Fatigue is one of the most common, and surprisingly most brutal, symptoms in living with a chronic illness. It can be increasingly difficult to manage, as other than sleeping like a Disney princess for over 100 years, there really is little to nothing that can be done. Let’s be honest, feeling tired is one of the most common complaints most ‘normal’ people have on a day to day basis, but fatigue is a whole other ball game (or pillow fight, if you will).
By definition, fatigue means: ‘extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness’. In having a chronic condition, any physical exertion is absolutely knackering. Simple tasks like walking to the shops and carrying a bag or two can feel as though you are have just climbed Mount Everest while Muhammad Ali punches you in the back of the head. Imagine waking up and feeling shattered, and then going through the rest of your day feeling like you could doze off at any given minute. That delicious foreplay to sleep, of counting sheep is never factored into a patients’ life. Allegedly there is a feeling of ‘waking up refreshed’, which seems to be increasingly elusive.
It’s tricky to hold down a job, keep a house/kids/cats/goldfish and communicate with others like a human being. It can make you irritable, short and emotional – REGARDLESS of your sex. For me, as a woman I come across this bizarre sleepy-sexism on an almost daily basis; I am shattered beyond belief because I have Crohn’s Disease. No I don’t have my period, no I’m not pregnant, no I don’t need to cuddle a kitten. (Although if you happened to have a kitten there, let’s just say I wouldn’t be entirely averse to the idea).
It becomes a vicious circle in trying to do your job to the best of your ability yet seemingly never being able to get anywhere near enough rest. Sometimes I fantasise that I could take a week off and SLEEP FOR 24HOURS A DAY 7DAYS A WEEK AND OH MY GOD IT WOULD BE BLISS BUT I’D NEED TO GET UP AND FEED THE CATS AND HOW WOULD I GET TO THE BANK TO PAY MY MORTGAGE AND MY MUM WOULD WORRY IF I DIDN’T ANSWER MY PHONE OH WHATS THE POINT: GET UP. Etc to infinity. Stress is also a major factor in our lack of sleep and constant tiredness. The feelings you haven’t achieved all you’d like in your day, that you’d let someone down or didn’t perform as well as you should have, all thanks to feeling like a perpetual Sleeping Beauty. Disney really failed to include the bags for life under her eyes, badly removed mascara and pillow slash down the side of her face. Shame really, an unrealistic portrayal of women yet again…
The best anyone in a similarly diseased boat as my own can do, is to rest when able, ensure you are eating a good and varied diet, get some light exercise where possible and get some vitamins in you (if you can’t absorb like me then get your B12 injection). There is unfortunately no simple answer, and as today’s society cruelly frowns on members of the public sleeping in bus-stops, on buses, on benches, in supermarkets…Rest at home when you can, and properly. Sleep blissfully and don’t pressure yourself to cut that snooze short – you need it. Take a hot water bottle, a book, a teddy, whatever it takes to help you drift off. Do you still have that kitten available..?
Written by Kathleen Nicholls from Crohnological Order