Chronic Living

Chronic Illness and Fatigue

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Having lived with rheumatoid arthritis for 26 years, I’ve tried to live my life in the most normal way possible. However, there are days (I call them “frustrating days”) when I get super frustrated because I can’t do things that others can do. I try not to compare myself or feel down, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard.

Overwhelming Fatigue

Last Wednesday, I had one of my frustrating days. I must constantly battle fatigue that drapes over me like a blanket (It’s really difficult to describe to those who don’t have it.) And today it was so overwhelming that all I wanted to do was to recline in my easy chair, watch TV shows, and take a nice long nap.

Most people never know how I really feel from day-to-day. I’d get pretty repetitive (and annoying, I’m sure) if I constantly told people how tired I was. I also don’t want to live down in the dumps; I want to enjoy the life I’ve been given as fully and as positively as I can. It’s not that I’m trying to hide things or put on a happy front; it’s more like I’m resigned to a reality of feeling drained all the time. But it’s only the days where the fatigue is overwhelming that really get me down.

What Caused the Fatigue

What did I do to cause this fatigue, you might ask? All I did was try to workout a little harder than I normally do. I walked on the treadmill a little bit faster and at a slightly steeper angle (not longer), and I took a beginners’ Zumba class. That’s all I changed.

I had been wanting to try Zumba for the longest time, but either my work schedule or the distance I would have had to have driven didn’t work out. However, on Tuesday, everything worked out and I was finally able to go. And after my first class, I can tell you that it is so much more fun than doing those cardio machines at the gym. Believe it or not, the time flew by and I didn’t even feel like I was exercising!

Fast forward to Wednesday. While I have some soreness from trying new speeds and angles on a familiar machine and from doing some new dance moves, that’s not what’s affecting me the most. Yes, my joints hurt some, but not terribly, so that’s not the problem either. I just feel bad – completely drained. It’s like I have the flu, but there’s no cough or fever. It’s even a struggle to find the words to type right now because of the fatigue.

How I Cope

When I’m having a frustrating day, I risk falling into the comparison trap with those who are able to exercise so much more and see their results so much sooner. However, I don’t wish they could do less, I just wish I could do more.

Then there’s this little voice in my head that reminds me of this one important truth: I am created by a loving Creator who loves me. My identity is not in my disease or how long I can exercise, it is in Jesus. Then it reminds me of how bad my rheumatoid arthritis was twenty-two years ago – I was on a ton of medications and none of them seemed to touch it.

So, today, after getting out my frustrations about how I have felt, I am left being thankful. I’m thankful that my Jesus gave me these struggles to teach me many things. I am thankful for my supportive family. Today, I am thankful for the medicine which has helped me beyond measure. I am thankful for the doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and x-ray technicians who I’ve met throughout this 26-year journey. I am thankful for those who have a listening ear when I do need to vent some frustrations. Today, I am thankful that I can still walk, exercise, clean, cook, shop, be crafty, and do so many things that many others aren’t able to do.

We all have frustrations in life. How we handle them can change our view of ourselves and others. Sometimes a pity party sneaks up on you, but we should never linger too long in it. God has given you a purpose in life, and if you’re dwelling on your sorrows, you’re not fulfilling it and you’re certainly not pleasing Him. Always remember that tomorrow is a new day.

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