Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Energy-Sucking Nature Of RA

In the past few years I’ve found a few differences between me and my non-arthritic friends (those poor suckers). Most of the time I am able to overcome those differences. I might not be the most in-shape person, but I do exercise. I might not be able to run and play like the other kids, but I still have fun with the hobbies that I’m able to do to keep active. I might have some down days, but who doesn’t? It’s all in how you look at it.

But some things make me very different and I just gotta learn to live with them. Most notably and unfortunately, my energy levels.

I know you can relate.

How many times have you been invited to go out to do something and even though it sounds fun and you want to be with your friends, just the thought of getting yourself ready to go makes you tired. And it’s a difficult one to explain.

Most of the time I just say I’m lazy.

But really, that’s not 100% true. My laziness has little to do with a lack of interest, it’s a lack of energy. And it’s a bummer, but every now and then my energy is zapped and you’re gonna have a hard time getting me up and running.

A lot of things take a lot of energy out of you. Things that most people take for granted. Here’s an example:

The other day I was having lunch with a friend who also had Rheumatoid Arthritis, and we were talking about this lack of energy and how frustrating it is. (Let me tell ya, it’s a wonderful thing having someone who can relate!) She was telling me about how achey and exhausted she was after one night where she hosted just about her entire extended family for the holidays.

Now that’s a lot of people and a lot of hosting and mouths to feed. But even in a smaller version of the same event, it’s still tiring. It got me thinking about how much energy it really takes to do something that might not seem all that consuming.

Like being around a ton of people.

I’m not joking.

Hear me out. You could be in a room lounging with 15 of your good friends, simply gabbing away and laughing about the latest gossip, but keeping up with so many people is going to take some energy. And when you’re working on a lack of energy as it is, that can be difficult at the end of the day.

I started thinking about my days in school, going out with friends, crowded bars and house-parties, and then spending the rest of the weekend recuperating. No, it wasn’t drinking myself under the table that caused the need to rest, it was the fact that it literally takes all the energy I have to handle a large crowd of people.

I had 30-odd people at my wedding reception – perfect and relaxing. Downtown Waikiki on New Years Eve? Nut-house and I gotta go home and rest.

Now I’ve found that with exercise I’m able to bump up the amount of energy I have in the day, which is great. And sometimes I’ll push myself to go out and about even when I think I can’t possibly do so. Sometimes I’ll come back and want to curl into a ball, but a lot of the time I’m grateful that I went.

But these little things help me understand how my body works and how to find that balance. Sometimes I get down on myself about my lack of energy, but when you put things into perspective it makes it easier to live with. Perhaps that “spoon theory” is on to something.

This article was originally written for Achieve Clinical Research, and can also be found here.


  1. I get it. I think the fatigue is the hardest thing to explain about RA. It's the most frustrating part for me to be so tired I can't move. I've been pretty lucky that Humira really works on the fatigue for me but...I've been sick and unable to take it so I have been getting up close and personal with my sofa lately :)

  2. I remember telling my health psychologist that when I have good days (these would be days when I feel well enough to be fairly normal)I begin to feel guilt that I am not working. I begin to question my own disability. She reminded me that the only reason I have these "good days" is because I live my life in a way that I can take care of myself. Which means laying down when I need to, not going out when I feel sick, limiting my time on the computer, asking for others to do tasks I am too worn out to do... BECAUSE I can live this way, I get to have some "good days". I think even WE ourselves underestimate the importance of listening to this fatigue, taking care of ourselves and not giving into the feeling of guilt that likes to creep into our minds.
    Wishing you lots of good, much deserved rest!


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