“I’m sorry I can’t. I’m having a crazy tiring day.”
That’s what I found myself saying all too often as I collapsed on the couch before the dishes were done, and the lunches were packed, and the permission slips were signed, and the laundry was finished. I spent 15 years of my life feeling tired, and progressively so until I finally found a solution.
It started during my first pregnancy, and given my body was abducted by an alien at the time, the tiredness was easy to explain away. I would come home from work and get right into bed. My husband was in charge of everything food and house wise then, and it worked, because there were no kids or other dependent living beings in our home.
When my daughter was born, with all her cuteness and wonderfulness, the tiredness was wrapped up in a sleepless delirium. She was colicky and cried all through the night for three straight months. Even when that ended, her 5:00 a.m. wake up time shocked my system, and my tiredness soldiered on.
When I was done with nursing, I handed morning responsibilities over to my husband and declared myself done. But even then, after a full night of sleep and just one toddler activity, I was ready to nap. I couldn’t handle running around the playground or playing tag all day.
By the time the kids were sleeping through the night and entertaining themselves in the morning, the fatigue didn’t make sense anymore. It wasn’t the kids; it was me. And the tiredness only got worse. When they were in grade school, I couldn’t get enough sleep, no matter how many hours I was clocking in bed.
The tiredness was brutal. It was a tiredness that went right down to the bone. Nothing mattered but the promise of sleep. It wasn’t an “I stayed up too late, and now I’m kinda giddy and spacey” tiredness. It wasn’t an “I’m yawning and don’t mind getting into bed soon” tiredness. It was an intense aching to be horizontal. My eyelids felt heavy. My emotions were stripped. I could not feel anger or joy or jealousy. All I wanted was sleep. I would daydream not about a big beautiful house, or advancement at work, or vacation, but about lying down in bed.
I went to so many doctors. All my levels were normal, they said. I asked them to check my hormones, my thyroid, my cortisol. They tested me for Lyme. I’m fine, they said, and sent me on my way. They said I should exercise more, and I deflated inside. I tried, I tried to channel every bit of energy I had for a half-hour of exercise, but then I felt even more drained.
On the plus side, the fatigue erased negative emotion. The only room I had was for sleep. On the plus side, my mind no longer raced in bed, rerunning all the stupid things I had said during the day. I hit the pillow, and that was that. For the first time in my life, I looked forward to bedtime.
But on the minus side, well, I canceled plans regularly and lost all ambition. On the minus side, I couldn’t give my kids much in the way of attention – I didn’t join them in crafts or games or some days, even bedtime stories. I had a sit down with my boss and told him that at times I couldn’t pay attention in meetings because I was so tired. My yawning was out of control. I found myself driving one day in a stupor and worried about our safety.
I tried vitamin D and cutting out sugar and cutting out alcohol. I tried yoga and meditation and sleeping more and sleeping less. If anything made a dent, it didn’t matter, crazy tired or crazy stupid tired; it was all the same.
Luckily, eventually, serendipitously, going back on the pill after 20 some years (aka, hormones) gave me my life back. I still have crazy tiring days, but they are few and far between. And now I know I’m not lazy, it’s not that I can’t be bothered with running around the playground, it’s that something was wrong physically.
COVID times, even with all the frustration the isolation has brought, have been liberating in allowing me to get all the sleep I need because there is never an alarm to wake me to catch my train or a flight. And because my awake formula is a delicate balance of hormones and adequate sleep, I’ve felt perfectly normal for the past four months.
Some day, the pace of our modern lives will hit again, and I will have to become readjusted to days when I feel the heaviness of dragging my body around, but until then, I’m grateful that I’ve had at least four months, and likely much more, of feeling completely normal.