More on Brain Fog and chronic illness, this is another exchange from a former resident of my city condo, a lady who also developed a serious, debilitating auto-immune disease. Once again, I’m not a doctor. But I hope you may see something here that is of use to you.


Hi. Don’t know if you remember me, but I sold condos at —. I found some info about you having a chronic illness. When did you get sick? I got sick while in VA & working at —. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia (diagnosed by Cleveland & Mayo Clinic’s.) I’m just curious if the condos, area, etc made you ill. Your post on Facebook today really caught my eye, since my brain fog today was overwhelming. Thank you for your sharing your story.

We were both in — during the Gulf War, surrounded by many military bases. Also, well known CFS specialist Charles Lap has a map of the world in his office. He has pins in each place where his patients are from. The pins in — were piled high on top of each other. This was also true of a location out west near Incline Village (which is also near military land). When I asked about this, the staff just answered that they thought it was because their office is located in Charlotte, NC which is close to VA.

I wonder if we became originally sick from something either military related or construction related since I was selling new construction condos where Colleen lived. I have been ill ever since, disabled & starting an at home based artistic career of making & selling hand crafted embellished dog collars. I agree with Colleen that that is the only way to continue some sort of career/work due to all the issues of our illness.

M—

(Name redacted)

Hi MAV.

Colleen here.

Well, I got chronic fatigue before I moved into the condos. My chronic fatigue predated the Gulf War by nearly ten years. (Yes, folks, chronic fatigue isn’t called that anymore, and it wasn’t called that when I got it. They referred to it as a “resident virus”. It’s not malaise, it’s a form of illness, yes, it’s a thing. Mine began with a severe viral infection, high fever, flu-like symptoms. And I didn’t get over it for years.) I remember exactly when I got it: when I was working for a very abusive publishing client when I was a teen. I had a complete physical collapse within six months that the doctor said was due to stress and overwork. I gradually began to get better around 1987-1989, after I got away from the client.

In fact, for awhile after moving into the condos, I was getting much better, going outside, exercising every day.

However, a few years later, I developed serious chronic respiratory infections. I also remember exactly when that happened. I got viral pneumonia after a trip to New York City in January 1992. I had sinusitis big time after that until 2005, months and months out of every year. I was miserable. Fever, constant aches, really gross plugged up head, swollen eyes. I have pictures of my eyes almost swollen shut. It was very hard to work sometimes and I made some editors very angry.

One thing I recall about the condos: they used tons of insecticide and herbicide there. Constantly. I recall the workers walking along with their herbicide sprayers just dripping it all over the place, including right across a bunch of plants I’d put in my garden, leaving a big, yellow streak of dead wherever the herbicide dripped.

I also had problems in hotels and had to be very careful when I traveled. I pretty much stopped going to shows for awhile, it wasn’t worth the hassle, I’d get sick at almost every show.

Also, I read somewhere that there was an adhesive that was commonly used to install carpeting in places like our condo that was making people sick. I’ve wondered ever after if the condo was a sick building. Formaldehyde is commonly used, and my mother, for example, has a serious allergy to formaldehyde. She can’t even be in a room with a fire in the fireplace because burning wood releases formaldehyde.

When I moved to the country, my respiratory problems cleared up. I have only had about 2 sinus infections in 12 years. Unfortunately, that’s when my autoimmune disease manifested. While I am pretty sure I was showing symptoms when I lived at the condos, it is hard to tell because I assumed the chronic sinusitis was the source of all my problems and doctors never looked further, either. And let’s face it, people just dismiss sinusitis as the sniffles, but it can get pretty damned awful. I got so clogged up in there they were going to have to give me surgery to get it out – until one day I had a blowout and I thought my brains were coming out of my nose and throat.

I just thought I’d share that.

Anyway, when that cleared up, other problems remained. I also began getting hives, which I’d never had before. That was special.

I’m given to understand that prolonged exposure to allergens can cause auto-immune disease. I’ve also read that the Epstein Barr virus can trigger it. And we’ve both had that. I do remember driving down the street in the area and my eyes would burn up and tear from the pollen; the air down there was brutal. My mother also had issues with the air quality there. But up here in the mountains where I now live, I have a garden and am surrounded by flowers and almost never have issues.

You have my most sincere sympathies. While not being sure what the hell happened to us, I wouldn’t wish it on a dog, and I am so sorry for your problems. I feel very lucky to have a supportive family and an art career that enables me to stay home and rest when I need to. I was bedridden all day yesterday with severe migraine and vomiting. Rough way to keep my weight down!

It’s kind of hard to reconcile myself to this, but I’ve had one form or another of chronic illness for my entire adult life. Niggling, relentless bites at time, happiness, and productivity. Usually not enough to disable completely, just enough to trip me up, over and over.

It all seems to be related to the chronic fatigue I got slammed with right after I became a professional cartoonist. There are times I’ve done very well, considering, including pursuing a hard core fitness regime for years, with workouts of almost 2 hours a day. And other times, I can’t get out of bed. Like yesterday. What a roller coaster it has been!

So great to hear from you. I just wish it were under better circumstances. Please let me know how things are going and I wish you the very best. So kind of you to remember me!

About Brain Fog
Brain Fog Part I
Brain Fog Part II
Brain Fog Part III
Brain Fog Part IV