Flavors of Fatigue

As my energy returns, I am a kid in a candy shop – excitedly rushing here and there, poking at each new shape or bright color that passes through my field of vision.  I can do that and that and that.  I look at the abundance of energy in my possession, and think – how could this not be enough for everything I ever dreamed of?  It is so much more than I have felt in 17 months!

It is easy to forget that every resource has boundaries, limits.  Having been energy “broke” for the last 1 1/2 years, I have forgotten how to ration it.  No, that’s not right – I am a expert at rationing my energy.  It is… I have forgotten how to manage excess energy.  Energy for use by my own person, in whatever way I want, without consequences to my basic ability to function in the future.

Fascinating concept.

My first response was to live like a teenager.  Stay up too late (cuz I can!).  Stare at the computer for hours on end (cuz I can!).  Read all evening (cuz, yup, I can!).  That ended as I have come down from the clouds and realized that – although I have more energy, I still need to manage it to feel okay.

One notable change has been my experience with fatigue.  I still get fatigued, but it is so different than what I have experienced for the last 17 months it almost doesn’t deserve that title.

Let us compare.   Here are a few of the flavors of what I will call my classic brain injury fatigues:

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Brain fog fatigue:  A wet blanket weighs heavy on my head, making thought difficult.  The brain machine tries to function, but the blanket binds in all the gears, gumming the works, ceasing production of useful thoughts.  I feel stupid and slow and my thoughts move like molasses.

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Clueless fatigue:  So tired at my core that there is no energy to keep my moment-by-moment experience in context .  If my attention slips for one second, I might forget where or when I am and what is going on.  No energy to understand or remember what someone is saying.  I am alone – no input can be received because the brain store is closed due to lack of staffing.  If I try to communicate verbally, almost invariably my mouth stutters, my sentences are basic and the descriptive words I choose are not quite on target.

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Painful headache fatigue:  As the name implies, I have a wicked headache.  Often it pounds in time with my heart, or pinpoints into areas of intensity so strong I grasp my forehead, my eye, the back of my head, anywhere trying to stop the pain.  It often lasts for days, sometimes weeks.  Life is miserable.  Usually it is caused by carrying something too heavy (e.g. a 25 lbs can of cat litter <!!>) or exercising when I’m too close to the limit of my energy supply.

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Overwhelmed fatigue:  This one isn’t pretty.  My world becomes full of things like: life sucks, I can’t do anything right, I am disappointing everyone who ever lived, people hate me, I am worthless.  That is my reality.  My ability to cope with emotional difficulties or frustration shrinks drastically.  With little provocation I burst into tears, raise my voice, or want to break everything nearby.  Adding more hours at work seems to cause this gem.

And, now, introducing new flavors of fatigue, unknown for the last 17 months, courtesy of acupuncture wonderfulness:

can-stock-photo_csp24546158Well used body fatigue:  This is a satisfying tiredness experienced in the body after doing something physical – say, weeding the garden.  The brain is clear.  The body is functional.  The muscles are tired, perhaps a bit achy, but could still perform if needed.  I picture my muscles lounging in an arm chair with a beer in their hand.  Yes, they could get up and move the furniture… but they’d really rather not.

thMEDF29JMNot enough sleep fatigue:  Body is functional, but experiences a constant, delicate weight…a sagging that does not undermine structural integrity. Brain is functional but tired – it’d really prefer not to do anything too difficult.  Yes, it can handle day to day interactions fine, work, conversations and the like.  It just keeps thinking longingly of a nap, or being somewhere in a restful situation.

billy-roundhead-relaxing-clipartEnd of day fatigue:  A sense of satisfaction from a day full of activity, tasks completed, memories made.  The central core of physical energy is still there, but muted.  The brain providing suggestions of soft surfaces, snuggling, sleep.  Yes, I could watch a video on tv, or stay up late chatting, or make an evening run to the grocery store… but probably I should go to bed.  Maybe… I mean, I can still function tomorrow if I don’t.  But, really, it is a good idea to take care of myself and all.

Gotta say, I am very happy to wave goodbye to my brain injury fatigue and say hello to functional and fun fatigue.  Since I started acupuncture, I haven’t experienced the wet blanket brain fog.  My positive life experience has doubled in the last week, just from that moving out of my life.  A blessing.  Are all my problems gone?  Nope.  I still have memory, balance, and word choice challenges.  But moment by moment life is so much better.

There is a confusing side to all of this, too.  I use to be responsible for a small resource of energy, with only about 2 or 3 options per day available.  That was the level of discretionary activity I had based on my resources.  Now… what are my limits?  What is too much?  What are natural, healthy experience edges and what are continued head injury fatigue?

I guess the only way to find out is to explore, to use trial and error.  How will I know when I reach my limit?  What will be my new “tell” if it isn’t a brain fog?  I have no idea, and I am looking forward to finding out.  Blessed be.

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