Fatigue; Here’s A Great Analogy and Some Examples


 Ken McKim, the husband of a woman with Crohn’s disease likens fatigue to if a healthy person went around chronically sleep deprived (but at least in their case they can sleep extra and improve their situation), whereas with fatigue we can’t.
5 Till 6
He proposes that healthy people do an experiment for one week in which they stay up all night except for 4 hours and the next day do all their normal activities, then when they go to bed set their alarm to go off every hour and stay up for 10 minutes each time they turn it off before going back to sleep.
He says that by the end of such an experiment one should have more empathy as to what those of us with fatigue go through. It occurred to me that this would be a good experiment for all medical students because even with all their cramming for exams they probably still don’t get the full effect of what it’s like to have a chronic illness.
Doctor let down
I woke up this morning and took a shower, and felt alert just long enough to eat some breakfast, but as soon as that was over my energy drained away again. I again felt exhausted and have been finding it hard not to drift off to sleep without warning in the middle of swhatever I’m doing. I go from being exhausted but awake to suddenly finding that I’ve drifted off (only after I’ve done so and wake up).
Atlas Statue
Back when I was seeing the sleep medicine specialist at Emory I was supposed to have a daytime sleep study to rule out Narcolepsy but in order to do that you had to sleep 6 hours first and at the time I couldn’t do it because of the myoclonus keeping me from falling asleep and then once I did, people were tinkering with equipment in my room waking me up because of the noise and light coming in the door.
Looking up at doctors after fainting
Nevertheless I can make a pretty educated guess that the fatigue caused by my chronic illness has alot to do with these sleep cycle abnormalities, particularly the central nervous system problems I have which affect the autonomic nervous system. In order for the brain to function correctly it first must have enough energy. The nighttime sleep studies I had did yield some important information in that my sleep/wake cycle is royally messed up showing Delta waves at the beginning (even before falling asleep) when they are only supposed to be showing up in the last sleep stage.
brain waves on screen
This was also documented in just about every EEG I’ve ever had since second grade when I was first brought to a neurologist because of near fainting spells. Some research has proposed that there may be a mitochondrial component to the severe fatigue suffered by people with chronic illnesses.
in bed
PubMed has numerous papers that have been published on the subject and in recent years there have been more and more scientists interested in this angle. The papers shown under the search Mitochondrial Component to Fatigue will bring up papers you can look through and print out those you feel pertinent to give to your doctor. It is not uncommon for doctors to try to dismiss research as being from “junk science journals” etc., but the papers linked in PubMed are considered fully legitimate professional medical journal articles from all over the world.
GQ Style Doctor
Don’t accept a doctor’s sweeping generalization that because studies were published in foreign journals outside the United States (or outside your country if you live elsewhere) that they are not legitimate sources. There are many fine and well designed and documented studies that come out of places like the Netherlands, Australia, and even Asian countries or India. You’d be surprised where some of the most cutting edge research comes from.
Never Settle
Also, don’t be afraid to write some of the investigators listed on these research teams. They often provide an email address in order to give the public an oppourtunity to communicate with them and ask questions. By doing so you just might find out about important studies that are accepting participants that would benefit people with your condition and these scientists might even have suggestions that your doctor can try to treat your condition more effectively right now!

If your doctor is offended by this and unwilling to discuss these new approaches with you, chances are you have the wrong doctor.

Dishonest Doctor
Remember that if you have severe fatigue you only have so much energy to work with in a day and a truly good doctor will understand this and respect and appreciate the fact that you put in the time to take an active role in your healthcare and bring him this written material. If he/she truly has your best interest at heart he/she will then genuinely look into these options for diagnosis and/or treatment and will take the legwork from there.
Way too often we as patients end up doing their jobs for them because of their stubborness and inflated ego, because they have too much false pride to admit when they need to consult professionals who know more than they do.
Doctors in rounds
This is when the relationship becomes more about their needs than yours and if after trying to present them with this information they reject it out of hand more than a few times, it is likely that they ultimately won’t give you the care you need and deserve.

It should never be OK with a doctor to allow you to suffer any more than absolutely necessary and if there are still options left not to use them.

I had to learn that after I nearly wore myself out because I found myself working harder than my GP at Emory. At first when things weren’t getting completed and questions weren’t answered I thought maybe it just slipped his mind because of his patient load or the time got away from him, but I am very conscienscous about following up and at some point had to face the fact that my doctor was not the benevolent and altruistic person I thought he was and that chances are no amount of education was going to change that.

Any doctor that takes patient reports out of the equation might as well just turn in his medical license right now because he’s no longer acting in the patient’s best interest, he is treating his patient as an inanimate object.

