Emotions of Chronic Fatigue

What are the emotions of chronic fatigue that you might expect to experience?

CONCERN: created when an illness lingers and medical professionals are unable to find the etiology (cause) of the problem.

FEAR: caused by uncertainties -- could it be an undetected illness that hasn't fully manifested itself such as cancer, MS, Lupus, or AIDS?

DENIAL: is an emotion of chronic fatigue that many of us experience, especially when it pertains to our most valuable possession, our health. Many patients tend to "deny" CFS and attempt to "live their lives", but soon find their body is governed by something out of their control.

TEMPORARY RELIEF: when other illnesses are eliminated. When a patient is finally given a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, there is "temporary relief" in having a name for the illness. But, then reality sets in that a "name" doesn't cure the illness.

FRUSTRATION: due to the patient's feeling that their body has somehow let them down. This can result in "jealousy" or "envy" when the patient can't do what someone helping them is doing. They don't want the person helping to be ill, but instead wish they were well enough to handle the task. Society tends to dictate that if you try a little harder, endure, and "push through", you can do anything. But, CFS becomes the "master" in that regard.

UNFAIRNESS: results when the patient feels something has been taken away -- that they are being "cheated" out of going on with their life the way they had planned. Sometimes this emotion can create a sense of worthlessness.

ANGER: is a very common emotion of chronic fatigue. It can be directed at doctors who have told the patient, "It's all in your head." Anger also results when patients spend thousands of dollars seeing many different doctors trying to "convince" someone that they really are sick. Sometimes anger becomes so severe the patient can appear belligerent. This emotion is exacerbated when the media, public, medical professionals, friends and loved ones lack understanding of CFS. Too often, society demands visual evidence of an affliction before it can be validated.

LOSS OF PERSONAL CONTROL: is a very difficult emotion to handle. We all realize we have very little control over the rest of the world, but we find comfort in feeling we have a lot of control over ourselves. However, CFS tends to become the "master" of the patient, showing no respect for the body it resides in.

DEVASTATION: is due not only to emotional aspects of the illness, but also to financial loss if a patient becomes disabled or can only work part-time. All of us have certain aspirations, but CFS all too often destroys those plans and brutally tells the patient that "without your health, you are very limited."

HOPELESSNESS: a few patients suffer this emotion of chronic fatigue so severely, they may feel suicide is their only alternative. Not all patients consider suicide an option, but for those who do, treatment with a counselor familiar with CFS can help patients deal with this emotion.

MOURNING: is a process each patient has to endure as they come to the realization that their life may never, ever, again be the same. Shattered dreams are hard to lose. A "loss" is suffered not just personally, but many times friends and loved ones tend to not understand. A closeness once shared can diminish or even disappear.

HUMBLING: the illness tears at every emotion of chronic fatigue until it "humbles" the patient. Patients come to realize that regardless of their economic or social status, they share a certain camaraderie with other CFS patients as well as others who have chronic illnesses. Many patients say that if they get well, they will never be the same. CFS gives a new perspective to life with the realization that we are truly dependent upon our health.

LEARNING TO COPE: is an emotion of chronic fatigue that comes only after knowledge that the medical community does not yet have "the answer" for CFS. Patients must reach within to find the tools to live with this illness. They can do that with the help of others through reputable support groups, credible educational materials, and the help of loved ones, family and friends. Also, they can work with their physician in becoming a "partner" in their own health care.

ACCEPTANCE: goes hand in hand with coping. Once patients learn to accept the illness rather than "fight" it, they tend to find ways to conserve what energy they do have, and spend it wisely each day. They learn to eliminate stresses and prioritize. Unfortunately, some things may never get done, but somehow life goes on in spite of it. With acceptance, each patient tends to find strength they did not realize was there.

HOPE: even though "coping" and "acceptance" allow patients to adjust to CFS and still enjoy life, each patient, deep within, desires that medical science will find a cure, prevention and/or treatment. Some patients depend on this emotion more than others.

UNDERSTANDING: this emotion is the greatest "gift" those not afflicted with CFS can give the patients. Patients are burdened enough just living with CFS without having to convince others that this is a physical illness. Through understanding, maybe we can help patients endure all the aspects of this illness.

Information for this text is from the brochure, "Understanding the Emotions Surrounding Chronic Fatigue Syndrome," © 1992, by:

National Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia Association

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