What is Chronic Fatigue?
Chronic fatigue is a syndrome - a collection of debilitating symptoms which occur simultaneously. The prevalence and intensity of each of the symptoms can vary from person to person, but remain generally similar. Symptoms include fatigue, pain, sleep problems, digestive and neurological issues. Overwhelming fatigue is a consistent feature, not just a general tiredness, but an all encompassing inability to function in everyday life.
Just to make it more complicated, the diagnosis which can be given can also vary. This can result because of differences in onset, primary symptoms, and even the type of specialist who made the diagnosis. Adrenal fatigue, fibromyalgia, post viral fatigue syndrome, and CFS/ME are just a few of the terms used for this group of conditions.
Chronic fatigue affects an estimated 17 million people worldwide. It is a condition which mostly affects women, often starting in the age 30-50 years age range. Onset can appear suddenly, sometimes after a viral illness, or it can be slow and insidious.
Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue & Fibromyalgia
Have you been diagnosed with a chronic fatigue condition? If so, these symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, ME, & fibromyalgia will probably be familiar to you, and you may find yourself identifying with several of the following:
Pain: recurrent sore throat, often with swollen glands, aching muscles and joints, headaches or migraine, twitching muscles/ cramps, nerve pain, abdominal pain.
Sleep: Difficulty sleeping, early waking, hypersomnia (sleeping for long periods), non refreshing sleep,day/night reversal. Concentration - reduced attention span, 'brain fog', word recall problems, decreased short term memory, loss of concentration.
Mood: Frustration, depression, panic attacks, anxiety, mood swings, irritability.
Nervous system: dizziness on standing, hyper-sensitivity to light or sound, sweating, balance problems, poor temperature control.
Digestive: nausea, loss of appetite, IBS, indigestion, excessive bloating, abdominal cramps, alternating diarrhoea & constipation.
Intolerance & Sensitivity: bright lights, sounds, odours, food intolerance, some medications, alcohol, caffeine.
Onset of Symptoms
Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, ME & fibromyalgia can have a slow, insidious onset or may come on suddenly after being triggered by a specific event, accident, or viral illness. You may find that certain symptoms seem very obvious at certain times, and then seem to disappear, only to return again. This can often cause frustration and despair.
One of the main issues with any of the chronic fatigue conditions is that they are such multi-faceted disorders. The usual approach is to target a particular symptom, and then to try and move on to the next, in the hope that you may finally eliminate them all. Unfortunately this approach seldom works.
If you have already looked at the range of therapies available to help your condition, you will find that there is an overwhelming array of well-meaning Practitioners and approaches available - all ready to try and improve your individual symptoms. Do you start by addressing the IBS, the muscle pain, the brain fog, anxiety, sleep disturbance, depression, adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues, or the complete exhaustion? The list can be endless. After visiting numerous different Practitioners with no long term results, sometimes you can end up feeling worse instead of better.
Personality Traits and Chronic Fatigue Conditions
There are several personality traits which are associated with chronic fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, fibromyalgia, high sensitivity and autoimmune disease. Usually these traits result in the person experiencing high levels of stress, which over a prolonged period of time may result in chronic symptoms, pain and illness.
Common traits and behaviours which are seen in people with chronic fatigue and related conditions include:
High levels of empathy and concern for other people
Perfectionism and setting high goals for self, although not always for others.
Tend to be non-complainers, and have an attitude of 'simply get on with it', even in difficult circumstances
Previous experiences of trauma, loss or adversity throughout life
Desire to be constantly busy and productive
Accept high levels of responsibility, beyond the capacity of most people
Tendency to be a high achiever, either at work, in life, or within own life goals
Often attract partners who take advantage of gentle and compassionate nature
To make a full recovery it is necessary to address these underlying traits, and to fully understand the reasons why they have affected your health. This will allow you to make changes which will reduce long term stress levels in your body and facilitate healing.
Thyroid disorder/ Hashimoto's
Connective tissue disease
Reducing Symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Conditions
Fortunately, there is a solution. The key lies in taking a multi-dimensional, or holistic, approach which addresses underlying causes of the condition, not only the symptoms. Finding a Practitioner who truly understands and specialises in the multi-faceted nature of these conditions is essential: If you simply address one aspect of your symptoms, it is obviously unrealistic to expect benefits for other symptoms too.
Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, ME, & fibromyalgia may seem unrelated, but is not the case. When you look at the stress response and the effects it has on the body, you realise that they are all inter-connected. When you understand how your symptoms are related to each other, and are able to recognise them within yourself, you have the key to recovery. When you are able to do this effectively, plus maintain simple changes to your actions, you will often begin to experience long term improvements in your health. The most important thing to be aware of is that recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, ME & fibromyalgia is possible for you. All you need to do is to choose, and then act upon, your own path to recovery in order to regain your health.
