Fatigue ..is just one of the symptoms ..it does not define you! So work on it…

Does this sound familiar?  You are all set to go to work but somehow feel too exhausted to even move an inch, or just slept without eating as no energy to even make some brunch!

Yes…this is fatigue which has not been easy to measure and conceptualize for Arthritic Warriors as the consequences permeate every sphere of life.  Fatigue is different than normal feelings of tiredness. People describe it as being overwhelming and uncontrollable. They feel worn out and drained of energy, and sometimes even lose all interest in anything.

Reasons I have been told by various doctors could be due to inflammation/swollen tender joints, pain, depression, anxiety, anemia, thyroid problems (hypothyroid conditions), infections, certain medications, sleep problems (lack of sleep due to insomnia), sleep apnea, work schedules or lifestyle, low levels of Vitamin D etc…overall all related to RA condition.

The unpredictability of RA-related fatigue is dominant, pervasive and is experienced as a vicious circle, which can be described in relation to its physical, cognitive, emotional and social impact. Over the years as mentioned earlier the spoon theory is an important tool I have been using to manage my fatigue.

I usually pace myself, avoid going overboard on my daily body limitations and listen to my body. There is a great deal that can be done to reduce fatigue and you may need to try different approaches before you find a combination that works for you. As the inflammation that causes the symptoms is brought under control and as you adapt to the disease, fatigue should become less of a problem. But it goes without saying serious hard work and dedication is required.

Fatigue is commonly reported by patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) but is rarely a treatment target. How do we help ourselves? If you think your drug treatment may be causing your fatigue, talk with your doctor about reviewing your treatment in case certain drugs are causing drowsiness. They can also look for signs of other conditions that may be causing fatigue and check your inflammation or anemia levels when you are doing your regular tests.

I’ve learnt over the years that I can do more as long as I have proper rest breaks. I can actually fit more into a day. Earlier I just went headlong into something and then hit a brick wall.

‘Now I have the confidence to turn and say, “No, that’s beyond what I’m prepared or able to do.”’ Reduce your physical reaction to stress through relaxation so that you feel more able to cope with things you find stressful. Take time for yourself – read a book or have a warm bath, for example.

In my earlier days when RA non-acceptance was at its peak… my RA put various social roles under undue pressure in general, both in the family, among friends and in the wider social network. I put a lot of emphasis on my work life as I felt it affected my identity, social relationships and the sense of normality in my daily life.  After I slowed down and took to patient advocacy role, I have seen women with RA give the highest priority to their professional identity and compromise their leisure time and family time where RA-related fatigue bears the greatest impact. Agree it all boils down to your current economic well being too, but personally out of experience I feel we need to introduce a good blend of both worlds.

The effects of the disease can also change how you see yourself, as well as your role in your relationship, family or at work. Mutual give-and-take is often an important part of friendships and family relations. But rheumatoid arthritis can make it harder to continue to care for others – and may also mean that you need more and more help yourself. Fatigue can affect relationships because it becomes more difficult to carry out plans you make together. Personally I go through such moments and its sometimes get difficult to time and  again explain your condition to people as it sounds like a stuck record! But nevertheless this attitude does not affect me as by now I have learnt to get adjusted to my surroundings and the responses!

We should avoid struggling to manage our fatigue with little professional support, or perceive it to be dismissed, or assume it cannot be treated and that we must manage alone. Being aware of  how fatigue presents in your life allows you to better plan and cope. Friends and family may want to be there for you too, but often don’t know what to ask.  I keep on mentioning that it’s okay to say, “This is a bad day, is there any way you could help with the dishes (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.)?..Go out and get help.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies can also be learned to help cope with fatigue. Some involve recognizing and then changing certain thoughts, beliefs and behaviors that make it more difficult to live with the disease.

Lastly, be gentle to yourself.  As mentioned earlier…Fatigue is just one of the symptoms, it doesn’t define you. There is  a lot more to you then this fatigue syndrome…so go all out and try and work on it…and yes.. you can if you want to!

Stay Safe ..Stay Agile!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *