How Regular Exercise and Routine Help Combat My Chronic Fatigue
To see change, a columnist learned, she was the one who had to make a change
Lying on the couch, exhausted, and face down in a slump: That’s my most lasting memory from the days just before my diagnosis. I remember lying there with only enough energy to turn my head to let my eyes wander. As I scanned the living room, my mind began to ponder.
How had I made it to this point in my life?
Just months before, I’d been running, jumping, and sprinting for netball preseason training. And yet there I was, collapsed in a tired heap after just 10 measly minutes of walking on the treadmill. In the space of a few weeks, my energy levels had been whittled down to almost nothing. They felt so depleted that making my way from my bedroom to the couch took a concerted effort.
Something felt wrong. And it was.
With my diagnosis came both validation and despair. I felt relief in knowing that the problem had a name, but naming it hadn’t alleviated any of my struggles. As the months passed and the medication worked its magic, a lot of my symptoms dissipated, but the fatigue stayed put.
Crying to my mum in the car on the way home one day, she gave me a dose of tough love. If I wanted things to be different, I needed to do something different. Doing the same thing and crying that my situation remained the same weren’t going to change anything. If I wanted things to change, it was up to me to take the first step, to attempt to make them different. She was right.
Reaching out to an old classmate from high school, I arranged to have a personal training session. I’d spent months resting and conserving my energy, to no avail. If taking it easy wasn’t the answer, maybe it was time I tried the opposite.
Over six months, one gym session became two. A couple of months after that, I added a weekly session of Brazilian jiu-jitsu training, and a while later, another.
In the beginning, it was always the same. I’d add a new activity to my schedule and spend the next few weeks to a month paying for it handsomely. Each week, I’d wake the day after, limbs heavy, struggling to open my eyes, knowing that I’d overdone it. But I persevered anyway, and in the long run, it paid off.
Through years of trial and error, I’ve learned two key things:
- If I start slow and continue to push through, over time my body will adjust.
- My biggest ally in combating fatigue is routine.
It’s been six and a half years since I was diagnosed, and I’ve felt fatigue in some capacity every day since. After the first year, I came to terms with the fact that fatigue, like lupus, will be my lifelong burden to bear. I’ll spend the rest of my life adjusting my days to its constant ebb and flow.
Some days are good, some days are great, and some days it takes effort just to breathe. The latter has become less and less prominent, and for that, I largely credit a schedule with regular exercise at the same time every week.
My body doesn’t deal well with change. It could be something as simple as a public holiday or a sudden, drastic change of weather, and I’ll be hit with a pang of fatigue. More than anything, my body needs routine and stability. To operate consistently, it needs to know what to expect.
When I stay within my routine, I’m capable of working a full-time and part-time job and doing freelance writing, on top of exercising almost every day. Should I venture outside that schedule, I’ll need the rest of the week to reset, recuperate and recover.
As I get older, I’ve become one of those “boring” people my younger self couldn’t understand. I like things tidy, in their precise place. I like my weekdays to look the same, every week. And if that makes me boring, I’ll wear the label with pride, because boring means that I can run my life the way I want and need.
Six and a half years ago, I lay on my parents’ couch, exhausted and hopeless. Every now and then, I still have days like that. No day is perfect, and I still fight to open my eyes every morning when my alarm goes off. But because of my “boring” routine, I get to live the life I’ve always wanted, despite my chronic illness.
Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.