Yesterday afternoon I had an appointment with my TPN team at St. Paul’s Hospital and it just so happens that my cousins and their new baby live only a few blocks away from the hospital which means that before my appointment my mom and I were able to stop by for some baby cuddles (and smiles!) which was very fun.
This might sound strange but I found myself really relating to baby Nora. I’ve joked for years that having gastroparesis makes me like a baby in many ways…I don’t do well with solid food, my symptoms are best controlled when I stick to a routine, and everything is worse when I’m tired. Then there are all the similarities between having a feeding tube and being a baby…formula, feeding schedules, liquid medications. Plus just yesterday my dietitian suggested I take Vitamin D drops, the kind that babies take.
Anyway, when we showed up Nora was awake and alert. She smiled a little bit and was really engaged for a short while before she fell into a deep sleep. My mom and cousin started talking about how much energy it takes to grow as quickly as babies do and also how much energy Nora used up being so interactive and engaged for even just a short while. No wonder she was tired.
And then that’s when I had a bit of an ‘ah-ha’ moment.
Simply having a chronic illness and battling with your body all day long leaves you short on energy to begin with. Because of that, I think I notice more clearly and feel more deeply just how much energy day to day life requires. But you don’t have to have a chronic illness to get tired from interacting with other people, concentrating for long periods of time, and keeping on top of everything you have going on. I think we underestimate just how much energy keeping up with life requires.
Since being sick I have a whole new understanding of what tired feels like and try as I might to ignore the fatigue, I don’t have long before my body protests, my symptoms pop up out of nowhere and I have no option but to rest. I don’t have the choice of just pushing through anymore, but I can clearly remember doing so on a regular basis.
I remember back before I was so sick I was always ‘busy.’ When people would ask me how things were going, I would say busy. Busy but good. Busy and tired. And I mean I truly was busy and in involved in a lot of things but it was almost as if being busy and tired was a sign of success. Being tired was a good thing because it meant I was working hard. I would come home from a full day of classes and an evening teaching dance, acknowledge that I was tired and then spend several more hours that night studying anyway. I felt like I had to. Being tired didn’t seem like a good reason to take a break; being tired was more like a constant way of being.
Think about it. I bet you can think of multiple times in just the last week where you were tired yet you ignored it. Maybe, like me, you got irritated with your body for not keeping up. Or maybe you thought you didn’t have enough time to be tired.
But here’s the thing: being tired is not synonymous with being weak. It can be inconvenient and annoying, believe me! I get incredibly frustrated that I don’t have the stamina or energy to do all the things I want to do, but I’m not a lesser person because of that. Being tired is not a character flaw. It’s just a sign that your body is doing the best that it can but that right now it needs a break.
And there is no shame in taking that break. When babies are tired they fall asleep. As far as I know they don’t shame themselves for not being able to keep their eyes open or hold their heads up. Now, I know we’re not babies and that as adults the expectations are different…for example, babies are allowed to fall asleep anywhere whereas for adults it’s not okay to fall asleep in the middle of a meeting at work. Or behind the wheel. It’s also generally not socially acceptable to fall asleep mid-conversation or in the arms of someone you don’t know. And if you’re doubling your weight within a matter of months you should probably get that checked out.
Still, I think we can take a cue from babies. I think we can let ourselves rest more easily.
Of course there are times you have to push through and of course there are times when being tired is worth it. I’m not promoting laziness but I am proposing balance. Being alive is awesome. Learning new things, meeting new people and seeing new places? These are awesome things! But being alive can also be tiring whether you are two months old or fifty years old. That’s just the way it is.
So you know what else is awesome? Letting yourself take a break when you’re tired. If you don’t know how to do this take a look at Nora expertly demonstrating how to take a break.
Now doesn’t that look like fun?
Your turn. Because you know what else is awesome? You are. And awesome people deserve a break.