Tag Archives: insomnia

“Dizzy” – by Tommy Roe


A great song, I used to love it.

Used to.

That is until the inside of my head has impersonated a spinning top for the last nine weeks or so, without stopping for one microsecond.

I’ve had dizziness before with my illnesses (Fibromyalgia, ME and CFS) but it has always just come and gone, sometimes violently. This time it’s a constant whirring, with someone controlling the speed remotely. One moment it is a reasonable one or two out of ten (on the dizziness scale) then suddenly it’s up to seven or eight, with accompanying nausea and a feeling of having absolutely no control, over anything.

It’s a bit like being in a spinning, plummeting airplane. Or at least that is how it feels and how my imagination pictures it to be.

I’ve given up all drugs except my painkillers, which I have also reduced by two thirds in the hope of the dizziness stopping. I thought it was a side effect, as it started when I began a new drug. Now I just have more pain…and dizziness.

Maybe it’s not though, and that scares me more than anything. What if it is here to stay? I’ve barely maintained my sanity for nine weeks, I have no idea how I would survive nine months!! Oh please god no!

So now I hate this song, yet cannot get it out of my head. Much like my dizziness.

An invisible illness never sleeps


I lie here, afraid to return to sleep and its nightmares, anxious how I will feel when the alarm for my next dose of medication wakes me at 6am.

For the past several weeks, on yet another drug I am trialling, I have at least been able to function in the guise of a human being. Albeit one without the ability to walk properly without a stick, or drive, or get out of bed by noon, or have enough energy to eat food I have to chew.

Or without #pain, my new permanent companion.

Then two days ago I woke as my ‘normal’ self. The dark excruciating #illness that lurks behind an extremely thin veneer of medication, that only provides symptomatic relief, had returned. Extreme #pain over every square millimetre of my body, my skin on fire and so sensitive I could not move. My wife was there to assist me, thank god, but crying and yelling ‘don’t touch me!’ was not how I had envisaged starting the day.

Yesterday I had a #migraine around five in the afternoon and it stayed with me until six the next morning. Probably the worst one I have sufferred from and I have many, many to choose from. I was only able to finally rid myself of this black burning beast through several ice packs (lovingly delivered by my wife of course…I owe her everything), much moaning and groaning and writhing around and taking more painkillers than I should have. What has that done to my system?

In a few hours time, if I am lucky enough to sleep that long, how will I feel when I wake? It could be anything, and that is what I fear.

It is not enough that sleep comes sparingly, now I am too afraid to sleep at all. In my slumber I might miss the signs of another downward spiral, whereas if I remain #awake I can catch it in time and medicate accordingly, so the day that follows is not a disaster like the previous two.

I should be more factual. It has actually been the last two years that I have been afraid to sleep, since my illness began.

Never a good sleeper at the best of times, always waking #exhausted for many decades and now, for two years, with my companion, pain, as well.

Will tomorrow be a ‘good’ day, so I can walk a bit further than to the living room and back? Maybe even walk to the car so my wife can take me to our local coffee place a few hundred metres away?

As I write this my wife sleeps beside me. A heavy sleep, richly deserved. She is my carer, my cook, cleaner, waiter, medication reminder, advisor and watchful observer for my monthly GP appointments. In addition she works hard three days a week, a mostly manual job that leaves her with little energy to care for me. Her efforts are Herculean and she does it all with a loving smile and sense of humour.

I have lost count of the times she has told me I must not feel guilty, but I do. This illness has taken away any downtime she used to have. She says it doesn’t matter, that love gives her energy. I believe her as our mutual love for each other has always been without limit, and she knows I would do the same for her. But I do not know for certain, as she drew the short straw.

The #guilt remains, as I am only human. A human who is afraid to go to sleep for what the morrow might hold.

If I were to fall sleep again now, how will I feel when I wake?

Uncertainty is my new enemy. The past couple of weeks on a new medication made me hopeful that I can at least cope, as long as I stay within my limits (the main being no more than five hundred steps in a day). Then two days ago I woke to incredible pain, completely destroying the tiny amount of confidence I had built upon.

No more expectations of being able to exist within my carefully choreographed existence. No expectations at all, except for pain.

Pain and I have grown used to each other, our daily contest having become a mutual ritual, until recently. Suddenly pain has the upper hand and I have almost drowned in its unforgiving embrace.

Sometimes I wake with a migraine and full body pain. Those days my complete quota of energy is expended trying to convince my wife that I will be “normal’ again soon. Neither of us believe it but we hope, and smile to reassure each other that neither of us believes me.

Will it be a ‘good’ day? A day where the medication works as it should and provides me with enough #energy to walk a little further, read a few more pages of a book or, more importantly, make my wife smile and perhaps even laugh? Will we be able to talk of ‘when they find a cure’ without all the doubt and uncertainty that usually accompanies this subject?

Will I be able to wake up when I want to? That simple process I used to accomplish, besides my exhaustion, achieved because pain had not yet made me it’s guinea pig? Now I wake and have no control over staying awake. The best description is jet lag where your eyes sting and the effort of keeping them open is beyond you. Sometimes I wake at seven and think I feel good enough to stay awake, until I wake again an hour or so later wondering what happened. Did I dream or was it real? This question is becoming more difficult to answer each day. This waking then sleeping cycle repeats until I have the energy to get out of bed and stay out, lest sleep overpower me once again.

A ‘good’ day means I can control my body before noon. I can extricate myself from the determined tentacles of sleep and actually walk from my bedroom to the living room, book in one hand and walking stick in the other.

A shower? Yes I still find them to be a source of healing, the hot water soothing my body. I stay as long as I dare, or as long as I can cope with the pain as the water hits my painfully sensitive skin. The stool I sit on helps, and also reminds me that I used to enjoy this much more standing under the hot water, exhausted but pain free.

So what will today bring? My condition is so unpredictable and the #medication for the symptoms more hit and miss than providing definite relief. I can only hope that today I can have coffee with my superhuman wife whom I love without limit.

For better or worse. Yes, she did say that on our wedding day, but probably gave it as much thought as I did.

It always happens to someone else, not me, not us, and certainly not this illness that provides the same pain and discomfort as a terminally ill cancer patient. Without the luxury of a known cause and therefore no proven prescribed treatment, I worry about what this day will bring.

My main goal each day is to make my wife smile. That is the only comfort I can rely on that will temporarily reduce my pain. Right now she is the only (temporary) cure I have. That it lasts but minutes and yet takes the effort of a decathlete is not my concern. I would do anything for her.

Making this illness easier on my wife is, and always will be, my primary goal.

Now I must sleep, as my body needs enough rest to make up for the previous 30+ years that I kept pushing myself through, not knowing why I was always so exhausted or that I was making this condition worse.

Hindsight is a loathsome creature.

So I must sleep, #anxiety over what the day will bring must be ignored. The alternative is not sleeping at all, and from bitter experience that only makes the day worse.

Please wish me well, for as I approach my bed each night I may wake having unleashed a monster. Please, let tomorrow be without such pain and effort, may I be able to get out of bed in the morning to spend more time with my beautiful, angelic wife.

May tomorrow provide me with hope, and the nightmares remain in my dreams.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post at all please follow me, it actually helps knowing I have an audience!

How Do We Get Through This??


To my fellow invisible sufferers of ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia, there is always pain but there is also always hope.

I wish I could say everything was fine but you know that is a lie. We all have our own stories, some far sadder than others, but all with that common bond – we constantly suffer excruciating pain and exhaustion but we look healthy.

Now I am not saying I would rather look ill, I’m not that good looking to start with! Perhaps something simple that others could see and recognise, and no I do not want that sign to be my wheelchair.

A sign, yes that might work! Maybe something small and tasteful, a neon sign above my head with a pain meter flashing brightly. I think red would be a nice colour. Oh, and in bold…and maybe underlined as well.

Seriously though, how do we get through this incredibly debilitating illness that can last anything from five to fifty years, when everyone we meet tells us we look fine and wonders what we are on about. Sick? Hey you didn’t see me last week, I had the flu so badly!

Every one of us would gladly swap our condition for the flu any day! Even if we were told that the flu would last a year I am certain we would all sign up!

There is a serious disconnect between how we look and how we feel, and it is wider than the Grand Canyon. It is also impossible to explain to people in a dozen words or less, which is the average attention span these days after they have said; “Hi. How are you?”.

It would make our lives so much easier if we could tell people what we are going through in a nice, short, simple sentence. A sentence that would achieve complete and immediate understanding.

“I have ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia. Never heard of it? Well I feel exhausted all the time..” That is about as far we get sometimes before they jump in and say something like; “Tired? Mate I’m tired all the time! I work fifty hours a week, have to look after the kids and I don’t get to sleep in on weekends because I have to take my oldest to their footy game.” And the attention is now on them, not you, and you feel like you now have to justify how you feel, convince him your illness is real and terrible and awful and some days you feel like you are dying and your partner left you because they couldn’t cope and didn’t believe you were actually ill because you look so well….

Take a breath. Breeeeeathe.

Now ask yourself a simple question. Apart from doctors and Centrelink, do you actually have to justify how you feel to anyone? Is it critical that people know exactly what you are going through? It would certainly make your life more bearable but since it is so crappy now, will it make that much difference if he/she knew the intimate details of your chronic illness?

Obviously with close family and friends the answer is a resounding yes, but they will (should!) give you time to explain exactly what you are going through. It also lets you know who really cares, because the ones that care actually listen, ask questions and try to understand. The ones that don’t you are better off without, as excruciatingly painful it might be at the time.

Time might not heal all wounds, but it does dull the pain. So hang in there, it does get better!

So what do we tell people, to make it easier for them to understand? Yes they should allow you the courtesy of listening and trying to comprehend it all, but we also have a duty to make it as easy for them to understand as we can.

To put it flippantly, and to improve the mood of this article by giving us all hope for a more sympathetic tomorrow – we need a catchphrase.

“I have………?” What can we say that covers a dozen symptoms (or more) for an illness that many people (including the medical profession and, of course, good old Centrelink) do not believe exists?

Correction. We need a label, not a catchphrase. People love labels. It makes everything easy, fast and quickly understood. They have busy lives you know (as they will tell you at the first opportunity, alluding to what you said about spending 90% of your life in bed). The most important aspect is that it needs to be quickly understood so we do not spend unnecessary energy trying to explain everything.

Now if you think that I am about to tell you what that wonderful, easy, stress-reducing label is, I apologise because I have no idea.

But maybe, together, we can achieve this? Think of all the times you have tried to explain to someone how you are feeling, then think about how wonderfully easy it would be to tell them in eight words. They sympathise or grunt and you move on. No more asking yourself; “Where do I start? Do I say I’m bedbound for almost my entire life, will they believe me or laugh and say they wished they could just lie in bed all day? Do I have the energy to try to explain everything to this person? Is it worth it because it will be exhausting and I need every drop of energy just to exist? Do I just say that I’m fine and move on? Do I owe it to fellow sufferers to make the effort and explain it all so one more person understands? Do I push on and try to spread the message about this largely unknown illness? If they don’t believe me will it crush me and take a week or two to recover?

In my case I ask myself if I have the energy to answer with – “Actually I had to stop working in April last year due to my chronic illness. We lost our dream home which was devastating and incredibly stressful, but we were lucky to find a beautiful home we downsized into a bit further out from the city. I can’t plan my days because I don’t know when my next crash will be, so you’ve caught me at a good time. I’m actually out of the house! I’m bedbound for about 90% of my life so these outings are very special to me. I take incredibly strong painkillers that I have to be careful to not get addicted to, but if I don’t take them I’m quickly in as much pain as a cancer patient in the last three months of their lives. It is documented, studies have been done. I regularly have a blood test to keep an eye on my liver and other stuff, and see my GP every month. Last week I had a migraine for three days and I really don’t know how I got through it, hardly slept. Just two mornings ago I woke up in horrific pain all over my body, I have no idea why but I changed my medications a bit and the pain has reduced, touch wood. Now I go to bed at night really scared that I’ll wake up in that same pain, the worst pain I have ever experienced. The dizziness is crazy. I walk around at home – when I’m out of bed that is, I can only do 500 steps per day or I have several bad days afterwards – and even with my walking stick I keep crashing into things. My skin is incredibly sensitive and sometimes when I put clothes on or just turn over in bed it feels like someone is peeling my skin off with a very sharp knife. I really cannot do more than one outing a week, or two very short ones, as I crash badly. It is nice to get out and feel human, but I have to be careful because my senses are so fragile that if there is noise and people talking loudly around me it also triggers a crash. I’m trying to keep positive, luckily my partner is very supportive, you wouldn’t believe what some incredibly thoughtless and horrible things some other partners do. Some leave their spouse because they don’t believe we’re ill or just can’t cope with having to do everything around the house. I feel so sorry for them because the illness itself is horrible enough without your personal life imploding as well. Anyway as I said I’m trying to stay positive, so I’m writing a blog to support other people with the same chronic illness, by letting them know they are not alone. I write some other stuff as well, mostly at night because I often can’t get to sleep even though I am completely exhausted. Have you seen a marathon runner at the finish line? I feel like that if I just walk down my street. I’m also reading a bit, in between the dizziness, to try to keep my brain going. I never thought I’d say this but I really miss working, you’re very lucky, so next time you have a bad day think of me because I’d trade with you in a microsecond! They haven’t found a cause or cure yet. I’m still waiting for Centrelink to approve my application for the Disability Support Pension, it has been in their system for over a year and it’s an incredibly stressful process, exactly what I don’t need. It’s the Federal Government trying to save money and most people with my illness get refused and have to appeal. For some stupid reason the assessors at Centrelink believe they know better than four doctors! Absolute disgrace especially in our country, no compassion for people like me at all. And how are you?”

