Posted on: July 13th, 2018 by

Art 4

Last week, I had a real treat: for the first time in a long time, I went to the Art Institute of Chicago, famous for its impressionist paintings, among other artwork. On a pitch perfect day, I met a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen for awhile at the museum. We had lunch, laughed, caught up on our lives, sat in beautiful outdoor spaces. Then we went to the galleries with the impressionist paintings and marvelled at what was before us.

Art museums give me a sense of spiritual awe that I can never find in organized religion.

I had to leave at 3:00 to catch my 3:30 train to my suburb. I had walked a total of about two miles to and from the Art Institute from the train station, something I can easily do, as I am an avid walker. Yet, this time, walking to and from the museum was difficult for me. I felt enormous fatigue, and when I got home, I collapsed on the couch and felt 100 years old. I spent the entire next day recuperating from such a tiring adventure, an adventure that, years ago, was an easy feat. And I was disappointed because I couldn’t figure out where the fatigue was coming from.

Art 1

True, having had cancer has caused me fatigue. But something else was wrong. I was over the pneumonia. Then I realized the cause of my fatigue:

The medications I’m taking for depression and anxiety seem to have become less effective.

Every night I have insomnia, and it’s so difficult to get up every morning. If I didn’t have responsibilities, I’d be sleeping all day. I’m depressed in the day and anxious at night.

I no longer find what was my most joyful activity — creating art — pleasant. I used to feel so inspired and buoyed by the masters of art that whenever I’d go to a museum, I’d hurry home to create art. There was nothing so exciting as feeling the brushstrokes on canvas. Now, it doesn’t even feel good to paint, and I haven’t painted in a long time. The truth is, my joy bank has run dry.

Psychotherapy helps, but I’m far from the person I used to be and want to be. I want to feel good painting with my daughter and especially with myself, gaining that sense of flow I used to have.

I am in anguish and despair.

Luckily for me, I have an appointment with my psychiatrist in a couple of weeks, and it may be time — I hate to admit — for a medication change. This scares me to no end because it can take two weeks of hell to adjust to psychotropic medication.

And then there’s the stigma against people with mental health issues. There’s always the stigma. And weighty judgment against me for needing medication. No matter how many people preach against the mental health stigma, it’s there — an albatross around my neck.

I’m taking care of myself the best way I know how. And yet, it doesn’t seem to be enough to lift my spirits. I’ve never been the same since cancer; my brain chemistry has changed.

At the same time, I must not focus on the damage that having had cancer caused my psyche and forge ahead.

I must be brave enough to face a possible change in medication regimen.

I must be brave enough to combat the depression and anxiety.

I must be brave enough to face the stigma daily.

I must be brave.

Have you ever have had problems with depression or anxiety? I’m curious to know your experiences.

Art 2

Art 3

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6 Responses to Fatigue

  1. Elissa Malcohn had this to say about that:

    First, (((Hugs)))

    This may or may not be applicable, but last year I was hit with overpowering fatigue — worse than chemo fatigue. Even after a full night’s sleep I awoke exhausted. My eyes felt as though they were burning and the skin on my face felt too tight, as though it would crackle at a moment’s notice. It all felt very flu-like, but my temperature was normal. By and large my days consisted of: wake up, have some food, nap, repeat. I did manage to work out, but at considerably reduced intensity. Doing errands felt like sleepwalking. When that persisted for a solid week I called my PCP. She gave me a B-12 shot, which turned things around. I continued to get shots for several months and am now on sublingual supplements. My oncologist cited the anastrozole as a potential cause. I was skeptical, but then I learned that several people in my BC support group who were also on anastrozole had experienced the same thing. Two swore by B-12 shots and the third was going to start getting them.

    I say it might not be applicable because I did not feel depressed, though I was understandably frustrated and concerned. However, B-12 might improve the functionality of your medication, such that you wouldn’t have to switch to something new.

    I am heartened that the museum continues to be a source of pleasure, and very glad you had that respite and a great outing with a good friend.

    Again, in case this is applicable — in her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron writes about creative droughts. I’ve experienced them in the past and they are pure agony. But they did not last forever. I hope that you can get relief and that your joy bank is replenished, however long it takes.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Elissa,

      Thank you for the virtual hugs. I never thought of B-12, but it may be helpful to consider it. I will discuss this with my healthcare provider, or maybe even my psychiatrist.

      I’m not on anastrozole any longer, and I’m sorry you had such horrible possible side effects. I’m so glad the B-12 shots and sublingual medication have helped.

      I love Julia Cameron! In fact, I have The Artist’s Way at home. I think I should revisit the book. I’ve been in a creative drought for way too long. And you’re right to point out that I did find the museum enjoyable.

      I guess each of us is like a painting — always a work in progress. Thanks, as always, for your support.

  2. Nancy Stordahl had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    I am so sorry you’re struggling with depression and anxiety and now the possibility of having to switch meds and all the uncertainty that brings. That must be hard and scary too. So glad you have that appointment coming up soon. I think it’s important to remember how much you’ve been through recently. Grief takes a toll emotionally, physically, spiritually and whatever other ways you can think of. And then you had the pneumonia too. I am thinking about you and hoping you find some calm and peace. I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to the art museum. Nothing like art to restore and rejuvenate. Take care of yourself. Thank you for your candor, my friend. xo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Nancy,

      Thank you for reminding me that I’ve been through a lot recently. Sometimes I forget that my fatigue, depression, and anxiety might be due to the really rough year I’ve had, one filled with grief. The grief has been so tiring; coping has been difficult. And you are right: the pneumonia was no walk in the park either.

      Thank you my friend for your encouragement and support.

  3. Kathi had this to say about that:

    Damn. This is so complex and trying. I have suffered from oth fatigue and depression, and it’s so hard to sort it all out sometimes. I hope your psychiatrist is skillful. My biggest surprise was how much it helped to take D3 supplements. But I have to take stock regularly of how I’m feeling. Good luck, Beth. xoxo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you, Kathi. I never considered D3 supplements.

      It is so difficult sorting out the cause of fatigue and depression. Now that I think of it, my fatigue and depression are the result of grief during this rough year, pneumonia, and dealing with emotional health that is trying.

      I’m doing a good job taking care of myself, but it’s not optimal.

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