Managing Fatigue: Sleeping Beauty and the Chronic Beast
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Profile photo of Cynthia Covert

Fatigue is a cruel beast that wreaks havoc in the lives of those of us who live with a chronic illness like psoriatic arthritis. It has no respect in regards to our schedules, plans, or the things we need to accomplish. No matter how hard we work to cage or tame this beast, it always escapes and loves to remind us that it is in control.

Under attack

Fatigue attacks my body in many different ways. Sometimes I wake up feeling pretty darn good and think this is going to be a productive day only to need to lie down for a nap after being awake for just a few hours. Some days it strikes several times throughout a day requiring me to take multiple naps. At times, I only experience an increased level of sluggishness, but as long as I take things slow I am able to check off a few items from my to-do list. My least favorite fatigue attack is what I call the Sleeping Beauty spell. It’s when the beast refuses to allow me to do anything but sleep for an entire day or several consecutive days.

Under a sleeping spell

It’s is like the world stops when I am under a sleeping spell. Nothing gets done; the most I am able to accomplish is getting to the toilet and fighting to stay awake to eat at least one meal. I’d like to say that plans get canceled, but unless I am coherent enough to tell my husband to cancel my plans I usually spend the first day out of the sleeping spell apologizing to people. This is one reason why I limit the number of commitments I make that require my physical presence. One thing I find difficult for those who don’t suffer from fatigue to understand is how it messes with my head. When this level of fatigue strikes my brain turns to mush. I could and have spent an entire day reading a text and still not understand what the other person was trying to convey. And forget about replying to a text, my replies during a sleeping spell look like a hamster ran over my keyboard, they make no sense.

A losing battle

I have discovered that fighting the overwhelming urge to sleep to be counterproductive. When I try to push through it I still accomplish nothing and anything I did had to be redone afterward because my brain wasn’t fully participating. For the most part, there is nothing I can do but to obey the orders of this beast. One thing I do differently than in the past is to be more aware of how hard I am pushing my body on a daily basis. It hasn’t stopped the attacks, but it has shortened the duration of extended sleep spells. Instead of losing weeks at a time I now only lose a few days at a time. Not ideal, but this chronic gal will take what she can get!

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