Fatigue is a common symptom amongst those with Chronic Illness
From my experience of talking to people who have a long term health condition, I’ve discovered that there is one symptom that seems to be a common factor amongst many no matter what the nature of the illness. This symptom is fatigue. Although unassuming, fatigue can at times be one of most debilitating and frustrating factors of living with a health condition.
The difference between fatigue and tiredness
Before I talk about why, I feel it’s appropriate to clarify the distinction between fatigue and tiredness. The Oxford English Dictionary defines fatigue as “Extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness” – very straightforward. I don’t think I need to elaborate here. Tiredness, however, is defined as “The state of wishing for sleep or rest.” Let me demonstrate how the difference between the two plays out in my own life. When I’ve been working too hard, doing the gardening or had a late night, I get tired. I can still function (perhaps not as well as usual) and, most importantly, I feel better after simply getting a good night’s sleep. When I’m experiencing fatigue, a full eight hours won’t even make a dent in the intensity of the symptom. In fact, some days I can wake up in the morning and feel even worse. In this extreme state, I do not wish for sleep or rest, I only wish that the feeling would go away and that I could perceive the world around me again as a living human being should.
Experiencing fatigue whilst in remission
Crohn’s, like other chronic conditions, can be broken down into states of flare and states of remission. Interestingly, I’ve spoken to multiple people with IBD who report symptoms of fatigue even though they would categorise themselves as being in remission. I also fall into this cohort. For an explanation as to why this is the case, we’d have to look at various journals/research papers so let’s leave that question aside for today. All I can say is that, due to the inability to be able to understand and explain this phenomenon, fatigue can put a significant amount of strain on the lives of those experiencing it. How do you tell your boss that you’ve called in sick because you’re fatigued? How do you explain yet another refusal to a social outing even though your friends are trying so hard to be accommodating? Where do I find the motivation to keep pursuing my personal goals when it takes twice as much time and effort to achieve them?
My search for a solution to fatigue
My inability to answer these questions has fuelled my search for a solution. I feel a good old series of trial and improvement style experiments is in order. I will of course divulge further details and report on the results should I get any positive ones.
In the meantime, I’d like to hear about your experiences with fatigue. Is it something that affects you? If so what - if anything - alleviates the symptom?