Yes, I think we need a label.

Any ideas??

Why can’t we (ME/CFS sufferers) sleep???


The chronic illnesses we suffer from are usually the result of stress, anxiety or some nasty virus we had earlier in our lives. This results in us not being functional human beings during the day due to complete exhaustion and pain.

So you would think that our bodies would be eternally grateful to us each time we lie down at night, turn out the light and finally close our eyes for some much needed rest. The rest that our body has been craving all day.

But no.

As soon as it is time to go to bed we get all wired up (wired-tired) and are lucky to get just a few hours each night.

I personally have gone a whole night feeling so wired I was still awake when my wife went to work at 6.15am the following morning.

What the???

Our bodies demand rest, our doctors (the ones that understand us and actually believe we suffer from a real condition/s) tell us our chronic illness was probably caused by too much stress and we should sleep as much as possible. Yet at night time our bodies change their mind.

“Sleep? You don’t need sleep! Read a book for hours, just lie there with your eyes open (or shut, I don’t really care) but whatever you do DON’T FALL ASLEEP!!”

Am I exaggerating this? My own experience and, apparently, the experience of dozens of other people’s comments on social media, says the answer is a definite “No!”.

So our own bodies are filling us with false hope every day. It is exhausted it tells us, it needs a rest desperately it says, if only it was bedtime it moans.

Then we finally go to bed…and our bodies make us feel like we could run around the block and do 50 pushups afterwards! Well not really, it’s just the wired-tired feeling, I know there is no way I could run just one step let alone around the block. Anyway it’s dark out there, shouldn’t I be sleeping?

Either there is something seriously wrong with our internal wiring, or our bodies are playing cruel jokes on us.

What do you think? I would really like to know!

P.S. Please follow this blog. It is something that provides me with just a little sanity in my screwed up world. So it would be nice to know that more than ten people will read it. Your choice of course.

Why not hold a ME/CFS and FIBROMYALGIA Games?!


Seeing the Commonwealth Games on television last night got me thinking, why not hold a ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia Games?!!

There could be Gold Medals awarded in events such as;

  1. Who can get out of bed first;
  2. The fastest time for getting out of bed and into the kitchen;
  3. Who can go to sleep and stay asleep for the longest time;
  4. Who can take their pain medication the fastest (with bonus points for remembering the correct doses);
  5. Who can correctly put away ten random everyday items from a supermarket in their right places;
  6. Who can remain standing up in a shower for the longest time;
  7. Who can do their meagre household budget the quickest (bonus points for accuracy and for actually knowing what a budget is);
  8. Who can stay on hold with Centrelink the longest without going insane from their on hold music;
  9. Who can fill out an application for the Disability Support Pension without going mad and tearing it up in tears;
  10. Who can drive their kids to school whilst remembering to actually have their kids in the car and then leave them at school before going home;
  11. Who can actually drive;
  12. Who can find the leftovers from dinner the night before (hint: try looking in random cupboards);
  13. Who can convince a doctor that their condition is real (bonus points for completing this before the Games closing ceremony);
  14. How fast can you convince a random member of the public that lying in bed all day is actually not a holiday (again bonus points for completing this before the Closing Ceremony);
  15. Who can take the most medication withhin 24 hours without significant side effects; (ambulances will be on standby);
  16. A motorised wheelchair race;
  17. Who can hold a conversation the longest whilst actually making sense;
  18. Who can say the word ‘Centrelink’ without screaming or bursting into tears;
  19. Who can receive a refusal for their Disability Support Pension the fastest;
  20. Who can go a day without pain (this event will carry over to the next Games in four years time, and every Games after that until a winner is declared);
  21. Who can climb up the steps to the diving board the fastest (you don’t actually have to dive, simply falling off is acceptable);
  22. Who can watch real athletes complete the decathlon without feeling exhausted and requiring resuscitation;
  23. Who can remember to bring their tickets so they can get into the Games (bonus points if you also remember your lanyard and plastic ID holder);
  24. Who can complete a five metre swim without drowning (floaties are allowed);
  25. Who can remember to actually show up to the Games;
  26. The final event, traditionally a marathon, will be replaced by awarding gold to the first person who remembers where they parked their car.

