What I Know For Sure:
The flu shot caused me to come down with this evil disease. Let me be clear from the start: I am and have always been an advocate of vaccines, so I’m not going to tell everyone that they should stay away from immunizations or not get their babies vaccinated. If I had a kid, it would get all the shots recommended and, if I were healthy, I’d be out there getting vaccinated for pneumonia and pertussis and flu and anything else I could get my hands on. Health professionals will never warn about the risks of the flu vaccine because, from a global perspective, we are much better off with people getting the shot than not. A few bad side effects are the cost of helping worldwide disease control ~ just like with all drugs. I get it and I agree. But, what they SHOULD be saying is: Take a look at your overall health. Has your body been acting normally this year? Have you had any bouts with viruses or infections lately (regardless of whether or not you feel good on the day of the vaccination)? Are your allergies worse this year? Have you been diagnosed with any other health problems recently? Even: Have you had a lot of dental work or a surgery or extreme stress recently? Because that might have changed my mind about getting the flu shot. Probably not because I got it every year and I was feeling fine at the time… but maybe.
My body was primed and ready for ME/CFS. It may have been primed for this since I was a toddler with recurrent pneumonia and a teenager with recurrent tonsillitis and an adult with recurrent bronchitis. Or maybe I was primed by years of low blood pressure, mild IBS, and hypoglycemia. Or, if those issues didn’t contribute, perhaps it was my body having to endure the complete body meltdown that is anaphylaxis or the radiation needed to kill my thyroid and its goiters (not to mention what being hyperthyroid for 7 years did to my body). But the truth is, after all that, I felt fine. I considered myself healthy. It never occurred to me to take vitamins or change my diet or take any steps to improve my sleep. I was energetic, happy and considered my neck injury as my only chronic condition.
What I wish had happened in October, 2011 is that someone had grabbed me by the shoulders, looked in my eyes and said: You have been under chronic stress this year and struggling to be happy at work. You have not slept even a few uninterrupted hours in years. You were just diagnosed with an autoimmune problem and lots of allergies. You’ve had a lot of dental work done recently. You have traveled out of the city 5 times in the last 4 months. You have “fainted” multiple times and had unstable vitals, most recently 4 months ago. 3 months ago, you had a chest infection, 2 months ago you had a bad diarrheal traveler’s bug that landed you in hospital. Even though the flu vaccine is a dead vaccine, it can still rattle your body, so, if you don’t think your immune system is in tip-top shape, give it a pass this year!!
And then I wish they had really made me believe what stress and lack of rest can do to a person. Listen all you workaholics and insomniacs out there: I know you think you’re indestructible ~ that you are rocks, able to handle anything ~ but, you’re not. And your bodies will stop one day.
I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned in this past year.