Energy and RA: Running Down & Making Choices

  • Someone yanked my power cord.


    It's the only way to describe it. About two weeks ago, my store of energy extinguished. Suddenly, randomly - or so it seemed at the time - and completely. I'm used to having lower energy levels than other people, manage them by various tricks, such as taking time in the park with a book when the weather's nice and never missing the daily Mandatory Rest Period (a.k.a. nap). Most of the time, it gets me through and although I'm tired when I'm done with the day, exhaustion is rare. Pervasive exhaustion is... Well, I can't remember the last time I felt that way.


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    But two weeks ago, everything came to a screeching halt. No matter how long I slept, I'd wake up exhausted and due to the daily nap, that meant waking up exhausted twice a day! I dragged myself to work and it seemed like a commute of hours despite living in a one-bedroom apartment and working from home. My brain had slowed to a crawl, as sluggish as molasses in January and I started procrastinating on tasks. Anything more than the basic just didn't get done. All my energy was spent on getting through the day and doing the basics.


    At any given time, there are more items on my list than my store of energy can accommodate, mostly because I have a tendency to overestimate how many hours there are in a day. Usually, I plow through the list anyway and carry over what doesn't get done to the next day. It's how I live - there are always more things on the list than is possible to do. It adds a certain frisson of pressure to my life, but as long as it's within a reasonable level, the energy this gives to the day makes time fly and engages my brain. I like getting a lot done. I like moving fast. If I don't, I get bored.


    I'm convinced that there's an added benefit to moving fast. Newton's first law of motion states that an object in motion will stay in motion and on a personal level, life is all about momentum. If you get a good head of steam, you can sort of skip right over the part where your body might be protesting because you're too busy moving. Even when you have less energy than others, momentum can carry you much further than you'd thought was possible.


    In the long run, the part where momentum has the interesting habit of skipping over your body's objections to the pace does have certain consequences. And couple of weeks ago, there I was: smack up against my limitations and all of a sudden, they were much closer than normal. All of a sudden, it were as if every task drained my energy bank at twice the rate. And there was the list and much of it wasn't getting done and most unnerving of all, I didn't care. Because you have to have energy to care and I was fresh out.


    After a couple of weeks of this nonsense, I went to see my doctor, who ordered enough blood tests that the resident vampire in the lab got all excited. We checked my iron, blood count, B12 and when all those boxes were taped off on the requisition, she threw in a bunch of others, just for giggles. She even ordered a pregnancy test due to what she termed "classic symptoms"! Which added a whole new level of stress to the proceedings. All the tests came back normal. In theory, at least, there's nothing wrong with me. So I started thinking about it and may have figured out what happened.


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    The last two months have been quite hectic. There's my work on MyRACentral, which I love, but which is still work. There were a couple of rather intense family support issues, a committee or two, all the regular things that make up a life and whenever I wasn't dealing with any of the above, a large project has been consuming every minute of my spare time for a while. And it's entirely possible that not having taken a day off for six weeks (no, not even weekends), might have had something to do with the exhaustion.


    It is even likely that what happened was my body going on a wildcat strike. After weeks of employees (i.e. my body and mind) requesting, then demanding, better working conditions and management (i.e., me) not listening, the employees basically shut down the plant.


    At the moment, we are in negotiations for starting things up again. I am not quite as exhausted as I was, but it still doesn't take much to make things sputter to a crawl. I plan to have a chat with my naturopathic doctor about energy supplements, but although they might help, at the end of the day what's required is something very simple: making choices. And that means I'm in the depths of that interesting exercise called "prioritizing," trying to convince myself that the world won't end if I cut down on what I do. I need to reread my post on managing my energy and remember that if I don't take care of myself, nothing else gets taken care of. Diving back into mindfulness and meditation might not be a bad idea, either.


    If all else fails, I'll get someone to chain me to a wall.



    Lene is the author of the award-winning blog The Seated View.

Published On: August 31, 2011