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When Fatigue Sabotages Your Mental Health Recovery Efforts

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

My fatigue is back. It went away for a while. I didn’t miss it. Good riddance, I thought. Then it came back. For fuck’s sake, I thought…

Now, I can barely struggle out of bed to go to the bathroom. I still have to do all the things everyone else does: get dressed, go to work, care for people, stare at the vacuum cleaner… But I don’t have the energy left for anything else. Recovery is my primary mental goal at the moment. I must recover. I must believe it is possible. I must believe I am worthy. I will recover. I do believe it is possible, but I’m working on the worthiness thing…

But when the fatigue comes back, it’s all too hard. My anxiety escalates. It’s so much harder to reframe negative thoughts into a more optimistic or realistic outcome. My depression starts dragging me down. It’s too exhausting to do anything productive and what is the point? The suicidal ideation starts rearing its very ugly head and I just cease wanting to be. It’s all so hard, and I am just so damn tired again.

But I think the hardest is the disordered eating. It taints every aspect of my day. I desperately want recovery, but fatigue sabotages my efforts. Not only am I pointlessly trying to fill the hole in my starving soul with food, but now I’m also mindlessly feeding a tiredness that won’t go away — no matter what my sleep deprived, addled thoughts are trying to tell me.

I need to keep shoring up my distress tolerance tools when my energy levels are higher, because once fatigue sets in, logic flies out the window and bad habits fly right back in.

I recently commenced an online group course for bulimia recovery and I am currently relying on the support of the group members to see me through. Today, I normally would have chosen to binge until the cows came home. Then eat the cows as well. Instead, I haven’t eaten well, but I haven’t binged too badly. And — miracle of miracles — I haven’t purged. Fatigue is a right bastard of a thing. It really is. I know loads of carbs won’t fix it, but all that food can feel comforting. And when I’m too tired to watch television, it feels like a great idea.

There is no easy way to fight fatigue. There is no easy way to find recovery. I believe there is no easy way to be in recovery when you’re fatigued. There is just no easy way — full stop. I am grateful for the support of those who understand recovery.

I am grateful for learning about the tools of reframing and visualization.

I am grateful for — even a brief window in time — having hope and belief. I am grateful that despite feeling incredibly weak and despondent at the moment, I found the strength to reach out to just one person. Because that one person can make all the difference in the world. I may be fatigued, but I still have strength.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via AnkDesign.

Originally published: May 17, 2017
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