Part 1 of 2 Living with a chronic illness feels like our bodies are holding us to ransom. We get no rewards for our attempts to function like a “normal” person.
We struggle with the everyday things that most people take for granted.
Managing life with a chronic illness(s) is exhausting. We experience multiple layers of fatigue. It’s important to note that fatigue is different from feeling tired.
There are 3 different types of fatigue
Transient fatigue is acute fatigue brought on by extreme sleep restriction or extended hours awake within 1 or 2 days.
Cumulative fatigue is fatigue brought on by repeated mild sleep restriction or extended hours awake across a series of days.
Circadian fatigue refers to the reduced performance during nighttime hours, particularly during an individual’s “window of circadian low” (WOCL) (typically between 2:00 a.m. and 05:59 a.m.).
Fatigue is categorised as either physical or mental.
Common symptoms associated with fatigue can include:
apathy and a lack of motivation
difficulty concentrating or learning new tasks
slowed response time
The difference between tiredness and fatigue is more substantial than you may first realise. Tiredness is the way we feel when we don’t get enough sleep. Fatigue is a daily lack of energy that can’t be solved through greater sleep alone. Fatigue, therefore, is caused by more than just our sleeping pattern or daily activities.
Most of the time fatigue can be attributed to one or more lifestyle issues, such as poor sleep habits or lack of exercise. Fatigue can be caused by a medicine or linked to depression. Sometimes fatigue is a symptom of an illness that needs treatment.
If you feel you’re suffering from fatigue, which is an overwhelming tiredness that isn’t relieved by rest and sleep, you may have an underlying medical condition. It’s important to consult your GP for advice.
Prepare yourself not be taken seriously. It could take a few appointments and more than one doctor to be heard.
In my case, the first GP dismissed my concerns. I was there about something else. After she dealt with that issue, I told her my concern about my tiredness levels and not feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep. Ignoring me she thrust the prescription slip into my hand. Giving me the “it’s time to leave” look.
I wasn’t at all prepared for her reaction. I left feeling like none of the doctors at the surgery would take my concerns seriously. I decided to see another GP and if they didn’t listen or help me. I would try every doctor at the practice until one of them was willing to act on my symptoms. Luckily for me, the second doctor I saw listened. A diagnosis of Myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) took about a year. Once diagnosed I felt momentary relief. Finally, there was medical proof I was unwell. I wasn’t going mad, it wasn’t all in my head. I had a physical problem.
Layers of fatigue – Mille-Feuille of tiredness
This isn’t a medical term ( Miller-Feuille is French, meaning; 1000 sheets or layers) It’s something I created to help healthy people understand fatigue is much more than just tiredness. An early night and a long lie at the weekend simply won’t fix us.
Different layers of fatigue
Fatigue caused by chronic condition(s) Exhaustion that doesn’t let up might be a sign of:
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic infection or inflammation
Chronic kidney disease
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Depression (major depressive disorder) or other mood disorders
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Low vitamin D
Physical or emotional abuse
Traumatic brain injury
Fatigue caused by medication. If you take time to read the patient leaflet inside the box you will find an extensive list of side effects. Fatigue is a common side effect of many drugs. Especially the types chronic illness sufferers take. Additional fatigue is the las