Posted 11/25/2013 5:02 PM (GMT -6)
I am a music teacher at a small school in the Midwest. I'm 24 and I teach grades 4-12. My subjects include recorders, elementary band, middle school band, high school band, marching band, pep band, middle school general music, and many other daily tasks. Last year, at the end of October, I contracted a terrible virus that closed my throat and demanded a lot of sleep. At the time, I was in extremely great health, and had planned to never use a sick day at school. That goal was immediately crushed when my illness got much worse and I was forced to enact Long-Term Disability, missing months of school. The doctors were highly unsympathetic. After seeing a handful of different doctors and getting tons of bloodwork and tests done, I only received responses such as "it's all in your head" to "you are only tired because you are suffering from depression--both being the farthest from the truth.
By April, I forced myself to teach the final few months of the year. I was still suffering from debilitating fatigue, but the fact that no doctor believed me left me no choice but to push through it. My teaching greatly suffered from it. I feel as though the students are missing out on such a wonderful experience from my utter lack of energy. Over the summer, I moved in with my father and did nothing for three months, my only goal in mind being well enough to teach again in the fall. I never felt like my healthy self, but I did seem to improve a bit.
This Fall, I was determined to make up for the terrible year previous. I started off fairly strong in September. In the middle of October, my symptoms rushed back to me, even stronger than they were before. Extreme, crushing fatigue, muscle weakness and soreness, fevers, sore/hoarse throat, giant gaps in memory and focus (all impossible to teach with) After another infuriating visit to a doctor telling me it was depression, I had no idea what to do next. Finally, some co-workers suggested (maybe demanded) that I take my case to the experts at Mayo Clinic. That had never occurred to me, but I was desperate for any help that anyone could give me.
Mayo was the best decision I've ever made. The people were so kind and helpful. After the initial exam with my doctor, he strongly believed that what I was going through looked exactly like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Many, many test later (blood, sleep, etc) he confirmed his belief, giving me the official diagnosis of CFS--Something I had never even heard of, to be honest--and told me the first steps to recovery were getting on a graduated exercise program, and attending cognitive therapy.
It has only been a week since my diagnosis, but I have been taking everything I learned with my physical therapist very seriously. I have been doing the excesses they prescribed. I know it is a long journey to recovery, but I feel so much better just figuring out that it is NOT all in my head. (Not physically, of course, but mentally.) I haven't returned to work yet. I'm a little concerned right now that the doctors did not give me a suggestion on how much time to take off, if any. When I asked about it, he only said, "Since I am not in your body, I can't tell you what your body feels like and needs." I found many sufferers of CFS online saying, "take the time off immediately. Health first, job second."
At this point, I am suffering so much that I can't even see going back part-time. I can barely get myself out of bed. I try not to sleep all day, but sometimes I have no choice. My body just shuts down. My school is very supportive, letting me decide what I need to do next. The problem with that is that I am an extremely stubborn workaholic that hates missing any work at all. I know that I am not well enough, and I am afraid that the answer may be to let someone else take over for the rest of the year. (That idea kills me to even think about.)
I guess I'm here because I'm desperate for someone to talk to about what I am going through. I have found several articles online about CFS and teachers like me that had no choice but a change in career. If you or anyone you know have been in a similar situation, I would love to hear from you. Any teachers that have CFS?
Sorry for the long entry. I really just needed to get all of that out to someone who could actually understand what I am going through.