If you’re fatigued, raise your hand (or just think about it because you’re too tired to move)Clever Manka, · Categories: Manka's Posts · Tags: fatigue, sacrifice, spite
I have chronic fatigue.
It took years to come to grips with that little sentence (boy did I fight my doctor on it—not that admitting it mattered when it came to actual treatment because modern western medicine is shit for dealing with stuff like this). It’s something I still struggle to accept—not because I think it’s a personal failing, but because of the limitations. Fatigue is a constant presence in my body and in my brain. It’s not something that comes and goes. Even on days I feel energetic and motivated (especially on days I feel energetic and motivated), I have to remember my fatigue and make accommodations for it. Like an old injury that you forget about until you reach for a casserole pan and your back reminds you about that deadlifting accident and you’re stuck having someone else get stuff out of low cabinets for the next week (not that I would know anything about that), my fatigue demands constant attention.
I know we’re all tired. Everybody’s tired. If we aren’t tired physically, we’re tired mentally, emotionally, or all three. We’re tired of horrible politics, tired of police brutality, tired of wrecked and wretched legal systems.
We’re also sleepy. We’re sleepy because between eking out a living often doesn’t allow time for enough sleep and a quality waking life. The stress of what we’re never going to get to do (exercise! meditate! create art!) keeps us from quality rest. Either that or we stayed up too late reading a fic because it it’s one of the few pleasures left that we can financially afford (bless fanfic writers doing their thing for free).
We’re tired and we’re sleepy. I am often these things, too. These things are not what I mean when I say I am fatigued. My partner has his own issues (who doesn’t) but he has near-boundless physical energy. Trying to describe it to him, I once explained fatigue is the opposite of one’s brain spinning with thoughts. It’s one thought, wading hip-deep through sludge, that basically consists of how to stay upright until a decent hour for bedtime.
Ignoring my fatigue forced me to drop out of CrossFit several years ago. I loved it and the coaches helped me scale and modify stuff, but it was still too much. It took me nine months to get back to where I could exercise vigorously again. A little over a year later, ignoring my fatigue caused me to flub a deadlift, tear a disc, and put me out of weightlifting for two years (possibly forever, we’ll see). Ignoring fatigue is what caused me to injure myself while doing exercises for physical therapy. Twice. Obviously the need to notice and accommodate my fatigue is a lesson I’m still learning.
Anyone who suffers from chronic fatigue or adrenal fatigue (they’re not quite the same, but are often connected—many of us including yours truly are blessed with both) can tell you that dealing with it is a bad mix of a shell game and Go Fish. How do I feel now? How will I feel in an hour? Will the thing I did yesterday with no problem cause a flare-up today? Can I trust myself to use my brain correctly right now? How about this afternoon? The one thing I can count on is if I wake up feeling fatigued that’s probably not going to change over the course of the day.
My approach to dealing with fatigue is haphazard (much like the illness itself).
The days I wake up fatigued are psychologically the easiest because I simply prepare for the worst. The first thing I do is decide if I can make it through a day at the office or if I need to call in (I’ve had to compromise on that since recently running out of sick leave while I was on part-time FMLA for, guess what, fatigue). I cancel any social appointments for that day and I don’t allow myself to feel bad about doing so. As you might imagine, my circle of local friends has diminished enormously. Self-care can destroy relationships—don’t let anyone tell you different—but the relationships that survive are priceless. On days that I wake up fatigued, I don’t do anything that requires physical effort (I am fortunate to have a partner who will do The Most Tedious Shit for me—like going upstairs to get my phone because I left it by the bed, or bringing me my slippers, no I mean the other pair of slippers).
The days I wake up feeling okay-but-not-great (this is most days), I go about my normal day, but gently (always gently). I monitor myself for signs of impending doom. Do my legs get tired from walking before I run out of breath? Am I slow with the smart-ass comments (fatigue doesn’t affect only physical capabilities)? Am I feeling extra sad or emotional for no particular reason? Constant Vigilance is crucial which is in itself somewhat fatiguing.
The days I wake up feeling great can actually be the worst, psychologically and emotionally. Those are the days that I still need to do all the things on my okay-but-not-great days when what I really want to do is just enjoy being a somewhat normally functioning adult for twenty-four goddamn hours. I know that’s the path to ruin, although sometimes I ignore the signs because once in while I need to dance, regardless of the piper’s outrageous payment scale.
I’m not going to paint a pretty picture about it. I’m not attempting to convince anyone (especially myself) that fatigue has been a blessing—a way to slow down, enjoy life, smell the roses. Fuck the roses. Fatigue sucks and for me there is no upside. I’m angry that fatigue kept me from experiencing being an athlete when I finally discovered a sport I enjoyed. I’m angry that I don’t have the energy to lead a fulfilling life outside of my job. I’m angry that most insurance (and most western doctors) don’t have the capabilities or the interest in helping manage my fatigue. I’m angry that there are so many others in my exact same situation. Being angry doesn’t help the fatigue, but that’s another post.
Fatigue has not helped me find my best self. Fatigue has taught me no lessons that I couldn’t have happily and successfully lived without. There are no silver linings, no up sides, no “but at leasts.” Anything I accomplish is done in spite of fatigue. Things happen slowly, sometimes they don’t happen at all, and every success comes with a price (my life is a continual series of trade-offs). The one positive thing I can say about fatigue is that it has taught me to care even less about what people think of me. I often don’t have the energy to remove makeup before bed—so I’ve stopped wearing it for anything other than special occasions. I’ve stopped shaving my legs above the knee (Linda Belcher would be pleased). I went six weeks between touch-ups on my roots last time (it takes me six hours to do my roots because I’m allergic to hair dye and so I use this hippie-ass method of henna and indigo which looks great but JFC SIX HOURS). I’ve recently gone so far as to wear tank tops with built-in shelf bras to work even though I am a D cup because my office is consistently 80 degrees and it is too god damned exhausting to add an underwire to that experience.
I’ve never cared about whether people liked me, so I guess thanks, fatigue, for helping me give even less of a shit about people’s opinions. Now I don’t even care what people think of my looks (I don’t have to tell the ladies reading—that’s a huge thing in our culture). Not gonna lie, though, it felt really good to get those roots covered. That’s probably something I need to examine more closely, but right now I just don’t have the energy.
Clever Manka is your site host. She would like to go lie down, now.