Thursday, October 23, 2008

What Is Energy?

I've continued to feel mostly good this past week - still no sign of the Lyme recurring. I have been super-productive lately, catching up on insurance paperwork (mainly because we desperately need to get back the money due to us!) and showering my editors with new ideas for articles and reviews. I still feel my mid-day slump, from late afternoon till early evening, when I need to take it easy, but by evening, my mind is in high gear again. I lie in bed thinking about all the new projects I want to start, composing various writing pieces in my mind, excited about waking up in the morning to a new day full of new possibilities.

It occurred to me last night that energy and its nemesis, fatigue, are about so much more than simple physical capability.

When CFS flares up and I am crashed, my brain feels like it's filled with molasses. There are the physical symptoms - sore throat, flu-like achiness, exhaustion - but there is also a mental exhaustion. In this state, I am almost incapable of writing at all, let alone putting together new and creative ideas. Not only that, but I don't want to write or do anything else. When I am badly crashed, all of that mental energy disappears. There are no new ideas, no eager anticipation of what to do next, no motivation to do anything at all. At these times, my mind craves rest just as much as my body. I feel dull, lazy, and apathetic.

In contrast, on a good day, I am filled with drive and enthusiasm, eager to start work each morning and frustrated when I have to quit for lunch and my nap. I am still aware of physical symptoms at these "up" times and know I have to respect my limits. I switch to writing on the laptop in the recliner when my throat starts to hurt or take only a short walk even though I feel full of energy, in order to avoid a later crash. But even with these physical restrictions, my mind feels free and full of energy.

Then there are days like today. I walked for too long yesterday with a friend at the park (I still haven't learned!) and have crash symptoms today - sore throat and aches. Interestingly, though, I still have mental energy today. Even as I force myself to lie on the couch to rest, my mind is still working at a fast pace, coming up with new writing ideas as quickly as I can jot them on the pad by the couch, eager for my body to feel well again so I can pursue my goals.

I am fascinated by this change in mental energy with my CFS symptoms. I feel very fortunate to have good days now and realize why long, severe crashes are so hard to endure - it's not just the physical restrictions but that empty, listless feeling that makes it so impossible to do anything at those times.

Interestingly, the first improvement I noticed when I started taking anti-viral medications was a mental clarity that I hadn't even realized I'd been missing (click on the anti-viral tag at the end of this blog entry to read more). I guess I assumed that the sluggish feeling that was a part of CFS was merely based in feeling poorly physically. I've heard many others on message boards mention the same experience - improved mental clarity after taking anti-virals. So, it is definitely a physical, bio-chemical kind of brain thing, apparently caused or worsened by the presence of infections. Whatever causes our well-named brain fog, I am hugely grateful to now experience large blocks of time without it.

And now, it's time to once again listen to my body. My sore throat is getting worse, even in the recliner with the laptop. Time to stop trying to work and get flat on the couch.


hobbz said...

Wow, it sounds like you are telling my story! I have fibromyalgia, but the fatigue acts in much the same ways as with CFS as you know, I'm sure. I check into your blog often, and I'm so glad to here that the lymes disease has taken a back seat and your on the up swing.
Just like you, I still overdo it some days too, but when your with friends, sometimes I think it's worth the crash. We spend so much of our life trying to minimize symptoms, sometimes it's worth the pain, to have a normal afternoon with a friend. Know what I mean. you just kind of have to plan for it....that's my thoughts anyways.
take good care!!!!

me/cfs warrior said...

It's so great to read your blog and find hope that things get better. Thanks for all your support. I hope you have a great weekend!

Renee said...

I liked this posting on energy ~ after just reading about the Sonoma Group of specialists who believe that CFS is an energy crisis. Everything has or is some form of energy ~ makes sense that when we are so very sick, we truly are in an energy crisis...with so little to spare. I try to surround myself with people and things that give me good feelings ~ good energy so as not to bring me down but build me up emotionally. Certain people or experiences seem to just suck the energy out of us! And of course our an increase of symptoms does the same. I sure identify with your description of crashing, etc.
Thanks again