a mild case of fatigue
There are several points of discouragement and mystery occupying my thoughts right now. One is that I have had a mild sore throat now for over two weeks, and just about everyone I know has been sick at least once this February, and it is getting to the point where I’m almost afraid of going to the grocery store, lest a flu virus on the cart handle jump up into my nostrils, or stick to Esme’s little fingers and travel home with us. Every morning I wake up thinking that this will be the day that my sore throat will be gone; I swallow and find it still there.
I have also been thinking a great deal about fatigue. I was at a gathering of women last week– all mothers. My friend Kristy arranged the get-together, and there was a lot of talk and sharing stories of birth, children, and childcare. Listening, I started to realize that motherhood, although universally demanding, does not necessarily leave a woman feeling as if a huge alteration in her health and well-being has taken place since before the birth. I don’t hear this coming from the stories of other women, many of whom are happily pregnant with their second child. I read some things last night about a thing called adrenal fatigue, which can hit a person after a major life event–whether good or bad. Death, the loss of a job, and, of course, the birth of a child were among the things that could trigger such chronic fatigue and adrenal maladjustment. It made sense to me, because it isn’t really the tasks of motherhood that I find exhausting, such as diaper changes, putting down for naps, picking up toys, or mashing up sweet potatoes. It isn’t about Esme, or motherhood itself, which I love. It’s physical. Childbirth itself, breastfeeding perhaps, and the new patterns of sleep have somehow changed me–my internal chemistry, hormones, or what have you. I don’t feel horrible every day, but I never feel more than just o.k., and never wonderful, and it is only now hitting me that this is not quite right, and I should look into what I can do to get back to normal. Perhaps a mild case of fatigue is almost more insidious than a severe one, because it passes under the radar, and after a while its sufferer forgets what it was like to live without it.
A pre-bedtime routine to help me get into bed earlier, remembering to take my daily vitamin consistently, a probiotic perhaps (one friend just tipped me off to that), more raw foods, more fresh air, more sun (oh…wait…no sun to be had), less caffeine, zinc, vitamin D, and a host of other potentially health-giving supplements I cannot really afford to buy from our dear local health food store “The Garden Patch.” Healing begins to feel like pulling myself up by the bootstraps, or toiling up a steep mountain trail, with a backpack full of colloidal silver and magnesium.
But I am trying to remain undaunted; I am trying to take it all seriously, even though, deep inside, I am beginning to hold a more fatalistic view of life and death. I hope it is alright to discuss this, as it is so fresh and terrible. News of the death of a woman who I knew as an acquaintance when I lived in Boston stunned and grieved me a few days ago. The evening after I heard the news, I could not sleep for thinking of her in disbelief and sadness. She was about my age, with a husband and four-month old baby boy, and among the most vibrant people I have ever encountered, and yet she collapsed and died quite suddenly, due to a hidden heart defect. This in contrast to my ninety-two year old grandmother, who suffered three strokes, did not feel quite well for years and years, and yet lingered on and on for so long before she died, just has me bewildered.
I remember a few years ago when the mother of one of my friend’s in Orlando died, also suddenly, in her early fifties. I loved her mother, but after her death my mind kept seeing her kitchen, where there were always bottles of vitamins, herbal supplements, and health foods on the counter and in the cabinets. Somehow this made her pre-mature departure that much more poignant and troubling to me–the thought of her kitchen.
The air outside the window I am facing right now is absolutely dense with a wall of snow blowing sideways. Esme naps in her crib beyond and I should be trying to take a nap too. So many obligations to my body, and yet intangible, invisible, incorporeal thoughts are far more demanding, and on most occasions I am obliged to exorcise them into written words before I can succumb to sleep, which is why I stay up later than I should, staring into the glow of a computer, over-stimulating my retinas, no doubt. I always think I want to be a writer, but the more I read books, the more I suspect that writers are not exactly the healthiest people, probably subsisting on coffee and cigarettes, and preferring nervous, psychic energy to the energy that comes from whole grain bread.
Why won’t my sore throat go away? Is my immune system in such bad shape? Why can’t I care for my body the way I care for Esme’s, protecting her sleep routine with vigor, and fretting over her vegetables, breastfeeding her long past the pediatric recommendation? I have passively accepted my low-grade fatigue for so long now– about a year and a half– carrying on with the basics of housekeeping and childcare, but feeling exhausted at the mere thought of things I used to enjoy, like thirty minutes on an elliptical machine. I hope that I can learn to care for myself better, although sometimes the litany of self-care responsibilities presents itself as a burden whose very weight may just cancel out its benefits and leave more tired than ever.