I am working four days in a row this week at the hospital (I am a psychiatric occupational therapist). I seem to have followed my usual pattern when I work, of getting through the first two days just fine, and hitting the wall on the third day. The middle of the day today, towards the end of a group I was leading, I suddenly became very fatigued. My fatigue presents itself as a very strange sensation, hard to describe. My limbs feel heavy and a little rubbery, and I feel like I am not getting enough oxygen. Its not a feeling of being short of breath, but more like a feeling.of needing to yawn, but the feeling is not relieved by yawning. My head feels like it is full of marshmallow cream.
At that point in my day, I had to finish that group, I had progress notes to write from the two groups I had done so far, two more groups and the resulting notes from those groups (we write a 4-5 line note on every patient in every group), two screens left to do, and treatment team meeting to attend. It seemed overwhelming when I thought about all those things left to do.
So I did as I always do. I remember that I have gotten through this same situation numerous times. Each of the things on my list would occur one at a time, so I could focus on each one, I did not need to think about them all at once. Some of my colleagues know about my health issues, but I seldom ask, or need to ask, for help. I know from past experience that I can get through my day. I focus on the task at hand, and each one gets done. When I am with patients, I am able to focus on their needs, and set mine aside. I doubt that any of my patients can ever tell that I am not at my best. In fact, I may be at my best when I don't feel at my best, because I am consciously concentrating on what I am doing (does that make sense?). I actually get some energy from interacting with them, and I finished my afternoon feeling slightly less fatiguey.
Tomorrow will likely be about the same as today, but I will be prepared for it. I will get a good night's sleep tonight. As I go through my day tomorrow, I will remind myself that I am not working at all for the next two weeks. AA has a saying that just for today I can do what would be unbearable to try to do for a long time. If you think about trying to bear your pain or illness or fatigue for years to come, it seems overwhelming, but if you focus on getting through just today, or even the next hour or the next five minutes, it isn't so bad. Then you can focus on the next day, or hour or five minutes. That is how I will get through tomorrow, and all my future tomorrows.