I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Sure, that’s a line from a 2000’s emo-pop song. But it’s also the truth.
I’m 26 years old, but sometimes I feel like I’m 100. I am perpetually exhausted. Not your run-of-the-mill, I-work-a-full-time-job tired. We’re talking hit-by-a-bus, end-of-a-month-long-bender tired. The kind where your body feels like it’s being flattened beneath an anvil. A magnet pulling you into the hazy blackness of a deep sleep, no matter how hard you try to fight it.
As I write this, it’s 12:46 AM on a weeknight. I finally just showered. I’m wide awake, full of ideas. Why didn’t this all come to me at 7 PM? Because I was sleeping. Out cold, due in part to high blood sugar. So, of course, my body clock is totally off. It’s a pattern for me: asleep during the daylight hours, awake during the night, struggling to get out of bed for work in the morning.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “I struggle to get out of bed, too!” Or “Same, I was ready for a nap after work today!”
But, you see, that’s normal people tired.
What I’m talking about is chronic illness tired.
Anyone out there with a chronic illness will read this and immediately think, “YES!” A sigh of relief as you realize someone else gets it.
Because that’s one of the hardest parts—that no one seems to understand.
I tried talking to my friends about it recently. That if my body got to choose, I’d be asleep 90% of the time. That I spend most of the day thinking about getting to go back to sleep. That I press snooze 10 (yes, 10) times every single morning and still feel like my bed is pulling me back in. That on weekends, I don’t get to do half of what I want because I literally cannot stay awake.
They tried to be understanding and helpful. “You should start going to bed really early!” “You need some fresh air!” “Work has been really stressful, it’ll get better!”
But it won’t. It hasn’t.
I’ve felt like this for so long that I don’t really remember being a fully functioning, awake human being. It’s definitely worse lately, which is probably due to a few factors (stress, the weather and mediocre blood sugars, to name a few) but the feeling is always present.
I’m obviously not a doctor, but after a decade-plus of being my own pancreas I feel like I’m allowed to make a conjecture. My thought is that the seemingly permanent exhaustion is mainly caused by my type one diabetes and underactive thyroid, but is exacerbated by my depression/anxiety.
I mean, if I were a cell, I’d probably be pretty exhausted too if I spent all day defending myself against my peers. (That’s what diabetes is all about—my own body attacking itself.)
But the mental toll it takes has to have a huge impact. How could it not? Whether I’m consciously doing so or not, I have to always be thinking about staying alive. Constantly planning my every move because of my health. Constantly preparing for the worst. Constantly educating people about my disease. Constantly testing, guessing, calculating and connecting. Constantly pretending it doesn’t affect me. Constantly pretending I’m a normal 26-year-old.
It’s hard enough to kick ass at your job, maintain a social life, be a good friend and family member, stay fit, and do all of the day-to-day stuff as it is. Now, throw in managing a chronic illness 24/7 and feeling exhausted while attempting to do all of it.
I’m sure this post sounds like one big pity party. But honestly, I just needed to get it out. I’ve been beating myself up over it more than usual lately. I feel like a young person trapped in the body of an elderly one, and it’s hard. It gets lonely. I write this stuff not only to vent, not only to educate, but also in the hopes that someone out there will feel a little less lost and alone after reading it.
So whoever you are, whatever you’re battling, I’m here. And I hear you.