For a chronically ill highly educated patient (which most of us become after so many years) it is imperative to have a doctor who bottom line accepts that this is the patients’ body and that with their being a competent adult over the age of 18 only the patient has the right to make the ultimate decision in treatment. A doctor can only advise based on his training. He cannot be inside your body to prove what your body is experiencing and how it affects you, nor how much suffering you can stand. Objective testing is only a tool and physicians have to realize that it can’t always detect everything beyond a shadow of a doubt. It has its limitations, and the clinical presentation is equally, if not more important in assessing what’s going on medically.
Doctor giving bad news
Prolonged fatigue is one of those symptoms that science does not have the knowledge to fully quantify, nevertheless it is very real and cannot be dismissed as psychological, or irrelevant information. To do so is very dangerous, because fatigue is a very good indicator that something is in fact seriously wrong in the body.
Healthy patients do not have this level of fatigue, and the distinction between fatigue and depression, for instance, is that patients with fatigue want to do things, they wish they could, but just don’t have the stamina. People who are depressed generally lose interest in hobbies and things they liked to do previously.
I can attest to this distinction, as I have interests that have continued throughout my illness and I remain enthusiastic and interested in them. It bothers me when I can only watch them in videos and not partcipate because of my level of illness.  I am fatigued yet I’m anything but apathetic. I love life and look at each day as an adventure!
Inspired Woman
An example is this; I absolutely love snakes and have two Ball Pythons. Many of the people I’m involved with online surrounding this interest travel to reptile shows where they can pick out snakes and supplies and caging for them in-person and meet up. I would really love to do that, but seeing as there are only two a year a distance away outside Atlanta, (in Cobb County) I have problems getting there with handicap transportation, and it tacks at least 2 more hours onto my day including a transfer to another county service if I were to book the trip. (Not to mention it costs double fare).
precariously holding boxes
Then if I were to stay a decent number of hours to be able to see everything, I would be sicker by the time I returned home. If I went in somebody’s car I could leave when I became too exhausted, but on public transit you can’t do that. (A time is prearranged to return and if you need to leave earlier they will not accommodate you no matter how ill you are).
I would love to go to the big reptile show at Tinley Park (in Illinois) but not only am I not able to afford the travel and hotel for several days, the travel itself would be too taxing for me right now.
Another example; I really love art and have been trying to come up with other forms of art I can make that don’t require so much fine motor dexterity and although I’ve found some that are easier for my hands when I actually began doing these projects I found them to be incredibly exhausting and take me much longer than they should. I actually sweat with the effort it requires, and either really pay for it in the several days that follow or have to stop before I get it done. This is very frustrating because my motivation is still there but I can’t complete the task or at the times I do I do it with great negative consequences.
Shoveling coins
My best guess in treating fatigue would be to use compounds that directly address a mitochondrial disconnect, so if any of you reading this find new developments in this area of science please feel free to post them here in the comments, as it might really help others suffering with the same barriers. Please post sources if you can.
Somehow the patient community must get these ideas across to doctors in clinical practice so that rather than disengaging from us when our illness is prolonged they look at it as something worth working on. Even if a cure is not close by, there can be a sense of accomplishment for both patient and doctor by adopting an investigative approach and trying things even if just based on theory.
Sooner or later improvement will likely happen with that type of perseverence. That is better than doing nothing, regarding the patient as hopeless and a “treatment failure”, and just tuning them out. That should never be the response to a complicated case. Just like pain, the continuing fatigue a patient experiences is a signal from the body that the doctor’s job is not complete.

Misunderstood and Misconstrued; That is the Real Crime

Woman Upset on Phone

Aspergers and other forms of Autism were once thought to disappear once a child reached adulthood, but now experts are discovering that’s not so. Many people reaching the age of majority who were diagnosed as children who may have had services while growing up and an increasing number of undiagnosed Autistics have now “aged out” of the social service system and find themselves at a loss as to how to fully function in society.

Quiet shy woman

While Autism exists on a spectrum with each individual presenting differently in both strengths and defecits, there are certain traits that people with this condition generally have in common;

* Difficulty in reading social cues from others in their environment.

* Difficulty in communicating their thoughts, feelings, and intentions to others in a form others can understand.

* Trouble in processing and making sense of the world around them.

Doing the math

* To some degree feeling uncomfortable making eye contact.

Woman Not Wanting Eye Contact

* May have sensory issues, and some don’t like being touched, certain tastes, textures, sounds, and/or smells.

Girl Putting The Puzzle Together

* Literal thinking and impairment in one’s ability to decipher sarcasm, lying, disingenuousness, deception, trickery, two-faced behavior, and in some instances out-and-out meanness.

