First, The Why.
Really? Fatigue can be managed? I have to say that in the beginning I did not fully buy-in to the idea of managing my brain-injury related fatigue. Honestly, I didn’t have the necessary awareness or insight to understand why this might be a worthwhile endeavor. Fatigue was just a part of what I had to deal with and/or “fight with” in order to do what I wanted to do. Initially, after my accident I had support from others in the rehabilitation setting to determine when my brain needed to rest. When I was discharged from inpatient therapies, there was a shift to my family for that support and they tried, but I resisted. Not only because I was a brain-injury survivor, but also extremely head-strong (or pig-headed), a teenager who knew most everything, and back-then I wasn’t really interested in what was best for my brain – I was going to return to doing exactly what I needed to do to succeed in life. I had been working my way into college and by-god that was where I was going. It never occurred to me that the best way to succeed in life was to respect what my brain needed to heal. Imagine that.
Even though I didn’t do much to manage my fatigue early on – I did manage to get accepted by CSU for the fall semester following my high school graduation. You see, I missed the second-half of my senior year because of the accident and rehabilitation, but graduated on time because I had acquired enough credit. My doctor and therapists were against me taking a full-time load the first semester, but I couldn’t receive financial aid unless I did. I realize that most therapists, (especially Speech therapists) are cringing at the previous statement – as well they should – but sometimes people need to fail to gain increased insight and awareness. (I’m also aware that there is something called errorless learning which is utilized in the acute setting for brain injury survivors – and might be useful for some beyond that), but I needed to learn the hard way… and I did. I don’t recommend this on the grand scale in which I put myself – but I do think that failure (in the most structured way possible) can be a very good thing.
I didn’t actually fail out of school; but I struggled mightily with not only the workload and my grades, but also being socially appropriate and “fitting in” with the other kids. Why? Many reasons (which we will talk about later) but one of the biggest reasons was FATIGUE. I was tired all the time and usually fell asleep after classes every day. Somehow, I managed to get most of my homework done and attend most classes, but I also spent A LOT of time sleeping – which doesn’t fit in with most college kids. That was my freshman year. After 2 years of trying to fit in with other “normal” college kids, I was burnt out and I went home to Denver. I still didn’t do much to manage fatigue.
Shortly after returning home and enrolling at CU Denver, I finally began to accept that I wasn’t going to return to who I had been. And that hurt…bad. That’s when the depression really took up residence.
So, long story longer; I now wonder if I had done more to manage fatigue earlier and set myself up for better success – would I be a mentally healthier person now? We’ll also talk more about my mental health later (which I’m just so excited about – NOT) but I don’t want to lose my train here – fatigue management. It’s important for your health and success. If you don’t do it, you will probably regret it later. Hopefully, I’ve convinced someone.
Next, we’ll address the various ways to approach fatigue management. I don’t know if I’d be in a better place now if I’d used some of these techniques sooner, but I wish I had.