Eventually there comes a point when there’s only so much a person can ignore, that point came for me one afternoon when I forgot what a broom was (A cleany cleany floor thing Llisa? You mean a broom?). It wasn't the first time either, I'd been forgetting the names of close friends and family and drifting off in the middle of stories leaving friends staring at me wondering if I'd ever finish my sentence. Okay, there might possibly be something wrong. Maybe.
For years I had a continuously growing host of bizarre symptoms that I would find ways to rationalize, or assume I was being a drama queen and they were all in my head. The fatigue I chalked up to a busy life style despite sleeping for up to 13 hours a day, and rarely less than 10. When my arms, legs and face started going numb and tingling from time to time, I brushed off the notion that I might be having a stroke or heart attack. Do I have a pulse? Yes. Can I breathe? Yes. Okay - I'm sure it's fine - carry on. A severe bout of vertigo was combated with physio at least to the point where I could drive again and walk without running into walls most days. Heart palpitations? Must be stress. Body temperature of 94.5F? Maybe I didn’t eat enough today. Sore joints? Swollen, painful lymph nodes? I'm sure I'm just fighting off a cold. The headaches I brushed off at first, until they reached a tipping point of 10 to 30 icepick headaches per day, every day, for over a year. I was beginning to realize that healthy people don't feel like this. It was time to admit that something was not right.
Fast forward another year, several rounds of blood tests, MRI’s and visits to the fancy pants neurology department and I finally got an answer. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It's nice to know it's not all in my head (and I have witnesses)
The weekend I received a handful of pamphlets from my doctor, I went to a birthday party, a 10 km hike in the mountains, woke up at 3 am for a sunrise photo session and then capped it all off with an afternoon at the climbing gym. Maybe just to prove that I can. I had been incorrectly assuming that because I sleep like a rock (glorious, glorious sleep!), my exhaustion is imagined and I can push through without consequence. "Well", I'd think "If I'm this tired and breathless after the first 10 feet of a hike, there's no way I can feel any worse after the next 10 km" and continue on, putting one foot in front of the other. That I must be feeling wiped out on hikes because I’m out of shape and I should just work harder. But the harder I worked to get in shape, the farther I'd fall behind. I'd feel breathless and tired after climbing a single flight of stairs or need a break after my morning shower.
These days I have been tasked with learning how to slow down, so that I can start to feel better and eventually pick up the pace again. It's not an easy thing for someone who doesn't like to sit still. Ever. Especially not while seeing my peers tackle mountain summits and beautiful locations I'd love to photograph, but for now I have to take it easy and photograph some less strenuous locations. I'm lucky to live in a place that affords me beautiful photographic opportunities without even having to leave the parking lot, so I'm hoping to remain busy as ever, I might just be a little bit slower at it for a while.