Thursday, August 18, 2016

My MS Symptoms Top 10 Countdown - #7 Fatigue & Lassitude

With over 80% of people experiencing it, fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of MS. It has definitely been a major symptom for me, and one of the most persistent. There are two different general categories of fatigue in MS: fatigue caused by other MS issues and lassitude.

Fatigue Secondary to Other MS Issues That I've Experienced:

  • fatigue from not sleeping well, from frequent nighttime waking from nocturia, or because of chronic nerve pain
  • fatigue arising from extra efforts needed to do normal tasks, like walking
  • fatigue from depression
In other words, this fatigue is not unlike the fatigue anyone feels when they aren't sleeping well, or they're depressed, or they're working too hard. While all those examples of fatigue have been big challenges, the worst kind of MS fatigue and the one always with me, is called lassitude.


Lassitude is almost always there, though it's worse some days than others. Some days it completely colors my world in a shade of gray. It's a soul-sucking overwhelming kind of fatigue. It's waking up after 10+ hours of sleep and feeling utterly exhausted. It's being completely done in by normal activities like showering or grocery shopping or working. It almost always gets worse as the day goes on, and it generally worsens with heat and humidity. Lassitude is feeling weary and listless and sluggish without any good reason to feel that way. It's being too tired to think straight, to speak coherently, to understand what someone else is saying.

This kind of fatigue is almost impossible to understand if you haven't experienced it. It can be a lonely feeling. If I mention to people that I'm tired or worn out or exhausted, I often get back some kind of immediate response like, "Oh, I know! Me too!" and some kind of comment on how there is x, y, and z on their plate and it's all so tiring. It's not that I think those aren't valid reasons for being tired and it's not that I don't believe that they truly are exhausted, but usually, if I express that I'm exhausted (I tend to not really express much of the truth about how I'm feeling to most people...I'm usually "fine" or "okay") I mean I'm in a deep, weary state of total lassitude. As my baseline. So things like showering and working and living take more out of me than there is to take. There's a little immature, tantrum-throwing part of me saying in my head, "you don't even know tired!"

I'm considering deleting that last paragraph, as there are a few people in my life who are now going to be extra paranoid about ever telling me they are tired after reading this. Please don't be, dear ones! I'm not bothered generally by people telling me they're tired, it's just the times when someone's automatic reaction to me telling them I'm tired or exhausted or worn out is to (even if not truly intentionally) try to out-tired me. Sorry, folks but I'm very competitive, and the tired-off is a competition I always win. ;-)

How I deal with the fatigue:

This is a challenge, and there's often not a whole lot I can do. I occasionally take medication to try to give me a little extra oomph, but I dislike some of the side effects and it's not really all that effective anyway, so I try to limit it to when I have a stretch of big, long, extra tiring days.

Then, there's the ever-present challenge of balancing the spoons. On the days when lassitude is at its worst and I wake up with less than a normal day's worth of spoons, I have to carefully decide how I'm going to expend my very limited energy. I'll delay going to the store, put off cooking something elaborate or even cooking at all, not work as much as I probably should, and definitely not take a shower or do any cleaning. I'll rest and I'll try to be gentle with myself, instead of berating myself for being "lazy." I fail at that last part, more often than not.

The perhaps counterintuitive regular exercise thing helps a tiny bit, but I'm not always good at following through on this. Back in the day, I used to feel energized by a good workout, but those days are long gone. Getting a little bit of regular activity does help overall with my energy levels, I think, but I never feel that burst of energy after a workout like I used to. I miss that feeling. Yoga and meditation help a little as well, though maybe they help more with how I deal with the fatigue on a mental/emotional level than helping with the fatigue itself.

I don't know what this is (is this a Pokemon thing?), but this gif sums up lassitude well:
Oh, my tail's on fire? Okay. I just can't right now.

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