When you have spent the majority of your life waking up tired you don’t know any different, in fact I honestly thought that everyone must wake up feeling the same way, boy was I ever wrong!
I didn’t even begin to suspect that something wasn’t right until around 2012 when I began to have trouble remembering numbers that I had only just looked at when inputting data at work. I was literally looking at a form while typing and having to double check everything I was doing which was slowing me down. Or I would read the paperwork that accompanied a payment claim, and had to reread it numerous times whilst inputting the information on to the record.
I had always enjoyed reading and that too was beginning to become more and more difficult. I would read a paragraph and by the time I had started the next one I had forgotten what I had just read, so by the time that I got to the end of a chapter I had only a vague idea of what was happening in the story. For someone who would buy a book a week, some times more than one and finish it this was quite frustrating.
I would use my commuting to and from work time to read and always read for an hour or so when I went to bed, the bedtime reading was the first to go as I couldn’t get through a page without becoming that confused and tired that it was pointless even attempting it any more. I eventually stopped carrying a book with me as it was no longer an enjoyable escape; it was making me feel tired and taking up space in my bag.
It was shortly after this that I began to struggle to get to work on time. I was doing what I had always done as far as getting up, making breakfast, packing lunches for the kids, waking them up for school and then jumping in the shower to get ready for work while they ate etc, but getting out the door to catch the bus or train on time was becoming harder to achieve. I often missed the one that I needed to catch to arrive at work on time and naturally that became an issue with my work, so much so that I had to report to the manager when I arrived every day and I had to call work whenever I was running late. A combination of my failing to leave on time and on occasion leaving on time but public transport not running on time was getting to be too much, the pressure was making me quite anxious to the point where I was having mini panic attacks.
Stress only made me worse, the more pressure I was under the worse my fatigue would be, so by the time that I sat down at my desk I was absolutely exhausted, add to that the gradual above-mentioned memory issues and you can get an idea of how my job that I had loved was becoming very unenjoyable.
I tried everything in an attempt to resolve this, setting an earlier alarm, showering the night before, packing lunches the night before etc etc but nothing helped, so it was time to try to find out what the hell was going on. I made an appointment with my (good) GP, by good I mean the one that you go to when there is a serious health matter rather than the one you go to for a sickness certificate because you have the flu. My GP is excellent and naturally you can’t just ring up on the day and get an appointment as she is always heavily booked.
In January 2013 I went to see my GP and discussed what had been happening, I mentioned the fact that I snored and wondered if I had sleep apnea, which of course would lead to the extreme fatigue that I was experiencing as well as memory issues. She referred me to the QEH respiratory clinic and the specialist that I saw booked me in for an overnight sleep study formally known as a polysomnogram. I had a follow up appointment at the QEH and was advised that I do not have sleep apnea, was told to lose some weight and quit smoking and I would then be fine!
With apnea eliminated she then referred me to a physician who specialised in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), he asked me questions, provided me with a sleep diary to complete, sent a request to the QEH for my sleep results and booked me in for a follow up appointment at which he advised that I did not have CFS. He then provided sleep hygiene information and sent me back to my GP.
By this stage I had seen two “specialists” because of my fatigue and neither one had thought to investigate what else could be causing it. If only one of them had considered narcolepsy and sent me for another sleep study followed by a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) I may still have my job! Unfortunately this was not the case; everyone blamed it on my depression that I had been diagnosed with back in 1998. I was to be seen by many other specialists until finally being tested and diagnosed and how that eventuated will be in the next installment of Waking Up Tired.