How Do You Handle Autumn?

View the Post on the Blog

Jody Smith explains how autumn sends her body into hibernation mode, and it's time to slow down - or else.
I read recently that the term "autumn" is predominantly used in the U.K. "Fall" is more commonly used in the U.S. I'm Canadian, though, so I guess I can use either one. And I choose "autumn" simply because it causes less confusion. It always means the season.

Added to that, "fall" can also mean what happens to me in the autumn. Everything drops for me as summer wanes.

Even though this has been the case for about two decades, this fall or crash catches me off guard every autumn. I think that's because the weather is still deceptively full-on summer, and my deterioration starts very gradually. I might wonder at first if I've got a flu bug. I might chalk it up to having been a little busier than usual.

But every year around the end of August, my body starts telling me that it's going into its own unique hibernation mode, and it's time to slow down for my own good - or else.

I'm not sure what causes this shift downward at the end of each summer. My guess is that it has to do with the shorter daylight hours. I suppose it could be some type of seasonal allergy, though I don't know of any that I'm subject to. Perhaps the trees are doing something different ... I don't know.

I just know I start to need naps again. I start to experience a very subtle but pervasive sensation of an inner vibration, I don't feel quite solid, I'm not quite steady anymore. My stamina and brain power shrinks. And I am far more prone to joint and muscle problems.

Mind you, in recent years, even the lows that come with autumn are better than my "best" used to be. But after feeling pretty darned good all summer, it is a jolt and a disappointment as I must begin to settle once again - in every discouraging sense of the word. Because each summer I am lulled into a feeling of security ... a belief that I will not lose this again come autumn.

But inevitably, as the weather begins to cool, I find myself at constant risk of tendinitis, pain and inflammation, triggered by the smallest of slip-ups. Last year, I lost the use of my left knee after I switched from the sandals I'd worn all summer to a new pair of running shoes.

This season's change with its cooler temperatures also means that I can never set the thermostat at an economical level. Anything below about 72 degrees F sets me up for sore arms, hands and feet for some reason. If I don't protect myself from this adequately, I can end up crippled, with arms and hands useless. I have spent months in more than one autumn season having to type one-handed.

So an extra shirt or a sweater goes on and off, on and off, all day while the temperatures do their crazy ups and downs, until autumn finally takes over, and I can start dressing in layers and keeping them on. Already this year I have been given painful reminders that I can lose the use of my hands and arms, or find myself getting up in the morning unable to walk, if I don't take precautions like a little old lady.

At 58, I am on the other side of "young" but - come on. This started when I was in my thirties.

As we all know, this condition is noted for being hard to pin down, and shows itself differently in each of us.

My 23-year-old son, Jesse, who has had ME/CFS for seven years, breathes a sigh of relief when summer heat is gone. He thrives (if that's the term to use for someone languishing with ME/CFS) on cooler temperatures. Jesse is the type of guy who sleeps with his window open in the winter time, and is liable to wear shorts in the house year-round.

After I started taking bigger doses of vitamin D a few years ago, I stopped having such extreme crashes in the autumn. I no longer would find myself relegated to my bed, either sleeping or reading through the day. I no longer was hampered by vertigo. Paresthesias (psychedelic sensations) no longer popped and snapped like fireworks in my arms, hands, legs, feet, face. My cognition no longer went off a cliff.

The one thing that has not improved significantly, is the tendency to crippling pain and inflammation. But, I'm working on that one. I keep my muscles ridiculously warm. I never go barefoot in the house. When I start to have problems, I turn to cold packs, castor oil wraps and chiropractic visits more quickly. I know if I don't act ASAP I can be crippled for months at a time, so I try to be proactive.

This last year has been better in that regard, and I know it's because I'm being more careful. I got rid of my old chair in the living room, because it was an ergonomic disaster for me. I got a remote keyboard for my computer, and was rewarded with a huge decrease in back and shoulder pain, and less occurrences of swollen hands and arms.

Last year, I relied on wishful thinking instead of treatment. I ended up unable to walk in September, and limped my way to Christmas. My chiropractor was my salvation, bringing my right knee almost back to normal within about three months. Regular visits seem to keep me in reasonable working order.

Will I be able to steer clear of being crippled or bedridden this year? Time will tell.

What is autumn like for you?

Phoenix Rising is a registered 501 c.(3) non profit. We support ME/CFS and NEID patients through rigorous reporting, reliable information, effective advocacy and the provision of online services which empower patients and help them to cope with their isolation.
There are many ways you can help Phoenix Rising to continue its work. If you feel able to offer your time and talent, we could really use some more authors, proof-readers, fundraisers, technicians etc. and we'd love to expand our Board of Directors. So, if you think you can help then please contact Mark through the Forum.
And don't forget: you can always support our efforts at no cost to yourself as you shop online! To find out more, visit Phoenix Rising’s Donate page by clicking the button below.
View the Post on the Blog


I also find myself going into hibernation mode in autumn. My metabolic rate, always low, falls further and if I don't wear gloves my skin cracks.

