9 Tips for Coping With Chronic Fatigue
My Daily Battle With Chronic Fatigue
If you were to ask me what Lyme symptom I struggle with the most, my answer would be fatigue hands down.
Lyme fatigue makes me feel like I am sloth trying to run through peanut butter. It does not seem like something scary until you have experienced it.
All encompassing fatigue is frightening, especially when you experience it day in and day out. It makes you feel like you cannot handle life even at its simplest causing a completely helpless feeling.
I cannot tell you how many times that I have gone into a stark raving panic because I was expected to attend an event or just simply go to church. The simple act of getting up, getting dressed and out of the house can take on marathon proportions when accompanied by severe fatigue.
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Desperate thoughts often run through my head.
I often have thoughts like, what will I do if something happens to my husband. How will I take care of my home? How will I take care of my family? It is not comforting to know that you are completely reliant on another human being.
To be quite honest, fatigue is one of the most frightening conditions that I deal with. It has the power to literally knock me flat on my back. I feel so often like a turtle who cannot get turned right side up, floundering around trying to get a grip.
With over nineteen years of experiencing chronic fatigue, I thought I would share with you the few things that have been a help to me. Notice I did not say they solved the problem, they just help to make life more bearable. I have yet to come across anything that will completely lift the dead weight of this condition.
But, in my honest opinion every little bit helps. Each bit of light in the tunnel is an encouragement.
Work a little and rest a little this is the story of my life. My motto has become live to rest and rest to live. If I am not careful, I will completely over do and I will pay for it.
I live with a constant to do list playing in my head. This goes hand in hand with motherhood and family life.
There is always something that needs doing, a mouth to feed, laundry to be folded and in my case a lesson to be taught. I am a homeschooling mother of five so busy has been a way of life around here for what seems like an eternity. Although, busy for me might seem like normal life for someone else.
Pacing has allowed me a small sense of control over my life.
I only have “x” amount of energy in a day. On any given day that amount can vary. I can usually tell from the moment I wake up in the morning just how much energy I have to expend. If I normal person wakes up with 100 allotments of energy, then as a person who suffers from chronic fatigue I will most likely have 25 allotments or less.
I can push myself past that limit of 25 or 15 or whatever my day’s allotment might be, but if I do I will most certainly pay a stiff penalty. It has taken me a very long time to realize my limitations. If I stick within those limits, I will not be as likely to crash and burn afterwards.
I have found that there are limits in all aspects of my life, from social, mental to physical. It has helped me to write down my limits for different situations and then refer back to what I have written when I am having an especially challenging day.
These written reminders help me to put things into proper perspective. Which brings me to the second and third items on my help list prioritizing and simplifying.
Prioritizing and Simplifying
Putting your priorities in order is not an easy thing to do, especially when you are chronically sick. Even the simple act of making a small list gives me a headache. But priorities become one of the most important things in a life filled with limits.
I know what has to be done in a day. I take the things that I know cannot be avoided and put them at the top of my priority list. Things like feeding my children, teaching them a math lesson and doing the laundry. Those things take first priority. Then, I take those same things and think about how I can simplify them.
For example, I know that dinner is a necessary event of every day life. I ask my husband to pull out my Crockpot bright and early in the morning before I have used too many energy allotments. I place the makings of dinner into my slow cooker and walk away. It is dinner simplified. I no longer have to worry about putting a hot meal on the table when the supper hour rolls around and one to do item is immediately marked off of my list.
Simplifying has become a way of life for me. With a little practice even simple activities like folding the laundry can be simplified. Which brings me to my next help, delegating.
Delegate tasks to others.
I live with my husband and three younger children, which means I have the gift of many hands. While I understand that not everyone has a big family, most people have at least one good friend or someone they can call upon in a time of need.
I have learned to ask for help. Even when I feel embarrassed to do so, the simple act of asking for help is a life saver. My children all know how to start a washing machine, fold laundry and cook simple meals, with the exception of my five-year old.
The saying that many hands make light work it so true. I am thankful for my family each and every day. I could not do “life” without them, they are my saving grace.