Pensive girl

* Tend to take people at face value.

Hopes and Dreams

* A strong moral sense of honesty, right and wrong, and justice.


* May come across as odd or accentric.

Accentric Older Woman Cooking

* May have trouble regulating emotions (either appears emotionless as in showing lack of affect in voice or facial expression, and/or the opposite may present itself in that the person may get very upset at times).

Emotional pain

* May have inflexibility in changing one’s routine.

*May have very specific and sometimes narrow interests that are focused on very intently, and difficulty “switching gears” to transition from doing those activities to doing other activities.

Woman Photographer

* May speak long-windedly and circuitously especially about those topics that interest him/her, often unaware of when others lose interest.

* Difficulty conceptualizing opinions widely divergent from their own (once believed to be a lack of empathy, but now recognized as difficulty with a particular type of abstract thinking).

*Repetitive behaviors; known as “stimming”(some of which have the function of self-soothing).

*Co-morbid conditions can include ADD/ADHD, Anxiety and/or Depression (usually situational), sometimes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and more recently a variety of medical conditions are recognized as being associated with Autism such as GI conditions, Dysautonomia, allergies, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Mast Cell Activation Disorder, Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, and other Autoimmune Diseases.

*Often these individuals are vulnerable to bullying by not-so-nice people who pick up on the fact that something is different about them and take advantage of their “blind spots.” This does not only happen to children in school settings, but can happen to adults also in the workplace, the community at large, and even in healthcare settings.


There are a growing number of cases documented of abuse and/or neglect in ERs and in other hospital settings. Staff often lack the training and patience necessary to accommodate such populations and therefore handle the situation very badly.

Treatment or Healing

(Note that these symptoms in people with Autism often become worse when they are hungry, thirsty, or have medical issues that are not addressed in a timely manner. This is why it is especially important to pay attention to these clues and take them seriously. They are not a sign of mental illness nor of the individulal just being “difficult” nor are they a defect of character, but indicate that something is legitimately wrong that needs addressed ASAP).

Medical doctor in white coat

It was once believed by experts that boys were affected at a 4:1 ratio to girls, though some believe the ratio is actually 16:1, more recent data suggests that the accurate statistic is likely 2:1 (male to female) or may be even more evenly matched between the genders.

Dr. Judith Gould of the Lorna Wing Center and Center for Social and Communication Disorders believes that current statistics about the prevalence of girls with Aspergers are under-representative citing a 2.5:1 ratio.

Tania Marshall did her docturate in Asperger’s in females, has published a number of books on the subject, and is currently practicing in this sub-specialty. She has found that it’s quite common for girls to fly under the radar until at least secondary school when communication and interaction among girls becomes more emotionally-based and a social hierarchy begins to develop. Females are better at concealing it and emulating those behaviors that are socially acceptable (referred to as masking).


For those adult women on the spectrum who are now in their 40s and 50s virtually no diagnosis of girls existed in the 1960s and 1970s when females of this age were children, so many women are just now obtaining official diagnosis and having to make up for a lifetime of struggle, misunderstanding, and riducule from those who mistake their condition for something else.

Back in those days nobody believed that girls could have Autism, so other euphemisms were used in lieu of official diagnosis when they were taken to neurologists and/or neuropsych tested. (I have miraculously managed to keep a report I had when I was tested at age 5). 

This is in effect what happened to me. Neurologists have been telling me for years between the lines with statements such as “Your brain is wired differently” and “Your brain’s not hooked up quite right” and when I asked what I could do about it they were at a complete loss as to what to tell me.

In those days there really were no effective interventions or coping mechanisms. With all the stigma attatched and ignorant people out there confusing Autism with mental retardation, I really didn’t want to “go there” having been given the message that this was a family secret that shouldn’t be explored any further and was better left alone. I pushed it to the back of my mind telling myself it must not be true because all the media images of Autistic people were of children wildly out of control and non-verbal 24/7, 365 days of the year. That was not what I was like, but I had some of those problems at one time or another under certain circumstances and alot of the other quirks I had and still have I didn’t know were actually indicative of it.

When things went South at school due to my inability to focus my parents just switched me to a different school to avoid the inevitable questions that would ensue.

Throughout my educational years I was luckier than most in that I didn’t run into much bullying except for at a new private school in 5th and 6th grade in which the girls were especially snooty.


Then in high school I just tried to remain as invisible as I could and other than appearing a bit shy, nerdy, and separate, nobody really suspected nor bothered me.

Sporty Academic Woman

I really thought this was something I would take to my grave as I figured things couldn’t get any worse with my just going on with my life and I was used to coping the best I could. It worked fairly well for awhile and I managed to “pass” except for a period mostly in my late teens and 20s when it was mistaken for other problems for which neither therapy nor medication did much good.

