So what do I think has happened in my body? I have developed my own theory, based on four main avenues of “research”: self-education in cellular biology, intuition, learning the theories put forth by those most well-versed in ME/CFS healing, and self-experimentation.
In summary, I think my body has been chronically stressed for decades, primarily by two burdens: incessant demand for athletic performance (and a decade of an accompanying eating disorder), and emotional trauma. In 2017, as I flirted not for the first time with “The Temptation,” my body cracked. That episode of over-training (coming mere months on the heels of a case of Lyme Disease) was the last straw. Though mentally I did not feel overly stressed, my body was under enormous stress, and as happens in times of stress, my immune system became suppressed.
In normal times, our bodies are host to uncountable little “bugs” (bacteria, viruses, toxins, metals, etc.) that our immune systems keep at bay. When mine was suppressed, some bugs got out. My immune system, detecting the sudden influx of pathogens, set of the alarm, and my nervous system triggered the Cell Danger Response, toughening the membranes of my cells with an oxidative buffer, so nothing could get inside, as a means of self-protection. My vagus nerve, meanwhile, started shutting down everything it could reach (my gut and my brain, primarily,) in an effort to conserve energy and protect me from the violence of suppressed emotional trauma and acute physical danger.
At the time, my coaches and I called my problem Over-Training-Syndrome, a state of extreme fatigue and inability to train, featuring extensive oxidative stress and mitochondrial overload. It typically takes 3-6 months of sedentary rest to recover from. This assumption discounted the potential that I was experiencing dysregulation in my nervous system and immune system that would continue far beyond 3-6 months of rest.