I’ve often wished that there were more accurate, and more fully descriptive terms for those symptoms that are experienced, on an extended basis, by those living with chronic illness.
Without a doubt, the use of the term “fatigue” comes to mind. Of course, we have all experienced feeling tired. Feeling tired might be experienced after putting in a long day’s work, engaging in physically strenuous activities, and failing to receive a decent night’s sleep.
Fatigue in chronic illness, despite bearing the very same name, is both qualitatively and quantitatively different. It is a total body give-out, a complete and utter sense of debilitating exhaustion, and an indescribable sense of overwhelming weakness.
Fatigue secondary to MS is the single most important reason why I am no longer able to continue to work full-time, despite having invested an enormous amount of time and money in obtaining my doctoral degree.
After a brief period of being relatively productive, I routinely “hit the wall.” I feel like I have absolutely been run over. It is not optional to keep going at this point, regardless of how interested I may be in any given activity, or its relative importance.
I absolutely must find a place to lie down and rest. This type of utter exhaustion is nowhere like the type of fatigue that I used to describe experiencing in the past, before I developed chronic illness.
Debilitating MS fatigue impacts my ability to effectively and efficiently process information, too. I’ll admit that I have experienced very severe periods of depression, due to the extent to which fatigue has profoundly disrupted my functional capacity.
Each and every day, there exists a huge chasm between all that I wish to do, and the reality of what I am realistically capable of achieving. I continue to struggle with believing that others simply think that I’m lazy, when I fail to accomplish all that I set out to do.
Others not being able to see the severity of this persistent symptom is an ongoing, frustrating experience for me. A recent conversation with my neurologist addressed my newly treatment-resistant fatigue.
For the past 15 years, I have taken Provigil, twice per day, to treat my severe fatigue. Unfortunately, I have now developed tolerance to this medication. Due to concerns about raising my blood pressure, my Provigil dose can’t be safely increased. Offering validation for those who are similarly struggling is very meaningful to me, as is providing education about the invisible, enduring impact of MS fatigue.