Monday, November 10, 2008

A Steep Uphill Battle: Dealing with Fatigue

We go at it every day. It's a never ending good against evil kind of battle for control over my body. It's me versus the fatigue.

The biggest problem I have with MS is the almost constant fatigue. That weary, run-down feeling that makes you feel like you just want to fall over and makes it difficult to get things done. Everyone gets fatigued, but I have it no matter how much or how little I do. It's there, making me feel like I just ran a marathon when all I did was walk across a room.

I work against it, fighting to do the things I want to do and need to do. It resists me every step of the way, slowing me down or making me want to collapse on the couch. Every once in a while I give in. Most of the time I plow forward, fatigue be damned.

The reason I push myself and fight the fatigue is because I want to maintain as much power as I can over my body. MS can make you feel powerless sometimes.

It's not easy to stay upbeat when you're dragging yourself around. Or having to plan every little activity and limit the number of things you can do in a day just because you're easily tired.

I've learned to live with the fatigue. We'll never totally get along, but we have to coexist. I have things to do, and I cannot let fatigue stand in the way of that. Maybe working full time is not an option, but I still have plans and goals I want to shoot for.

Working against fatigue is like walking up a hill. As you go up your body begins to resist, every step becomes harder, and the higher up you go, the more strength it takes to move your body forward. It can be a struggle, but if your mind is in the right place you can overcome the fatigue and make it to the top of the hill.

In dealing with fatigue, I've learned the most important thing to do is maintain a positive attitude. Fatigue is a challenge, but it's not a barrier.

Also, it's necessary to strategize. I've broken it down into the following key areas:

Time and energy management. Time and energy are two precious commodities for me right now. They're both limited. My energy is like sands running through an hourglass sometimes. With less energy, it can take more time to do things, or things may have to be cut short because I don't have the energy to go on longer. I've eliminated words like "rush" and "hurry" from my vocabulary when it comes to physically doing things, because I don't have the ability to do that anymore.

Sometimes I need to set aside a block of time or reserve some energy by resting up before a big task or trip. I always have to remember though that it may not be possible to set anything in stone, and of course to never, ever overdo it.

Organization. Managing fatigue means running a tight ship. With limited time and energy to work with, planning is a must. Daily activities are mapped out, shopping lists are made, time of departure is predetermined. No whims here. No energy for that. It's not just get up and go.

Schedules can be hard to stick to, though, so it's necessary to prioritize. The tasks that don't meet the 'must-do' criteria get pushed to another day.

Rest and refuel. Since I have yet to find a medication that will adequately suppress my fatigue, I pretty much have to work around it. Vitamin B12 helps somewhat. Mostly I find I just have to go with taking little rest and refuel breaks when I need them to get through the day.

I think that's something everyone can benefit from. We run ourselves down sometimes. And even when we chug energy drinks, we still end up hitting a wall. Taking breaks during the day is a must.

Who's in charge here? Above all else, it's important to remember who's boss, and it's not the fatigue. Staying in control is of the utmost importance. Sometimes I feel like a drill sergeant. We'll rest when I say we rest! We'll go where I want to go and do what I want to do!

The bottom line is that I don't let fatigue take over my body without a fight. MS may have placed limitations on me, but when it comes to the things I can still do, I will continue to do them on my own terms. I relish the fact that I can still do the everyday things that need to be done, and even if I could get someone else to do them for me, I wouldn't want to. That would make me feel helpless.

Focusing on the bigger picture. Sometimes in life we have to make adjustments in order to stay positive and maintain contentment. Accepting things that we can't change is part of that. I can't change the fact that I have fatigue, and I'm faced with the challenge it presents.

Accepting things doesn't mean giving in. It's about finding ways to deal with them. It means staring down the challenge, whatever it may be.

Meeting challenges head on and fighting that uphill battle takes strength and determination. It means taking control of the situation and never backing down.

I can't back down. Otherwise, I'll never make it to the top of the hill.

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