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Why I Find My Chronic Fatigue to Be Worse Than My Chronic Pain

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Most people associate arthritis with pain, forgetting the other difficult aspect of this disease that can be as debilitating as chronic pain (if not worse for some) – chronic fatigue.

For me, pain comes and goes easier than the other major symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. I can find some relief for the pain, but rarely for the fatigue. Sometimes people are surprised when I complain more often of fatigue being worse than the pain. Maybe it’s because my fatigue does not match the energy of a toddler or the old vibrant and bubbly me. Maybe I am just so used to pain. Maybe I have become restless from being so damn tired and isolated to my apartment or block.

I might be lucky and have a relatively low pain day, but that fatigue still weighs on me like the dark cloud it is. Leaving my mind trapped inside this painful tarnished shell of a body, who I once was before.

I can’t find relief from the intense fatigue that left me sitting there, for a few years, asking myself what the hell is this hidden invisible wall that tells my body no, you can not do that – but my mind is yelling at myself to just bloody fucking move already. Why the fuck can’t you move? You’ve done this countless times, it’s easy, you know how. Now move. I am trapped inside my body that cannot move nor function like it once used to, not without the invisible culprits. You cannot tell fatigue is my enemy right away. My mind beats itself up, the guilt outweighs anything. I know to not feel these. I know to not let them win. But it doesn’t mean I don’t still feel them.

Fatigue steals moments from me. It steals precious memories I could be making and forces me to focus on moments of pain over and over, new or old, physically or emotionally.

A photo of the writer laying exhaustedly in bed.

Fatigue has stolen pieces of who I once was. It’s stolen years, good years of my life, only in my early 30s. Next month I will turn 32. I now face social anxiety issues that come with my chronic health issues. When I’m around people who aren’t aware to how hard I am trying to keep it together around them, I don’t want them to see my illness. I want them to see me. It usually comes with remarks like, “You look like you are hating life,” or, “You don’t want to be here.” But I do. I want to be out socializing, like any 32 year old. I wish I could be out late at night and not overwhelmed with pain or fatigue. I wish my brain wasn’t moving at the speed of cement so I could carry on in the conversations. I wish arthritis didn’t make me walk like I was drunk, yet I gave up alcohol for it.

I am tired of faking being healthy to make others more comfortable. Once upon a time, I wasn’t shy. I could meet anyone. I was fearless and energetic. I was brave – but not in the same ways I am today. I was fearless and brave in a naive stupid way. But I was energetic and vibrant. Now a lot of my social anxiety stems from the fatigue I experience with my chronic illnesses and bullying, but that’s another story.

Fatigue makes the next thought or function a foreign process to me even though I may have done it hundreds of times before. Fatigue makes learning anything new difficult.

The words “I’m tired” don’t even begin to describe the tiredness of chronic fatigue. I remember being tired from going out to the bar for a heavy metal concert and going to work the next day. I thought that was tired. I thought tired was being hungover and only functioning on a few hours of crappy sleep. I thought working 19 days in a row was tired. It’s similar, yes. It feels similar, but the duration is nowhere near each other because my tiredness isn’t cured with a sleep or a cup of coffee. It might not necessarily even be cured with the pharmaceutical drugs I take for my many health issues, many which cause fatigue themselves. Chronic illness fatigue keeps you awake at night, even though your mind is begging you to sleep – but your body just can’t. Painsomnia has taken over the night. It’s so boring during these hours if you’re not out partying or enjoying the night. Instead, I’m usually writhing around in pain and some of my most creative hours on here. A true moment I am alone.

Juggling limited energy and life can be demanding. Some days I am exhausted just from grocery shopping or I am overwhelmed because I have too many appointments in one week. I used to be the one they would rely on for speed, getting things done. Now I am unreliable, I am just so tired. I want to help. I want to accomplish things, but arthritis makes everything so difficult to do. Even this article.

Fatigue taunts me with the chores around the house that needs doing. The dishes are piling up, my kid needs a bath – and oh gosh, so do I. I should read to him as well. The laundry needs doing and the litter box needs changing. Groceries need buying, I need to respond to those emails, school meetings. Tasks every mother has to accomplish on a daily basis. Tasks I once juggled as a healthy single mother, while working and it was even easier then. Now I struggle to take care of myself and another. Many ask me how I do it. Honestly, I have no clue. I just do it because I refuse to let arthritis win over my mothering.

Originally published: February 28, 2018
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