I've been sick forever
October 23, 2011 12:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm sick. I'm not getting better. It is ruining my life and relationships.

23 year old male. About a month ago I came down with something resembling the flu - body aches, general malaise, intense fatigue all building up to one miserable weekend with a 101 temperature.

The temperature went away after 24 hours, but the rest of the symptoms remained. Every day. For the past month. I wake up every morning feeling "icky" and it persists into the day, with my lethargy and discomfort waxing and waning throughout the day.

I've been dating a girl that I like a lot for about a month before this happened; I've only seen her 2 or 3 times since. I've had to break plans with her 3 weekends in a row because frankly I just felt like utter crap. I have also had to decline nights out with friends and missed work once. I am afraid that everyone - work, friends, new ladyfriend - thinks I'm bullshitting them and just being a lazy flake-out who doesn't care.

I went to the doctor last week. He basically gave me a once over and told me it was probably just a virus that needs to work itself out, not to worry, to just try and get some rest. I got bloodwork done a few weeks previously and they said they didn't find anything abnormal, so it's not mono or lyme disease or anything like that.

This is bullshit. I'm already getting "rest" and I'm blowing off everyone in my life as a result. Besides getting sleep, eating right, and taking my vitamins what else am I supposed to do? Has anyone else dealt with this? how long before I feel normal again? I see young people in my neighborhood outside, playing sports, going out at night for happy hour, spending time with their girlfriends/boyfriends and just living NORMAL lives and I feel nothing but complete envy. I feel like I'm never going to feel normal again. I don't even remember what it feels like to feel healthy and energetic.

I don't really know what I'm asking here, but has anyone else been through this? Month long periods of unknown sickness? How did you get better? Did you eventually get diagnosed and get it sorted? Any ideas? Anyone?
posted by windbox to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Take some time off work? You say you've missed work once - if I'd been feeling sick for even a week or two, I would have just gone to bed for at least a few days. If you're putting in full days at work every day, you're hardly getting much 'rest'.
posted by jacalata at 1:00 PM on October 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yes. Get a second opinion. You're young, probably haven't had too many illnesses in the past to worry your primary care physician, and you just had the flu, but if you've been feeling that bad for a month, you deserve to confirm the diagnosis of "nothing wrong."
posted by xingcat at 1:01 PM on October 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

I got bloodwork done a few weeks previously and they said they didn't find anything abnormal, so it's not mono or lyme disease or anything like that.

Are you sure they tested for mono and lyme disease and other things? "Bloodwork" isn't like they take some blood and anything wrong with it pops up on the computer, they have to actually decide what things to look for. At a usual checkup, for instance, they would probably just run a CBC, which makes sure you have the right blood cells in the right proportions, but wouldn't see mono or lyme or a million other things.

what else am I supposed to do?

Drink lots of fluids, and actually rest more than you think you need to. Nap, hang out on the couch watching hulu, go to bed early. If your doctor thinks you're not contagious, you might be able to convince friends and/or ladyfriend to come keep you company for a marathon of movies or something. I know this is no fun, but don't push yourself to be active, because it might delay your recovery.
posted by vytae at 1:02 PM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was sick two weeks on, one week off for a year and a half. The kind that came with a cough and aches, and fevers.

It turned out I had a severe dust mite allergy. My century old, dusty college house was keeping my immune system on high alert and compromised me enough to catch every bug to pass through the house.

$100 to get dust mite covers fixed the problem. It also helped that I moved out six months later.

Check out your environment. Is there anything different? Paint recently? Have your neighbors remodeled? Asbestos in the walls? Is your gas leaking? Have you considered getting tested for allergies?

Do you have some place else to live for a week or two and see if you feel any better?
posted by just.good.enough at 1:02 PM on October 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

Is it possible for you to get a second medical opinion about your diagnosis? If your doctor is not giving you satisfactory answers for why your quality of life has diminished, then it makes sense to try and find someone who can.

