Hi @Becky - first off, thank you for sharing what you're going through. It sounds like a lot to process and we're so glad you've decided to reach out and ask for insight/support.
I'm hoping @Rachel_M can jump in here and provide her thoughts as a mental health expert.
On the reduced work expectations front, perhaps you could talk to someone in HR and see if there is the opportunity to recreate a flexible work schedule as you recover and get back on your feet.
We're here for you!
Hi Becky, I'm so sorry you're going through all of that! It must be really frustrating and hard to deal with your symptoms and to feel like your identity as a positive person full of energy has been taken away - plus other people's expectations that you should be feeling a certain way! I have also struggled with chronic fatigue for the past 10 or so years and it can be so hard to feel tired all the time and just not like yourself. I'm also a personal trainer and nutrition coach so I can totally relate to how other people assume you're young and healthy and full of energy! If you'd ever want to talk more about it via Zoom or something, I'd be more than happy to just chat with you and hear more of your story or share what's worked for me to help with symptoms (physical and mental/emotional) - feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime!
@Becky Sorry to hear about your situation this doesn't seem fun at all. The body is incredibly connected with the mind and the same going the other way, mind to body. It's good that you addressed the shift you felt after getting COVID. Be mindful when you see doctors as many clinics are lead with checklists and don't always have a super in-depth information gather / conversation about you and your context: physical, mental, social etc.
What do you think is your next step if you were to weigh in more of your life context? You can definitely get back to where you were -- you will have to be gentle and patient but also locked in to what your body and mind are saying to you. I'm here and we're all here to support! 👊
Hi Becky, thanks for sharing. I am experiencing something similar, I am 34, and had covid in january. I'm a PE teacher, varsity coach, super active with my dog and friends. Since covid, I've strained several muscles, and wake up with sore hip and ankles every morning. These are all new feelings for me, and definitely damper my attitude and moods. its crazy, and frustrating, and I wish there was something I could pin point to help shift how I feel. Whether it be blood tests, or something. At least. I teach yoga, so when anyone suggests I try that, I actually can say that i have. ha ha.
as for your questions... liek the others have said, take your time, be kind and generous. communicate with your friends and family, so they k now how you feel. perhaps they can offer support.
Thank you for sharing! I can relate as I suffered a mild traumatic brain injury over 6 years ago and have been left with post-concussive syndrome and chronic, intractable migraine. I went from being a busy pediatrician running a non-profit in my spare time while training for half-marathons, lifting weights and practicing power yoga to someone who initially couldn't even go for a walk without aggravating my migraines. It's been hard to adjust to a body and brain that are so different from before. Like you, I have an invisible injury/illness so unless I spoke up about how I was feeling and what I needed to change so that I could recover, no one new that I needed help and I just made myself more ill. It has been hard to not be "the strong one", the go getter, the person that everyone turns to. I have learned to say no to things that won't improve my health and am working with the phrase, Try easy. I've always worked on the premise that if I just try harder, work harder, push harder, I make more progress. With chronic illness and pain, that doesn't work anymore. I try to do things with a sense of ease rather than striving. I've found meditation and yogic breathing to not only help me accept the pain as it is, but also actually help reduce my pain. Ask for help, let people know what you need, and be kind and gentle with yourself!
Becky, it is good that you have shared your story, because I think we are going to be seeing and hearing about this a lot more. I am a licensed mental health counselor, an outdoor cycling leader, and a former group fitness instructor, so the connection of physical and mental health is a huge interest of mine. My go to suggestion is to look into a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course. You can read about it yourself, but it's really best if you take the actual class by a trained person. I took it at a time when I was dealing with pain and anxiety, and continued to practice many of the things I learned, as well as recommend to my clients. Of course, you can do simple meditation, yoga, and visualization on your own, as well. There are tons of resources online to get started. The MBSR course includes all of these things and more.
Dear Becky, (A disclaimer: I would not qualify as “young”, but definitely “young at heart.”) Oh my gosh, Covid is one nasty customer. To have an acute case of it must really be tough. I love that you are reaching out, talking it through, getting reassurance and encouragement from others. I have made friends with my chronic fatigue and severe rheumatoid arthritis by acknowledging that, though they are a constant presence, we’ll work together as one. Before my morning “wog” (walk&jog), I have this conversation: “Just put on your shoes and walk 5 minutes. If it doesn’t feel good, you can turn around and go back home.” I rarely do. My wogs may be slower, shorter, but I am out there working it, and it feels so freeing. I have also learned to break my bigger tasks into small pieces, spread out over a little more time. And to prioritize what things bring joy and make time for them. And, as the others have said, I have learned to be kind to myself. And to be kind to those who don’t really get what I’m going through. I wish you renewed strength and a large slice of happy! Best to you.
Hello from another Becky! I've been dealing with chronic fatigue for about ten years. Not super young anymore, but I was young when it started. I can really relate! For me there have been two distinct pieces-- 1. figuring out what needs to be done to take care of my body (getting enough rest, exercising within my energy envelope, etc) and 2. learning to be ok with that emotionally. The second piece has been the harder one for me, and the thing that's really helping is therapy. Turns out I'd been judging myself pretty harshly when my body couldn't live up to my expectations (which was nearly all the time), and I didn't even quite realize it. Whatever is difficult for you emotionally about this adjustment, a therapist can probably be a big help.
and yet another Becky chiming in!
I've been struggling with anxiety/depression (which I discovered last month has actually been from untreated ADHD!) that became really noticeable for the first time in grad school for music 10 years ago, and then chronic pain from a mysterious shoulder injury since 2016. I had surgery for that at the end of last year but it's still been a long journey to stop having pain even after that.
I think that one of the necessary steps to "being gentle with yourself" is figuring out where the harsh judgement is really coming from. Sometimes it's attitudes and ideas that no longer serve you. Sometimes it's other people trying to get you to do stuff you have every right to say no to, and now it's really time to tell them no. When other people are trying to crush your new and shaky boundaries or make you feel bad for not doing enough or being how you used to be, that's not you being not good enough. I promise.
I have lived with chronic pain for 2.5 years post a botched surgery. There are good days and not good days. There were days when it just seemed too much. I did work on a practice of finding some small thing to be grateful for each night. Also journaled all my negative feeling, found a number of people to help me with small steps forward. Sending you big hugs
Hi Becky! I'm a bit late to the party and I'm not quite so young anymore (36), but chronic pain has been a part of my life for a long time. I am so sorry you are going through so much. You sound like a strong and tough person, and I know you will find your way through it. I have endometriosis and rheumatoid arthritis. I look fine from the outside, and it sometimes means people aren't very understanding. The diseases are no fun, the medications are no fun, and the surgeries are no fun. But we do get better at managing it. I second the suggestions to look into therapy. It has been very helpful for me. I used to be very much a people pleaser, but I am learning that I need to be pleased with myself and my life too. It's ok if not everyone understands or even respects your decisions. You are completely entitled to do what is necessary to take care of yourself. Even when it is a lot of work, you are worth it!
If I may make another suggestion or two, it might be helpful to visit with a rheumatologist. A lot of weird autoimmune conditions can be triggered by a serious illness like COVID. And my rheumatologist knew a lot more about it than my general physician.
And I got smart a few years ago and made myself a resume, but just for all my medical information. It has my doctors, my meds, my vaccinations, my diagnoses, my surgical history, my family history, my pharmacies, my complete care team... all the stuff they always ask that is hard to come up with on the fly. It has been extremely helpful and taken a lot of stress out of managing it all. I highly recommend it.
Wishing you all the best! Sending you hugs and healing thoughts 🙂