My summer was, in a word, hectic. I moved, traveled to five states, and worked at three different summer camps, all while I maintained my full-time job. Naturally, when I started becoming really tired, I wasn’t too surprised or concerned. I thought that it was normal to be tired from doing all of these things. And, usually, it is. I was run down, and it just made sense.
Fatigue, however, is not normal. And unfortunately, I learned that the hard way, by letting it get really bad before I did anything about it.
I first noticed that something was weird when I was not able to sleep through the night for a few weeks straight. Usually, I’m a pretty heavy sleeper. But even though I was so tired, my body would not shut off. It took a toll on me in every imaginable way.
In the past, I could run five miles a couple times a week. However, this past summer, I could barely walk half a mile to the train without my legs feeling sore for hours. My muscles always ached like I had just lifted 100-pound weights. I rarely felt “good” for more than a few hours at a time.
I’m usually a very empathetic person, and all of a sudden I felt nothing, even after hearing startling or upsetting news. I found it difficult to focus on anyone or anything except how tired I was. I didn’t remember the things that people told me, which was frustrating to both me and them when we tried to have conversations. I was often frustrated and impatient with myself and with others, and it made me think that no one wanted to hang out with me (even though I was never told or shown that outright, thankfully).
Work was extremely difficult. Simple tasks that I would easily do daily became difficult. I craved mundane and repetitive work, when usually I do a million things at the same time. Why? Because I felt like that was all I could do.
My memory took a toll
At summer camps, I couldn’t remember my campers’ names after having spent days with them. Yes, there are lots of kids at camp, but I’ve worked at camp for years, and this was never a problem before. Even more concerning? When I looked back at the end of most days, I couldn’t remember anything that I had done that day.
Anxiety, and depressive symptoms
These were also at an all time high, and besides minor anxiety here and there, I had never felt these types of symptoms before in my life. I never wanted to get out of bed, and I constantly had anxiety about whether this would go away, or if I would ever feel okay again.
As you can imagine, I tried everything I could think of to fix it. I drank endless cups of coffee to make me feel less foggy, I took naps whenever I could with the vain hope of revitalization, and I spent my weekends, days off, and nights doing as little as possible.
When I’d tried everything I could think of to no avail, I became very concerned. This wasn’t a normal tired, I eventually admitted to myself. I was sure that something was wrong. I started calling it “fatigue” instead of just “tired,” hoping that someone could give me an answer.
Well, people gave me answers all right.
“You’re not eating well. “You’re not exercising enough.” “You need to sleep more.” “Well, you’ve been doing a lot. This is totally normal.” All of these were things I heard way too often. Or, more annoyed answers: “I’m tired too, you’re not the only one working hard,” and “you’re overreacting, it’s all in your head.” I found myself Googling “symptoms of [insert malady here]” way too often. So I stopped telling people, for fear of sounding crazy or dramatic.
And I decided to do something about it: I had blood work done, and it came back positive for Lyme disease. How I felt when I got the results back was the most scared and relieved I’ve probably ever felt in my life. The diagnosis explained all of the things that I was feeling, and I’ve since started antibiotics and feel a thousand times better.
I didn’t have the tell-tale signs of Lyme disease: the bulls-eye rash or the fever. If I did have a fever, it was low-grade enough for me to work through. So really, the fatigue was the only sign that I could go on. I wish that I hadn’t ignored that sign for so long, because this problem could have been resolved much sooner.
The thing about fatigue is that it looks normal to an outsider. You walk and talk like you always have. No one really notices anything except that you’re tired, and maybe moodier than usual. But in your head, you know that something is different. It’s not dramatic. It’s necessary for your health to address fatigue.