last post for that story!), and I can begin to move on from this whole ordeal. What a difficult but also wonderful year that was. It is taking far longer than my impatient self wants to manage the beast that is fibromyalgia, but as I have written for long enough, I will that I will save for another day.