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Eunice Beck, RN, on Dealing with CFS & FM and the Demands of Emotions

  [ 187 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • November 26, 2003

Dear Friends,

Fatigue. Such a worn-out word (forgive the pun) that it hardly has meaning for any of us. Fatigue is usually used to describe physical tiredness, or wear and tear, such as metal fatigue. I have occasionally seen it used to describe mental or psychological symptoms, but that is not the typical usage. To use it to describe how those of us with CFIDS/FM are feeling is useless. Anyone in this society/culture who is not fatigued, at least at times, is not paying attention.

There are other words which might be more suitable. Things like lassitude and inertia better fit how I am feeling right now. Circumstances are somewhat better in my life and family right now, but the situation still exists. I seem to be able to find the physical energy necessary, although I tire more easily, and am having more pain. What I am having difficulty with is mental and emotional energy. I find myself drifting in time, unable to focus unless I have a physical chore to do. I feel an apathy and weariness that are not normal for me.

I know that much of this feeling is related to the continuing emotional stress of my family health situation. I also know that some of it is a product of what I had to develop over the years of my professional life. As a nurse, one learns a certain emotional disconnect that allows you to maintain your focus. This doesn’t mean you don’t feel the emotions, but you can remain clinical when necessary. Unfortunately, having done this for so many years professionally, it all too easily transfers to one’s personal life. I have done this unknowingly in the past, to the detriment of my health. Now I am aware of “putting on my nurse face” to hide from feeling the emotions in a situation. I think that some of what I am feeling is this battle within myself between my more comfortable clinical approach, and the need to feel and work through my emotional reactions.

A family situation which demands our attention and energy, be it an illness, a child’s needs, a move, or any one of a number of possibilities, is especially difficult for us. First, there are the physical demands. Whatever amount of energy is required of us, it is certain to put us in an energy deficit situation. It is only when we begin to recover from this that we are able to begin to focus on the emotions involved.

Emotions require energy, too. For me, tears are liquid energy. But they need to be shed when they are part of emotional recovery. There are other emotions which require energy as well: anger, fear, anxiety, and worry. Life puts us in situations where these emotions are part of our reactions. My big deficit at this point seems to be a lethargy that I just can’t shake. I just don’t have the energy or motivation to get excited about anything. There are things I want to do, but somehow, they just never get done. Even when there is time, it doesn’t occur to me that I could be working on a particular project, or if it does, I say “Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.” But this family illness is teaching me that is not always so. I’m not really indifferent, I just don’t have the energy to care very much beyond those things I HAVE to do.

I am hopeful that I will pull out of this before long. The holidays are approaching, and are especially important to me this year. Yet the idea of decorating is so far beyond my attention span right now, I can hardly even imagine. Knowing me, I will get most of it done, even if it is in a daze. I have managed to do just a bit of shopping, and don’t know how much more I will get to. But that is not what is really important this year. Being with my loved ones is a much more valuable way to spend my time and energy.

Emotions are frequently much more difficult to deal with than our physical problems. There are things we can do to help with the physical fatigue and pain. It is right there, in our face, and demanding our attention. Emotional distress is more surreptitious. It hides from us, yet increases our physical discomfort. It is easier to pretend the pain is something other than our emotional distress. I have previously talked about grief and the process of dealing with it. The same basic steps apply to emotional suffering, no matter what the cause. I imagine that I will move on through the process in my own time. Even recognizing my battle enough to write this letter is progress. In the meantime, I wish all of you happy, warm and loving times as we move into the winter. Take care and be well.

Yours in health,



I welcome your comments and questions at: My articles and email responses are not being offered as those of a health care provider. The information and opinions included are intended to give you some information about your disease. It is very important that you empower yourself with knowledge and participate in your own search for care. Any
advice given is not intended to take the place of advice of your physician or mental health care provider. Always follow your physician's advice, even if contradicted by something written here. You and your physician know your situation far better than I do. Thank you and be well.


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