The Exhaustive Attempt to Ascertain Why You Are Exhausted
I have been ignoring a chronic fatigue problem since March.
Back in March, I emailed my doctor about checking my TSH levels because I felt tired and sluggish all the time. She ordered me another test, which came back with the results that my TSH, while higher than what I prefer, is well within the normal range. My fatigue could be from my Hashimoto’s or it could be from a different reason (maybe a reason that explains why my joints randomly hurt A LOT recently, which is something I do not want to touch with a ten foot pole). It was difficult to say, so I decided to continue about my business- the business of being tired.
I have actually been ignoring my fatigue since December. See, it took me about 3 months to gather the strength and courage to ask for, yet another, TSH test. It sounds silly, but that is about how long, in general, it takes me to go from recognizing there is a problem to fully acting on it.
So really, I have been ignoring a fatigue problem since December.
Since December, I have been too tired to exercise often, or even semi-regularly (just in case those of you who follow me on various platforms have been wondering why my Insta and Facebook have mostly contained posts of my animals instead of lifting posts). I don’t like leaving the house, which I heavily rely on my husband to keep clean. I cut off my hair again because it was beginning to take too long in the mornings to style and I wanted to sleep instead. But, instead of contacting my doctor, I have been ignoring a fatigue problem since December.
For a generally healthy person, the normal response upon realizing that you are feeling bad is to go to the doctor ASAP, right? If your life is impacted negatively, for whatever reason, you are 100% in the next timeslot your physician has available, yes?
Not me. It takes me about 3 months from recognizing a pattern to actually reaching out to contact my doctor. And I suspect that it is probably true for a lot of people who have been struggling with chronic illness for many years.
See, the thing is, I am really, very tired of the doctor.
I am tired of being stuck with needles. I am tired of losing small vials of blood, one at a time. I am tired of nurses accidentally stabbing through my veins. I am tired of having back and forth email conversations with multiple physicians. I am tired of trying different dosages and having those changes fail. I am tired of copays. I am tired of taking time off work to get my blood drawn. I am tired of being inaccurately weighed and measured (seriously, I think it is pretty clear that I am not anywhere near 5’3”) and I am tired of answering questions on my exercises habits, eating habits, and if I smoke and how much I drink. No, I am most certainly not pregnant and yes, I promise I have never smoked a cigarette, and yes, I really do walk my dogs that much. Yes, I do realize I am overdue for my flu vaccine and my gyno appointment and yes, I have only had one sexual partner since the last time I was tested for STIs and yes, he has only had one sexual partner since I was last tested for STIs because he is my husband and we are in a monogamous relationship. It has been 22 days since my last period, my cycle is usually 24 days, why yes that is very short, I am aware.
I am really, very tired of the doctor because trying to figure out why I am exhausted is fucking exhausting.
It is physically exhausting to have to go through (yet again) the ritual courtship of the doctor’s office. The last thing I want to do after I get off work is to drive to a different city in my area for an appointment where I am poked and prodded. I want to go home and sit on my couch with my dogs.
And it is emotionally exhausting. It is so tiring (and frustrating and scary and overwhelming) to not understand why you keep feeling bad. And sometimes, you are just too fucking weary to face it head on.
And sometimes, I would rather bunker down for a few months than go through the process of trying to figure out what the heck is going on all over again. Because, when you are already too tired to fully live your life, that last thing you want to do is spend your precious energy not doing exactly what you want to do.
And during those 3-ish months, it’s not as if I am completely ignoring the issue. It’s impossible to ignore feeling garbage 98% of the time. I would say that during that time, in addition to sitting quietly on my couch, I am experimenting on myself so that I do not have to answer yet another set of mundane questions from even more doctors. During that time, I play with my sleep schedule, my caffeine intake, my diet. I try to eat healthier and sleep more (hint: energy levels still stay near zero). I even make myself keep the same sleep schedule on the weekends as the weekdays because supposedly that helps energy levels a whole lot (nada). I try eating more carbs, eating fewer carbs, eating more protein and fats. I try eating more vegetables and fewer vegetables to see if it is a gastroparesis or a hormone-related fatigue. I try spending more time in direct sunlight to get more Vitamin D. I take walks on my lunch break in the hope that getting up for a break during the day will “energize” me because every health magazine suggests this as a way to gain more energy. I up my intake of B vitamins and nootropics.
This way, when I finally come around to talking with yet another doctor, I can say, “I tried X, Y, Z, Alpha, Beta and Xanadu,” so that I can hopefully skip the introductory period of them asking me if I tried eliminating gluten from my diet.
And so, I have mostly been ignoring a chronic fatigue problem since December.
However, even though I have been “ignoring” it to the best of my ability, sometimes, goddamnit, I just need to rant about how tired I am of being tired. Ranting/venting/having an emotional outlet allows me to fully grasp the situation. It allows me to become “unstuck” and often enables me to get a good grasp on my emotions to fuel the final push to seek help.
But, if I have entrusted you with my venting, I need you to trust me with my body. Please trust that I have tried changing my eating and sleeping habits. Please trust me when I say that I don’t think that new diet will help. Please trust that I know the difference between a fatigue caused by a lack of sleep and fatigue caused one of my chronic illnesses. Please trust that I understand my body and my illnesses better than you because while I may avoid going to the doctor, I have dealt with these problems for damn near a decade.
Because, while I have been outwardly ignoring my chronic fatigue problem since December, I actually haven’t been. And while it might be frustrating that I am so unwilling to jump for treatment ASAP, I already have a doctor (whom I don’t want to see). I don’t want to exert the effort because I am tired of everything having to do with health issues and doctors. What I need when I feel like garbage are my loved ones. And if you are dealing with your own stuff at the moment and feel like you can’t expend the mental energy – please say so. Emotions are like concussive waves – the energy doesn’t just dissipate; each person with whom they are shared feels the force of the wave. We, the chronically ill, appreciate any support you are able to give, but don’t want you to feel burdened. Please take care of yourselves, as well.
So, I ask of you, those who have chronically ill friends, please be patient and please listen without trying to solve our health issues. Please be understanding and understand that when we say that we, the chronically ill, are tired, included in the list of things that we might be too tired to do, like hang out or run errands, is seek treatment.
We know that it can be frustrating and we don’t mean to seem like stubborn, lazy assholes, but seriously, it is exhausting to try and ascertain why you are exhausted.