Chronic fatigue

There’s a whole spectrum of syndromes involving chronic fatigue, from post-traumatic stress to post-viral fatigue to M.E. A lot of them don’t display any physical markers like anaemia or thyroid disorders, abnormalities of blood or liver function. That doesn’t give doctors much to go on, and they often resort to prescribing anti-depressants because there’s not much else they can do. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t.

Fatigue is a feature of so many ailments that, in itself, it is meaningless in medical terms. Its companion symptoms, like muscular aching or weakness, lack of concentration and so on, are not much help either. It’s not surprising that you end up feeling depressed, even if you weren’t depressed in the first place, but anti-depressants are a very blunt instrument, and they can often just put a blanket over it all and so prolong the situation.

In herbal terms, a loss of vital energy comes about either because it is being diverted to deal with some dysfunction, which can be anything from digestive troubles to auto-immune problems, or because it has been depleted by giving out too much. A major trauma can set this off, or a series of stresses, or simply a life lived with too much giving out and not enough taking in. Sooner or later – and it’s a blessing in disguise if it comes sooner – your system will protect itself by simply stopping. When your energy is low, your options are radically reduced, and you have to learn how to eke it out, and how to fill up your diminished reserves.

How can you do this? In many ways, it comes down to old-fashioned convalescence: good food, lots of sleep, moderate exercise, no great stress. There are lots of herbs that can help, and lots of other treatments like massage, stress management or other counselling, and so on. It can take a long time, but unless there is something getting in the way – some undiagnosed physical problem, or living with a severely dysfunctional relationship, or some environmental stress, for example – it will always respond in the end.

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