Also, consider that you've become depressed, which may be exasperating your lethargy, etc. But really a competent doctor should be helping you figure this out.
posted by swingbraid at 1:05 PM on October 23, 2011

Response by poster: It turned out I had a severe dust mite allergy. My century old, dusty college house was keeping my immune system on high alert and compromised me enough to catch every bug to pass through the house.

This makes sense. My bedroom is a dusty, disgusting hell hole. But I've been staying at my parents house the past 4 days and have experienced no change in feeling. I've also lived in far grosser environments in the past (in college).

Did you make an appointment with an allergist to figure this out officially, or was it just experimentation?
posted by windbox at 1:06 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get a second opinion. Various things can cause these symptoms, and, being that you've had it for a month, that's worthy of concern. Recently, I knew someone who had vague flu/cold-like symptoms and turned out to have hepatitis A. One 20-something person I knew with prolonged prolonged fatigue and shortness of breath turned out to have pneumonia. It would definitely be worth knowing what this is, especially if it's something that might be contagious. And if your bloodwork was done weeks ago, this could still be mono.
posted by wondermouse at 1:08 PM on October 23, 2011

Yes, please get a second opinion, before going to an allergist. Your primary care doc should have taken your concerns a bit more seriously -- you are describing a very severe fatigue. It sounds like you've seen this doctor twice, and haven't gotten anything out of it (except for medical bills, of course).

Go to a new doctor.
posted by k8lin at 1:18 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got bloodwork done a few weeks previously and they said they didn't find anything abnormal, so it's not mono or lyme disease or anything like that.

Did they test specifically for HIV?
posted by tristeza at 1:19 PM on October 23, 2011

You sound like me, when I had mono. Adult onset mono presents differently than teenage mono. Adults don't normally get knocked on their ass the way teens do. Adults feel like you are describing, for several months.

So I'm N'thing the 2nd opinion suggestion, and the find a new primary care doc suggestion.
posted by COD at 1:22 PM on October 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

I have also been sick since the end of Sept and have dropped everything except work as a result. It sucks!! If I were you I would also investigate underlying possible psychological causes- is your job stressful? Is everything else ok? Also, I would look into getting extended time off work to get to the bottom of the problem (I can't- which is part of mine!). Good luck and let us know (if you want to) what happens with the follow up appointments. It may help those of us in similar boats.
posted by bquarters at 1:28 PM on October 23, 2011

I also want to say that you should make an appointment with a new doctor before making an appointment with any kind of specialist, including an allergist. There are any number of things that could be wrong. Your new doctor will be able to help you determine what kind of specialist you may need to see, if any.
posted by k8lin at 1:28 PM on October 23, 2011

Response by poster: I also doubt it's mono...I don't have any swelling or pain specifically confined to my spleen/liver/throat. Unless it's likely to have it without getting those symptoms.
posted by windbox at 1:30 PM on October 23, 2011

I had mono with no swelling or pain anywhere. Get a second opinion, and ask specifically what they're testing for when they do blood tests.
posted by decathecting at 1:33 PM on October 23, 2011

The answers you are going to get here will be the very definition of confirmation bias. I had an epic case of mono so this sounds like mono to me. Someone who has had dust mite allergies sees dust mite allergies. People who have been diagnosed with Lyme, MS, auto immune or edge case thyroid will all see those things. All of our opinions on something as generic as what you have are utterly, utterly useless.

You need to get a second opinion, starting with a new PCP and moving up through referrals from there.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:35 PM on October 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


A new doctor I was seeing for something unrelated had a hunch and decided to send me to an allergist. I am extremely grateful for that hunch. I can't say for certain how long it took me to recover but after a couple weeks I realized I didn't feel as lethargic and I just generally felt better.

You definitely should get a second opinion. If your insurance is good, you could go ahead and schedule specialists at the same time as another GP.

Other things to look for in your environment are signs of animals. Maybe you have mice (droppings and urine)? Maybe you're allergic to dogs or cats?

Like DarlingBri said, this could be a lot of things. I just wanted to provide the option that it could be your environment as well as something internal.

posted by just.good.enough at 1:40 PM on October 23, 2011

fwiw, last month my husband and I both got the flu. The worst of it was over in four days, but we were then REALLY tired for another four weeks. My husband never gets sick and gets over stuff quickly in general, so I think the flu is just awful this year. We're both 27.

