Recovering from mono can be pretty miserable. Here are some tips for those recovering from mono or for family and friends of someone recovering from mono.
Epstein Barr or EBV is the virus that is responsible for causing mono (mononucleosis). While this is the most common association with Epstein Barr, the virus can also cause a spectrum of other symptoms and complications. Most Americans will come in contact with EBV at some point. Surprisingly, most people who get EBV will never develop any symptoms showing they are sick.
In my case, I experienced the extreme end of the Epstein Barr Virus which lead to severe mono and hepatitis. The mono caused ulcers in my mouth and throat. The hepatitis caused jaundice. I was also diagnosed with pneumonia and had a very high fever for weeks. My situation required a 10 day hospitalization, the help of several specialists, and lead to months of recovery.
As I mentioned, Epstein Barr and mono affect everyone differently. This makes it especially difficult for those diagnosed with the virus to know what to expect in recovery. In an effort to help educate others on the complexities of this virus, I have compiled some advice for those struggling with mono or EBV, as well as family members and friends of those going through recovery.
Mono almost always causes some form of extreme fatigue. This can be the most difficult part of recovery. Knowing that this fatigue is real and understanding that you can’t tough it out is crucial for everyone.
Advice for Those Recovering from Mono (or any form of Epstein Barr):
1. Don’t compare yourself to others (especially others with mono or other illnesses). Just because your cousin’s brother’s best friend’s mailman got mono and was back working full time a week later doesn’t mean that you will be too.
2. Focus on being good to yourself one day at a time, don’t stress about the long run. Sure it’s natural to worry about getting back to normal, but time will be one of your best friends.
3. Eat a well balanced diet and drink more fluids than usual, especially healthy fluids like water and fruit juice.
4. Be realistic in discussing your progress with others. Don’t feel pressure to tell everyone you are fine when you are not, but also don’t tell everyone you are sicker than you are just to get additional pity.
5. Speak up for yourself and notify those who may be directly affected by your situation. This may include your family members, your boss, your teachers/professors, even close friends.
6. Ask for help and be specific. Express genuine gratitude for those who help when you ask. Be patient with those who try to help when you don’t ask.
7. Listen to your body. When your body says rest, rest! Your body knows what it needs to do to heal itself, so let your body dictate its own terms of recovery.
8. Include low impact, short duration exercise in your recovery. (For example, I love walking very slowly on a treadmill at work for 10 minutes at a time. If you don’t have access to a treadmill, you could also consider walking to the mailbox, walking aisles in the grocery store, etc.)
9. Above all, be very, very patient and consistently optimistic. You will get better, but it will take time.
Advice for Friends & Family of Those Recovering from Mono (or any form of Epstein Barr):
1. Do not tell them to tough it out. (They literally can’t!)
2. Encourage them to listen to their body and support when they do.
3. Reinforce the positive progress, no matter how small. For example, comment on how you noticed they seem to have more energy now than they had three weeks ago, even if the difference is slight.
4. Watch for symptoms of fatigue and help them have opportunities to rest. Give them permission to leave activities or assignments to go rest instead. Be sure to convey that their health means more to you than their finishing the dishes, etc.
5. Be realistic in reporting their progress to others. Other people will ask you for updates. Make sure your answers are consistent with what the individual would say if they were answering the same questions.
6. Be very patient and optimistic. Time will heal their body. Having an optimistic attitude that they will get well, but that it will take time will help them cope with the process.
The road to recovery after mono is often difficult and can be long too. While you cannot choose how the virus will affect your body, you can choose how you take care of yourself after it hits. Be good to your body. Above all time, patience, and a lot rest will work miracles! If on the other hand, you know someone who is currently struggling with mono, be supportive of their situation and understand that not all cases of mono are the same. Your ongoing support can greatly benefit the person trying to recover!