What It Feels Like When I Experience a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Crash



By Jo Moss in The Mighty.


The push and crash part of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is well-known to people with the condition. Exert yourself too hard physically and/or mentally and you “crash” – your normal symptoms flare-up, sometimes new and exciting ones show up and you’re hurting. In scientific terms, a crash is called post-exertional malaise (PEM). And unless you’re managing your ME/CFS really well, you’re going to have to deal with it…Sometimes frequently. I wanted to explain what it feels like when I crash so people can gain a better understanding of the struggles faced by people with CFS, like myself, and maybe help someone they love along the way.

For me, a crash feels like I’m falling out of control. I imagine I’m falling down a deep, dark hole (like a dry well). My instinct is to fight it, to put my hands out trying to grab onto the walls, but this only causes more injury and makes everything worse. The more I fight, the longer and more severe the crash becomes.

I feel anxious because I know what’s coming. My mind races trying to find a way to avoid the pain and exhaustion, that by now are inevitable. Added to this, I also feel somehow that I have caused this to happen. I feel it’s my fault for overexerting myself, for doing too much and not listening to my body. But the truth is, I didn’t do anything wrong and it’s not my fault I am ill.


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