Fatigue is one of those concepts I find myself constantly breaking up into a few types .
1st) This is the one everybody relates to whether they have MS or not. This is the I just completed a marathon tired. We can all imagine pushing ourselves further and harder in some physical activity. For some, climbing a set of stairs would qualify, and for others it might be a triathlon before this fatigue hits. I think of this as the tired which makes me think, “Crap. I still need some clothes from the drier and a shower before bed. The clothes are in the basement, and my shower and bed are upstairs. Crap. This is not going to happen tonight.”
2nd) This is the intellectually beat down tired. I know if I was the only one to ever feel this way, the programs on TV at night would be far different. After a day planning, talking, pretending to be an interesting adult doing adult things like logistics planning for a family or managing a project at work, my mind shuts down. It starts demanding overtime. I develop this exhaustion from forcing my mind to be attentive all day. I start making mistakes, and comprehending new subjects is more difficult. My memory fades like a chalk drawing in the street during a thunderstorm.
3rd) Emotionally drained. I suspect every parent knows this one. After hours of kids beating on us, whining their milk is the wrong color, asking to play X while simultaneously screaming at their sibling because they don’t want to do the same thing the same way… Even without kids, just caring about anyone or anything takes an energy which goes beyond the energy needed to placate the physical needs. Just caring is tiring. It’s also why the most valuable thing any of us ever give is our love (meant in a more encompassing, classical Greek way).
I think of these three as representing types of fatigue resulting from the draining of three different pools of energy. For me, I need there to be something left in all three. If not I start having to dip into my reserves because if any of the pools completely drain I feel damage to the walls of the pools. If that happens, either it will take me longer to patch and refill the pools or the pools will never again hold as much as they once could. Of course long before that point, one can see the effects of fatigue. Whether it’s a slip and a fall or an inability to have a engaging conversation, one can see the impact of fatigue. I can honestly state MS has limited my ability to take from one pool to fill another. For an example of what I mean, think of a sports player in the 4th quarter. Often the yelling increases and frequently we try to use emotion to give us a needed last physical burst. We all readily drain one pool for another. Some days I just feel like MS has cracked the pipes between the pools for me.
On a related note, I sometimes use the term “soul tired” for those days when I’ve exhausted one or more of the pools, and my reserves have hit critical. I think of it as soul tired, because I assume there is something inside which allows us to push beyond our comfort, to expand upon that which we can accomplish with ease. I don’t know of a better way to describe what it is in us which allows us to push harder and further than any thought possible, to keep going long past saving energy for anything, much less a do over…and then start again because the goal is just that important. Soul tired is when whatever it was, is too tired to be called forth once more. On those days when I have pushed until at the end there is truly nothing left in any tank to refill a pool, on those days, I know what it means to be soul tired.
Before MS and my kids, I don’t think I ever knew what it was to feel soul tired. I certainly didn’t know the feeling. Before anyone feels bad or thinks I feel bad seeing MS and kids sometimes leaving me soul tired, consider what I said above about what allows us to push so hard. “A goal which is just that important” isn’t something we get to consciously pick, but we’re lucky to have one when we do.