“I could put up with all of this; the sadness, the anxiety, the self harm, the emptiness, if I only I weren’t so tired all the time,” I told my psychiatrist at age fifteen, four weeks into treatment. I was desperate and even in the midst of severe depression I was willing to just learn to live with it if the tiredness and fatigue weren’t present. To this day I find this, of all my symptoms the hardest to deal with and it tends to be the most debilitating aspect of my condition.
If you know me personally, you may well be aware of my bizzare sleep habbits and particularly if you were a part of my life when I was 17-18 you would have seen how drowsniess, fatigue and low energy controls me. In sixth form I regularly fell asleep in class, and not in a “I can’t be bothered” sort of way in a “I physically cannot keep my eyes open any longer” sort of way. Afternoon lessons were the worst and it was rare for me to manage a whole day without sleeping in any of my classes. It wasn’t poor nighttime sleep either that was causing this as I would always get a solid nine hours uniterrupted sleep if not more at night, add on the hours I would spend napping and taking snatches of sleep wherever I could: on the bus, under the sixth form stairs, the library (a particularly good napping stop) and I was easily asleep for more hours than I was awake. My one experience of clubbing resulted in my asleep, standing up on the dance floor (and no, I was not drunk). Things are better now and I only feel the need to day-sleep once or twice a week but the weight of fatigue still follows me.
There have been points with my depression where even walking across a room was difficult. My muscles felt like tight, unyeilding rocks beneath my skin and my bones just seemed to ache from the inside. It felt as though someone had tied heavy weights to all my limbs that my muscles just weren’t strong enough to lift. Stairs were my ultimate enemy and each trip from the living room to my bedroom felt like immense excersise. By the time I reached my room I would collapse on my bed, weakened and worn out. There were times when, despite my thirst I just couldn’t seem to get up and get a drink or when the trip from my bed to the bathroom next door felt like an insurmountable task.
Before you ask, I have had many, many bloodtests checking for everything from diabetes to ceoliac to thyroid imbalances to determine any physical causes for the very real physical symptoms I present but all have shown the factors for a perfectly healthy young woman. I have had to accept that the human brain is a much more complex organ than science could possibly understand at this point and that when it goes wrong it can affect a lot more than just your emotions.
I am not here to moan though. I enjoy verbalising my experience but I do so mostly in the hope to open others eyes to the differences in human experience. I am only one voice with one experience and reading this post won’t tell you what it means to be fatigued for evey person but it may tell you what it could mean for some people. People who live with tiredness and fatigue as a result of a long term health condition are often misunderstood or percieved as lazy or unambitious and I know how frustrating that can be. I am very, very lucky. At this current point in time my fatigue is minimal and even my worse moments as described above don’t even begin to compare to the levels some people have to deal with every day. I do not grumble, nor feel sorry for myself in the slightest and I know I live a life that some people cannot even dream of but I do ask this. Be kind. Be understanding. Give the benefit of the doubt. Do not assume the worst in people. When you see someone fail to meet your expectations of how they should act, take a moment to reevaluate the situation and consider the circumstances they could be dealing with. Are they dealing with chronic tiredness and fatigue? Maybe not, but they’ve probably got something going on in their life to earn them a bit of sympathy. So go on, be kind.
Loads of love and hugs,