Everyone knows about the hangover. Those wretched hours spent wondering if you’re actually dying. The headache – the nausea – the dehydration – the shakes (if you’re as bad off as I was) – the absolute misery of the work your body has to do to clean the toxins of alcohol/drugs out of your system.
Fun fact! The hangover doesn’t go away after a few hours (or even a few days). The hangover can actually last up to a year.
I’m talking about Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, PAWS for short. It’s like the hangover that just won’t quit.
Maybe the headache and the chills are gone, but the brain fog is still there. Maybe the nausea has let up, but your digestive system just isn’t quite right (IBS symptoms anyone?). Maybe you’re back to sleeping okay, but you’re having incredibly, uncomfortably vivid dreams.
It’s all part of PAWS.
PAWS symptoms tend to switch from the physical symptoms normally associated with a hangover to emotional and psychological symptoms. If you’re dealing with PAWS, you might experience the following:
- Irritability, depression, and/or mood swings
- Inability to concentrate
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Chronic fatigue
Fun times, right? All of this is happening because your body is working very hard to repair damage done to it while you were drinking/using. It’s repairing vital organs, resetting brain chemistry, and trying to get hormones and other chemicals back to a place where they’ll function normally – without the drugs and alcohol.
This article, Dealing With Addiction Recovery Fatigue, talks about the heavy toll alcoholism and addiction takes on your body (physically and mentally), and it points out that the body is repairing itself – which takes massive amounts of energy.
It helps me to remember all of this on days like today when I feel like I can barely function and there isn’t enough coffee in the world to keep my eyes open. (Granted, springing forward an hour for Daylight Savings Time hasn’t helped my energy or my mood, but that’s another topic altogether.)
There is another kind of fatigue that I want to talk about too.
Let’s call it Recovery Fatigue.
I’ve been trying, really trying, to live a new life since May 2018. I want more than anything to just be able to live and work and breathe without feeling like I’m constantly at war with myself.
Yes, there is the physical fatigue I’m feeling as my body repairs the damage I’ve done to it. But there’s also this recovery fatigue. This is the fatigue of trying to live a new life – the fatigue of “fake it til you make it.”
All too often in the past week, I’ve found myself in a puddle of self pity wondering, when am I going to make it? When is this going to get easy?
If it’s not the alcoholism/addiction, it’s the eating disorder. If it’s not the eating disorder, it’s my bipolar disorder.
I found myself talking to my husband a few days ago – expressing my desire to just be normal. To not have to deal with all my disorders. To be able to wake up and not feel crippling anxiety or the weight of depression or the surge of mania. “I just want to be normal,” I said.
He didn’t have an answer for me – just a hug. And my husband gives the best hugs. It actually made me feel a little bit better.
Maybe whining for a little bit was what I needed. Maybe admitting that I’m not okay with not being okay was what I needed to do.
And you know what? I’m tired. I’m tired of going to therapy. I’m tired of going to meetings. I’m tired of taking medication. I’m tired of trying to be open about what I’m thinking and feeling all the time. I’m just flat out, straight up tired.
But the fact is, I’m not okay. I’m struggling with some deeply rooted psychological issues that could very well kill me if I ignore them.
The “pink cloud,” that euphoric wonder and happiness at starting a new life, is gone. Now I am trudging through each day, taking it one day at a time, trying to live life on life’s terms.
When does it get easy? When I stop trying to control it. When I turn everything over to my Higher Power and relax. …I’m not very good at that. I still think I can use willpower to beat my addictions. I still think emotions are things to be controlled and suppressed rather than felt and processed.
In other words, I’ve got a long way to go before anything gets “easy.” I’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of me, and now is not the time to fall into fatigue.
Whining about wanting to be normal is not going to make my problems disappear. Hell, even “normal” people have problems. Like the old verse says, I must run with patience the race that is set before me. It’s the only race I can run – might as well run it to the best of my ability.
No more whining.
The images in this blog post are “danmalas” created by Kathy Klein. You can read about her and see more of her work over at Bored Panda: https://www.boredpanda.com/flower-mandala-danmala-kathy-klein/