Tired of Being Tired: Living with Chronic Fatigue
I am so tired of being tired.
I keel over into sleep whenever I get horizontal for my nap or going to bed at night, out like a light within a minute or two. When I wake up, I feel like I could sleep for days. My mandatory rest period (i.e., daily nap) is more necessary than ever before.
It's been ages since I've woken up feeling rested. Ages since I wasn't carrying around a mantle of bone-crushing fatigue. And I have no idea why.
I am very lucky that I'm on a medication that works for my RA. It works for the inflammation and pain, as well as for the fatigue. Well, up to a point. I have enough energy if I did nothing but twiddle my thumbs all day. I do, but I do more than that. In fact, I probably do too much. Which may have something to do with the fatigue.
Ya think, Lene??, my inner voice says sarcastically. She often uses that tone of voice with me.
Biweekly B12 injections help without them, I would not be able to do the work I do. My mandatory rest period is a lifesaver, too, and lately I've discovered just how much. After cutting it short two last week, I was flattened by exhaustion. There's a reason I call it mandatory. Apparently, sometimes even I need reminding.
I tell myself it has to do with winter. As so many other areas in North America, Toronto is recovering from an extremely harsh winter. The cold, the dark, the snow, the ice it wears us all down. Spending several minutes getting bundled up and taking all the bundles off again when you come back inside is draining. Come February, the blahs set in or maybe even seasonal affective disorder. Not enough light is exhausting. When the sun does come out, it's usually too cold to enjoy it.
Those of us who live with chronic illness are extra susceptible to being pummelled by the season. No matter how well my meds work, winter is always hard on me, inevitably bringing flares of my RA and fibromyalgia both. Thankfully, my doctors are on board with steroid shots and there are times I think it's the only thing that keeps me going.
I consider whether the fatigue is related to being worn down. I had a cold in February, although thankfully not as intense as last year's. This one morphed into a sinus infection that outstayed its welcome by a few weeks and contributed to the exhaustion. Between the cold and sinusitis, I had to skip my biologic several times. Not so much that the RA came roaring back, but enough to chip away at my energy. It is the reverse effect of when the medication starts to work and you can tell by the energy that slowly increases.
So I do what I can to manage my fatigue. I sleep, I nap, I eat healthy. I use steroid shots in ways my doctors allow. Vitamin B12 helps, too. I am conscious of working too much and try to stop at a reasonable time. I take weekends off.
And still, despite the daily naps, the time management, the creamy steroid shots, the raspberry goodness of B12, I am exhausted. My body cries for sleep and my mind is foggy with the tiredness. I long for the feeling of lightness that the heat of a summer's day can bring, the relief from pain, the joy of seeing green. I long for everything my body, my clothes, the day not feeling so heavy.
There are times I think the fatigue of RA is worse than the pain. Not that being assaulted by the intense sensations of pain is a walk in the park. I have tools to deal with it, though, and only severe pain messes with my ability to think. This fatigue, on the other hand, makes all of me, body and mind, feel as if I am swimming in molasses, every move, every thought, every word an effort.
Spring is coming. Life will return.
Wake me when it gets here.
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Lene writes the award-winning blog The Seated View. She's the author ofYour Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain.