Awakening to Fatigue

Motivation is hard to find when tiredness binds

This is a short, emotive personal piece about the author’s daily struggle with fatigue. It was originally published on Medium.

by John Urquhart

I remember a time when I could do without sleep quite readily in some ways. I’d have the usual cognitive deficits of course; in a nearly drunk little funk, ambling amiably about in a diminished dwaible instead of a deliciously awake and alert dance.

But honestly the difference often felt paper thin at best. Perhaps I’m just always a dork — or perhaps I just didn’t use to have to also contend with the crushing weight of fatigue.

It’s not yet clear what causes my fatigue; it could be the year-round allergic rhinitis, which gives rise to occasional bouts of sinus infection. Those cause fatigue. In theory, so can the antihistamine medication that mostly controls those flare ups. And my new GP has finally begun the process of figuring out whether, as suspected for years now, I may have fibromyalgia.

That fibro is diagnosed more frequently in women is an intrigue that does not escape me, given my quietly suppressed lifelong inner gender ambiguity.

Sometimes my day starts quite well. I think that’s the easiest to handle. When the tiredness comes — usually about five hours after I wake up — it’s easy to just pretend that I’ve had an extra busy day somehow. When that’s a lie it’s a little awkward, but it’s management of the dysphoric impact of exhaustion; for me, the sense that others get more energy to do more things can be keen and lead to more fatigue by way of bouts of anhedonia of varying depth.

Anhedonia, for those who found the word unfamiliar, is an inability to experience joy or beauty. Dysphoria is best described for me as an abiding, often non-specific, but easily attaching disquiet, dissatisfaction, or sorrow. Both can bring on fatigue themselves, or at least a malaise of motivation.

When the day starts in pain and deep fatigue, that is when it is hard to find purpose. What motivation is there for a day doomed to quiet failures? To a sequence of usually easily avoided pitfalls? A day when writing will be a struggle, a terrible frustration of inability to successfully wind through the maze of readability in the hope of meeting you, dearest reader, at an Exit to my mind.

And here is how that fatigue feels:

A mind of fog, but with the same certainty and sense of sharpness. So: at once, muddiness and clarity. Memory problems are a natural consequence; I will believe I’ve noted the location of an item but I really haven’t, or I have noted a previous location. The one before the current one.

Which is useless.

Sometimes I can’t even a word, no matter how it feels like it’s right there, on the tip of my tongue, or waiting to flow down my fingers into the screen.

The cold is colder, but heat is impossible to be rid of and makes me itch. And then there’s just the physical muscular despair. The sense that movement is just impossible, a sense that only partially dissipates when thoroughly disproved by virtue of actually moving. But all movement is somehow slower, too. And — worse — adds to the sense of inevitable sleep.

But it’s very hard to fall asleep while I’m in a trough of fatigue. I have to surface a little first…

So. Here we are, perhaps.

My day is hard. I wrote this to say so.

Welcome, maybe, Reader, to the Entrance to my maze.

Today I woke up energised, but wrote this as I faded.

I wish you the energy I don’t have.

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