On Friday was my doctor’s appointment for exhaustion. I felt a bit silly even making the appointment, sounding like one of those celebrities who checks into rehab for “exhaustion” when you know it’s not really that. When I got there, the nurse checked my vitals and then said gently, “so we’re treating you for exhaustion?” I gave her a genteel nod. “Do you have little kids at home?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied. “That’s it,” she said, neither joking nor serious.
The doctor came in and asked me a bunch of questions, each of us trying to decipher why I feel like I’m eighty when I’m only 32. He asked me when it started, what had changed. I started working part-time, my thyroid medication was adjusted. I lost sixty pounds last year. I all but stopped working out recently. I have two rowdy boys at home who never nap, don’t even sleep through the night sometimes. Their energy is boundless which makes my limited energy all the more apparent.
He told me my thyroid adjustment will make me more tired and maybe although I am sleeping I’m not getting good sleep. That much is true. I’m a nervous sleeper – I awaken at the sound of the newspaper hitting our driveway, Tucker barking, Holden as much as turning over or coughing gently. Then I try to fall back asleep, but often instead I am worrying that I’m not getting enough sleep, counting the hours I’ll get if I fall asleep right now, or how few I’ll get if I don’t.
I have bizarre dreams and I wake up thinking they’re real. In a recent dream, I stumbled upon the intervention of a high school acquaintance and I woke up thinking of ways I could help her overcome her addiction. It’s ridiculous, this relationship I have with sleep. Even though I’ve been out of school for a decade, I waken suddenly thinking I have a big paper due and I have to run to the library to print it out before class. It’s like everything I’ve ever been anxious about comes back to me when I sleep and I relive the nervousness each night. Restful sleep, my ass. It’s always fitful.
I told the doctor I have heart palpitations often so he told me in order to diagnose me they would run some blood tests and hook me up to an EKG before I left, then he would analyze those results and see if it’s something easy to spot. If not, and I was still feeling exhausted, they could run more tests but if nothing came out of those, it might be something psychological. He eyed me at this, then, observing my calm exterior added, “but I doubt that would be the case with you.” If only he could see my thoughts, I thought, if only he knew I was fighting back tears that I can’t explain.
The nurse came in and explained the EKG, then hooked me up to wires with stickers all over my abdomen. I thought of my kids quickly, (then morbidly) of how if I died they would be without a mother. A tear slipped down my cheek and I quickly brushed the evidence away with the back of my hand before the nurse saw and noticed I am weak. “If only your kids could see you right now,” she said. “They’d think this was so cool – like something from ‘The Matrix.'” I didn’t think they would think it was cool at all, but I didn’t argue with her.
I left and went about my business, then the next day, I called to get my lab results. My thyroid levels are still off, and I get slightly less Vitamin D than I should, but other than that, I am a healthy person from what they can tell. “See?” Steve said. “I told you you were fine.” I smiled wanly. All signs point to that I should be fine. But people can’t see what I feel and I don’t feel fine at all.