Fatigue is not your Friend
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Model: Tyson Bains
I know….you’re tired, she’s tired, he’s tired, your mom’s tired. The Monday-Friday grind, home responsibilities, obligations, commitments and then trying to do some self care somewhere in those 2 days you have off. But being tired and experiencing fatigue are two completely different things and I have come to learn this first hand.
Before my condition worsened, I mainly worked graveyard shifts at the hospital. After my last shift, I was usually up for over 24 hours as there was just so much to do and catch up on. I was always on the go and was tired just like most of society is, but a day or two of rest and I would be good to go again.
The type of fatigue I have experienced in this last year due to Endometriosis and Adenomyosis is like any other. I used to think maybe if I could sleep I would feel better, but sleep is not what it used to be. The pain makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. It's only with a sleeping pill that I might get 4-5 hours of consecutive sleep otherwise I am up often, sometimes every hour.
But one good nights sleep won’t make much of a difference because of the nature of this illness. Endometriosis causes pain and inflammation to which your body responds by trying to help and “repair” you. Majority of the energy you provide your body is being used up in this process so that you can keep functioning at some level. Now imagine being in this state constantly and then add on all that life entails. What you will find is that there is not much energy left to be able to do all that you were once able to so you begin to pick and choose what is necessary, and other things just get left behind or undone.
Personally, I have had and still have a hard time of leaving things so that I can get the rest I need. After my last surgery in 2016, I didn’t take care of myself like I needed to and tried to do more than I was capable of at that time. I also have a little OCD so if I start doing something, I have to finish it and it has to be perfect. This is actually a quality I really like about myself! But I slowly noticed that these things were becoming exhausting. My body would ache, legs would burn, and I had many episodes of orthostatic hypotension. I wouldn’t just be tired that day, but the next day and maybe the one after that too. So this is why prioritizing and asking yourself if what you’re doing is absolutely necessary or whether it can wait a day or two.
Aside from being slower moving and sluggish, I experienced brain fog. Granted that some of this may be due to lack of sleep and drugs, particularly Lupron, but it is definitely a symptom associated with fatigue. I will think of something and can forget it the next second. Phone, notes, and calendars are in full use but I’ll look at the day and still forget what I have going on. Even with GPS on, I have forgotten where I am going as soon as I leave the house. I have forgotten my phone number, names, appointments, and conversations. This does give me some anxiety as I’m worried that I won’t be able to hold a conversation or that I have forgotten something important.
So what have I done or am I doing to combat this fatigue? Due to Endo/Adeno symptoms and a herniated disc, I was forced to quit my jobs at the end of July 2018. It was really hard to let go of it all but it really was a blessing in disguise because it gave me the chance to take care of myself. I have been doing quite a few things for my health but in relation to fatigue I find Acupuncture, especially in the evening, is great for pain relief, relaxation, and stress release. I get massage done regularly which is great for tired muscles. I take supplements daily, stretch/do strengthening exercises when possible and occasionally take Zopiclone for some solid sleep.
I am also trying to develop a sleep routine which so far involves using lavender oil in my diffuser. I will either shower with lavender body wash or take an Epsom salt bath with lavender before bed and use lavender lotion as well. I love roll-on essential oils such as Sleep Well from Saje and listening to calming music before bed such as 528hz, which can be found on Spotify. Most importantly though, I try to schedule in rest time.
Along with spacing out appointments, errands, and activities, there have been a few times (ok, a lot of times!) where I have had to say no to people, events, outings, etc. This has actually been one of the hardest things to do. Not only do you feel guilty for saying no to whatever or whomever but there is also a sadness associated with this as you’re now missing out on day-to-day events and activities. This can also bring about mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. So as you can see, it’s not just a battle with fatigue. Now you are dealing with a whole host of other issues that are arising from you not being able to do even the small things.
All this can be very hard to understand and accept. It’s still hard for me to believe sometimes that I'm only 35 and my stamina is so low. I know this illness is to blame but I also feel at fault. My body has been suffering for years and I didn’t listen to it. And now, even though I feel I am doing almost everything possible to help myself, I'm only able to do half of what I used. It’s extremely disappointing but I also know I didn’t and wasn’t doing all that I should have been most of my life so I can’t expect this process to be quick or easy.
Photography: Ishu Kler Photography
It's important to check with your health care provider if you think you are experiencing fatigue so other potential causes can be eliminated first. Symptoms of fatigue vary between individuals but can include physical exhaustion, sore muscles, weakness, headache, dizziness, low energy, and/or problems with memory or concentration. Remember, this is not all in your head. You are not lazy or unmotivated; this is a real condition and requires proper treatment and management.
Roop Bassra, RN
BSc Psychology, BSc Nursing