My Story - Part 5

What do you spend your time doing when you can’t do anything?
For me, I watched a lot of TV and movies. For a guy like me who loves everything about film it sounded like a good deal. I could finally work my way through The Sopranos, re-watch Band of Brothers, and delve into the vast catalogue of films that either I or Blockbuster (they still existed back then) owned. 
However, after several months of this even I began to tire of the routine. Sitting down to watch a movie wasn’t special anymore, it was just a way to kill time. And watching several episodes of The Sopranos back to back to back is not healthy for the brain. It’s a dark show, and when combined with an already dark headspace it proved to be an unhealthy mix.
My life became so blah that it got to the point that I had nothing to say to my girlfriend when she came home from work. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk, but it was more that I felt like I had nothing interesting to say. After all, what did I do today? I watched TV and ate some food. But what else could I do?
I avoided hanging out with my friends too, because I didn’t have anything to talk about. If they asked me how I was going what was I going to say? “I’m feeling pretty shit today and hanging out with you now means that I’m not going to be able to get off the couch tomorrow.” Somehow I don’t think they wanted to hear the that. I was also afraid that I wasn’t interesting anymore, and to be honest I’d lost interest in the things that used to excite me. Life had become a grind.
I was waiting for something to engage me again, to bring me back from a life of nothing. I was waiting for my first appointment at the Lifestyle Clinic at UNSW (University of NSW). My immunologist had recommended that I attend because they ran a small chronic fatigue clinic there, but just like everything else there seemed to be a long waiting list, so wait I did.
My girlfriend had to drive me there for the first appointment, because driving for more than 10 minutes totally wrecked me. She also had to drive me home because after my two appointments I was ready for bed. But that was the point, they wanted to know where I was at, and over the next 12 weeks they set to getting me back on my feet.
Their approach was to treat the physical and the mental/cognitive separately, and this is good, because everyone is affected differently. In my case I was getting equally hammered by both, so I got a lot out of those sessions.
From the physical side of things I was given a graded exercise plan that asked me to gently increase the amount of physical activity I was doing each week. I started with a 30 minute self paced walk on non-consecutive days. It wasn’t easy and I would be exhausted for the rest of the day, but over the course of the next few months I managed to increase the amount of time I was able to walk. I showed real signs of improvement and towards the end of my 3 months at the Fatigue Clinic I was even able to add small periods of jogging to my exercise time.
For my cognitive training I started using Lumosity, which is a website that offers brain training games. Again, the games got harder the further I went into my training, and my score improved too. I found that I was able to sit and concentrate on things for longer periods of time. I could even write emails and get back to some simple vfx work.
It was exactly what I needed, and the people at the Lifestyle Clinic were amazing at pushing me to get back to life. However, I found that no matter how hard I worked, and no matter what program changes they made for me, I still wasn’t normal, my life wasn’t what it was, or what it was supposed to be. I’d made a massive improvement, I could now empty the dishwasher, I could walk up to the shops, I could write emails and read a book, but all this meant that I was still only 65% of the person I was before. I was stuck, and no one knew what to do to get me unstuck.