Did I tell you I’d been ill recently? It was just after Easter. I developed a bit of a cough and thought nothing of it, but it got worse, and then I began to feel really rough. I lost just over a stone in ten days and decided that I should probably consult my GP. He said TALOIA*, that he’d had it himself, and that although the chest infection would probably respond to clarithromycin, I could expect to feel knackered for a month or so.
And he was right - rather more than a month as it happened. As the days went by, and I just couldn’t be bothered to do anything, I realised that I had post-viral fatigue, and was faced with the dreadful prospect that it might turn into chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and I’d end my days driving a mobility scooter around the streets of Leeds, wearing an orthopaedic collar and tinted spectacles. It’s actually a bit scary, thinking that you might be going down with a disease you don’t really believe exists**, so I was relieved when I started to pick up a bit.
But I’m still not ‘right’. I tried to analyze what I was feeling, and it’s all a bit odd. I don’t feel that I can do the stuff I used to do, but when I actually do it, I can walk as far as I ever did and in the same time. Even on the rowing machine, my time over 5000m is only 90 seconds slower than the already miserable 25 min I used to manage. It’s just that I don’t want to do it.
I gave quite a lot of thought to this, and decided that what I’m suffering from isn’t fatigue or lethargy - even listlessness didn’t quite encapsulate all the aspects of my sorry condition. Then I realised - I’m suffering from post-viral ennui. If I’m right, and this is the way all those long-term sufferers feel, then I think we need to change the name of the syndrome from CFS to CES. It has implications for therapy too.
Instead of graded exercise (which most victims are too tired to do) and CBT and antidepressants (which they tend not to accept because it means they are ‘mental’) we should prescribe a chaise longue and a fine lawn handkerchief soaked in lavender water. They could then undertake a programme of graded swooning in front of Countdown, and they’d be as right as ninepence in no time.
There - sorted. In the meantime, I’m coughing again, and back on clarithromycin, but happy that I have been able to make this small advance for medical science.
* there’s a lot of it about
** DOI: I do believe that CFS exists, but like most GPs I talk to, I suspect that not everyone who claims to suffer from it actually does.