I hurt. A lot. Like, a lot of the time. And it’s one of those things that sneaks up on you, because your back goes out or your knee starts doing something wonky or your head just starts to feel, on the regular, like someone has taken an orthodontic rubber band and wrapped it around your skull in some misguided attempt at jerry-rigging a brain corset…so you go to your doctor and you’re like, yeah, so, this/that/the other body part hurts, and they say, “Well, do you feel fatigued?”
There is LITERALLY no way for the mother of two young children to answer that question in a manner that provides any sort of clinical relevance whatsoever. Like, YES, asshole, I’m fucking tired. Who isn’t tired? Are there actually people out there who aren’t tired? Who are these people? Do you have a heavy object I can hit them with, repeatedly? Because they suck and deserve to have bad things happen to them.
But apparently I’m more tired than I should be. That seems to be the consensus of the doctors I have met of late. After a relatively pointless New Years Day ER visit last year that got me a shot of demerol for a spazzed-out trapezius, and a series of unsustainably expensive “gentle chiropractic” visits to address a piriformis spasm that left me walking like I had a piano strapped to my back, I ended up with an appointment last summer to have my hyperextended knee looked at. And the doctor on call, who I had never met before, kindly told me that I was channeling all my stress through my body and needed to find a more productive outlet. “You need to find a better way to deal with stress,” he said, in a way that sounded, in the moment, considerably more condescending than sympathetic. I wanted to punch him; instead, I started laughing hysterically and burst into tears. “Oh, OKAY!” I said, rolling my eyes. “Do you have any particular ideas?” He sent me to physical therapy, which, although I love my physical therapist, really only added more stress! Because now I had to find times to fit weekly PT appointments into a family calendar that basically consists of “Husband: works from 8 A.M. to 7 P.M. weekdays and essentially on and off all weekend; Child #1: school occupational therapy speech therapy behavioral therapy movement therapy special needs gymnastics TV & iPad addiction, feed somehow, bathe somehow, toilet somehow, periodic meltdowns; Child #2: neglected; Mother: fetal position when not driving Child #1 all over town and utterly failing to live up to needs of Husband and Child #2.”
There’s this thing that comes up a lot in articles about parenting, and books about parenting, and pamphlets about parenting that you get at your kid’s well-child pediatrician visits with a little clip art lady with her head in her hands on the front…it’s this checklist item called “Self Care” and it’s about taking time out to take care of yourself, do something you enjoy, let yourself exist independently of your mom identity…basically find a way to make your life look like a yogurt commercial for an hour or two a week. This is not a concept I have ever been able to make a reality in my life. I was reminded yet again of this particular failure by a rheumatologist I saw recently. He asked me, very casually, as he was washing his hands, “So, what do you do for fun?” It was almost like he was making small talk, but he wasn’t; it was diagnostic. Because someone who is healthy should have an answer, any answer. I didn’t. I was stumped.
The other question he asked that stumped me was similarly simple. It was, “When was the last time that you can remember that you were not exhausted or in pain?” Silence. System error. Null set. The denominator cannot equal zero. The limit does not exist. THE LIMIT DOES NOT EXIST.