Supporting Recovery from Chronic Fatigue is a Specialist Skill
Multi-faceted conditions such as CFS, ME & Fibromyalgia can present an overwhelming array of therapies and therapists to choose from on the road to recovery. Each therapy has a benefit, and therapists are trained to help you with their particular therapy, no matter what you symptoms you present with. The challenge for you is knowing which practitioner or approach will be of the most benefit to you. Imagine a standard practitioner being faced with trying to help you, they may well struggle to know exactly where to start, and this may often leave you feeling worse rather than better.
The way this often plays out is that you can find yourself on a merry-go-round of trying a therapy for a few sessions and then trying another. This is a common story told frequently by those trying to find answers to their chronic fatigue problems. No one is at fault; many practitioners believe that their particular therapy can do it all, and they are trying to find the right help for you. Unfortunately in multi-faceted conditions, this is rarely successful, and may leave you losing faith in your recovery. How do you find what you need?
The Importance of Experience in Chronic Fatigue Recovery
If you needed a plumber, would you call an electrician? Of course not. Both are tradesmen and both are well qualified, but the plumber is what you need to resolve your problem. Likewise, practitioners who have chosen to specialise in these particular conditions have studied them in depth, and are able to understand and explain to you the trajectory of the breakdown of your health and can explain this to you. They understand that you may also require a collaborative team approach, and possibly specific testing or therapy individual to you. They never work in an ad hoc manner because that simply does not get results.
Personal recovery from either adrenal fatigue, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue or post-viral conditions provides an indication that the practitioner has valuable experience, which cannot be learnt from a book. However, just because someone previously experienced a fatigue-related condition does not mean that they automatically have knowledge and understanding of the condition. Check that they have appropriate qualifications, not just an inspirational story.
Questions to Ask Your Practitioner:
- Do you have an accreditation or qualification specifically in ME, CFS and Fibromyalgia recovery?
- Do you treat all symptoms yourself or work within a specialist team and cross refer when appropriate?
- Can you explain exactly what is causing so many symptoms in my body?
- Do you have a step by step recovery plan that can be tailored to my needs?
- Do you have a clear map of where I am in the recovery process?
- Do you know what therapies might make me feel worse?
Social isolation - often related to poor health, restricted mobility, depression
Relationships problems - family, friends, work colleagues
Feelings of despair - due to deteriorating health
Financial problems & debt - due to restricted ability to work
Frustration - lack of understanding from medics, family, friends, colleagues
Lack of clarity - feeling lost, unsupported, and desperate for guidance
One-to-one consultations and ongoing support for people who have chronic fatigue conditions or long term illness
Areas of life which are discussed in consultations for chronic fatigue and illness:
The schedules below include general examples of important areas in recovery from chronic illness. In reality, these areas tend to be much more specific to each person, and so people create their own programme for recovery which is highly individualised.
Some of the issues that are often included in coaching programmes for people with chronic fatigue conditions and illness, or who wish to improve their emotional health include:
- Managing specific symptoms - digestive problems, headaches, dizziness, pain, nausea, fatigue
- Practical ways of dealing with dysfunctional family dynamics
- How to manage financially when you have chronic illness
- Moving beyond childhood trauma or neglect
- How to cope with a partner who is emotionally withdrawn and not supportive
- Dealing with loss - health, bereavement, identity, work, meaning in life
- Deepening your spiritual connection and regaining your trust in life
- Parenting when you have anxiety-related problems, chronic illness and overwhelming fatigue
- How to create new meaning in your life
- Learning how to pace effectively in the real world
Chronic illness affects every area of life, so you can include anything which is impacting you as a subject for coaching in our sessions.
Please remember that there is a minimum requirement to enrol for a block of 6 full consultations if you have chronic fatigue or illness.
Amethyst Coaching Programme
(Recommended for Chronic Health Conditions)
Ongoing support for: chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, overcoming long-term stress or emotional health concerns, chronic health conditions
12 month programme
Here's an example of the subjects you can include on a 12 month programme for restoring your well-being:
Session 1: Beginning your journey to well-being
Session 2: Nutrition and digestive health
Session 3: Mental well-being and mindfulness
Session 4: Releasing stress and anxiety
Session 5: Developing healthy relationships
Session 6: Energy management and boundaries
Session 7: Core beliefs and identity
Session 8: Emotional wellness
Session 9: Meaning, purpose and values
Session 10: Developing life skills
Session 11: Overcoming fear and limitation
Session 12: Well-Being Mastery