neon signs showing phases of getting more fatigued

Crohn’s Fatigue and the Rally

Over the past two years, living with a form of Crohn’s symptom remission has been an interesting experience. Not having to experience digestive complications as much has been liberating. Unfortunately, that hasn’t curbed the tremendous amount of fatigue experienced on a daily basis.

Sure, I have more energy overall. However, the fatigue ramps up especially during the last 7-10 days of my treatment cycle. This has proven especially difficult since life doesn’t stop or slow down because you're close to needing your next treatment. Plainly stated, the fatigue is real, and so is the necessity to rally.

Crohn’s disease and fatigue

Having chronic conditions like Crohn’s, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, psoriasis, and psoriatic arthritis I fully understand fatigue. The odd feeling of being awake yet feeling like you’re sleep-walking or moving through a thick fog was a normal thing for me back in the old days. It happens these days too, but far fewer thanks to having the conditions properly managed.

But on the days where the fog is thick, it’s hard to be able to make plans. Even worse is when the plans were made and you CANNOT break them.

Not wanting to cancel plans

You know the situation where plans are made but your body has other ideas. For example, a really good friend’s birthday dinner is on the horizon and they want to go across town to dinner and some bars. Meanwhile, your limbs feel like 100-lb weights are holding them down, everything is achy, and you need to rest but cannot.

Maybe you’re fortunate enough to get a nap in. But wouldn’t you know it, you wake up feeling even more tired than before you took that nap. You desperately want to go and be present for the birthday night out, but you feel like you cannot pull it together. So, what does one do in situations like this?

You rally.

But, how, you ask?

Ways to fight the fatigue fog

Here are some of the things I do to try to help rally and get it together and not cancel plans at the last minute.

Drink caffeine

First, if you’re a caffeine drinker, perform a caffeine check. Have you had your cup(s) of coffee or tea yet? I’ve noticed that when I’m not feeling well, I tend to not drink my morning coffee or tea. By avoiding caffeine I've enabled myself to feel like hot-sleepy-garbage. While your coffee is brewing or tea water is boiling, go ahead and pull aside what you plan on wearing for the evening.

Take a shower

Second, consider taking a hot then cold shower. Yes, showering can be exhausting in and of itself, but taking a quick shower can also help wake you up. I know it sounds like one of those contradictory side effect lists from a medication label, but taking a quick shower can help wake up your senses.

Because I have curly hair, I try to do my wash and conditioning day a day or two before I have plans. This helps me cut down on effort exerted in the shower prior to going out to the special event. I try to keep the shower quick. I start out with hotter water and end it with cool water. The cool water’s shock helps wake up my senses.

Leave time to relax

Another thing I try to do with the shower is timing it so I will have time to dry off and relax before needing to get dressed. I also always build in time to do my makeup. Sometimes, if my energy reserves still have not recovered after the shower, I will need to lie back down.

It sucks and can feel defeating when this happens, but I’ve found it best to listen to my body. If I need to lie down, I’ll set my phone’s alarm for 15 minutes. Anything longer can almost guarantee I’ll never leave the bed (except if Crohn’s calls).

You may be wondering, why not just pop an energy drink?

Why I no longer drink energy drinks

Well, back in my 20s when I didn’t have a handle on Crohn’s disease, I popped sugar-free energy drinks without care. When this current Crohn’s flare first started the fatigue was beyond awful.

I did everything I could to stay awake at work. A typical day would start with 2-3 shots of espresso over ice or a shot of espresso in an iced coffee. At lunchtime, I would have a diet cola or iced tea or another iced coffee. Later in the day, I would pop a sugar-free energy drink. This would help carry me through to the end of work. However, the minute I got home, my body would crash.

When my grandfather was placed into hospice care, I spent about two weeks by his side at the hospital. Late one morning, his cardiologist came to visit. While talking to my grandfather, he kept looking at the window sill in the back of me. He wasn’t looking at the view outside of the hospital. He was laser-focused on my collection of beverages from the morning large iced coffee, an energy drink, and an unsweetened iced black tea bottle.

“Those aren’t all from today, right?” He said with a chuckle. I nervously replied, “They are.” His face changed, not in judgment, it was more like concern. “You may want to cut back on one or two of those, it’s not even 11. I don’t want to have you as one of my patients.”

It felt like a knife to the heart. No pun intended. I told him I would work on cutting back on my caffeine. That conversation stuck with me, and I’ve since eliminated energy drinks from my life.

That’s how I rally with Crohn’s

Managing my time and energy efficiently, along with lightly caffeinating are methods I use to cope with Crohn’s disease fatigue and the rally.

How do you try to rally with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis?

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