Last up in our CFS Symptoms Series is the discussion on the flu-like symptoms, chills and night sweats, headaches and sore throat.
Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum notes in his book From Fatigued to Fantastic that:
“…the most notorious pattern seen in severe chronic fatigue states is one in which a person who is feeling fine suddenly comes down with a brutal flu-like illness that never goes away. The sudden onset of the illness after an infection is a mark of this classic pattern.”
When I first became ill, I had either walking pneumonia or a very severe case of bronchitis. After that I was never the same again. I do blame myself for some of it because I was ordered to be at home in bed and I would not quit working. I often wonder if maybe my CFS would have been prevented if I just would have listened to the doctor. Who knows. I could have possibly already had CFS, as I was always sick and tired growing up. This illness and lack of rest could have just added fuel to the fire.
I have heard a lot of people with CFS say that they thought they had the flu that just never went away only to find out they would just get sicker and sicker. Along with the flu-like symptoms comes the achiness in both the muscles and joints, which is also common in people when they have the flu. But this type of achiness is such that Tylenol and even a lot of the prescription painkillers fail to ease. For most PWCs, the achiness comes from the disordered sleep, low thyroid function, yeast infections and nutritional deficiencies.
When my CFS is acting up, even my teeth hurt. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. The pain I have in my back, hips and knees is like a gnawing or it feels like someone is ringing out my muscles like you would a dish rag.
Also with this achiness and pain comes muscle weakness. I have spent many times at the supermarket driving the handicapped carts because my muscles were so weak I could barely make it into the store.
Along with the achiness, PWCs often complain of pain in their lymph node regions. My armpits will hurt so bad that I can’t keep my arms down at my sides.
The chills and night sweats associated with CFS are severe enough to keep PWCs awake at night and at times mine are so severe I feel like I’m going crazy. I imagine it is kind of like going through menopause in a sense. I will go from one extreme to the next – one minute I am soaking wet because I am so hot and the next minute I am so cold it feels like the cold is going down to my bones and no matter what I do I can’t get warm. My husband says there are nights that he can barely stand to lie beside me in bed because the body heat coming off of me is so severe. He said he doesn’t even have to be touching me and he can feel it.
The first few years I was sick with CFS, the sore throats were always my warning sign that I was going into a flare or that I was overdoing it. The sore throats associated with CFS are not a typical sore throat that just makes your throat a little scratchy. If you have ever had strep throat and know the pain associated with that, that is how I would describe the sore throats with CFS. I have not been able to find much on why it is believed that we have these severely sore throats. I would like to find some information on that if there is any out there.
The headaches associated with CFS are also not your typical headache. The diagnostic criteria states that the headaches must be of a new or different pattern than what has previously been experienced. The headaches can be severe to where you think you might be having a migraine at times, except migraine medications do not help.
I am on prescription painkillers daily for the headaches. I have a headache all of the time – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The painkillers do not completely rid my headaches but they at least make it more tolerable.
It is really hard for other people to understand the severity of these symptoms if you are not in our bodies. When someone healthy reads that I have headaches 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it is probably hard for them to fathom that. This is why socially we take ourselves out of public situations and retreat into our own little worlds. People don’t get it and many often get tired of trying to explain themselves. If you don’t look sick to most people, then you can’t be sick. That is the clincher with this illness. Most PWCs look healthy, yet indeed they are very ill.
I hope this series has shed some light on CFS for those of you who reading this site who are not familiar with the illness. For those of you with CFS reading this, I hope that you now see that you are not alone and you are not crazy. You are truly sick.