One Friday evening in November of 2001, just as I was about to go home from work, I noticed that my hair on the right side of my head felt tender. I know that is an odd way to describe it, but at the time that is how it seemed to me. Just a light touch on my hair would be enough for me to have a strange sensation on my scalp, just on the right side of my head.
Over that weekend I started to feel unwell and by Monday morning I thought I could see some red bumps appearing on the right side of my head. I called up my doctor’s surgery and over the phone a doctor suggested it could be Shingles and that I should go straight to the surgery so the diagnosis could be confirmed.
At the surgery another doctor did indeed confirm it was Shingles. The doctor explained that Shingles was the re-emergence of the Chickenpox virus that I had when I was a child. Apparently the Chickenpox lies dormant at the base of nerve ends and is suppressed by your immune system, but as your immunity weakens due to time or stress of whatever, the virus can reappear. Apparently the fact that the red bumps were only on one side of my body, in my case the right side of my head, is a tell-tale sign and indicated that the virus it travelling up nerve fibre in just that area of your body.
I was given some antibiotics and for a week or more I was very unwell. Around my right eye became very swollen and I had red blisters along my right eyebrow and forehead. I looked like I had been in a fight. I had bad fever symptoms and on occasions felt chilled to the bone. Luckily I felt so ill I slept a lot of the time.
After two weeks I felt well enough to return to work, the blisters had disappeared and I found out later that I had been lucky that it had not affected my right eye.
So basically at that time I thought that was the end of the matter. In the following year 2002 I did start to notice that I was not feeling 100%. I described it later as if I was “running on empty” and noticed that I seemed to be a bit more emotional at times, for example if watching a sad film.
In the middle of 2002 I volunteered to take on even more work for the client I was doing work for on a freelance basis. In the space of about two to three weeks, while trying to get up to speed on the additional new work, I went from sleeping seven to eight hours a night with no problems, to sleeping less and less until I could not sleep at all. I went into work and explained what was going on and agreed to take a week off to recover. However, in that week things did not improve, I could not settle, I paced about the house rather than chilling out in front of the TV. I could not eat as well and in that week I lost a stone in weight.
At the end of the week it was obvious to me that something was wrong, but I did not know what it could be, but thought stress at work might be partly responsible. As I was approaching the end of my current contract period the client and I agreed that I would not renew my contract with them and that I would also terminate my current contract immediately. So I simply went in for one last day, handed over information on what I was currently working on and left.
Later looking back, this is when I believe my CFS started i.e. from the impact of the Shingles outbreak, although at that time I was not calling it CFS. In fact at that time I did not understand what was going on, as I had never experienced anything like it before.
Go to Part4. My Plan?