Sunday, January 15, 2012

Frustrated by Fatigue

I have always been a huge fan of DC Comic’s classic character The Flash.  Ever since middle school when I was given the nickname Flash, my fascination was piqued by the Scarlet Speedster.  He’s fast, wears a stellar costume, and has to be smart:  Hey, he’s one of the few members of the Justice League of America who has figured out that underwear are supposed to go underneath spandex pants!  I was delighted when CBS’ hit show The Big Bang Theory made Flash popular again.  One of its lead characters, Sheldon Cooper, shares a mutual affection with me for this speedy superhero.

I found a flash costume in college and still wear it from time to time for Halloween parties or when promoting a book fair, but underneath the lightning bolts, mask, and red stretchy material lays a woman who wishes she had the boundless energy of her favorite superhero, but in reality, she struggles with fatigue.

This week I put in a rather long day at work, as many of us do, and proceeded to come home and continue working: dinner, laundry, exercise, homework…I finally laid my head on the pillow feeling GREAT for all I had accomplished….until I woke up the next morning, exhausted! 

(I know the description of my day sounds very typical, and it is, which makes this situation all the more frustrating!  I want to ignore with every fiber of my being the estimation that it takes 3-5 times more energy for me to move than my peers, that the internet is littered with stories of young adults with cerebral palsy, also in their mid 20s who are struggling with fatigue, and that I too have occasional days where I’d rather not get off the couch or out of bed.)

I made it through the following day alright, but near the end, a colleague looked at me and said, “Hill, we must have tired you out!  You’re moving half as fast as you normally do.”  I looked at him, knew he was right; I was moving slow, too slow.  When I got home, I climbed into bed, and on the verge of frustrated tears, took a much needed nap at 5PM in the afternoon.  I felt so defeated and angry by this act of lying down, like fatigue had won today even though deep inside of me beat a passionate heart that had hopes of getting more tasks accomplished at home.  

When I woke up, I was still discouraged with myself, frustrated by my fatigue, and filled with heated questions:
  1. Why can’t I do more with my body, life, time, and energy?
  2. Why do I have to battle with fatigue, I’m only in my 20s!
  3. Why can’t I hide my limitations from my peers?  Must I be so transparent?
  4. Why can’t I be a superhero? 
I’m still wrestling with these questions, and if you have any insight on the answer to number 4, I’m all ears!  In the interim, I’ve begun to consider that maybe saying “yes” to rest and welcoming the need to nap on occasion is the way in which I can actually accomplish more.  Perhaps by delaying my desires for productivity one night may in turn give me the stamina I need to accomplish more the following evening.  Perhaps I don’t need to see fatigue as a sign of defeat, but rather as a pathway to restoration.

Do you struggle with fatigue from time to time or frustration with your own limitations?  Do you welcome or resist the need for rest in your life?  What is one thing you could do this week to slow down or delay your own gratification in order to accomplish more in the future? 

Stumbo Family Story


  1. I can't get enough of hearing from adults with CP. What a blessing you are to those of us walking this journey with our children! Thank you for sharing your perspective!

  2. I don't know why this post has touched me so deeply. Maybe because even in sharing your frustrations I see so much hope, understanding, and a young woman who will keep on trying. That is inspirational to me! Thank you so much for sharing your life, what a gift it is for a mom with a little girl with CP.

  3. Hi..
    I just found your blog on Ellen Stumbo's CP connection... You're an amazing writer and this post really touched me. You are so honest, it's really nice to read.

    Keep on encouraging others!! I'm praying for you. :)