Fatigue analogy

poppies by the roadside

Poppies – 45/52


The lovely @marigold_ recently wrote this blog post about over doing things.
In the comments @Alisoncs makes an excellent point re the intensity of activities – and how this effects fatigue levels. Which set me thinking…

To help explain fatigue, and how it differs from being tired, there’s the excellent spoon theory. That analogy helps others to understand, and also me, a bit, but I still struggle to pace/judge my spoon usage. I often don’t get any warning like Marigold, at the time of the activity.
Payback is usually delayed and can take a variety of forms. Sometimes it’s not until the next day that the amplification of symptoms hits. Sometimes it’s the same day – my body’s ability to regulate it’s temperature fails entirely and I shiver and can’t get warm. The insomnia becomes even worse because I’m over tired, pain increases, I feel nauseous, get dizzy…
But we’re not just talking about physical activities here. It’s physical OR mental – and if its both its a total killer.
Thus – light gardening is more tiring than dusting, a conversation is more tiring than sitting and doing a repetitive task.
I find that sitting upright exhausts me quicker than being in a recliner and laying flat in bed is the lowest on the energy draining scale.
Conversely, being in the recliner and wrestling with a tech problem can be twice as exhausting as sitting upright and sorting out my pills for the week or washing my hair.

I’m starting to try to think of my brain and body like an electrical appliance to see if i can fathom out how much ’battery’ power various tasks take…
If sleep is especially bad then the quality of the power in the battery is that much poorer (and of course there’s less).
Also the quicker the ’battery’ seems to discharge power, the longer it seems to take to recharge.

I was researching online about how to care for rechargeable lithium batteries;

“…designed to deliver up to 1000 full charge and discharge cycles before it reaches 80 per cent of its original capacity.”

So does the cause of our fatigue reduce the number of cycles that our human battery can have before it’s capacity begins to reduce?

“For proper maintenance of a lithium-based battery, it’s important to keep the electrons in it moving occasionally.”

The people who maintain that all Fibro folks need to do is get regular exercise are no doubt nodding along in total agreement to this bit of the analogy. Thing is though that our ’electrons’ are never still. The bit of the brain that deals with pain is constantly active. Its working full out – even when we’re allegedly sleeping. Which is rather the root of our problems…

“If you store a battery when it’s fully discharged, it could fall into a deep discharge state, which renders it incapable of holding any charge. Conversely, if you store it fully charged for an extended period of time, the battery may experience some loss of battery capacity, meaning it will have a shorter life. Be sure to store your notebook and battery at the proper temperature.”

So, I’m in a deep discharge state, my battery has lost it’s capacity to store much energy and the current high temperatures are just compounding all the problems.
Does any of this make sense to my fellow Spoonies?

“When your battery no longer holds sufficient charge to meet your needs, you may choose to replace it.”

Which is what i suspected – I need a new battery, this one has clearly gone through too many recharge cycles…

Battery info from Apple: http://www.apple.com/uk/batteries/notebooks.html



  1. I think there a big difference between being low on energy in the way spoonies are and being tired in a normal healthy way. It’s ages since I looked at it, but Donna Eden’s book Energy Medicine has a lot of interesting ideas and suggestions. I’m think somewhere she talks about what happens when our energy well runs dry – she compares it to an old fashioned water pump which can’t work if it’s not fully primed.

    I rather think that in the absence of any other treatments (or access to our own personal energy worker) what we spoonies most need is complete rest. As in old fashioned Sanitorium rest cure, which used to be the only treatment available for illnesses such as TB. If patients were lucky the rest and care enabled their bodies to recover using their own defences.

    • sounds like an interesting book, i’ll have a look for it…makes sense 🙂
      and i think the sanatorium idea is excellent. rest and recuperation. its all the household chores and feeding myself etc which use up all my energy and as i’ve not much appetite (and whilst the weather is so hot) i often just can’t be bothered – which i know is bad. so yeah, being looked after and resting in nice surroundings sounds like heaven (so long as they could cater for my damn food allergies etc lol. i’m a pain…)

      • My friend Helen & I sometimes play a “fantasy Sanatorium” game when we are chatting on the phone in which we specify ever more outrageous requirements to be met by our convalescent home and its staff. We usually end up giggling like kids which cheers us up even though the possibility of a rest cure remains a dream 😀 .

        • That sounds like a FAB game 🙂 better than the one mum and i play – “Fantasy Home”…housekeeper, cook, chauffeur, heated pool…we get ever more outrageous too…but Fantasy Sanatorium sounds like the perfect game to play on a Marigold day 🙂 hmmm, how about “Fantasy Cruise” a sort of combo of the two? Thanks for the idea 🙂

          • We play Fantasy Home too 🙂 . I also play Fantasy Atelier with another friend where we imagine our perfect workshop/studio complete with awesome assistants who are able to carry out our artwork by telepathy!

          • I think this needs to be a thread at Sustainably creative…? Then we can play together 🙂

  2. Very interesting (and thanks for the mention). I hadn’t thought about the fact that the pain sensors are on constantly. My lymph nodes on the right of my neck are constantly raised these days, which I understand is not uncommon with fibro. So I guess in my case my immune system is also in constant fight mode. I know there is some debate about whether insomnia is a symptom or cause. Given that I had it preceeding other symptoms, from early teens, I do wonder if all that lack of sleep means similarly my system just wasn’t able to discharge enough, and so it started breaking down.

    Complete rest, by the sea, sounds nice, though it might send me stir-crazy!

    • they’ve done MRI’s of that bit of our brains and they are active the whole time, its part of the reason that our memory is effected etc, the brain isnt able to balance tasks/processes in its usual way because theres that section thats unable to switch off. Hence the problems with speech, multi-tasking et al.
      Also we have slightly different bits of out brains react to external stimuli than regular folks and the reactions are different, much more extreme to even the mildest stimuli – which isnt the least bit surprising is it?! I need to find the source of those studies in case i’m misremembering it…know i’ve forgotten lots of it. was really interesting and i recall thinking “HA! that shows all those horrid consultants who claim fibro is psychological rather than physiological.” there are differences in our blood too…but of course all these tests are expensive…

      If insomnia has been a factor since your early teens, that makes sense that the sleep deprivation is at the root of your fibro. i wonder if there are various kinds of fibro tbh. mine was def triggered by shingles (also had a serious bout of chicken pox in my mid 20s) which makes me think viral. but then 90% female would seem to indicate hormonal factors, so wish we/they knew more about it.
      have you been to a sleep clinic or similar? i know some docs think that treating the sleep probs should be the first line of treatment.

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