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The Different Types of 'Tiredness' My Chronic Illness Can Cause

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When people ask me how I am, I often hear myself saying, “I’m OK, but I am quite tired.”

I think that everyone who has a chronic illness gets overly tired, and if you are like me, you have this deep feeling of being so weary.

I end up exhausted after a prednisone course. I take a fairly high dose and over several days. This is the BURST therapy being used to get me breathing adequately again when my asthma gets bad. I try not to take prednisone as it quite upsets my body in so many different ways. I take 50 mg and this time, it is for seven days. But, the doctor assured me that there was “nothing else” that would work.

First the prednisone hypes me up and I stay awake all night. This lasts a few days. At the end of the course, I collapse in a heap. I am way beyond tired, way beyond weary; I am just plain exhausted. During prednisone days, and post-prednisone for a few days, I know I won’t be much good for anything. It’s a time to keep myself amused at home. This is “prednisone tiredness!”

Then there is the impact of Hashimoto’s disease which I was diagnosed with at the same time as my asthma was diagnosed, so just over three years ago. This too causes you to feel tired. You don’t always have the needed amount of thyroid hormones available to your body at the right time… This can make me very tired.

I also have anxiety and depression and this too affects sleep and makes me tired.   It seems to impact just about everything. I seem to have an “itty bitty shitty committee,” as my psychologist described it, that lives in my head. When I am a bit low either physically or emotionally, this committee decides to hold a conference with an unlimited agenda! This committee can be exhausting as things go around and around and are never resolved! The committee will not allow me to sleep! I need to figure out how to fire it!

My asthma makes my oxygen blood levels drop and when I can’t get enough air into my lungs I get tired! I have little energy to exercise or even to socialize.  Everything becomes effortful.

Now, I am getting cramps as the prednisone is causing CKD (chronic kidney disease). And, the diabetes from the prednisone is causing neuropathy… Lots of leg and feet pain. Last night the cramps woke me three times so now, broken sleep can be added to my list of what causes me to be so very tired all of the time!  Diabetes can cause tiredness, too.

I am not complaining. My body just doesn’t work very well. I am very grateful to the doctors and other medical professionals who are helping me to manage. If I was living 50 years ago, I probably wouldn’t still be alive! My sister used to say, “It’s OK, you are still on the green side of the grass, so enjoy it!”

A person with chronic illness that affects sleep, as well as everything else that has to be balanced and managed, experiences a different “tired” than the one that happens when a person stays out really late at a party or having fun, or when you have overindulged in alcohol. This sort of “tired” goes away after a couple of days. This sort of “tired” is a choice. My “tired” isn’t a choice. Chronic illness “tired” never really goes away.

My “tired” is everlasting! It won’t pass because my health issues are here to stay.

Even going to the shops is a bit of an ordeal. I often have to use a walking stick as my breathing problems slow me down considerably and I have to have rests. I often can’t finish the things I want to do. But getting to the shops is one of my “good days.” These days are to be savored as I am getting them less often now.

Perhaps when I say how I am, I actually need to spell out exactly what I mean when I say “I am tired.”

With my family and a few close friends, I am much more likely to say, “I just don’t have the energy to do that at the moment.” That is a more truthful statement that I think I need to use more frequently.

Getty photo by kaipong

Originally published: May 6, 2018
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