Monday, 20 March 2017

The looming presence of Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome PVFS

I'm awake. Not sure why, just woke up hungry after a very busy day of site work and lifting weights yesterday. Hunger is easy to cure (or at least it is when you have money, but that is not the point of this blog).

The nagging virus I have had for the last, I don't know how many months, is not.

Some of you may have noticed this is the first blog entry in quite some time. I have been lacking a little in inspiration, or maybe motivation, to stay on top of the writing, and I think in part that stems from a winter of sub-optimal health. Don't get me wrong, I am not dysfunctional, I am still capable of long work days, riding a bike for fun, taking care of myself. I still perform well enough to be a functioning and useful cog in society. This is not debilitating Chronic Fatigue that leaves the poor sufferer in bed, whilst the people around them try and help, and try not to think, 'malingerer'.

However, this winter, the first in many many years, has seen  me stumble from day to day with viral symptoms that are not improving with time, don't improve with rest, see no change through 'positive thought'. I have a fantastic life, truly extraordinary, right now. I have just married a remarkable man who supports me in everything I do. Work is trundling along nicely and I'm excited about some upcoming system changes we have put in motion. I have just enough money to fund the bike habit. Yet this's there, in the background, all the time, making the journey just that little bit harder than it needs to be.

Sore throat - not razor blade sore, just 'hurt to swallow' sore. Mild earache. Glands that are mostly OK, but sometimes not. Blocked nose, but not runny. The occasional headache. Muzzy head that struggles to concentrate. General all over body fatigue, but not in the 'overtraining fried nervous system way' more in a 'pfft, virus' way. Some days I wake up and I think, hmm, feeling a tad better. Others, I feel like I have been hit by a truck.

On the bike, I am probably operating at about 80% of normal with effort, and about 70% of normal on social rides. Everything is below par. To be honest, I say with effort, but I haven't really been making any as I am aware that I am on the precipice of post-viral fatigue (or maybe I'm well past it and in denial). Working too hard could potentially trigger a body shutdown that is far more serious than dragging myself around aimlessly from day to day trying to make the best of it. The endurance has gone. Normally I start steady and get stronger once I am warmed up. Now, all I can do is hang on to the end of social rides as I tire quickly. Every week I hope to start putting up the mileage, increase focus and get some structured training in for the summer's events, and every week I am having to hold off because I am just not well enough to do so. The couple of longer rides I have done this year have involved a massive amount of 'going very slow'. I try not to contrast the current state of affairs to previous years where massive, reasonably quick paced, audax rides were the weekend norm on top of the regular weekday socials. I have done one audax this year and my moving time was over an hour slower than normal. There was no chance of getting out of breath and smashing through the miles, there was no energy for it. When 'no effort' hasn't been optional (like on a fully loaded bike and bivvy, with a campsite to reach before dark), the ride has wiped me out for days after.

Complete rest doesn't help, before you suggest it. Not only do the symptoms not go away, I have to be aware of the mental impact of no exercise. It's no good being physically well if mentally you are weak. Exercise keeps me sane, it is the absolute key to (my own personal) mental health and I have to balance that out with managing the symptoms.

Have I been to the doctor? Of course not! What are they going to do? Tell me "it's a virus, it will take time". Give me all the blood screens in the world which will show evidence for a bit of an infection, maybe. Tell me "it's in my head" and offer antidepressants. Been there, done that, 15 years ago when I was really struggling with chronic fatigue. Time, and a change of perception, cured it then, and it will again. All going to the doctor will do is ensure that BIG H for hypochondriac is written on the file whilst I bide my time waiting for it to pass. And...I don't like to admit it here, (in fact, I wasn't going to, but I feel I should for clarity), I am already using NHS resources at the moment because of a lifetime gastrointestinal tract issue. It's plagued me since a child and worsening significantly over the last decade, but the current GP decided it warrants investigation after a casual comment about my inability to digest fat properly, when discussing my broken arm last year. What has always been 'just IBS' apparently may actually be a faulty pancreas. I'm pretty sure it's nothing serious, for a start, it's always been an issue and it's taken over a year to get the consultant appointment. I'd be dead by now if it was something to really worry about. We'll see what the CT Scan, camera, tests etc say, but I'm betting the final diagnosis, along with everything else, will be 'hypochondriac, with IBS'.

So what am I going to do about it?  Continue to look after myself, try and eat well (but not stress about it when I don't), continue to exercise steadily (but not stress about the lack of performance ability), forget the endurance riding for now, bide my time, and change my perception.

We only value our health when we no longer have it. Mine are minor issues. Some people have much bigger concerns. Cancer. Neurological disorders. Horrendous accidents. Heart disease. Strokes. I am well enough to work, be independent and still have fun.

This virus is not a problem, it's just part of the journey.  Maybe it's just slowing me down enough so I notice the scenery more.