Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Exhaustion; physical, emotional and mental exhaustion must be a mandatory symptom of chronic illness that we just seem to not be able to forgo no matter how hard we try. Sometimes exhaustion is inescapable, but we can combat it.
Physical exhaustion from the symptoms of chronic illness can leave us at times with very little energy, that even voicing words is too much. As a child, my parents began to understand my hand signs as a communication of my needs as talking simply took too much out of me. But that's not the only source of exhaustion that we've become oh so accustomed to in our daily lives.
Besides symptoms of the chronic illness, associated issues may arise that further complicate how we feel physically. For example, anemia and low B-12 is a common occurrence for individuals with ileostomies due to poor absorption of nutrients. Other electrolytes may also be out of balance that may affect energy levels.
I would be able to be so much more productive if after a day of work I didn't feel completely exhausted of all energies. I seem to have the most energy in mid morning to early afternoon - 9 am to 1 pm. But my energy begins to wane as the day draws on. I'm currently at my most healthy state since childhood, so it's not even only physical exhaustion that overcomes me but it's also emotional and mental. Part of it is because of my job, it by itself is mentally and emotionally draining. But it's also more than that. The stress of chronic illness can't escape any realm of our lives or our beings. Even when we physically feel well, the stress remains and will affect our emotional and mental selves in some fashion, even when we are coping appropriately as well. It's just a lot to bear.
Recharging ourselves as much as we can is a necessity. Taking a break to do something enjoyable or relaxing, meditation, taking a brief nap, talking with others to share daily stresses, volunteering, physical activity and similar actions help to recharge us and shed the stresses of the day so that we may focus elsewhere.
Depression is very draining on the psyche as it continually spirals down as long as the vicious cycle between thoughts, behaviors, and emotions remains constant and change is held at bay. It's depression's nature to lead us into a withdrawn state, so emotionally exhausted that we're almost incapable of reaching out to others, to maintaining communication. Merely speaking is too much energy.
This cycle must be broken though for us to push through and reclaim our lives. Such a simple, yet intensely difficult task of just changing our thoughts, behaviors or our emotions will make the difference to allow for a gradual climb out of the darkness. Anti-depressants, specifically in combination with counseling, are helpful in combating depression and this combination is most effective for despiraling the despair. Additional support resources such as support groups, patient hot lines, summer camps, activity groups are examples of some of many resources available. There are resources specific to illnesses as well as for care giving, mental health, and general.
Arming ourselves with a holistic approach to address each realm we are best suited for the chronic illness of exhaustion that accompanies all chronic illnesses. Keeping our energy levels at a manageable level will help us to keep our other symptoms in better check and will help us to cope with our daily struggles.
This is my life with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis and Short Bowel Syndrome. I was diagnosed with FAP as a child, underwent total colectomy at age 9. I experienced life threatening complications resulting in 4 more surgeries that year and developing medical PTSD. I had an ileostomy for 6 years before having it reversed into a straight pull-thru that also resulted in life threatening complications requiring an additional surgery the following year. In 2021, I required my 8th surgery to remove my gall bladder due to gall stones and FAP. This surgery exacerbated my at the time undiagnosed Abdominal Migraine which is now being treated.