Covering: Chronic Fatigue

A man sitting at his desk with his head resting on his arms in front of his laptop on the left. A heard of sheep on the right that reads Covering: Chronic Fatigue

It's 6:45 AM. My cats are stirring about. If I happened to leave my cat Rambo out and my bedroom door open, he is likely sitting right by my head with his whiskers just kissing my cheeks. If I was so forgetful to leave Bonsai out, he is likely wandering around the room meowing, for what I can only assume is to hear himself meow. (For what this cat lacks in his tail, he makes up for in his voice. His name comes from the appearance that his tail has been trimmed like a Bonsai plant.)  

I hear my husband stirring about in the bathroom, but I resist waking up. I can hear some background noise that gradually gets louder, and realize it's my phone alarm. I roll over and click snooze and try to go back to sleep. This process repeats at least 3 to 4 more times before I give in and finally swing my feet out of bed. 
A woman with long brown hair wearing a blue collared shirt is yawning and covering her yawn with her hand.

I can categorically say, I am not a morning person, but not wanting to get out of bed in the morning does not equate to fatigue. Imagine with me the feeling that you have when you have to get up at 3:00 AM to get to the airport in time for an amazing vacation. You are just exhausted because you only had a few hours of sleep. That is the feeling I have all day, every day. That feeling for me exists whether I had three hours of sleep or ten hours of sleep.

When you are taking that trip to go on an amazing vacation, you are excited, so you are able to keep your eyes open and focus on the task at hand...getting to the airport, through security, and to your gate on time.

It's not that exciting to just get up in the morning for "just another day". I'm an adult so I know that I have to get out of bed, go to work, and do the things that constitute "adulting". A lot of people might think I am high-energy. Maybe it's because I display a lot of passion for my work, or greet every with the energy perceived of someone who's had a little too much coffee (I can assure you I had no coffee, I'm allergic), or maybe it's because I have a dirty secret--I am covering. 

What is covering you ask? In my own words related to this situation, it is pretending to be ok. For a more precise definition, according to Oxford Languages, it is a thing used to cover something else, typically in order to protect or conceal it. Merriam-Webster describes it simply as something that covers or conceals. 

This might leave you wondering what exactly is it that I am covering? Or why do I have to pretend to not be tired? In simple words, I suffer from chronic fatigue. Now I don't want to confuse this with a condition called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), as I have never been diagnosed with that. (CFS is categorized by the Mayo Clinic as a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that lasts for at least six months and that can't be fully explained by an underlying medical condition.)

With that being said, I have been diagnosed with two medical conditions that do "explain" my chronic fatigue. The first is an auto-immune disorder called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and the second is an illness called Epstein Barr Virus. 

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease. If you are unfamiliar with what autoimmune disease means, it basically translates as the immune system attacking your own body's tissues. The thyroid is a small organ/gland in your neck that basically controls how your body consumes energy. One of the key symptoms of Hashimotos is fatigue. You can think of it like the conveyor belt that sends energy about to all your systems. Except my conveyor belt is like a stubborn cat. I imagine that it's my fat cat, Bonsai, who overeats and won't let my sweet cat, Garfette, eat. 
A grey cat unrolling and eating toilet paper. The image reads I do what I want.

Now, Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) is an illness, but one that your body never gets rid of. In fact, the CDC indicates that EBV is one of the most common viruses. And that most people get infected with it at some point in their life. EBC is what causes mononucleosis or "mono" in young people. (It's also referred to as the kissing disease.) For most people, EBV is not a big deal. But for some like myself, the virus can become "reactivated". Again a key symptom of EBV is fatigue. 

With the basics out of the way, I want to switch gears to the covering my fatigue. If you have ever heard the phrase "fake til' you make it", I would say I think I get a gold star in this skill. For as long as I can remember, I've struggled with fatigue. I struggle with sleep, but a complete lack of energy makes it hard to be motivated many days. 
A woman with long red hair wearing a green sweater with her hands covering her face. Four gold stars surround her.

If you wanted to cover your fatigue you might do a number of things such as greet people with excessive enthusiasm, keep your camera off so they can't see that you are tired, or you might even drink excessive amounts of caffeine to try to compensate.

I've gotten really good at displaying enthusiasm over the years. But it's not uncommon that you might see my fatigue in my appearance or hear it in my voice. I am trying to work on my sleep hygiene to improve my fatigue, I take thyroid hormone replacement, and a slew of supplements including Vitamin B12. But they only go so far, and my thyroid medication is constantly being monitored and adjusted by my doctors. I don't suggest that you start taking vitamins, supplements, or medications without consulting your doctor. After all, I'm no doctor.

But if you suffer from chronic fatigue, talk to your doctor, and find habits and tools that can help you. If you suspect someone you know is suffering from chronic fatigue, try not to comment on the fact that they sound or look tired. Instead, ask them how they are feeling and if there is anything you can do to assist. Give the person the space and time they need. For example, they may need to take a nap to function well in the afternoon. 


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