Been there, done that, so thanks but no thanks in case anybody’s thinking of suggesting that, LOL. Good old Dr. H. was and he couldn’t have been more off-target. I received some highly disorganized medical records in the mail at the end of last week which included doctor’s notes.

He and Dr. V’s Nurse Practitioner both floored me with their outlandish interpretation of what was going on with me medically; cynical verbiage that I won’t even dignify here because it is so judgmental and unkind that it’s unbefitting anyone who calls themselves a”medical professional.”


Dr. V’s first entry was pretty bad too, but she seemed as best as I can tell to reverse her opinion once more data became available about my Dysautonomia and I had a chance to disclose to her about the AS. (She did officially diagnose my Dysautonomia after our last visit on June 3rd, by the way, so that’s progress).

I’m pretty sure she’d just automatically gone into the first visit with a bias from what The Dark Man had charted. Even though she’d changed her mind later, it really scares me how easily influenced these doctors are to think the worst of a patient.

It appears that Dr. T steered clear of the pile-on and kept her notes constructive; good woman! ♥

Thumbs Up

These other people were in actuality seeing symptoms of my Aspergers and charting tidbits about my little quirks here and there and interpreting and/or knowingly misconstruing those traits as something almost willful on my part, poking and prodding at it as one would bat at a pinata!


Now I know why they were treating me like some sort of criminal or dangerous individual to be feared and loathed.

Misconstrued as not human

Such is prejudice in its ugliest of forms. And now it all makes sense why the spin they put on it is so ego-dystonic to me, because not only were they proposing something I don’t have in me, but it’s the very antithesis of who I am.

Dirty Rat Creeping In The Dark

It is they who are dishonest and have duped me into believing they were actually trying to help me, smiling and pretending to like me and creating this ruse of positive relationship that I was unable to see through because of my Aspergers!

Corporate hiding behind

I find myself now unable to trust another doctor and I don’t know if I will ever be able to, at least not for a long time, because how can I trust when people are being genuine when they can so easily lie to me with a straight face? How can I know that they won’t write these terrible things again that are so untrue and unfair about me?

Girl Covering Face

When I became really ill with the most recent illnesses, the protracted suffering and stress due to the institutional bullying, slow-down, and stoppage of care that I was subjected to over the past year (especially the past 7 months) caused my AS to become much more obvious.

Crying - close up

I am now at a stage in which I don’t think I can put the Genie back in the bottle. Now there is one more problem that I need to do something about and find services for soon. Try finding services for a 55 year old adult woman in Georgia on Medicare. It’s not easy, and in fact nearly impossible.

Elder Woman Holding Face in Hand

Because of what’s happened at Emory it is no longer stable and manageable and I’m pretty sure this destabilization is permanent. People have no idea what I’m dealing with at home.

You Don't Know

Now that I’ve decided to come out publicly I am trying to embrace it as best I can and use the positive aspects of it with which to cope. Although I didn’t want to open up this can of worms initially I am trying now to make lemonade from these lemons and educate the public so that this won’t happen to others who have to go to the doctor for some medical problem and risk falling victim to such atrocity. Maybe others can learn from my process and together we can make the world a safer place.

In 2013 A UK study published in the medical journal “Brain” began uncovering the differences between males and females who have Autism, not only in how they present symptom-wise, but in terms of brain structure.

The Cambridge research published in this esteemed neurological journal used MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to compare males with and without Autism, and females with and without Autism.

Light-bulb Moment

What they discovered is that overall, males had greater tissue volume, but that females’ brains with Autism more closely approximated the male brain than did Neurotypical females (those without Autism).

However, males with and without Autism did not show structural differences from one another.

Sadness and Shyness

A growing number of experts feel that testing remains behind the times, having been devised to detect Autism in males and that this may account for the under-diagnosis of females on the spectrum.

Many females present with symptoms often mistaken for mental health conditions such as eating disorders, drug abuse, etc…

Women with this brain orientation come from all walks of life. Some are unemployed,

Woman Looking Away

some are professionals,

Health Professional Woman

some are single,

Stay Weird T-shirt

and others are married and/or with children.

Mother with child

They come with all different combinations of skills and challenges. Some look obvious and others, you’d never know unless they told you.

Despite the fact that adult services remain hard to access, there is hope in that more research is being done with adults, and more is being learned about how to cope with it in addition to a growing advocacy movement by and for people with Autism. I will leave you with this beautiful music video by a fellow Aspie woman. Her voice is absolutely lovely. Please share and raise her up.