Fighting Fatigue by Sue Pemberton & Catherine Berry
Fighting Fatigue is doubly unusual: first because it has been written jointly by health professionals and by patients suffering or recovering from CFS/ME. And secondly, because it focuses directly on how sufferers may be able to get better. I say “may” because CFS/ME is not a straightforward illness: often individual sufferers have different experiences and even different symptoms.
I was particularly attracted to the book because my own daughter has had CFS/ME for over four years now.
It is decades now since myalgic encephalitis (ME) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) entered the public perception and when it did, it was often dismissed as “yuppie flu.” More is known about the problem now, but not as much more as you might expect. Most people know that a key feature is a persistent and abnormal tiredness but not many are aware that other common symptoms include muscle pains, headaches and an often positively painful enhanced experience of sound and light. For me, perhaps the nearest comparison for what my daughter feels would be the mother of all hangovers – sustained, sometimes, for weeks at a time. Our own experience of the medical profession’s take on CFS is that it is at best divided on diagnosis, causes and treatment. It was with a certain desperation, therefore, that I opened the book.
Fellow parents of sufferers and patients themselves should be aware from the outset that Fighting Fatigue offers no miracle cures. But what it does have is a wealth of practical, self-help guidance that can be taken one step at a time. Since both the symptoms and the severity differ from patient to patient, the book opens with an article on how to first assess and then manage your current energy levels. Only then can you begin to figure out how to – gradually – raise those levels. I was particularly taken with the analogy of energy levels with a car battery: the article not only suggests how not to flatten your own “battery” – but also how to “jump start” it.
Other chapters look at how to achieve quality rest, how to tackle the sleep disturbances and stress that often accompany CFS, how a balanced diet can help, how to challenge and overcome negative thoughts and feelings and how to boost memory and concentration.
Fighting Fatigue provides clear explanatory tables, diagrams, diary sheets and mini-questionnaires to complete with your own answers. There are summary sheets and lists of further information and self-help resources at the end of each section. Each chapter has a detailed personal testimony from a patient who has used the particular technique suggested – so valuable to CFS sufferers isolated from other CFS patients.
CFS can be devastating not just in terms of the patient’s physical health but also in the damage to his or her social life and friendship groups – this is especially true of children and teenagers - and there is a useful chapter on “dealing with others”. CFS impacts enormously on family and carers and so there is a chapter for them too, on how to understand CFS, what carers can achieve and how they too can seek support.
Fighting Fatigue by Sue Pemberton and Catherine Berry and published by Hammersmith Press is available from Amazon. To order a copy click the link below: