Earlier this week I posted about how as a society we have The I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead Theory mentality when in actuality, it may be causing more harm than good, in my opinion. How many times do we hear over and over again that if we are not getting the proper amounts of sleep ( at least 7 – 8 hours a night, more for those with chronic illnesses), our bodies are ticking time bombs that cannot continually keep up with the demand that we are putting on them?
I wanted to continue on with this discussion because of one of the comments I received and because after re-reading my post, I don’t feel that I clarified or explained my feelings or conveyed my true thoughts well enough and I offended someone in the process.
I received a message from Monica on this post that I would like to share with all of you and then I would like to continue my conversation on this topic because I think it is a good discussion point that many of us can go with and really need to think about. I thank Monica for taking the time to post her thoughts:
I, too, have asked myself some of these same questions, which really are a way of saying: to what degree did my lifestyle contribute to my becoming ill? Or, even more difficult for me “to buy”, is the assumption that, it in fact, did.
I think the jury is still out on the complex set of factors that may be involved in CFS/ME, 2 of the maladies I suffer with. I really hesitate to “blame” myself, because there were many other people that had similar life tracks (in my case, went to college, medical school, did a residency, put off having a child until I completed my training and began a professional career. I was not someone who was on “every committee”, or was driven to be a superior academician. I wanted to be a competent doctor like many of my peers, and most of them did not become sick in any way.
I did lead a full, satisfying, life, but don’t for a moment think that I simply “brought this illness upon myself based upon my lifestyle” and do not think that if I had lived differently I would not have become sick.
I am someone who knows THE moment when I became ill…there was nothing gradual or vague about the onset. I got a severe flu-like illness in 1983, from which I never fully recovered. My symptoms waxed and waned, evolved over time and it spite of what I consider state of the art treatment, my condition became such that I had to stop practicing in 2000. I have adjusted a lot, I have a positive outlook, although I have experienced a tremendous amount of losses in my professional and personal identity and independence and ability to function.
But, I actually find it offensive, at least as it relates to me, that it was my lifestyle that precipitated my illness. I still believe there will be an as yet uncertain infectious agent and possibly necessary co-present co-factors that converged, to produce this illness, but I do not think, the “if only I had, eg, worked out more at the gym, or slept more, or been a vegetarian or what have you, that I would not have gotten sick.
I was a hard-working person, but not a driven or compulsive person compared to many people around me (my patients, friends or colleagues!)
And that’s all she wrote!
I fully believe that ME/CFS & Fibromyalgia are physical diseases. Don’t shoot me, but I DO believe there may be some sort of underlying psychological component, at least in my own situation, but bear with me for a moment.
I had actually told a friend of mine this at one time and I told her I had never posted this because if I did, I would probably catch all sorts of grief from people but I try to be honest and this is how I feel. I’m not a doctor, I don’t have any kind of medical training, but I think that trauma, stress, and things we experience in our lives has a great effect on our health. I am someone who internalizes everything and it has taken me years, and I mean years, to come to terms and to even admit to trauma that happened to me in my life and holding that kind of stuff in cannot be good physically.
I was always sick, even as a child and I believe I always had these illnesses. My mother always said I needed more rest than my siblings and even as an adult, before I became full-blown sick, I tired easily after working just normal, full-time hours. Once I was out on my own and started feeling like I had to prove myself to everyone and the world that I was Superwoman, I started having a lot more health problems, slowly but surely. I ended up with a really bad case of bronchitis and walking pneumonia – and I REFUSED to stay home from work to rest. I ended up with Mono and LAUGHED at the doctor’s office when they called and told me to go home and get into bed.
Now while it was after this that I was diagnosed with ME/CFS and truly became very ill, I feel that my pushing myself and continuing to ignore the warning signs my body was giving me, my body shut down because of what I was doing and because I was overdoing it. YES – I BELIEVE I ALREADY HAD CFS, BUT I KEPT PUSHING AND PUSHING.
For heaven’s sakes, I PASSED OUT IN THE SHOWER ONE MORNING, WOKE UP WITH MY HEAD BACK IN THE SHOWER AND THE REST OF MY BODY LYING OUT OF THE SHOWER, NOT KNOWING WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED, I GOT UP, FINISHED SHOWERING AND WENT INTO WORK!
Everyone was seeing my body shut down: my parents were trying to tell me, my sister was trying to tell me, my doctors were trying to tell me, my husband was trying to tell me, even my boss was trying to tell me. But I refused to listen to anyone and I kept pushing myself because I had something to prove, I wanted to get to the top and I couldn’t do that if I slowed down. It sounds so stupid now & I’m ashamed as I write it but that is how it was in my case. I had a lot of issues in my life and from my past that I had never dealt with and if I was working, I didn’t have to think about them. Becoming a workaholic kept me from having to think and from having to feel. I’m sure I’m not the only person with CFS & FM who has done this.
I pushed myself too hard and I am now paying the piper. I DON’T BLAME MYSELF FOR BEING SICK. BUT I DO BLAME MYSELF FOR THE SEVERITY OF MY ILLNESSES. I FULLY BELIEVE IT WAS MY LACK OF REST AND THE CONSTANT PUSHING AND WORKING PAST WHAT MY BODY COULD PHYSICALLY DO THAT LED MY BODY TO SHUT DOWN.
I know it is not like that for a lot of people and as Monica says she can recall exactly when she became sick. I can also. But doesn’t it seem odd that for years we have read about and have had this common type A personality thing in common among us with CFS & Fibro? Why wouldn’t that contribute to some of our problems?
When I write posts like The I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead Theory, or when I talk about how pushing yourself can lead to making your illness worse or causing your body to shut down, it is truly coming from a place of love. I know that I am not the only person out there who has done this – been sick all of their lives to some degree only to push their bodies full force and end up shutting down completely.
It’s a warning that as ME/CFS & Fibromyalgia patients, our bodies can’t handle it. I don’t even believe that it is healthy for someone who isn’t sick and that eventually it catches up to them, if not physically in some other area of their life.
So my questions to you are: Did you push yourself too hard in your life before you became really sick and did you continue pushing yourself even once you knew you needed to slow down like I did?