Video Games Are Keeping Me Sane

Yesterday was a bad day. With the exception of a four hour stint, I was asleep. I woke enough to throw some food at my kids, to approve them coming into the lounge to play, and squabble over, Minecraft while I dozed, and to make sausage baguettes which we munched while watching Downton Abbey. I still consider yesterday a success as I got to spend some time with my children.

Today is also a bad day. Despite yesterday’s total rest, I woke in agony from my head to my ankles. Walking is painful and difficult, sleep was disturbed any time I shifted in bed. I got my youngest to school, despite the light-headedness and shaking, so I’ve patted myself on the back and now relish being able to rest until I do it again at 3:15pm.

So, what the hell is wrong with me? I don’t know! My doctor doesn’t really know either so he confidently diagnosed ‘Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome’. I joke that it’s a rubbish name. It is isn’t it? Certain terms sound so vague and wishy-washy. They don’t fully convey the suffering behind it – ‘fatigue’, ‘syndrome’, ‘anxiety’, ‘migraine’. Why am I writing this blog? Firstly, because I’m going a bit nuts stuck inside resting all the time. Secondly, perhaps so others can realise what I, and others, may actually be going through thanks to this ‘fatigue’ label.

I didn’t realise I’ve been ill for a while. I had a terrible bout of tonsillitis earlier this year. I’ve never been so ill in my life. I blamed the after-effects of that for a while on my tiredness. Then I blamed the after-effects of antibiotics. I struggled through work and reached the end of term. Six weeks of glorious nothingness! Six weeks of lie-ins and making friends stuck at work jealous! Something wasn’t right but I blamed summer laziness and the heat. I had so much planned – trips out with the girls, afternoons on the beach. In reality, I managed very little as I was exhausted ALL the time. We made do with a walk to the local park or a trip to the library down the road. I was invited to a friend’s birthday drinks and, after an hour, I frustratingly needed to head home. A part of me looked forward to returning to work, getting a routine back and being in regular contact with adults. That’s when I crashed and burned. I struggled to stay awake during a training day presentation, I had zero energy for my shifts (the walk to work alone was difficult). Pain revved up in my calves to the point where I could hardly walk. I caved and eventually called in sick when, one morning, I had to literally crawl out of bed. I’m 33! I felt more like 93. I spoke to a lovely, understanding doctor who sent me off straight away for blood tests at the hospital. I waited over a week for the results but went back to work, plastering on a smile, and did my duties as well as I could but the pain was immense, I’d nap once home and nap after the school run. My doctor immediately signed me off work for two weeks, saying every shift I did, every time I pushed myself, I was making myself worse. There’s nothing I can do except rest and hope it goes away.

So what is my PVFS like? On a good day, imagine jet-lag. That overwhelming tiredness, the foggy head. Then throw in how your muscles feel a day after a work-out. Perhaps chuck in a terrible headache as well. That’s me 24/7. On a bad day, imagine when you have the flu. Proper full-blown flu. That lethargy, where it’s almost impossible to get out of bed without passing out, no inclination to read, game, flick through Facebook etc. Replace the aching muscles with a pain like knives digging under your skin and you’re there. Sounds like a barrel of laughs doesn’t it? To look at me, you wouldn’t know anything is wrong (aside from extra weight from lack of activity perhaps). I can still smile and joke around. On the surface I would understand why somebody would think I’m fine but they don’t see me on my hands and knees trying to get upstairs to use the bathroom on a bad day or trying not to cry when the pain is bad. If you’re an ‘online friend’ then you thankfully don’t get a whiff of me when I haven’t been able to shower all day. The tiniest things are affected as I save energy for vital tasks. It took a month to finally be able to re-dye my hair and I haven’t painted my nails for many weeks, which is usually a weekly treat. It sounds so little, even pathetic, but I have to prioritise the energy I have towards getting my daughter to school or making their packed lunch or changing our bedding.

On Thursday, I will return to the surgery and see what happens next. I would deeply love to be well enough to work, well enough to socialise for more than an hour if at all, well enough to play with my kids whenever they want. Right now, unless a miracle happens in the next three days, I don’t see how that will happen and it SUCKS. My life is on hold.

There are a couple of things that are preventing me from hurtling towards depression (which, understandably, many long term sufferers of fatigue fall into). I try and stay positive. There are people out there with much worse, life-threatening illnesses. I have pain, I need to nap a lot and it’s hopefully temporary, I can deal with that. I have my daughters who, at age 8 and 12, make great slaves. They help with chores without complaint, they can fetch themselves breakfast and entertain themselves. They’re old enough to understand I’m not right and old enough to crack me up daily with their jokes and bizarre insights into the world. Plus I have those boxes under my television.

Praise the gods for the fortuitous release of Destiny! There are days I can’t manage to game at all and there are days I can only manage an hour but it has provided me with violent entertainment and companionship via a PS4. I can grind through bounties alone or team up with mates for Strikes. Destiny has provided me with escapism and a way to chatter with friends so I don’t feel completely cut off socially. The Xbox 360 lives on too, for Monday GTA nights which I do my best to turn up for even at my worst as I know there will be banter and insults which, masochistically, cheer me up. I used the party chat to catch up with a friend one night which allowed me to be social while make-up-free, with bedraggled hair, sprawled on the sofa in a nightshirt and blanket. It also contains Sky and US Netflix which are chock-full of half hour comedy shows for when I fall asleep during anything longer.

I can’t imagine having to deal with this ‘condition’ ten or twenty years ago. I’m thankful to live in an age where I can still spend time with most of my friends at a click of a few buttons. Where I can order groceries online or fall back on Just Eat to provide us with dinner when I’m too ill to stand up and cook.

In the meantime, whether it’s next week, next month or next year, I’m looking forward to responding to ‘How are you?’ with a British ‘Oh, I’m fine’ and actually mean it. Thank you to those who check in on me every so often, those who offer help, those who distract me from a rough time without evening realising it, and those who helped make Destiny!

2 Responses to "Video Games Are Keeping Me Sane"

  1. Aw fuck, it really makes me sad reading this :( I’m sorry you’ve joined the worlds shittiest club. I feel your pain (literally). It’s taken me long enough to simply reply to this post. PVFS, what bunk. It’s basically another name for CFS. Have you been checked for things like fibromyalgia? It almost sounds a little bit like POTS, which can happen as a result of deconditioning after being unwell from a virus or such like. GP’s are WOEFULLY inadequate when it comes to sorting this stuff out. I’ve been going through the mill for 7 or so years now so I’ve got a lot of experience with it. If you want to hash diagnostic possibilities and coping mechanisms out with me, feel free to send me a message on FB. I might be slow in replying (replying means sitting upright, of course), but I will reply.

    Alex x

  2. Kat says:

    Thank you so much for your response. I’m hoping it’s a weird blip that’ll disappear asap so I can get back to normal! I’m seeing the doc on Thursday so will see what he says then and might just send you that FB message! Totally understand something as ‘easy’ as a reply can take a while. I’m pretty quick with short texts but seem to be constantly apologising for being slow at getting back to friends Facebook messages and emails! x

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