These are but a few of the exhilarating events of these wonderful, prestigious Games. They would be held alongside the Paralympic Games because no-one with ME/CFS or Fibromyalgia could possibly interfere with their events.

If the four years between Games is too short for competitors to recover in time, the Games may need to be held every eight years (or twelve).

The actual gold medals will be made of paper, as we do not want to see contestants falling off podiums after receiving them due to their weight.

Also the podiums will be replaced by beds, at different heights off the ground (the tallest being one-and-a-half feet high) so contestants can actually receive their hard earned medals.

I think we are on a winning idea here!Who is with me!

…….now that is just rude, you could simply just say no……

Now what am I going to do with all these paper gold medals???

My own ME/CFS/Fibromyalgia story


I am writing this with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, in the hope that someone else may recognise the symptoms I had (and ignored) and do something before it is too late.

When my first symptoms appeared I did not rest but ‘fought bravely on’, or so I thought. The truth is I made it much, much worse for myself……

Let us start at the beginning.

By all accounts I was a precocious kid who was also very shy.

About the age of five or six (maybe seven?) I came down with glandular fever. I did not know it at the time but this was very bad news and quite possibly the beginning of my current condition.

I remember feeling incredibly exhausted and in pain all over my body. After I was diagnosed I had six to eight weeks off from school and vaguely remember being so tired that I couldn’t do anything, spending all my time in bed. Not much fun without the smartphones and laptops we can enjoy now.

I was very young for my class, as my birthdate of early February allowed me to start before I was strictly of school age. This meant I finished Year 12 when I was only sixteen.

After the glandular fever I was a fairly normal kid. I spent ages outside playing with the kids up the street, running around with the best of them. In fact my parents had to tell me, on many occasions, to calm down and not make so much noise.

I wish I had that energy now!

In grade eight, from memory, I started to ride my bike to school. This was no mean feat when you consider we lived five miles away as the crow flies, and there were not many crows around to give me a lift so it was probably a six mile trip for me and my bike.

I participated in all sports, cricket and football being the main ones, and ran the 800 metres on sports days.

The only symptom I can recall near this time is that when I became a teenager I would sleep (when on holidays) until two or three in the afternoon. My Mum chided me for this, and why not because it was not normal behaviour. The beginning of CFS?

I exercised a lot, including a 1.5 kilometre run most nights (yes I know I’m mixing metric with imperial, I was at school when it changed so give me some latitude here!) so I did not lack energy.

When my University days began I do remember waking up feeling more tired than when I went to sleep. I had to drag myself to go to boring lectures and tutorials. However I thought the tiredness was because of my hatred of University. Another big mistake.

Then I started my first job as a Management Trainee at a bank. I quit after less than two years when I thought I was underutilised (I had taken to bringing a book to work because I got my work done too quickly).

In hindsight I was monumentally stupid. I was in their marketing department at the time, a role I would kill for now.

However I knew better (I didn’t) and since I had got my first job at my very first ever job interview, how hard could it be to get another one?

Bloody hard, especially if you quit your job during a recession. More fool me.

I spent the next two years doing odd jobs (storeman, pizza delivery, market research) before landing a role in retail sales. Oh, and waking up exhausted. The CFS continued and I knew no better so I soldiered on. Another big mistake.

My personal anxiety at this point was through the roof. I finally got a full time, steady job, but as a retail salesperson. Every day for the first few months I’d have to psyche myself up just to get out of my car and walk the few remaining steps to work.

My anxiety was stratospheric.

My morning tiredness by this point was out of control. Coca Cola was my staple drink, three or four cans a day to keep me awake…plus I loved it!

Fast forward a few years to my thirties, still changing jobs every two or three years because I would get bored. My first marriage had imploded and my morning exhaustion had me eating a Mars bar with a can of Coke for breakfast, just to get going. Yet another clear signal (with hindsight) missed.

This went on for a few years.

After my failed marriage, which meant I could only see my son (who was the light of my life) every second weekend, my stress levels were on another planet.

