Morning greetings everyone! Welcome to Day 2 of #RABlogWeek. Today’s topic is managing RA fatigue. Very fitting for me as today I am powered by caffeine and sugar. (Big thanks to the best local donut store ever, The Donut Stop, for the much needed sugary goodness.)
If someone had told me, way back when I was diagnosed at age 10, that one day I’d be so tired that I’d fall asleep sitting up, working, reading, and even eating… Well I’d have thought they were nuts. No one can prepare you for RA fatigue. I have said several times that if I just had the pain, stiffness, and joint swelling to deal with, RA wouldn’t be that tough. It is the fatigue that tears you down the most. It is the fatigue that makes all the other stuff so hard to bear.
First, let me try to explain RA fatigue for you. When I say fatigue I’m sure you just think of times when you’ve been really tired from a long night out or a long day of travel or from that night you didn’t sleep well. RA fatigue is like that, magnified by 1000%. I could sleep for days, even weeks, and not feel well rested. In fact, I don’t remember what well rested feels like. RA fatigue is a weight that drags you down. It slows your movements as if you’re walking through mud. It slows your brain down as if you’ve accidently taken nighttime cold meds in the morning. It is like wearing a suit made of lead. It pulls at you and drains you and tears you down. Worst of all, it breaks down your ability to cope with all the other parts of RA. You can’t compartmentalize things as well. Pain is magnified. Mood swings are wilder. Everything is worse because you’re beyond exhausted all of the time.
But the thing is, you have to cope with it. You have to deal with it and keep living life. You have to keep moving forward.
I mostly cope with it by pushing through. The mind is a powerful thing. And by reminding myself that others are depending on me I can push away some of that dragging fatigue and get up and going each morning. The horses can’t feed themselves. The dog can’t let himself out. The cats can’t clean their litter box or open their cat food cans. The goat…well he can open the gate and let himself out but he requires supervision so I have to get up for him too. If it wasn’t for my furry children I’d lay in bed most mornings and probably lose my job by never being on time.
That first push to feed the animals helps shake some of the fatigue each morning. It is typically followed up by breakfast in bed. Not the leisurely, fancy kind of breakfast in bed with a tray and a flower in a vase. I eat in bed because there I can lay on a heating pad while I eat and watch the news. That is a second vital part of my RA fatigue combat plan. My back is the source of my worst RA pain. That heating pad helps loosen tight muscles, tendons, and joints. Twenty minutes on a heating pad does me a world of good. On the really bad days I’ll add my portable TENS unit to the mix and really work on the ol’ back.
My final step before doing normal things like brushing my teeth and getting dressed for work is a hot shower. I’d love to take long steaming hot showers each morning. They feel sooooo good. But they also make me dizzy and faint so they’re out. But a cooler than I’d like, but still warm shower works to further clean the fog from my body and the cobwebs from my brain.
On a good day, all those fatigue combat steps take me an hour and a half. On a bad day, I’m late for work. But the point is that they help. I’ll still yawn at my desk most days. And drink Cokes or caffeinated tea all day. And I usually collapse when I get home and get all the animals bedded down and fed. It isn’t fun, being like this. I rarely have the energy to meet friends after work or on the weekend. Most don’t even bother to call anymore. But I’m still moving. I’m still fighting. And I’m still hoping that one day it will be better. That one day I’ll know what rested feels like.
To read all of the #RABlogWeek blogs, go here. Click on the links under each topic to read that day’s blogs.