Rest is a key component in each of our lives. Doctors now say that for each hour of sleep missed by a person, they can lose days off the longevity of their lives. To say rest is essential to normal cognitive functioning is redundant; however, for some exhaustion can become a serious side effect of their invisible illness.
First, I need to dispel some misunderstandings. There is a huge difference between what tired and exhaustion feels like, just like there is a difference between rest and fatigue. Tired is best described as that feeling when you are ready to sleep. Sometimes it can occur while watching a movie or reading a book. This often leads to a relaxed nap and/or sleep. Exhaustion is when your entire body feels heavy. From your head to your chest to your breathing to your arms; you feel incapable of moving or even have trouble paying attention to something. The ‘sleep’ that comes from exhaustion is never enough to shake the feeling. Often those with exhaustion describe the feeling of waking up tired and incapable of even getting out of bed.
Because the rest associated with exhaustion and fatigue are so different than normal rest, falling asleep can feel very scary to many who suffer from this symptom. Falling asleep can mean missing not hours but days. On top of it, even after all that ‘rest’ the person may not even feel any better. This is a double-edged sword though. The body fundamentally needs rest to repair itself. Scientists believe the brain repairs itself each night while you sleep, almost like rebooting your computer. Therefore, each hour lost of sleep puts extra stress on the body and the mind.
This is not to say that rest isn’t necessary. But it is fair to say that rest is a sensitive issue for those who struggle with chronic illnesses. We know we have to rest, but some are afraid to rest, and some are ashamed that they need to rest. Constantly comparing ourselves to what we used to do to our bodies and minds, pushing them to the limits, and doing amazing things makes many embarrassed that they can’t do that anymore. Everyone is thriving. Everyone is doing amazing things, and here I am - sick. Do not though. No one knows what anyone else is going through and forgiving yourself is the best thing you can do.
No, I don’t run half marathons anymore. No, I don’t wear a size 2 or 4 or frankly any pants that aren’t stretchy. No, I don’t go out at night anymore. That is okay though, my body is healing and while it does I have to be kind to my mind. Don’t worry, we rest and then we rise.