I’ve struggled with fatigue since 1999 after graduating from university.
In my life of living invincibly, I’d juggled a full-time job with lots of overtime, full-time study and partying. I tended not to stop unless my body crashed, usually in the form of tonsillitis or another random virus. Sure, I had fun, but my body has made me pay.
Post graduation, I continued to live a life of overdoing things.
I overworked, continued to party hard into my 30’s, volunteered, helped others and tried to take on the world!p Perhaps it was because I came from a working-class family? All I knew was the concept of hard work and hard living. Plus, I was a people pleaser.
By the age of 37, I thought I had learnt my lesson.
But here I sit with puffy, bloodshot eyes and feelings of exhaustion. The fatigue is all-encompassing, and I feel like I’ve been hit by a freight train.
Raising my arms and legs this morning was challenging, as they felt like a combination of cement and rag-doll state. Heavy but floppy. I even struggled to raise my head off the pillow and open my eyes. But I managed to eventually. Luckily I didn’t have to drive anywhere as that would have added an element of danger to my day – something I do not need. My car doesn’t either – it really can’t handle another accident.
And then there’s the brain fog.
What does brain fog feel like?
How can I explain brain fog to those who don’t know what it’s like?
I guess it’s like how you’ve had a big or late night and wake up groggy the next day. It’s when your brain is struggling to function on all cylinders. It’s a cloud you cannot shake, regardless of how much caffeine you ingest. It sucks, especially when combined with a fatigued body that feels weighted down.
I sat at my computer, staring at the screen, knowing that I had things to do but could not do them. My eyelids were heavy. My eyes watered, and I couldn’t focus. After a 20-minute meditation break, I wrote an article (half sitting up on the couch – not the perfect posture at all!) and then fell into some weird stupor on the couch – somewhere between awake and asleep. I knew what was going on around me, but my body refused to participate in anything.
And now I sit here contemplating dinner. Sure, I’m writing – I’ve wanted to write for myself all week but haven’t been able to. But dinner. Cooking. Eating. I really can’t be bothered. I could so go to bed once I hit publish on this post.
This happens to me after a day in the office, a workshop, giving a speech, or attending a meeting. Sure, it has degrees, and today is a bad example, but it’s generally the way it goes. I ‘schedule’ downtime around these activities and can’t overcommit. I’ve learnt the hard way after having to pull out of or cancel various activities and meetings. My health is numero uno, as is my safety. When I’m like this, driving is dangerous for me.
I hate my fatigue, and I hate the accompanying brain fog. I hate how they interrupt my life and what I want to do because I know I can do more.
I’ve worked hard to find a ‘cure’ for my fatigue.
I’ve tried all kinds of diets, had tests, exercised, not exercised, slept, not slept. I have decreased my working hours, worked from home, drank caffeine, given up caffeine, and tried supplements, quick fixes, and miracle cures.
I’ve also seen specialists and tried alternative therapies; I feel like I’ve done it all. The only thing that has helped has been cutting back, accepting my limitations, and being kind to myself. It’s been decreasing the stress in my life, listening to and watching my body’s reactions to everything, being more mindful, and restoring that mind/body connection.
In saying that, I will persist.
Hell, it could be so much worse.
I’m lucky. I walk, I talk, I’m alive. And I’m no longer in the grips of depression. I just need to remind myself regularly that I’m human and that I’m not a superhero.
I also need to allow myself to have down days because we can’t have it all, nor do we want it all. What we have already – this glorious thing called life – is enough, and anything else is icing on the cake.