Substitution and Flexibility
Life is well..life! Something unexpected can and will come up! I have learned over the years that if an unexpected twist throws a new obligation my way, then I must let something else go. It is the only way I am able to handle the unforeseen additions that life tosses my way.
Being flexible is something that has taken a lot of practice for me. I am a little bit OCD when it comes to planning. By necessity, I have had to learn to let go of that. Life never happens in a neat line, things always change at the drop of a hat. I have learned that the less I stress about the small stuff, the less flare-ups I suffer from.
Letting go and letting God comes to mind. While I still need to put this into better practice, the times I have managed to let go have proven to be beneficial to my health.
Taking the time to actually rest.
Throughout the day that do list I mentioned earlier can get away from me like a freight train jumping the tracks. If I am not extra careful I will barrel through my little list and not stop to breathe, all the while realizing that if I were to stop I could most certainly crash. This is bad, when it comes to managing chronic fatigue. I am so guilty of just pushing through and then collapsing.
I have found that scheduling times for rest are completely necessary to surviving this illness. Lyme disease and chronic fatigue are relentless, they do not ever take a vacation. I however, have to take a lot of mini vacations throughout the day.
One of my biggest struggles is actually resting, learning to lay aside the cell phone, the laptop and even my thoughts and truly unwinding. It is a battle to rest.
Clearing my mind is perhaps the messiest battle of them all. That running list is like a broken record. It has taken me a long time to learn to turn off the audio in my mind and close my eyes and unwind.
Deep breathing and mediation are a big help with this.
Watch out for sensory overload.
Light, sound and crowded places hit me like a razor blade. Nothing is more tiring to me than to be in a room with loud music, a television running or a crowd of talking people. I love the peace and quiet of my own home.
I limit the trips I take outside of my home each week. I just cannot handle the stimulation of being out and about anymore. Like the saying says, there is no place like home.
The phrase energy begets energy is annoying to those of us who suffer from chronic, life altering fatigue. After all, If I barely have the energy to move my big toe, how would I gather the energy to take a walk? But, I have found, that if I take even a five or ten minute slow stroll around my home or down the sidewalk, that I do have a more healthful, balanced feeling.
Any amount of exercise, no matter how tiny it seems, can help! Being constantly sedentary compounds my feelings of fatigue, so I try to make it a point to “get moving” a little here and there throughout the day. Simple yoga poses and stretches are good for the body and soul. I by no means break the sound barrier or train for a marathon, but I do “get moving” as much as I possibly can.
Many years ago, I read an article written by a lady who was wheel chair bound. Her advice to young people fighting chronic illness was “No matter how hard it is, keep moving as much as possible because once you give in and stop completely your life is forever changed.” I have thought about that lady quite often when I am in the thick of this fight.
My daily battle with fatigue is one of the most difficult circumstances I have faced, but I refuse to give up and give in. I WILL KEEP ON, I MUST KEEP ON, I HAVE A FAMILY WHO NEEDS ME. I repeat this to myself often. It keeps me motivated to continue the fight, to dig in and really try.
Be sure you are drinking enough water.
This sounds so elementary, but for me I find that the more fatigued I am, I forget to drink my water. Even traveling from my chair to the kitchen is a struggle on my very bad days, so I like to keep a bottle of water by my side throughout the day. This way I stay hydrated even if I am too tired to get up and get a glass of water.
Dehydration is an exhausting condition in and of itself, so stay hydrated! It helps, believe me!
I take a Methyl Folate supplement every day. It was prescribed by my integrative health doctor. I was tested for the MTHFR gene mutation several years ago, which I have. This opens me up for a plethora of health problems including a higher risk of thyroid issues, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. It also contributes to chronic fatigue.
My doctor explained it to me this way, she said, “it is like driving down the road of life and you’re missing an entire lane!” This supplement over time has given me an increase in my energy levels. I would not be without it.
Life with chronic fatigue is extremely difficult.
I hope that some of these tips are helpful to you! While they are not cure-alls or miracle medicines, when you are living with debilitating fatigue every little bit helps. These just happen to be the bits that have helped me.
Until next time, keep encouraged, get plenty of rest and be well!
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