- Mentioning a disease or problem that everybody already knows is bad.
- Saying that it's bad.
- No, actually, that's it. We're all aware now. Yay us!
Here are a few things you may believe about the disease, often referred to as "chronic fatigue syndrome," and what you should know.
Myth: "Chronic fatigue syndrome" means you're tired all the time
Fact: Though fatigue (read "crushing exhaustion unrelieved by rest") is one of the symptoms, there are many others. These include:
- Chronic, debilitating pain
- Post-exertional malaise—symptoms get worse after physical or mental exertion and require an extended recovery period
- Greater susceptibility to fatal cancers and heart failure
- Flu-like symptoms, such as joint and muscle pain
- Cognitive impairment, including problems with short-term memory
- Other common symptoms include cardiac arrhythmias, chemical sensitivities, food sensitivities, blurry vision, eye pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and a host of other conditions that are nasty in their own right
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Myth: People with ME/CFS are slackers. They should soldier on, just like everybody else who gets tired.
Fact: Many people with this disease try to push through the pain and fatigue in the early stages; they attempt to continue working. Unfortunately, this tends to make them worse. A lot worse. (See "post-exertional malaise" above.)
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Myth: They'd get better if they exercised.
Fact: Exercise is a wonderful thing ... for most people. It tends to make people with ME/CFS worse (see "post-exertional malaise" above). Additionally, if you don't always have enough energy to feed yourself or drag yourself to the bathroom, pushups are not going to be a high priority for you.
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Myth: There's nothing I can do to help.
Fact: There's plenty. Start by treating the sufferer in your life with respect. Stay in touch, even if the person doesn't have the energy to contact you most of the time. Then, donate to this fine organization:
These guys are working furiously to find treatments, and they receive very little funding.
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Happy May 12, everyone. Here's hoping the day comes when awareness campaigns for this disease are unnecessary. In the meantime, here's hoping that we can translate our awareness into action.