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Man sunken into couch in exhaustion. There is a cloud representing exhaustion, brain fog, and heaviness around his head

Legit Beat

Denial is a powerful coping mechanism. Sometimes the depth of a tragedy is too much to bear, and denial allows us to slowly accept the harsh reality we’ve just been dealt in tiny bites small enough they won’t choke us. At the same time, denial can also prevent us from seeing the truths we need to acknowledge in order to heal and be healthy. When it comes to my body’s needs, I’ve struggled for decades with denial.

Fatigue and rheumatoid arthritis

Fatigue is my body’s call that I most often deny and ignore. For most people, “fatigue” is something experienced rarely, perhaps while having the flu. For those of us with rheumatoid arthritis/rheumatoid disease [RA/RD], it can be common, intense, and debilitating. Even though fatigue is a symptom of RA/RD, it can be easier to downplay than the in-your-face symptom of pain. When I’m fatigued, I may wonder why I’m so deep-down tired. When pain is shooting through my hip or knee, I have zero doubt of the cause.

Differences in how I address pain versus fatigue

If pain is like Tigger jumping in front of my face when I least expect it, fatigue is like Eeyore: heavy, sad, and sedentary. I know better than to try to jump on Tigger’s back and wrestle with him, instead taking a rest during extreme pain, waiting for the surges to calm down. However, when fatigue sets in, if isn’t completely debilitating, I usually don’t wait for it to calm down. Rather, I still try to yank, push and pull on that Eeyore symptom, hoping I can make it budge with another cup of coffee and sheer determination.

What type of tired am I?

In my ongoing efforts to be more in tune with my body, more honest about my limits, and kinder to myself, I’ve started trying to work through the denial of my fatigue. Now, when I’m tired I’ve begun asking myself which of these types of tired I am:

Sleep-deprived: This happens if I stayed up too late, slept fitfully, and/or woke up too early and couldn’t go back to sleep. Coffee and/or pushing through may do the trick if I can get quality sleep afterward.

Worn down: This occurs when I have been expending too much energy and pushing against the limits of what is a healthy amount of activity for me. Personally, this is often a combination of typical tiredness and RA/RD fatigue.

Legit beat: This is the term I’ve started using for significant levels of RA/RD fatigue. This is when I feel like I’m on another planet where the air is thicker than earth’s, where each movement in this dense atmosphere requires significant effort, and I’m wearing an extra bulky spacesuit that makes each step harder. When I am feeling this level of fatigue, I need rest.

No longer denying the symptom of fatigue

I came up with the term “legit beat” to stop denying the severity of my symptoms and instead validate what I’m feeling. When tiredness crops up, rather than try to push through I’ve started examining it with a bit more self-awareness. I say to myself, “What type of tired am I feeling?” If I didn’t sleep well the night before or the weather is changing and I’m feeling the effects, I might be able to power through for a little bit longer. At other times, when I do a fatigue self-check, the result is, “You know what? I am legit beat and I need some downtime.”

The importance of listening to my body

There are times when no good will come from powering through, and honoring my body’s calls for rest is what is needed. For whatever reason, “legit beat” is the phrase I need to give myself a break and heed my body’s call. There are all kinds of ways we talk ourselves out of listening to our bodies, so to counter this I’ve started trying to develop some better ways of listening.

Do you also struggle with denying your symptoms? Have you come up with phrases to help yourself and/or others better understand your reality? I’d love to hear your experiences!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Cynthia Ventura moderator
    2 months ago

    Tamara, you are once again, “legit on the money” direct nail hit. I love how you break down the different types of tired you are feeling. I’m definitely going to start doing the same. Love your description of being, “legit beat.” Thank you once again with your insights. You just a magical way of nailing it every time, Fondly, CynthiaV, Site Moderator, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    1 month ago

    Oh, thanks so very much, Cynthia! I appreciate that. It always makes my day to hear that something is helpful to someone else. Validating my own symptoms has been very helpful to me, so I hope it will be for you and our community as well. All the best, Tamara

  • NPEOttawa
    2 months ago

    I think that there is another cause of fatigue. Depression. I know that I have a lot of sadness, anger, and frustration at what is happening (or not happening with the latest drug) and mostly I cope. But sometimes I don’t seem to have the strength to fight and feel that there is no point in even getting out of bed. It’s hard to get over that kind of fatigue. I have learned to recognize that and find the strength to ask for help from professionals when that comes round.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    1 month ago

    Hi NPEOttawa,

    Thanks so much for pointing out the intersection of chronic illness, fatigue, and depression. These three certainly can compound one another, and sometimes it is hard to know what is increasing the other. These do so frequently go hand in hand, and I really appreciate you highlighting that, as well as sharing the help you receive from professionals. I too seek assistance for my own mental health needs, and this is an important component in my self care.

    Appreciatively,
    Tamara

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    2 months ago

    Tamara,
    I also love your Tigger/Eeyore comparison! I am so glad you posted this piece. I think all of us tend to push too much and then pay the price.
    I do use coffee, some days more coffee. It helps me get through work. However, I rest as often as possible. Once I get home, I’m usually in for the night.
    Keep listening to your body!
    Mary Sophia

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    1 month ago

    Thanks Mary Sophia, for sharing and for the wise advice. All the best, Tamara

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    2 months ago

    I usually do not deny my symptoms. I am far more likely to moan and complain. This might be called man flu.

    So how do I get people to understand? Look at the previous statement about man flu. I am not yet successful. But I like your list. I am mostly caught with the lack of sleep.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    1 month ago

    Rick, you once again deliver a smile and a chuckle. “Man flu.” 🙂 I appreciate your humor and commiseration so much, Tamara

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    2 months ago

    @tamara “The great thing about Tiggers is….” there’s nothing great about Tiggers! LOL Not in this instance, anyway. I absolutely love the Tigger/Eeyore conundrum you’ve set up in this piece. Someone should do a dissertation on it, a fascinating dichotomy. I think we all deny our symptoms from time to time. Love it. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    1 month ago

    Thanks Daniel! I appreciate your comment and encouragement. All the best, Tamara

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