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I wanted to share my story of how I had CFS and overcame it. Please stay strong, I wanted to end my life and I didn't let CFS let me****
Let me start off my prefacing that I too was a sufferer of CFS and was an avid contributor to this forum almost 5 years ago. This is my FIRST time coming back here. For 3 years I would get extremely anxious whenever I tried to write my story in here and would shut my computer down. However, I think it is much too selfish to not provide all of you current sufferers with some hope and positivity. Today I write this from my couch after enjoying my breakfast by the pool, relaxing before I workout and play tennis with my father. Both things would have been equally exhausting back in my CFS days.
It was almost five years ago that I began feeling tired. But not that "I could use a nap" tired, but that CFS exhaustion that makes you want to hibernate for days on end. As many users said back when I was active in this forum, you can pinpoint that exact day. Leading up to that day was the root of how I believe CFS consumed my life. It was a dark, gloomy Friday night, two friends of mine convinced me to try a marijuana brownie. I had smoked marijuana only once before this instance so let’s just say this wasn’t the smartest idea. But, like any high school student, I wanted to try something new. We arrived at our destination, a late-night sandwich place frequented by stoners from all over the tri-state area. As I was ordering my sandwich filled with mac and cheese, mozzarella sticks, and French fries, my first ever panic attack occurred. I had my friend drive me home after two long hours of calming me down. Eventually, around 5 am, I fell asleep.
I awoke the next day feeling…off. Brainfog, exhaustion, and anxiety consumed me. A few days passed and the symptoms subsided a bit, but not completely. The anxiety and chest tightness stayed. Another week went by and I came down with the flu. The combination of the flu and panic attack at around the same time knocked me out. Weeks went by and I still felt flu-like symptoms. Then, in the second week of May of 2014, a feeling I will never forget washed over me. Exhaustion. I was studying for my AP history exam when my eyes began to shut. How did I get so exhausted so quickly and so abruptly? I went out and bought a large coffee, and I never drank coffee. I chugged it. No effect. This was the exact moment that my life changed forever.
Each day was worse than the last. A new symptom seemed to surface every hour. Brainfog, migraines, muscle aches…you name it. That Summer I spent 99% of my days in bed. I awoke only to eat and use the bathroom. I became obsessed with my symptoms. I researched them, I joined forums, I followed sufferers on Instagram. Eventually I stumbled upon an article describing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Finally I felt I had some closure, until I realized it was an illness with no cure. Deemed an “invisible illness,” I finally felt heard. My parents were extremely unsupportive as were my friends. My parents berated me for being lazy. They called me a liar. My friends moved on and didn’t care that I was suffering from something. There was only one friend there for me at the time who really listened. Unfortunately, we are no longer friends today, but I still appreciate her comfort at the time.
In August of that summer I became depressed. I thought about taking my life for the first and only time ever. If it wasn’t for my dog, I probably would have. It was like he knew and he stopped me. We are still best friends and he is going on age 16 in October.
Fast-forward a few months, I got a girlfriend. She too had depression. It was nice for someone to empathize. Slowly, I began to feel better. She was there for me through it all. We didn’t do much. We watched TV and slept. She didn’t care that that was all I could really do. She single-handedly lifted me out of my depression. My parents also were convinced I was just depressed and put me on medication. If it helped I don’t know, but I am still on that medication today.
Come May that year, I had to decide on which university I wanted to attend. I chose a school far away from home and told myself I wouldn’t let CFS rule my life. I chose my dream school and told myself if I backtrack, I will figure it out. I also went completely gluten-free for 3 months to try and boost my energy. On top of this, I took vitamin B, C, and D on a daily basis.
In August of 2016, I moved in to college. I was not 100% better at this point, but I would say 75%. I suffered from daily headaches and was still tired more than normal. I made a lot of friends very quickly. I told those friends about CFS and unlike my previous friends, they were there for me every step of the way. Each day turned from worse than the last to better than the last. I had a few setbacks where for a few days I needed extra rest. Aside from that, things slowly got better and better.
Today I am still left with some residual problems. I suffer from chronic anxiety and require 8-9 hours of sleep a night to feel energized throughout the day. Anything less than that and I feel exhausted. Luckily I am able to make this sleep schedule work even with a stressful job and a girlfriend. I also suffer from migraines two times a month, all of this a small price to pay for what CFS was. I still consider myself lucky to this day. CFS was the most difficult curveball ever thrown at me. It shaped me into the person I am today. I take nothing for granted, I support anyone who suffers from a medical problem, and I am loyal to those close to me. I graduated university with a B+/A- GPA and landed a job out of college that pays $60k.
For those of you who have suffered for longer than me (and I know that is a lot of you), stay strong. Accept the cards you were dealt. Acceptance was the first step into my recovery. Misery loves company and that’s okay. Reach out to other sufferers. Vent. It’s cathartic. For those of you who have no hope left, use my story to dig up whatever little hope you have left.
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