Keep taking opportunities to rest, and be easy on yourself. I totally feel you on the irritation at your social life being ruined. If you're worried people will think you're blowing them off, just be upfront and say, "I'm really sorry and I want to be sure you don't think I'm blowing you off, I'm just still getting over the flu. I really want to see you when I feel better, seriously." You can mention you've been to the doctor and mention you asked the internet and all that. People usually just feel suspicious if you keep rejecting invitations by saying you're sick, but if you otherwise make clear you want to see them they will feel more secure. You can also suggest low-energy activities like asking if they want to come over to your place and watch a movie or play music or games or something.
posted by Nattie at 1:52 PM on October 23, 2011

Btw, I don't say that to discourage you from getting more tests done and seeing an allergist. If it goes on much longer I would especially be critical that it's just the flu. I got mono in college and I felt crappy for three months.

Also, be prepared that even if you get a diagnosis, you might still just have to wait it out like I did with mono (the aftermath just sucks). A diagnosis is still worth getting if possible, but be prepared to possibly not get anything terribly actionable out of it. If you end up with a non-actionable diagnosis, well, you have my sympathy, it sucks, I know.
posted by Nattie at 1:59 PM on October 23, 2011

Get a second opinion. Also, can you take more days off work to get more rest? If you're working a full week, that can be tiring even at full strength and in good health; if a virus is kicking your ass and you're not giving yourself a break, that could easily slow down the recovery process.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:09 PM on October 23, 2011

Just wanted to say that being at your parents doesn't rule out allergens. They could be on you and any clothes/belongings you brought with you (especially if your place is as dirty as you say). Have a thorough shower (steamy hot to clear the nostrils if you can manage it) and wash all the clothes you brought with you and the bedding.
posted by missmagenta at 2:16 PM on October 23, 2011

Chronic fatigue is one of those things that's a bitch to diagnose. I had a reaction to a bunch of mold where I worked that got cleared up when they replaced all the air conditioning filters, etc... I was so bad that I couldn't even walk up a flight of stairs without resting, and that lasted like 3-4 months.
posted by empath at 2:27 PM on October 23, 2011

Get your thyroid and TSH levels checked. Hypothyroidism can cause extreme fatigue. It could also be after effects of the flu. When I had the flu in 2005, it took about 6 weeks for me to feel back to normal. The fatigue was horrible.
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 3:12 PM on October 23, 2011

I had mono as a young adult, and my symptom sound a lot like yours--I just felt really crummy and exhausted. It wasn't until about three weeks later that the swelling of my lymph nodes and spleen started up.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 4:03 PM on October 23, 2011

I was coming in to say that it sounds similar to Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia, but again, you need a doctor who will actually investigate farther than "Meh. Cold/Flu/Etc."

Keep pushing - that level of fatigue are not normal. You shouldn't have to cancel plans with people over and over because you feel ill, and when something like that seriously affects your life, you should be taken seriously.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:06 PM on October 23, 2011

I had similar issues, unfortunately for much longer, and it turned out to be food allergies to some of my staple foods.
posted by Neekee at 4:20 PM on October 23, 2011

I had mono with no symptoms except being able to do nothing but barely do really shitty work. Sometimes it takes a while to show up, and you *might* get *much* worse before you get better, in week- to month-long cycles, over and over again, first cycling down and then back up.

If you're looking for something to do, eat like crazy and sleep like crazy. Push the food to the limit, still listening to your body and not doing anything stupid. That will speed things up, as long as you don't have any food intolerances.

Also, don't let anyone tell you it's in your head. Sure, head and body interact, but that's your call. If someone doesn't listen, issue an ultimatum. If you have mono, sometimes mono does weird stuff to your adrenaline system, blood pressure, breathing, etc. Even if it seems like it's in your head, again, it's probably not.

Be prepared to be dealing with this, whatever it is, for as long as 24 months, while you try environmental and food possibilities and wait to get better if it's "just" a virus.

Even if you're experimenting with leaving out different foods, you MUST get enough protein, fat (all kinds), and carbohydrates every day. You MUST. Otherwise, it'll be counterproductive.
posted by zeek321 at 4:30 PM on October 23, 2011

Yeah, I've had mono without swelling etc., and I felt probably pretty similar to you. Or it could be post-flu. I had a whopping case of the flu a few years ago and felt pretty tired for several weeks afterwards, and I was only a year or two older than you at the time; it's definitely possible.

For the record, I would not expect asbestos to cause these symptoms. (I am not a doctor, but I am an environmental professional. Asbestos is very bad for you, but these symptoms are not consistent with recent asbestos exposure.)

This is probably a stupid question, but have you considered trying an antihistamine? (Maybe Zyrtec, which is over the counter?) If it helps, it's time to see an allergist. If not, it could still be allergies, but it might be worth looking at other things before looking at allergens.

Hope you're feeling better soon!
posted by pie ninja at 4:32 PM on October 23, 2011

Work, friends, girl, family: It's very, very hard to communicate what you're experiencing. People don't really get it unless it's happened to them. Do the best you can to balance everything, you'll have to ruthlessly prioritize (and this will actually be a useful skill when you finally get better and suddenly have crazy amounts of time that you didn't have before), figure out a brief explanation to tell people, and don't let them slip away entirely.

Work/career, unfortunately, is priority number one. Then make brief time for friends/girl each week *if you can handle it.* That's how I survived with life intact. At some point, you may need to take a leave of absence and crash and friends/parents for few months, but put that off as long as humanly possible. You may never need to.
posted by zeek321 at 4:36 PM on October 23, 2011

Also here to say that it sounds exactly like adult mono to me. Especially the part about a new girl in your life and then symptoms.
posted by gjc at 6:56 PM on October 23, 2011

Another mono sufferer here and you sound exactly like me. I was 23. My lymph glands never swelled up and the first mono test I took was negative. Go home, they said, it's the flu. I was sick like that - more or less one week on, one week off - for a year. It wasn't until about six months in that I tested positive for mono and then they said, well, you're nearly through it. Finally, six months later, they decided I had a sinus infection as well as mono and gave me thirty days of strong antibiotics and at last I was okay. It was a horrible year. Go get another test.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:37 PM on October 23, 2011

On a day-to-day basis are you doing anything to combat the symptoms? If I felt like crap all of the time I'd definitely take something to address my "crappy" symptoms instead of bowing out of life.

And, yes, you need a second opinion.
posted by dgeiser13 at 11:40 AM on October 24, 2011

I've also lived in far grosser environments in the past (in college).

There's no linear scale to rank environments by grossness, with the least gross being least likely to make you sick, and the most gross guaranteed to kill. Especially if you are experiencing an allergic reaction, rather than a true infection, there could be something fairly innocuous causing your illness.

Something you're breathing, wearing, eating, sleeping on? Something in your car?
posted by General Tonic at 2:12 PM on October 24, 2011

this could be anything, and you should totally get a second opinion before going to a specialist.

anecdotally, i've had bronchitis that sounded just like what you're having. I didn't have wheezing as much as everything I did made me exhausted, and walking up a flight of stairs had me winded. Grocery shopping was exhausting. This lasted for almost a month, even with antibiotics, although the nebulizer treatment my doctor gave me in her office had me immediately feeling much better.
posted by inertia at 7:52 AM on October 25, 2011

I've been having the same symptoms. I got checked for mono yesterday (waiting on results). I moved into an old dusty/moldy house in August. I'm wondering if that's causing it. If the mono test comes back negative, I'll investigate that next.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:01 PM on October 27, 2011

I guess I feel more mentally tired/sleep does nothing but also some physical weakness/aching. It is more the mental fog.

It's like I'm always on the cusp of getting a sore throat and cold/flu for the past month.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:02 PM on October 27, 2011

Oh and my roommate had the same symptoms but no mono. Man, it is totally our gd house.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:10 PM on October 27, 2011

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