Just when you thought you were getting better, it hits you - a relapse.
A relapse or set back is a time when your symptoms get worse for a while.
It can be brought on by stress, or sometimes if you catch a cold or a bug, so don't try to do too much when your body isn't up to it. Stop and listen to any warning signs. (Doing too much is an easy mistake to make, especially when there's so much you want to be doing and you want to keep up with your friends). Sometimes there is no clear reason for a relapse – it’s just a part of the M.E. rollercoaster.
What does it feel like?
It’s when your symptoms get worse for a while.
Not surprisingly, this can make you really frustrated, upset, fed up or angry, especially if you have been trying hard to get better. You may cry easily but that’s normal. Don't feel embarrassed or guilty for feeling low. Who wouldn’t feel bad in this situation?
Try the 4P plan
The four Ps for preventing and coping with relapses are: prevent, plan, patience and pace.
1. Prevent it
Keep a diary of what you do and your symptoms. Then you might be able to work out how much you can safely do without making yourself worse. A diary will also help you, should you get a sudden relapse - you may be able to do some detective work to see what might have triggered it. But it's not always possible to prevent a relapse - they can just happen with no warning or can be due to things you can't control.
2. Plan for it
Plan to be prepared for the worst. Collect together a 'relapse pack' and keep it near to hand. What to put in it is down to you but here are some suggestions: your favourite music; hot water bottle; photos and cards that cheer you up; DVDs; books, comics/magazines, pad for drawing/writing; paper and pencils or paints if you’re creative
If you find it hard to cope with bright lights, see if your parents or carer can install a dimmer switch and thick blackout curtains for your room.
3. Patience with it
It is normal to worry and get fed up when you have a relapse - everyone who has M.E. goes through this. It helps to talk (or write) to someone about what you are going through. The diary can help you to see improvements that might otherwise be missed. Even though it's a pain just waiting for your body to pick up, take one day at a time.
4. Pace yourself
Pacing is about doing things, but not too much, and taking regular little rests. If you pace yourself you may not only help to prevent a relapse, but it can also help you to get back on track.
Don't give yourself a hard time if you do happen to do too much one day and suffer the next. The important thing is to remember how it felt, so you won't make the same mistake again. 'Boom and bust' is a bad idea!