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Tiffiny Hall built a career on fitness. Now, she can't exercise for more than 10 minutes.

Tiffiny Hall is currently experiencing what she calls a "crash".

Two weeks ago, the trainer, author and mum launched her activewear line, TXO Flex. She was burning the candle at both ends, and it caused her to crash. Hard. 

Getting out of bed in the morning feels nearly impossible, small tasks like brushing her teeth are an achievement, and exercise is out of the question. 

She's also still recovering from major arm surgery, which makes things infinitely worse.

Crashes can last days, sometimes weeks. Hall never knows. Until one day, she wakes up feeling like a cloud has lifted. 

In April 2021, the trainer announced for the first time on her Instagram that she has chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a chronic complex condition characterised by extreme fatigue that doesn't go away with rest. According to ME/CFS non-for-profit, Emerge, 250,000 Australians live with the condition.

The vast majority of people diagnosed with CFS have POTS as well - a blood circulation disorder that can cause dizziness and fainting.

Despite experiencing her worst crash shortly after giving birth to her now-three-year-old son Arnold in 2018, Hall first started experiencing symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome in her teens.

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"I was 14, and I had this fatigue - I couldn't concentrate, I had brain fog, nausea, heaviness in my bones and achiness in my body. And no matter how much sleep I got, it never made a difference," Hall told Mamamia

"So I went to every doctor and no one knew [what it was]. I ended up having one year off school in year nine, I lost contact with friends and had a horrible, isolating experience."

Coming from an athletic family, her parents - both her mum and dad are in the fitness industry too - helped rehabilitate her. 

"Then I got back to school, and it was very normal," she said.

"But then throughout my 20s, uni and my career, I kept having these crashes, where I would go full on - do TV, fitness - and then I would have these weeks where I couldn't get out of bed; where I felt like I had the flu and couldn't concentrate. 

"It felt like depression, but I wasn't depressed."

After a while, Hall found coping mechanisms that would help when these crashes came on - she'd cancel social and work commitments, rest and slowly work up her fitness until she was back on track. 

This routine worked until she had her son.

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"I was running a business, had a baby, and then I had a crash. I never had a crash as a mother before," she said.

"And I couldn't initiate the self-care things that would work because you are on 24/7 with a 24/7 business and a 24/7 child."

That crash lasted six months. After seeing every possible doctor (neither CFS nor POTS show up in blood tests) and things getting so bad that she needed her mum and a friend to move into their family home to care of her and Arnold, Hall was finally diagnosed.

"There's no treatment and no cure. And if you look up the guidelines for CFS at the moment, they're still reviewing them, they're still debating them, they're still arguing over guidelines," she explained.

"I'm pretty much at a stage now where I have to accept it. And it gets to me.

"[But] now it's just a new normal, where I have to manage looking after my business, my family and myself," she said.

On a typical day during a crash, Hall is awake at 6am, despite not feeling remotely up to it.

"Arnold comes in at about 6am and he's ready to go, full of energy. And my husband (comedian Ed Kavalee) works in the morning on breakfast radio so he leaves the house at 4.30am. So, I have to get up and look after Arnold," she said.

"It's the hardest thing in the world."

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To manage the symptoms and her daily tasks, Hall has been doing high performance mindfulness (HPM) with mindset coach Emma Murray. It helps massively.

"She helps you to chunk it down to the littlest things, and you sort of just get moving," she said. 

"So, my first thing is to put my feet on the ground, sit up in bed and take some breaths. Then my next thing is to brush my teeth. Then make my bed. So I go through these little processes."

Once Hall ticks these off, she's able to get Arnold downstairs and fed before Ed arrives home from work at 9.30am. Then she'll usually head back to bed or get dressed and do a small amount of work, if she's feeling up to it. 

"I'm able to do some light emails, maybe. But it's too much to take phone calls," she said.

"I usually just tell my team, I'm in a crash, and then delegate and they sort of cover for me. I go dark on socials, put my phone away, stay off screens and really try to preserve my energy."

While she can't exercise, she tries to get outside and go for a walk at some point.

"[Then I'll] basically repeat those days until I wake up and I feel like a cloud has lifted," she said.

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Speaking to Hall was different to other interviews I've done in the past. The conversation was refreshing - as she spoke I found myself nodding in agreement, having experienced so much of what she said. 

I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and POTS six years ago, and to this day still struggle to get out of bed in the morning (you can read my story here). She's the first person I've spoken to since my diagnosis, to relay back to me how tough it is - both physically and mentally.

"I hate it because I was a morning person," she told me. 

"I was a personal trainer, I had clients from 5am and my husband [and I would] get up together," she said. "So it's a huge shock for me and it's not the person that I know."

When Hall's not in a crash, she can only workout in 10 minute installments. 

"On a good day, I can do like 10 minutes and then I would need to have a break. Then I may be able to do another 10 minutes," she said. 

"I've been doing live workouts for people in lockdown but I'll do 10 minutes and then my other trainer will do 10 minutes. So then it's like a 20 minute workout, but I'll never go more than that.

"I'm just trying to build that up, working with an exercise physiologist to sort of build up my endurance and my baseline. It's sad and it's depressing, but it's something."

Thankfully, through it all, she's had her husband Ed to lean on.

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"Ed's just the most amazing support and it's sad," she explained.

"You know, it's really sad seeing someone go from something that you married and you knew to someone needing your full support and care. It's been a huge strain on our relationship, but I couldn't get through it without him."

And despite there being no cure, Hall's seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

"It's been so long now that I'm feeling like I can manage this and have a life," she said. 

"With Arnold, I've missed out on a lot. But I am able to be a little bit more physical with him now."

"We're finding a good sweet spot now of managing it, putting my family first, shutting out the noise and being able to be there as a wife and a mother again, which is great."

Feature image: Instagram/@tiffhall_xo

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