During the twelve months directly after my wife and I separated I suffered tonsillitis three times, was made redundant twice, had my wisdom teeth out, a knee operation and almost died from liver failure due to an auto-immune disease. Stress galore and even more tired in the morning.

Looking back now the stress was so enormous it was always going to pay me back, big time.

At this stage I definitely had what would be diagnosed today as CFS. They say the best thing you can do at early onset of CFS is to rest. However I was going through a divorce and had shamefully had to move back home because I was broke, so no rest for me.

Fortunately another good job came around and I was spending more time with my son (50/50). He kept me going when I was totally exhausted. How could I stop with a young (three or four year old) wonderful, incredible child to care for?

I had a lot of sales roles early in my career and as a sufferer of anxiety this was not good. However I persevered because I liked unemployment even less.

Waking in the morning was becoming a far more serious issue, as I had to force myself to roll out of bed to make sure I wouldn’t go back to sleep. Days were just a blur and I couldn’t wait to get home and lie down.

Sound familiar?

My fault entirely, as some management consultant had given an IQ test to everyone at a place I worked whilst in Sydney (another story). The good news was that he recommended I join Mensa and he told me that if I found myself in a room of two hundred people then I would, on average, literally be the smartest guy in the room. After the ego died down I put enormous pressure on myself to succeed (in anything, I just had to!).

After my return to Adelaide I was working a normal nine to five job, then at the end of that day I went to an office I shared with a friend, in a startup business we saw promise in. After just over a year of this and having a local distributor steal the exclusive rights to what we were selling, we decided to call it quits.

I was so damn tired I could hardly think straight. But I HAD to succeed and be a millionaire by the time I was thirty-five! This was the worse thing I could of done to my now very fragile body and mind.

Then I met my second wife (still married eighteen years later) who is very much into health. She became very concerned over my morning tiredness and the stress I was under.

After actually waking up feeling refreshed (the only time I can remember doing so in my life) on Kangaroo Island on a holiday, I readily agreed to see if anything could be done. I wanted more mornings like that one!

My first doctor diagnosed me with anxiety induced depression and I was put on a drug that, again in hindsight, made my ME/CFS condition worse. I took Zoloft for the next fifteen years. Zoloft can lead to ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia.

A few years later I joined a very small business and invested a lot of time and money into it. The business was in the finance industry, and I joined exactly one month before the Global Financial Crisis wiped us out.

My timing, when it comes to money, has always been atrocious.

Even more stress now, as we faced the reality of possible bankruptcy and losing our dream home. For the next three years I worked every single day (yes including Christmas Day) networking and chasing clients for my own sales and marketing consultancy, as there were simply no jobs during this time after the GFC. Money was great one month and terrible for the next two or three.

Even more stress.

Then I started teaching international students all about business, team building, leadership, finance and marketing. I loved it. However I was still waking up feeling exhausted.

Then in about April of 2016 I had what I thought was the flu. I felt like I had been hit by the proverbial bus but strangely did not have a blocked or runny nose. I now believe this is when my Fibromyalgia began, with this virus triggering another that had lain dormant since my glandular fever, causing my ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia to explode.

The GP I went to for this ‘flu’ told me to rest and wait it out. I tried to talk to him about my exhaustion for the last thirty years but he dismissed all this, telling me to get a good night’s sleep and take up exercise. The worst possible advice for the condition I had.

I went back to work a week later when I should have stayed in bed. If I had I probably wouldn’t be in the situation I am in now.

Then my legs started to feel incredibly heavy, as though made of concrete, and I began walking crookedly, uncontrollably, crashing into walls and, most embarrassingly, walking into student desks. The pain in my legs started soon after.

Finally I was getting the message my body had been trying to tell me for the last thirty years…”Stop! Rest! You are an absolute wreck!”.

The next doctor (I did not bother going back to the unbeliever) was sympathetic and actually believed in ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia. However she told me she did not know enough about it and so referred me on.

In so doing she did me an enormous favour and I will always be grateful.

The next doctor was a godsend. I first saw her in July of 2016. She had no preconceptions about my condition and was treating other patients with the same symptoms.

I had a five week break over Christmas that year (2016) after struggling to get through every day beforehand. I did nothing but stay at home and rest, but at the end of those five weeks I did not feel any better.

My suspicions were confirmed on my first day back at work as my symptoms were as bad as they were before my break. This way the time when I knew something was seriously wrong.

My new GP sent me to a Neurologist, fearing MS, whom I saw in January 2017.

