My story with debilitating fatigue and what you can do for yours

Most people get glandular fever in VCE at high school, I got it between my third and fourth year at Uni. The Bachelor degree of health science for naturopathy is 4 years, I extended to do it in 4 and a half years, and here’s why. For me I found third year the hardest. I was living out of home for the first time, days at Uni in Melbourne were 3-4 days a week with at least 1 day 8am-6pm, some days you could be there until 9pm. And of course like most students I also worked part time. This year is when you do practical clinic, sort of like the same experience as placement for nurses and the expectations to pass and do well are pretty high from supervisors. Early in the year, I had a nasty chest infection that lingered for months and when that finally subsided I figured I was in the clear. A few months later I found myself becoming SO fatigued and I plotted along thinking it was just the long and early hours I was doing. It did not get better, it got worse. When I tell you I had to nap both to and from Uni on the train I’m not talking a ‘close your eyes, relaxing snooze’, I was in full REM sleep having dreams, sometimes I set the alarm on my phone so I wouldn’t miss my stop! And I STILL felt exhausted. I went to bed as early as possible thinking maybe I wasn’t getting enough sleep, woke up in the morning with aching muscles like I had done intense exercise – which I was too tired to do. If I felt like a had a good amount of energy one day I might get a lot of chores done or exercise, then the next day I’d feel shocking. This helped me learn my limits and I use this experience as a way to help my clients. I went to the GP and got some bloods done, which showed I had a recent exposure to Epstein Bar Virus and low vitamin D, I was glad I had an answer. I look back now and think gosh I could’ve gotten better a lot earlier if I was taking the right supplements to support my body, but I was on auto-pilot. So with this knowledge and experience, here’s what I’d recommend to enforce to pull you out of that lethargic hole. 1. Get help from a health practitioner. I’m not just saying this because I am one myself, but it’s like anything in life if you want some sort of result you go to someone who expertise’s in it, if you want legal advice you see a lawyer etc. You’re too fatigued to think clearly, surrender to letting someone else help you.

2. Be more strict on your boundaries. This is probably the most important and I think the one that made the biggest difference to me. Say NO to things that you know might push your limits with work load, or things you’re only mildly interested going to. Prioritise your values and just focus on things that make you feel really good for yourself, not others. This includes work load too, if you can in some way decrease it, do it. Delegate some house chores to your loved ones so you’re not doing everything yourself. Here is the point I decided to switch to part time study and gosh I’m glad I did. I cruised through fourth year and everyone else were headless chooks.

3. An obvious one but rest when you feel like it. If you feel a bout of energy a day here and there don’t overexert yourself, only introduce gentle exercise and other things slowly once your energy has consistently improved.

4. Get some bloods done. Of course everyone is different, but push to get some blood tests if you feel this fatigue is debilitating. Iron, B12, folate, thyroid, vitamin D, white blood cells… and heck you might be surprised to find recent exposure to EBV like I was.

5. Assess if you’re truly happy in areas of your life with work, relationship, living situation etc. Quite often I see chronic fatigue linked to people trudging along with some area that they’re really not happy with.

6. Keep your food simple. This would be best done under supervision of a health practitioner to get the best outcome, but some simple examples: Don’t skip meals (especially breakfast), ensure you have a source of protein at each meal, get a minimum 2L water/day, don’t overconsume refined carbohydrates… but don’t cut carbohydrates out as a fuel source all together, get your green veggies in, choose wholesome foods that are easy for the tummy to digest like soups, stews, porridge, rather than things like salads and smoothies.

I’m not going to list a range of herbs and nutrients that are great for this scenario because everyone’s cause is different and my core belief is personalised medicine not pigeon-hole. For example, iron tablets were doing nothing for me at the time. The key takeaway here is this does not have to rule your life anymore, improving people’s quality of life is something we thrive on as Naturopaths, it’s our job.

​To learn more about how you can best support yourself, book in for a consultation with Teresa today

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