Wednesday, July 10, 2013

RA Diaries: What My Doctor Didn't Tell Me -Fatigue

I am 25 years old, and I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. When you think arthritis, you probably think of your grandmas creaky, aching joints because of all her knitting. I didn't know until last year that "arthritis" wasn't just for elderly people.

I have Rheumatoid Athritis, that is actually an autoimmune disease. My immune system for some reason woke up one day in September of 2012 and decided, on its own that my joints were foreign, and they should be attacked immediately. My immune system tries to fight these foreign things by attacking and eating away at my joints like my knees, hands, ankles, elbows, etc. My doctor explained all of this very well when I first was sitting in the exam room, wondering why my elbows wouldn't straighten, why my hands were swollen and typing hurt, why my knees looked like two ballons, and why I suddenly had cankles that were too sore to put weight on.

What my doctor didn't tell me about this disease is the sometimes debilitating fatigue and exhaustion that comes with it. I guess its hard work for my body to be fighting my joints all day long which in turn causes physical and mental fatigue. For the first 6 months, I was tired ALL THE TIME. And even now, I have days of the week where just working an eight hour a day office job exhausts me. I am mentally and physically drained. I used to take a nap literally every day after work. Sometimes I take a "nap" at 5:30 and don't wake up til 6 am the next morning.

I've been feeling so much better due to the medication I am on, I am not in pain anymore, I am finally running again, but the fatigue still lingers. Some weeks I am feeling so good, I think to myself that maybe I don't NEED the Enbrel. I delay giving myself that weekly shot because of the nasty side effects, but then I notice the familar fatigue and exhaustion creeping in if I miss that dose.

I find myself exhausted, which makes me cranky and irritable. When I am tired, I am emotional, my feelings get hurt more easily, I am more likely to snap at the people I love the most, and I don't want to be around anyone, I just want to sleep.

It finally clicked last night. Skipping a does of Enbrel is more that my joints being a little stiffer than usual. Enbrel doesn't just manage the pain, it manages the exhaustion and fatigue by giving my immune system a break from constantly fighting and attacking my joints. It helps manage my mental state by giving me more energy, and helps me protect my relationships. I have to take my Enbrel not only for me, but because the people around me want to be healthy and happy as well.

The Enbrel side effects are challenging, and sometimes I want to skip my dose to delay those side effects. But they're a small price to pay for a pain free body, enough energy to function through life, and a healthy mental state.


  1. :( My dad (who's 50) just got diagnosed with RA and reading this makes me really sad; I can't imagine how hard it is for you being so young. I'm glad you've found a medication that works for you though!

  2. Oh goodness, this sounds horrible. I don't have RA but I do have a different condition and I experience some similar symptoms (especially the fatigue). I admire you for speaking so openly about it, you have no idea how much you may help others going through the same thing. I hope that your medication continues to bring you relief (even with crummy side effects) and I'll be praying for comfort and peace of mind for you!

  3. Hang in there, girl! You are so strong and God will get you through!

  4. I have some autoimmune issues, too, so I can definitely relate to this! Out of all of the symptoms that have gotten to me, fatigue is the worst one. Because it really plays with your emotions and even your ability to be motivated and hopeful -- at least for me. If the other stuff is happening and I'm not tired, it seems way more bearable. I'm glad that you're seeing the connection between these things and the bigger impact it has on you and your life and your relationships. :) I'm still figuring out how to balance it with my friendships. It's all a learning process. :) Thank you for sharing!!


  5. You made me remember how attractive the idea of crawling under my desk for a nap used to be. It's good to hear the Enbrel is working for you