The Neurologist shared the suspicions of my new GP and booked me in for an MRI. It showed lesions in my brain but it was inconclusive for MS.

My all over body pain (Fibromyalgia) got steadily, and significantly, worse. Eventually every day when I arrived home after work I had to ring my wife to come into the garage, and help me to get out of my car. I could not get out without her help.

Eventually I asked my boss at the time if I could work from home every Wednesday because of my illness, as Wednesday was my admin day. I had taken increasing numbers of days off before this just to try and cope. Unfortunately he did not believe me, instead he asked if I had my own business outside of work or was I working for someone else each Wednesday. That relationship was therefore doomed, and I must my part that with everything that was going on in my life I was probably not being a model employee

Shortly after I parted company with my sceptical boss, and had another teaching job within days, working just three days a week.

Unfortunately my condition continued to deteriorate so I started working just two days a week, then one. Finally I had to tell my employer that I couldn’t even do one day a week because it was taking more than a week to recover from just that one day.

With fear and dread at the consequences, my wife and I had decided that I simply could not work in my my condition.

In June of 2017 my Neurologist ordered another MRI which showed no change. Just in case she had missed something she referred me to a Specialist Physician. The good news was that she did not think it was MS, which was a relief.

The Specialist Physician diagnosed me with ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia. I finally had my diagnosis! I felt relief and dread in equal measure.

While all this was going on I was dealing with superannuation insurance claims and the reality that we were going to have to sell our dream home. Keeping our house clean for open inspections was a never ending task for my poor wife, as I literally could not raise a finger to help her.

This all happened from April to September last year.

Then our house sold, a bittersweet moment filled with regret, sorrow and extreme guilt for me. After all it was because of my illness that we had to sell.

I suffered more stress since July 2016 through to when our house sold in September 2017 than ever before.

And now we had just thirty days to find somewhere to buy or rent.

Fortunately we found a beautiful place in Nairne, about another fifteen minutes out from the city. It is smaller than our last home but we are loving it more and more each day (to my eternal relief!).

However prior to knowing that we would love this new home, but feeling a little excited because it was so new, the packing and moving happened all around me as I looked on helplessly and with much guilt.

Yes, stress levels even higher again. I know now that had I taken a few months off after my ‘flu’ in April 2016 I could possibly have recovered completely. Unfortunately I refused to give in and kept dragging myself to work. The alternative at that stage being far too terrifying as I knew how much my wife loved our home, as did I. I was also not sure if we had any insurance that would help us.

My wife and I had visions of a tiny unit in Elizabeth. Or even worse, asking to stay with my parents for a while!

After we moved I spent my time chasing Centrelink and insurance companies, and suffering worsening symptoms. The pain was intense over every square millimetre of my body and I had not had a day without this pain since April 2016.

At one of my visits with my new GP in around August of last year I told her I felt as though I was slowly dying.

We kept trying different drugs but the opioids gave me very bad side effects. One night I almost asked my wife to call an ambulance for me, as I was experiencing severe gyroscopic dizziness and was not sure where I was.

Today as I write this I am in ‘forced retirement’ while my poor wife, who has been an angel through all of this (as has the rest of my immediate and incredibly supportive family), has to keep working.

We have about eighteen months of Income Protection payments left, after which I will receive less than half that until I turn sixty (I am fifty-four now). Then it is the Disability Support Pension which took ten months and the submission of about one hundred pages of information to approve.

My GP has been trying some different drugs lately and one has given me some small relief. Unfortunately my days are still filled with sleeping, reading, watching Netflix, taking drugs and trying to take a shower.

And yes, when I tell that to some people they respond by saying it sounds like a wonderful holiday to them. Then they look at me, see (on the surface) a healthy looking person and either turn away or give me that stare first, the one that says; “You’re a lucky bastard.”

If they had to spend just twenty-four hours in my skin they would be begging to return to their previous lives.

Boredom is a major part of my life. I cannot walk more than 500 steps a day without having a crash the following day. A crash is even more pain, a migraine, incredibly painful feet and hands (so I cannot walk anywhere or hold anything), dizziness, insomnia (wired-tired), not to mention the pain on every square millimetre of my body.

Basically I spend the day in bed taking as much medication as I am allowed and go through three or four cold compresses for my exploding head.

Back to some good news. At least now I know what illness I have and all the uncertainty, forcing myself to work when feeling like death, disbelieving doctors, sceptical employers and the stress of losing our dream home because of my illness, is all behind me.

I have no idea what I will, or can, do for the rest of my life. However one thing I am sure of is that I want it to be a very, very long one.