I'd like to mention a few things - first vitamin D. Dr Sasha Gominak (a neurologist) says you need to keep this within a certain band for restful sleep. So over-supplementation wouldn't produce greater gains. I had my levels measured, they were low (at the end of summer and after supplementing with 400 iu), I supplemented with 2000 iu overwinter and date a slow recovery from being practically bedbound to being able to do a little to the supplementation. I also eat a lot of oily fish, a good source of vitamin D. I've just gone back to supplementation after stopping for the summer and will take at least 1000iu per day. I'm considering a UVB sun lamp like this although I'd have to have the expensive uk version but as we age the skin becomes less effective at producing vitamin D and I'm no youngster :)

Secondly there is a theory that hydrogen sulphide gas is an issue in ME If anyone knows where to get DL-propargylglycine I'd try that but as it is I'm working on trying to change my gut flora, as that may reduce hydrogen sulphide. Could diet changes affect while we feel worse in autumn? I know that in summer I eat a lot more fruit, it's been a good apple year in England so I'm still eating a lot and not feeling as bad as usual.

I've also tried the "better on holiday" route and it does help me a little but that could be that I don't have the energy to keep my home dust free.
I forgot to mention - magnesium is often very effective in reducing pain. As many people cannot tolerate its laxative effect magnesium sulphate baths are recommended if you can take baths and a spray like this if you aren't able to bath. If taking a bath add 500gms of magnesium sulphate to a warm bath, soak for 15 minutes and pat dry, don't rub as the magnesium is absorbed through the skin. For those whose holidays include sea bathing absorption of magnesium from salt water may play a part in why they feel better on holiday.
tatt - your mention of apples made me think of that saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" I wish perhaps that I had been doing that before I got ME - I wonder could it have helped ? Possibly/probably not. ?

I start getting edgy when Autumn arrives, March in the southern hemisphere.
We can get an early cold blast from the south in April. I find I am on high alert for it, dreading it.

As soon as it comes my sinuses flare, inflammation increases in my head, my eyes are sorer, I start to feel off balance and more unstable on my legs. I shiver and shake and can't seem to get warm. And this increases the inflammation in the body. Like everyone else I am sick of it, utterly. What does it feel like to feel normal.

What is worst is that the physical deterioration of ME puts me in a more fragile mental/emotional state. I struggle to be able to think things through properly. I seem to become more stuck in my head. I lose perspective easily when I least can afford too. I feel like there's no hope and I don't have a future that looks promising.
I know that it is the increased inflammation in my head that is causing this, but knowing that still doesn't stop it from happening.
I have never been to a psychologist in my life, but I am thinking about it. Just to see if they can give me some tips on how to deal with this. I have to concede I am not winning with this one. I have tried to manage on my own all these years.

I am going to try vitamin d next April, be great if it helps. x
rosie26 apples are a source of vitamin C, one of the cheapest antioxidants. I eat a lot of fruit in summer (we grow some) so my diet definitely changes between summer and autumn and it made me wonder how much other people change their diets.

My sinus problems have been better since treating nighttime reflux. I always suggest that people try raising the head of their bed by putting wooden blocks under it. If that helps medication for reflux may help further. NAC (n-acetyl-cysteine) may help by thinning mucus or a xylitol nasal spray/ 100% xylitol gum by dealing with low grade infections. While a psychologist might help you cope with the illness personally I think reducing the physical symptoms works far better.
Thanks tatt

I've written those things for the sinuses down to try. xx
Summer has always been better. I've always joked that instead of evolving from an ape, I evolved from a bear. Hmmm... wonder if that will show up in my 23andme...
I recently watched Dr. Sasha Gominak's 5 part video on You Tube, having seen the reference originally here on PR on another thread. I was very impressed. It turns out my Vit D level has been below normal and I've been working on raising it. It also happens that my sister alerted me to some information on Dr. Mercola's website that basically says it's very important to take some Vitamin K2 in tandem with the D--for absorption, apparently. If you're interested:

Good luck with raising those levels!
Summer is my tough season, so I love Fall/Autumn and feel relieved by it! I seem to do better in Winter as it is easier to gt adequate rest. But I know it is the opposite for many others.
ha I love fall/winter since getting ME. The shortest say of the year has 7.5 hours light here. I like it as i doesn't feel like I'm missing out on life as much. When the sun goes down at 4pm I am ready for bed!
Fall and winter are my favorite seasons, too. I feel more alive then, so much better than in the summer.

However, I live in TX, and our summers are just hellacious. Our falls and winters are mild and beautiful.

Differences of opinion based in latitude :)

Low light in autumn & winter is a problem for those of us living at higher latitudes: Northern Europe, Northern USA & Canada.The contrast is all the more because summer days are long & winter ones so short

So how do people deal with the seasonal gloom that sends our bodies into hibernation mode?
So how do people deal with the seasonal gloom that sends our bodies into hibernation mode?
I like autumn. The weather is moderate and it's never really felt gloomy to me. I'm also fairly sure that humans don't hibernate, though I could be wrong.