Over the next six or so blog posts I’m going to tell you my story about how I got diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and how I overcame it. These posts are designed to be a top level view, more of a summary of my life and times over a two and half year period. I’ll use later posts to delve deeper into topics that are mentioned here. I encourage you to read these posts before you read the rest on the site because it’s important to understand why Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is able to take over people’s lives in the first place.
This post is about why I was a good candidate for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
I’m a workaholic.
There, I said it. I’m not good at taking it easy because I find it difficult to turn my brain off. I’m not sure if I’ve always been like this, I suspect I have, but in 2004 I did something that definitely kicked it into high gear, I began working in the visual effects industry.
It’s a great industry to work in, your work gets displayed for everyone to see, either on TV or at the cinema. But the thing is that it encourages workaholics. The hours can be long and the work never ending. You see, the thing about creating art is that it’s never really finished, you just stop working on it at some point. In visual effects you stop when the deadline arrives. Up until then you tweak and polish and this often involves working late into the night, or early in the morning, for long periods of time. In my case I would work until I was happy with my work, and because I’m also a perfectionist (imperfectionist) that was never. I’d work nights, weekends, whatever I needed to in order to get the job looking as good as it could. I’m proud of the work I did, and you can check out my showreel if you’re interested, but really, that kind of lifestyle is not healthy, especially when combined with the kind of fitness regime I was also undertaking.
I’ve always been active and sporty, I got obsessed with lifting weights at the gym when I was a teenager (I wanted to be just like Jean Claude Van Damme), and it helped on the rugby field. I kept it up when I left school, although back then I didn’t have anywhere to be first thing in the morning, nor did I have long hours and deadlines, and the stress that goes with them.
Visual effects artists start later than most other jobs, about 10am’ish, so this encouraged me to continue my four gym sessions per week. I got up at 6:30am, ate some food, walked up to the gym and got my pump on for an hour or so. I’d roll into the office around 10am and work until at least 7pm, although when deadlines came, which was regularly, I would stay until I had to, often 10pm or later. I’d then get up the next morning at 6:30 and head off to the gym. On top of this I also played oztag (which is kind of like touch football) one night a week and I’d box with a personal trainer on Saturday morning at 9am.
I was young, mid 20’s, and I thought I was invincible. I grew up thinking that things like tiredness were just in the mind and that if you wanted to you could just push through it. Well, you can, for a while, but at some point you will empty the energy tank, and when that happens you have no choice but to stop and let it recharge. I was arrogant enough to think that I could even push through that too, and I did for a while, but then my body decided that it couldn’t keep up. Things start to go wrong, I started getting sick, but I tried to push through that too. I got Glandular Fever, but after two weeks I decided that I was over that too.
Basically I was a fucking idiot, because eventually something major happened and then I was really in trouble.