I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) ~5 years ago. I haven't had a relapse for around 9 months, until several weeks ago. It took me until today to realize what was going on, but induced by some stress, I have experienced some of those all too familiar symptoms... Not a lot of fun, a little disturbing, but in the end - I am OK with it. Over the years, I managed to come up with my own way of dealing with relapses so they don't last for very long before I am back to my usual self.
The diagnosis was made in January 2005. Prior to that, I was waiting for an appointment with an endocrinologist for about 1 month (they got me in FAST), and that was after far too many visits to the doctor's office for countless blood tests and urine samples. My cortisol levels were off the charts and my doctor (who was a very accomplished sports doctor) said he had never seen anything like that before. Hmmmm.... not a good sign.
At that point, I wasn't training at all anymore: my doctor made me stop so I didn't cause further damage and my days were filled with sleeping for ~16 hours/day anyways... Kind of backwards, eh? I could have slept for longer as I was always extremely tired and in pain, but couldn't afford to take the time off work. Thank goodness it was summer (I lived in New Zealand back then!) and I was on break from school until late Feb.
CFS is also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), which is a more fitting name in my opinion as it means nervous system inflammation involving muscle pain. Whatever you want to call it, it wasn't fun at all, and I had symptoms for well over 12 months before the diagnosis and then for over a year afterward... For more information, you can go to Canadian CFS/ME site.
I recovered with the help of some very light exercise (I had to lie down after 30 very easy minutes on the trainer. Kind of depressing because I used to train for 25+ hours/week and race at a high level...), proper nutrition and some therapy. I can say I am at about 85%-90% of where I was before CFS/ME and these are actually considered really good odds!!
My story goes well beyond the above info, into some of the reasons why I ended up with CFS/ME (eating disturbances, training with chronic cold/flu and some over-training), but I will not get into all of that as It does not make a very exciting read. A sad read perhaps, but not an entertaining one.
I would like for CFS or ME awareness to increase. Most people don't understand what it is and how people's lives are affected. In addition, I am sure I am not the only athlete who's athletic career ended because of CFS/ME (in my case, before it really started - I was only 23 when I was diagnosed). If you know anyone, especially athletes, who suffer from CFS/ME please leave a comment. I would like to connect with others who have experienced something similar.