Hey??

Every moment I spend with my beautiful wife and family is worth all the pain and suffering. I hope that you have someone in your life that makes you feel the same way.

Good luck to us all, and may a cure not be too far away!

To fellow CFS sufferers


One of the crazy, stupid symptoms of this part of my illness (CFS – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) has to be sleeping.

Well, not the actual sleeping per se but how it behaves.

For example, it is currently 4am. I have been awake off and on since 2am, but right now I am so awake that I want the day to start now.

It is called wired-tired, and normally occurs around 9-10pm when it is time to go to bed and sleep and all you want to do is party (although you can’t, of course, because if you tried you would last about two seconds before you collapsed with total exhaustion).

The other side of this insidious illness is that I know for a fact that when I finally go to sleep and wake up around 8.30am, it will be physically impossible for me to stop myself from falling asleep again.

What the?

An example is yesterday. Being a Saturday I was determined…no, determined…to stay awake so I could spend the day with my precious wife.

I finally got out of bed at one-thirty in the afternoon (??).

This is the stupid part I mentioned earlier.

I sat up in bed at 8.30am rubbing my eyes until they were sore, drinking iced coffee, reading, doing anything and everything to stay awake. However, and I would be interested to hear from other CFS sufferers about their experiences, it felt as though someone had each of my eyelids between their finger and thumb and were forcing my eyes shut.

The first I knew that I had gone to sleep again is when I woke up, head down, book in my lap and a very stiff neck. Angry, I redoubled my determination to STAY AWAKE!!

Crap, I’ve woken up again and my neck is very sore this time. Alright, I am getting out of bed and getting dressed (it is around 10.30am now) because I do not want to waste a Saturday!! Here we go!!

What the?? Head down again, and hell does my neck hurt! Bastard, I went to sleep again!

Alright, it is now about 11.30am and I WILL KEEP MY EYES OPEN AND STAY AWAKE!

Owwwww!! What?? No, could not have happened again, I control my body and I was staying awake damn it! Just after noon??? And I am still so tired that if I closed my eyes for more than a second I would be asleep again…wait, no you don’t, this time it is out of bed and WOAH my legs are collapsing and I am trying to walk and I am bumping into everything but at least I am awake! Take that you stupid CFS…what? It’s half past one??

And that, dear reader, is the stupidity of CFS. I could easily get up now, at just after 4.30am. Yes I would still be exhausted – I only remember waking up feeling refreshed and actually, really awake once in the past thirty years – but I could at least stay awake.

When I go back to sleep, in half an hour or an hour from now, I know that I will wake up around 8.30am and have absolutely no control over my staying awake or not. Some days, when my wife is working, I just give in and wake up when she gets home around 3.30pm or so, still feeling like I could sleep another ten hours and knowing that if I do not get up I probably will.

Which is why I am writing this at…4.42am. Because I know I will have no control over my body until much later today, sometime in the afternoon. Maybe.

I hate it, despise it, if CFS was a small creature I would rip it to pieces and then stomp on those pieces until nothing remained. I am angry, furious, and yet I have no control over it.

Many people, on reading this or hearing stories of people with CFS react with “Wow, wish I could spend all day in bed sleeping.” Well my dear fellow human being you are completely missing the point and have zero understanding!

Yes, if I had full control over my body and was actually in charge of my life, a day in bed would be glorious. The point, however, is that I feel incredibly exhausted all the time and have absolutely no control over when I sleep or for how long.

Try having a life around that! You might get to work at three in the afternoon, then fall asleep at your desk half an hour later. How long would you keep your job for?

Or you make plans to meet friends for lunch and then completely sleep through it. Yes, even with setting an alarm. Alarms for me are now just a reminder of past years when I could force myself to get up, when I was still in control. Today they are simply a temporary annoyance that my body ignores completely.

Even worse, every second of every day you know that if you closed your eyes for around three seconds you will fall asleep. (You can relax, I gave up driving months ago – another effect I hate about this part of my chronic illnesses (oh yes, there is more!) is losing my independence. Thank you CFS, I now feel like a ninety-year-old who cannot drive anymore because they cannot be trusted to remain alert at the wheel).

Three seconds until I fall asleep? Except between the hours of three and five in the morning, of course, when you just lie there wired so tight that even though you are exhausted you cannot sleep.

So you write a blog instead, that will be read by, maybe, three people.

Yeah, that is what I call a glorious life, bet you are jealous!