For about the last five months, I’ve gradually been getting more and more tired.
It probably started with my first ever jet lag, in October 2013. It seemed to be taking ages to go away, but that was understandable owing to the fact that external circumstances had conspired to thwart all my attempts at getting a proper night’s sleep.
The very day I arrived home from the states, my two-year-old (it was his birthday) got sick with a very high temperature. He’d just recently started kindergarten, and if I remember correctly, this was his first kindergarten respiratory virus. With lots of snot.
This went on for at least a week; he would wake up every the night crying with a fever. Then it got better and he went back to kindergarten. Then he got sick again, and so it went on.
Winter set in, and he started sleeping in our bed. Our apartment was like a refrigerator. We all huddled together to keep warm. My acrobatic two-year-old ensured that we didn’t sleep. Soon I could hardly get to sleep at all, laying awake until well after midnight. Then I would find myself waking up again very early in the morning and unable to get back to sleep.
By the middle of winter, It seemed perfectly natural to me that I was constantly exhausted and there was no reason to suspect that anything other than sleep deprivation was the culprit. Sometimes I would come home from taking junior to kindergarten and collapse into bed. I would just lay there, unable to get back to sleep and unwilling to get up again.
I did, however, notice that on rare occasions I might actually sleep for nine or ten hours straight, and when this happened I still felt like I hadn’t slept. Doubts began to creep into my mind.
In early December I gave up smoking, aided by the desperate hope that it might help me to get better quality sleep. I had smoked a pack a day for ten years and all previous attempts at quitting had failed.
This attempt was a roaring success, because I got so sick from withdrawal symptoms that I didn’t even want to smoke. I spent a couple of days on the toilet and then several weeks clearing my throat of catarrh. I certainly felt no better; in fact I felt much worse than before. I put that down to quitting smoking and moved on.
Then, last week, I got the mother of all colds with a crazy temperature. After the most evil of the symptoms passed, I was left with crippling fatigue. One evening I picked junior up from kindergarten and did a few other things. An hour after I got home I was lying on the couch, feeling like I had been cast into cement.
I began to suspect glandular fever, my old nemesis that once knocked me flat for six weeks and left me with constant tiredness for months to follow.
As a New Year bonus, the company I work for had arranged very generous employee medical insurance. So I booked an appointment at the nearest clinic and started wondering how I was going to explain my implausible symptoms. I even began to wonder if the whole thing was all in my head.
I needn’t have worried. I began explaining to the doctor that right now something was up with my throat, and that was about as far as I got.
“You get tired very quickly,” she interrupted, looking straight into her computer monitor, and then proceeded to list just about every other complaint I’d had in the past few months. All I could do was nod my head – I was awestruck.
How did she know? Had she overheard me mumbling in the corridor? Had I volunteered any of this information to the dispatcher when I booked the appointment? Was she psychic? I have no idea, but she listed almost all my symptoms before she even looked at me. She even found a completely unrelated stomach problem while she was at it.
And so, the current theory is that I’ve had a sinus infection for almost six months. And it seems to fit.
Some trawling of the interwebs suggests that fatigue might be a much more typical symptom of sinusitis than the pain or discharge I would have expected. A lot of people have it and don’t know about it.
My symptoms (fatigue, inability to concentrate, itchy eyes, confusion, poor memory etc. etc.) were impossible for me to distinguish from jet lag or just plain old lack of sleep, and so it went unnoticed. I had no idea I was sick and getting sicker; I thought I was just tired.
Assuming the theory is right, there’s still some way to go. The symptoms of sinus infections take a while to let go, but at least now I have some light at the end of the tunnel. Tomorrow I get an x-ray to check for inflammation.
I’m going to treat myself to a weekend out of town when this is all over. Fresh air and a couple of days of sleep.