“This isn’t the special day I envisioned,” lamented Natalie Trice, struggling to summon the energy needed to set the table for her son’s birthday. “These celebrations were always a big deal in our family, but this particular year, I felt lethargic and weak for some reason. I simply didn’t have the strength to give him the special day he deserved. And knowing I would be letting him down broke my heart. I can’t keep feeling this way, she sighed.
Too tired to move.
“Four years ago, in April, I came down with a bug with flu-like symptoms. It took a while to get over, but even after it went away, I didn’t feel 100 percent. I remained exhausted and achy. Everyday activities like driving, climbing stairs or answering emails for my consulting business felt strenuous. Even walking to the pub at the end of our road felt like an effort. But that became a habit for me and my family because I was too tired to cook dinner.
“No matter what I was doing, spending time with my husband or taking care of our sons or dogs, I felt washed out. I was often too tired to hold a phone or eat. It reminded me of when I was a teen and had glandular fever or mono. I also noticed my immune system seemed shot — I caught everything going around. I was impatient, wondering when life would be normal again. Living with the exhaustion made me feel weak and sad.
“Through it all, I went to my doctor and was tested for countless ailments, but everything came back negative. So many times I went to see an acupuncturist or other specialist, hoping for an answer, but it never came. Was it all in my imagination?
“It got to the point where the receptionist at my doctor’s office called weekly just to see how I was doing. We were both worried I wasn’t getting better. I’d have a good day, then start to feel exhausted and be taken out of action for an entire weekend. The cycle repeated itself so many times, I felt convinced, This can’t just be a virus.
Loving life again!
“Fed up, I started doing my own research and came across something online about a condition called postvirus fatigue. I’d never heard of it, but I fit all the symptoms perfectly.
Considering the illness I’d had that previous April, I self-diagnosed and felt hopeful. Finally, with a name for what was ailing me, I consulted experts, but they didn’t have any tangible advice. ‘It just takes time,’ they said. “Motivated to give myself the best chance of healing, I looked for ways to boost my immunity and soothe my overtaxed system. I started drinking vitamin-packed green smoothies and supplementing with zinc, selenium and alpha-lipoic acid for immunity; vitamins B and C; magnesium and calcium for fatigue; and ashwagandha for mental clarity.
“More than anything, I gave myself permission to slow down and take care of ‘me’ the way I looked after everyone else. I cut down on caffeine and let myself nap when I needed to, without feeling shame or guilt. I had to be okay with putting my ‘out of office’ message on my work email if I needed an afternoon to relax. I practiced telling myself, It’s okay. I don’t have to take on anything I don’t want to do. I also found that getting into nature and taking walks on the beach with my dog restored me.
“Sure, in the beginning it was hard learning to say ‘no’ to things. I remember declining an invitation to London, where I’d need to navigate a long train ride, work events, a party and catching up with friends. I really wanted to go, but I knew staying home was the best way to avoid a setback.
“And I was right. I started to feel better within a couple months and watched my strength and energy continue to grow. And 18 months later, I’m feeling absolutely fine and loving life again. Plus, my immunity is stronger than ever, which brings some peace of mind during the pandemic. In my work mentoring entrepreneurs (at NatalieTrice.co.uk), I teach what I know: When you’re strong enough to show up and shine, amazing things can happen. These days, my family and I have a lot to celebrate: I’m back to living life to the fullest!”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.