I’ve touched upon fatigue before in here as part of other posts, but wanted to write a note specifically about it today. There are other things I need to do today, so I will try to be brief.
Fatigue is a very hard thing to describe. I never really had any clue, pre-stroke, although it is a very common (>50%) effect of a stroke. That I never had any idea – maybe that helps a little to describe it? Something I had never felt before. Fatigue is that feeling where you’ve just got to sit down and take a break, which I suppose we all feel sometimes. The difference is that I get this walking from the lounge to the kitchen, or loading the dishwasher. These are probably not very good descriptions, but perhaps I can illustrate it better?
I was no stranger to exertion. I was a keen cyclist. I started too old to be competitive, but had the bikes (plural), had the garb, and put in the miles. I rode anything up to 100 miles per day, went over and cycled in Europe, and so on. Unfortunately, I never got to any real mountains, although there are a few challenges, even round here. You need a certain attitude to hills – anybody who is a serious cyclist will tell you – that you never give up. No matter how slow you get, you keep going forward. Stop, and you’ll not get going again. It’s that feeling of having to keep going despite the tank being empty. Keep Going.
That attitude is still relevant because it is exactly the attitude I need now. Because I feel I’m permanently running on empty. Of course, I do stop – I have to sometimes. Walking is an example – I had to re-learn to use my legs, and immediately afterwards could only walk a few yards. I was fortunate – I could get my breath back just by staying upright and stopping for a while, then starting again. In that way, I knew I could get five yards, ten, fifty, one hundred, with enough breaks in between. Earlier this year, I completed a mile sponsored walk – but don’t get me wrong, it took ¾ hour and I had to sleep afterwards. Of course, it has improved over time, exactly like a child – one day I’ll get to 10 miles, then 20, and so on. But it all hinges on “just keep going”. That’s fatigue – your body screams “stop” but your head wants to go on.
There’s plenty of coping advice out there. “Listen to your body”, “Slow Down”, all of it good I’m sure. But I try and push myself. I try to do things, I set myself goals. I want to sideline the effects of the stroke, to get back to before. A lot of things, I’ve discovered workarounds – it’s different to previously, but the accomplishments are still there. They mean more now.
I guess I am lucky. Some people will lose whole days, because they feel too fatigued to even get out of bed. Even on days where I don’t do much, I still function. I get up, I get showered, I get shaved, I get dressed, I work… And I don’t normally see my bed again for fifteen hours. But to cancel Thursday? Can you imagine?
Of course, fatigue makes its presence felt in other ways. Because I’m more tired, I do less. I’ve gone from XS before, to XL now, although thankfully I seem to have stopped – I guess sooner or later we hit equilibrium. But these days, the sofa is my best friend! I’ll just have to live – or die – with my weight. Many things lose their importance following a stroke.
The cats were good – stroke or no, they wanted feeding. I’m not sure how I managed it, but I’m glad I did. I guess I’m quicker now, and it’s good to get out of the chair.
That’s true of most things. I’m quicker now, both because I’m stronger and more practised, but they still require full power. “Effortless” may well be a word of the past.