I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink
I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink….
The Beatles song “I’m So Tired” isn’t about multiple sclerosis. But its lyrics have come to my mind pretty often since I was diagnosed with MS. Outside of an occasional numbness on the right side of my face, fatigue has always been my main MS symptom. And, as anyone who experiences MS-related fatigue knows, it’s not just about feeling tired. It’s about feeling exhausted, beat, and too tired to know what to do next. It’s a defeating and humbling experience.
Outside of lying down and letting it run its course, I haven’t found too many useful ways to deal with that fatigue. I’m typically one to push through illness; I try to work out almost every day, even when I have a cold or a mild digestive problem. And to be sure, sometimes getting out and getting moving combats my MS fatigue. But not always.
I’m lucky that my fatigue occurs only occasionally. People for whom MS-related fatigue is a regular or even a constant presence should consult with a physician to seek ways to mitigate the problem. Sometimes modifying your sleep schedule, managing your exposure to heat, or even minimizing the amount of wearying walking you do can help. A couple of medications are used to manage MS fatigue, too.
But the real reason I’m writing about fatigue today is to remind people what a common and sometimes telltale symptom of MS it is – one that is often overlooked because tiredness is so common. If you think you feel way more tired than you should, talk to your doctor and insist on exploring the topic together. I will never forget the routine checkup in late 2000 during which I reported feeling ultra tired. When the young physician I was seeing asked me how severe my fatigue was, I felt a little embarrassed and downplayed the situation. “Oh,” I told her, “I’m probably no more tired than any other mom with two little kids.”
My two little kids certainly contributed to my being tired. But they weren’t to blame for the depleting fatigue that settled in my bones and made it hard for me to get up off the couch. Nope: that was MS. I just didn’t know it yet.