One of the worst things about autoimmune illness is the lack of energy. It makes everything else worse, and it saps time like nothing else. Be that as it may, I think we’ve talked about fatigue and how to deal with it enough times to put anyone to sleep. So, instead, let’s have some fun and talk about some of the crazy things that happened to me because of fatigue.
You may not think that a lack of energy and fatigue does much besides make life more difficult, but it can also make you exhausted. It’s that exhaustion that can result in some, let’s call them sticky situations. Now, I look back and can laugh; but when they were happening, it wasn’t as amusing.
Fatigue + pain medication = grapefruit??
Back when I was first put on the big boy pain meds, the fatigue really began to hit me. The combination of the RA exhaustion and the drowsiness caused by the narcotics made for a pretty volatile combination. Or not volatile. The opposite. It got so bad at one point that something quite embarrassing began to happen – I’d fall asleep in the middle of conversations. Now this may sound like just a silly quirk but there was another part to it – as I fell asleep while talking, the flotsam and jetsam from my half-conscious brain came spewing forth, a geyser of nonsense that was quite unintelligible. The first time it happened was during a conversation about wedding planning with my ex. When asked a question about some wedding minutiae, I suddenly said, “and don’t trip over the grapefruit.” She didn’t quite know how to respond, as anyone probably wouldn’t, and it took me a second to realize that gibberish had just tumbled out of my mouth.
It’s a very unique feeling, realizing that your mouth just said something that your brain didn’t tell it to. It’s like, “What the h*ll did I just say,” mixed with “What the h*ll is my mouth doing?” I was taken aback and for a second I considered playing it off as an attempt at humor, but it soon became apparent there was no way to spin “don’t trip over the grapefruit,” as there weren’t any grapefruits present and, also, we were sitting down. Yeah, it’s difficult to work that phrase into a conversation when you don't actually have the fruit in front of you, so I had to come clean. So I just apologized and said I had no idea where it had come from. She never forgot about it.
Unpredictable RA fatigue
As with most guys, my friends and I love to give each other a hard time. All in good fun, of course, but if you do something once it’s likely you’ll get guff about it for a long while after. So as it happened I was driving my car somewhere with a friend in the passenger seat. As I’m driving along the parkway, I see that our exit is ten stops away. Suddenly, as if I was watching one of those middle-school filmstrips about proper hygiene, the world skipped and I was just five stops away from our exit. I looked over to the passenger seat and my friend had a look on his face like he had just seen a ghost. I said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “Dude I think you were asleep driving for a few minutes!” I instantly realized why the world has jumped like a needle skipping on a record – I wasn’t entirely conscious for five whole exits. It was terrifying, but part of me was impressed I was able to drive so well in my semi-awake state. My friend, on the other hand, was ready to get out and hail a cab. I assured him it wouldn’t happen again, and that even if it did I wouldn’t know until after anyway. We made it home safely, but he still brings it up from time to time – “Remember that time you drove while you were asleep and almost killed us?”
We’ve seen that falling asleep from the exhaustion component of fatigue is amusing and terrifying, but it can also be humiliating. The last one I’ll share with you still embarrasses me when I think about it, and I’m sure you’ll see why. It was a few years before I got married when I was still living the bachelor life. I met a wonderful girl at a bar, which is like real-life Tinder where you swipe right by buying someone a drink. We hit it off and left together. When we got back to her place, nature took it’s course as they say, and we ended up in her bedroom. She excused herself for a minute and I did the usual guy things – made sure my breath didn’t stink, made sure I had everything I needed within reach, and then I waited. And waited some more. She was taking a bit longer than I expected ... next thing I remember is waking up to a girl I had just met scowling at me in an outfit that didn’t leave much to the imagination. Needless to say, the mood was officially killed despite my excuses. So I left humiliated and unsatisfied and, to no one’s surprise, I never heard from her again.
Using humor to cope
We talk all the time about fatigue and the horrible energy drain and how we do our best to fight it every day. I thought I would be a nice break to take a look at the lighter side for a minute. It’s not like we don’t talk about the heavy stuff much of the time. Sometimes this crazy illness can give you a good laugh (it just takes a while to see it that way). Keep up the good fight and, as I sit here yawning, I’ll say talk soon.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?