- My life
- Searching for an answer
- Putting together the jigsaw puzzle
is chronic fatigue syndrome?
blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Exercise and rest
CAN get well
My Life Falls Apart
'Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - You CAN Get Well'
Download this encouraging book now.
Exactly when it started is
hard to pinpoint. Perhaps it was as far back as January 1976 when I
fainted suddenly one morning while visiting a friend. I had slept badly
the previous night and had not eaten breakfast, so I attributed the
fainting episode to the combined effects of tiredness and hunger.
But for several days afterwards I had a bad headache. Feelings of
faintness would come over me at unexpected moments and I feared I might
pass out again, although thankfully I did not. Over a period of weeks,
the headache lifted and the feelings of faintness became less frequent.
But something had changed. I did not feel quite well and seemed
increasingly susceptible to colds and sore throats, even in summer.
Until then I had always prided myself on my physical fitness. I was a
competitive runner during school and university, training up to 60 miles
a week by the time I was 18 or 19, with long runs of more than 20 miles
on Sunday mornings. When I graduated from university and started work
with the New Zealand public
service at the end of 1975, I found less time for serious training
although I still ran several times a week and regarded myself as fit.
But after the fainting episode, my energy for running seemed to wane. I
would go out occasionally and run
three or four miles, struggling to complete the distance, my legs
feeling strangely wooden. "I'm just unfit," I told myself.
At the end of 1976 I moved to Wellington with my job and lived for
several weeks in a hostel, eating irregular meals. I also seemed to have
an increasing craving for chocolate bars and similar snacks,
particularly after work in the early evening as I walked home.
I moved into a flat in Hataitai, a hilly Wellington suburb overlooking
the sea. Walking uphill from the bus-stop to the flat each evening
became increasingly difficult but I put it down the fact that I was
unfit and determined I would get back to regular running again. A series
of colds and sore throats put paid to that idea.
In April 1977, my life took a radical new direction. I resigned my job
and went to Pakistan to stay with some missionary friends in Hyderabad.
I had been interested in overseas missionary work for some time and
wondered whether it might be my eventual calling, so the purpose of my
trip was to see first-hand the
conditions in which missionaries lived and worked.
Before leaving New Zealand, I had the usual jabs for cholera, typhoid
and malaria. The after-effects of injections left me feeling under par,
and when I arrived in Pakistan I felt as though I had a bad cold which I
could not throw off.
The heat in Hyderabad was intense. I did a lot of walking around the
crowded the city and always returned exhausted to my host's house,
usually sleeping in the afternoons, as was the local custom. I had a
craving for sweets. One way to satisfy it, along with the thirst created
by the heat, was to drink several bottles
off soft drink each day, usually a local brand called Apple Cidra and
sometimes Coca Cola. I also found myself buying packets of
Pakistani-style biscuits and eating the whole bag in one sitting.
About two months into my visit, I developed what I thought was the 'flu.
I put it down to the heat and the fact that I had been over-exerting
myself, and decided to have an early night in the hope of sleeping it
The next morning when I climbed out of bed, all my strength seemed to
have vanished. I felt as weak as kitten, drained of energy as barely
able to walk to the bathroom. I sank back into bed.
For several days I spent most of my time asleep and my hosts became
increasingly concerned, urging me to see a doctor, which I did.
I managed to drag myself to the surgery of a Pakistani GP who stunned me
by suggesting I might have diabetes. Blood tests a few days later showed
my blood sugar levels were normal - much to my relief.
Over the next few weeks, my energy slowly returned. I moved to Karachi
where I lived in a flat above the home of an English engineer, sharing
the flat with two Pakistani students. One morning, I woke feeling weak
and trembling, with a bad headache. I was planning to visit someone in
hospital and although I did
not feel well, decided to go anyway, in the hope I would "come right" as
the day went on.
I survived the hospital visit - just - and was about to climb onto the
back of my friend's motor scooter to return home, when I fainted. I came
to, lying on the footpath, with a sea of puzzled Pakistan faces looking
down at me. It was an awful experience. My friend was panic-stricken
when I collapsed. Fearing the worst, he ran to his father-in-law's house
about 100 metres away, to get help.
I managed to walk back to the aforementioned house and collapsed onto a
bed for several hours. Finally, I felt strong enough to take a rickshaw
back to my flat, my head still throbbing intensely as I rode in the
rickety three-wheel machine over roads riddled with potholes.
My collapse caused great concern among my Pakistani friends. They called
an English missionary who took me to a hospital for extensive tests,
which found nothing apparently wrong with me. I went to a Pakistani
doctor, recommended as one of the best in Karachi. He diagnosed low
blood pressure but made no suggestion as to what I could do about it.
About this time, I ran out of the antibiotics (tetracycline) which I had
been taking almost continually for the previous seven years, to control
my acne. In New Zealand, I had always needed a doctor's prescription to
obtain tetracycline but in Pakistan I could get it freely from any
However, I had a niggling doubt as to whether the antibiotics might be
doing me harm. Could they have something to do with my constant
headaches and weakness, I wondered. But I had to keep taking them, or my
acne came back worse than ever, despite the fact that I was then 22 and
well past the normal teenage
I went to two or three more doctors, in desperate effort to find out
what was wrong with me. One advised me to "get out of this God-forsaken
country", advice which I was more than ready to take at that point.
I had an air ticket to England and my original plan had been to stay
with my grandmother initially and look for work in England. But I felt
so terrible - constant headache and feeling that I had the 'flu which I
could not shake off - that I decided to return immediately to my
parents' home in New Zealand.
Thus began three humiliating years of being unable to work at a
full-time job. Three years of being misunderstood and being accused of
being a malingerer by family and friends who did not understand the
constant pain and exhaustion I was battling.