By Lou Goldstein





Epstein Barr virus or “EBV” is named after Anthony Epstein and Yvonne Barr who, along with Bert Achong discovered the virus in 1964. The four main symptoms of EBV infections are fatigue, sore throat, fever, and enlarged lymph nodes (especially in the neck).

Fatigue is generally the worst two to three weeks after symptoms develop, and it may last six weeks or longer. Fatigue may be severe and interfere with a person's ability to perform normal daily activities.

Why is this important? It’s important because I was diagnosed with EBV in the early 1970’s and it was an important turning point in my life.

At that time EBV was a relatively new virus and the doctor who was treating me was not that optimistic. His prognosis was that this would attack my immune system and I would be in danger of any minor illness becoming a much bigger deal. His explanation (in simple terms) was that when an immune system is not able to fight infections it was not a good thing.

My major symptom was chronic fatigue. I was working in real estate at the time and there were days that I simply could not get out of bed. On other days I might get out of bed and brush my teeth and take a shower…but I still couldn’t go to work. On most days that I made it to work I would have to go home early. This went on for about a month and really didn’t seem to be getting any better.

Since it was a viral infection I could not be treated with antibiotics. My doctor, (the not too optimistic soul) said I needed rest, drink plenty of fluids, take vitamins and hope for the best (thanks Doc). Rest was not a problem because my body was telling me I could hardly do anything else but rest.

I had a friend who was an attorney. He told me of an Epstein Barr support group. He said that he was going to speak at one of their meetings and he asked me if I would like to go with him. “Sure”, I said. Maybe I would learn something. On the way to the meeting he told me that he was going to explain to the people suffering from EBV that they were now entitled, under the law, to file for disability payments if the EBV was causing them to lose income from their jobs. ( “Disability?”… that didn’t exactly paint a rosy picture for me, did it?)

At the meeting (at a private home) I met about 10 people (like me) who were suffering from EBV. There was also a person (who didn’t have EBV) who had formed this support group. The dues…(of course there were dues)…excuse my cynicism but I was feeling sorry for myself and I was pissed. Remember all those fluids I was drinking.?  Anyway, the dues were very nominal and there were more people in the group than showed up that night. It seems that a number could not make the meeting due to their illness.

My friend gave his talk which was very informative and seemed to lift the spirits of those at the meeting. That’s when the “fun” started. One by one, each person got up to speak and talked about their situation. “Hello, my name is Really Depressed (I’m not really sure if that was his name or not) … and I have Epstein Barr virus.” I now began to wonder if my friend the lawyer made a wrong turn and we ended up at an AA meeting for EBV sufferers. Anyway, Mr. Depressed continued, “Today was a terrible day for me. I had to stay home all day so I would have enough energy to come tonight (priorities). I hope tomorrow will be a better day because I don’t know what I am going to do if this continues.”

Next was Sally Forgetaboutit (again I’m not too sure about the name). She, in a whisper said, “My name is Sally Forgetaboutit, and I have Epstein Barr virus (do you see a pattern developing?). I am reaching a point that I see myself “giving up”. Each day is worse and I am beginning to think that there is no hope left.”

Each person gave their troubled and distressing stories and it was time to go home. The person who formed the support group gave me some literature and a membership application and I got in my friend’s car and he headed west (where I lived).

He asked me, “Well, Lou do you think you might join this group?” I told him, “No, I wasn’t” He asked me what I was going to do, and I gave him a knee jerk (after just attending the most depressing meeting in my life) reaction. “What am I going to do? …I AM GOING TO GO TO A DIFFERENT DOCTOR..THAT'S WHAT I AM GOING TO DO !”

The doctor treating me had been my family doctor for almost 20 years. I called him Dr.Feelgood. He was a general practitioner and for most medical needs was just great. However, in this case,even he admitted that he didn’t know that much about EBV. I called a friend of mine who was a cardiologist. He, also said that he didn’t know that much about EBV but he would make some calls and get back to me.

The next day he called and said, “Lou, you have an appointment at 4:30 this afternoon” (with a doctor I will affectionately refer to as Dr. Feelbetter). At 4:30 I was in Dr. Feelbetter’s office.

In approximately one hour I left his office and as I mentioned earlier… my entire life was about to change. Did Dr. Feelbetter give my some magical pill? No! Did he give me an injection that solved all my problems? No! Then what did he do? He talked to me.

He explained that EBV was a legitimate illness but it would not physically stay with me for the rest of my life. He said that it would run its course and eventually leave my system. He stressed that he was talking about the “physical” aspect of EBV. What could be a worse problem was the “mental”…which he let me know that I had some control over.

Dr. Feelbetter went on to talk about the inner workings of the brain. “Lou, as intricate, complex and magical that our brain is….there is a limitation.It can only handle one thought at a time. Even if it is for a nano second.” He went on to say that, “ I also believe that the brain will process what you give it ... (a thought)... and the next thought coming from your brain will most generally follow the same trend of thought pattern. So, if you can condition yourself to send a positive thought to your brain when you have a problem...your brain will continue sending you more positive thoughts. Conversely, if you send a negative thought you will continue to get more negative thoughts.

The people who suffer most from EBV are those who mentally wear themselves out by going into a state of depression… simply by running a never ending stream of negative thoughts through their brain worrying about their illness.

It’s NOT the physical…it’s the mental that gets you.”

To illustrate here are two conversations between you and your brain.

YOU: “I just can’t get out of bed.”
BRAIN: “You just have no energy.”
YOU: ”I think it’s getting worse.”
BRAIN: “What’s going to happen when it gets worse?”
YOU: “Maybe there will come a time when I will never be able to get out of bed.”
BRAIN: “If that happens it would lead to even worse complications.”
YOU: Yada Yada Yada

YOU: “Even though I feel tired I need to get out of bed today.”
BRAIN: “Maybe you can get out of bed and just walk into the kitchen.’
YOU: “Yeh, I think I can do that.”
BRAIN: “Then when you get to the kitchen call the office and see how things are going.”
YOU: “Maybe I’ll try to go in to work for a short while.”
BRAIN: “It might really tire you out but you can fight through it.”
YOU: “Yeh, then I’ll try to run a marathon on the way home.”
BRAIN: Don’t get carried away.”

He concluded by saying, “So, Lou, here is the “medicine” I am prescribing for you. Go home with the knowledge that you will recover from this. When you feel like you can’t get out of bed…get out of bed. After you get out of bed and don’t feel that you can go to work…go to work. Tell yourself as you overcome those negative thoughts by taking an action that brings you a sense of accomplishments (positive thoughts)…that you are getting better each day. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking fluids and then just watch and see how you progress. AND…DON’T FORGET…YOU WILL RECOVER FROM THIS SOONER… RATHER THAN LATER !"

I did what he said. I struggled to do things that were difficult. In a couple days I actually began to see an improvement. In less than two weeks I was 100 % normal (I take that back. I don’t think I have ever been 100% normal).

Now, the question is did Dr. Feelbetter’s “medicine” work…or did nature just take its course? You know what? I don’t care. I firmly believe that Dr. Feelbetter’s “medicine” not only prevented me from sliding deeper into a very dark and dangerous mental place…he also gave me a new and healthy “mental outlook” about life.

You see, I was always the type that worried about things. From that point on I decided to look at a problem or decision I had to make... with a positive attitude. I began to think of “solutions" rather than worrying about the problem.


See you next time,