Woman with hands on her head with a gauge reading on the low end on her face.

If Only There Was a Fatigue-O-Meter

I’ve been wishing for a fatigue-o-meter. It would be a device that you touch and magically measures and reports on your level of fatigue. In my mind, it looks like a large brass round clock or barometer (or alethiometer—extra points to people who get the reference!).

Measuring chronic RA fatigue

When I hold the fatigue-o-meter, the hands would twirl then settle on my current level of fatigue. I imagine that the points on the dial would change as I discover (mine for?) new low levels of energy. It would be large and heavy. Perhaps I wouldn’t be able to lift it well. It would be kind of awkward and not practically portable. But it would always tell me the truth.

Fatigue comes with self-doubt

I think other people with fatigue struggle with this problem. We start to doubt ourselves. Am I really tired? Am I more tired than I was last week? A month ago? A year ago? A decade ago? How am I compared to the other day? Am I catching up? Am I falling behind?

It doesn’t matter if the answers are bad, I just want to know the truth. I feel worse than years ago - is that true? Sometimes I worry that my life was charged on one battery and my light is flashing. I’m getting low! Where do I find the charger?

As mean as it may sound, the fatigue-o-meter would also confirm what I believe in my heart: that I truly am the most tired person in my vicinity—nearly always. When I hear someone complaining about being tired, I could test them with the fatigue-o-meter then hit them upside the head with it when their results are undetectable and mine are off the charts. Really, I would never condone violence. (Or would I? I’m too tired to say for sure.)

A state of chronic fatigue

When my doctor recently asked how I felt when I wake up in the morning, I cackled. I wake up tired! Seriously, how does a person wake up tired? How is that actually physically possible? Does that mean I am literally a zombie? Should I try out for a zombie show? (How is their health care? Do zombies get a good health plan?)

The energy crisis

I wish I could say I am in an energy deficit. It’s more like a crisis. I dream about sleep. Seriously, I am sleeping and dreaming that I am getting enough sleep. It’s just not physically possible. Perhaps it’s my rheumatoid arthritis (I’m sure a lot of it is) and I’m sure there’s some sleep apnea mixed in for bonus points. But I feel so drained that I worry my imagined fatigue-o-meter would just sigh at me and then throw itself out the window in despair (don’t worry, it’s just a patio outside – we’re on the first floor, so it will only get a little bruised).

If I could talk to my younger self, I would tell me to get more rest. But there was so much fun to be had! Late night concerts! Giggling slumber parties with friends! Travel and jet lag! Now I changed my mind—do all those things while you have the energy.

Pretending to have energy

Now I just try to fake it as much as possible. I pretend I have energy like imagination can influence reality. I put the fatigue-o-meter in a drawer and lose the instructions in the bottom of a cluttered closet. Who needs that thing anyway! It just gets me down. Tells me like it is. Never mind. Better to just do as much (or more than) I can manage on my energy. Too much life to be living! Who cares about fatigue anyway?!

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