Peggy loves to use multiple exclamation marks when she writes. Probably to her chagrin, I edit them out. I refer to it as PEM’s or “Peggy Exclamation Marks”.
One of the reasons I retired was after seeing clients I was exhausted for days. Because I felt fine when I was in session I largely ignored crashing afterwards. Besides I was used to feeling exhausted socializing, exercising or even taking a shower.
Having been diagnosed with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue in 1996 I am relatively well versed in research, symptoms and treatment. However, I just recently came across the term PEM! I did a double take.
Turns out that, in relation to chronic fatigue and fibro, PEM stands for Post-Exertional Malaise and has nothing to do with Peggy’s excitement. I was gobsmacked to find a name for what I thought was just a weird reaction, I alone had, to anything stressful, whether positive or negative.
How do I explain that I dread taking a shower because it fatigues me. How do I tell friends I don’t want to get together because “they” exhaust me? I constantly evaluate cost/benefit of whether any activity is worth hours or days of exhaustion afterwards.
It’s a relief to put a name to my experience:
“Post-exertional malaise (PEM) is the worsening of symptoms following even minor physical or mental exertion, with symptoms typically worsening 12 to 48 hours after activity and lasting for days or even weeks. PEM can be mitigated by activity management (pacing). The goal is to avoid PEM flare-ups and illness relapses by balancing rest and activity.” CDC.gov
Some of my coping mechanisms.
- I avoid telephone conversation. E-mail is one-way – my pace, my time and not as energy depleting as two-way conversations.
- I watch lots of Hallmark TV movies – there’s always a happy ending. Any violence or tension sends my brain into over-drive.
- I eat constantly – Food gives us energy. So far all it’s given me is a roll of fat around my middle.
- I live vicariously through friends and fellow bloggers who travel to far away places. I daydream of moving to live in another country. My day dream always includes a villa in Southern France with servants.
- I try to find humor in life . . . “try” being the operant word.
- I never take a daily shower. I figure the sweat will help the dirt roll off.
- I take 3 hour naps immediately after I wake up in the morning.