"This illness is to fatigue,
what a match is to a nuclear bomb.
It's an absurd mischaracterization!"
~Laura Hillenbrand

December 20, 2007

Tired vs. Tired

Photo (C) M. Pruitt 2007
Costume copyright belongs to Columbia Dance

Tired... Fatigued...Exhaustion...weariness...

These are words that are grouped together in my thesaurus... but do they really define how we feel?

I know that I am fatigued - more so than at other times... but I hadn't thought a whole lot about how it differed from fatigue I experienced before I was sick.

It struck me this week though - how different it is. Bill and Ellen got home from the first late night of Tech Rehearsals for Nutcracker. Both of them were exhausted - fatigued - very very tired. As we flopped into bed - I suddenly remembered that tired the feeling.

I probably experienced it the most that year that I was Mrs. Walbridge (Clara's mother) and Ellen was Clara. Not only did we stand and work and dance and rehearse for 7-8 hours straight, there was the 1/2 hour drive home and then we had to get Ellen's very straight hair, gelled and rolled for the next day of Clara curls. That week, I would flop into bed exhausted, and I awoke exhausted and did it all over again.

But as Bill and I went to bed this week - I realized my tiredness is different. It's hard to describe - but it feels really different to be fatigued, but not from activity. There's a flu like component. When I awaken, I feel sick - like I've stayed up at an all night party. It's a really different "tired" and I wish I could come up with a different word for it!

Last night, at Ellen's Dress Rehearsal for Spanish, we found out that the Mouse King might not make it to the School shows today (they perform for school children). They needed a stand in and I seriously considered doing it.

I came home and watched the video, tried some of the movements to make sure I wouldn't hurt myself and planned how I could pull it off. It's only a minute and half on stage... a sword fight with the Nutcracker. But dancer call was 7:30AM. I figured I could do it with a huge push and lots of one day meds.

But then, as I went to bed... I began to think about the whole week. Yes, I could probably pull it off... but at what expense? Most likely, at the expense of the rest of the week. Did I want to sacrifice the whole weekend of Nutcracker for one 1.5 min part on stage?

Well, if you've read my last couple of blogs, you know how much joy I'm experiencing, in watching Ellen dance. I decided it wasn't worth it. In the days before illness, I could push and be tired. Now, I can push, but then I've got nothing for days. That's a different kind of tired!!!

On a positive note... I am so glad that I can still push and do special things - even when they do cost me!!! But for this week - my push is a slow and steady one... trying to get myself to the Theater as much as possible to watch my beautiful daughter. I stayed home this morning - but I'm planning on watching Cast B (Ellen is Doll) dress rehearsal tonight!

I hope these blogs have done just a little to bring you all with me to the theater, because I love Nutcracker time. I am so blessed to have such a talented daughter who loves me and includes me in her joy of dance. And I am blessed to be able to get out of bed and watch rehearsals, and give input on the staging, and take pictures to store these memories.

I'll close with a big THANK YOU! Thank you to God, thank you to Ellen, and thank you to Jan!


  1. Hi Melanie!
    You described "sick fatigue" very well! I have always groped for a description of that overwhelming feeling that isn't at all like a healthy person's tired. My explanations always seem to fall short. You are so right that a "push" comes at such a high cost. And there is a flu-like element to that cost. I applaud you for describing that so well and for pushing through it to do what you do. For someone with sickening fatigue, just going out to a rehearsal is akin to winning an Olympic medal. The enormity of the triumph is lost in the mundane nature of the activity, but it is no less an accomplishment!

    Your love for the nutcracker is so fun to read about, and the pictures make me smile! I can taste just a little of what you love about it, though I'm sure your memories of this time are layered with wonderful emotions that can't be described with words or seen in pictures! I am praying for your strength and endurance to be able to enjoy all these performances! Too bad you can't get a little more of that "experimental drug" you had at Vandy! :)
    Much love,

  2. Hi Kristen!! So glad to hear from you!

    Well... I still feel like I'm struggling to describe this fatigue. Many people try to understand it, but I think there are too many "tired" feelings to understand one that you've never experienced.

    I had a friend who had an accident, and had a brain injury. He had horrible fatigue that affected his life and family. But from what I hear about his fatigue - it was really different from the normal "tired" but also very different from my fatigue. I'm sure he could tell me that there is no way I can understand his fatigue too! Fatigue is just too general of a word!

    I love what you said.. "For someone with sickening fatigue, just going out to a rehearsal is akin to winning an Olympic medal. The enormity of the triumph is lost in the mundane nature of the activity, but it is no less an accomplishment!

    Thank you!!!

    And thank you for enjoying The Nutcracker with me!!! :-) You are a very sweet and dear friend!!

    Merry Christmas!

  3. I thought that was Kristen's 'voice' before I saw her signature at the end! I laughed at the Olympic analogy. After my GB surgery I was getting up and down to pee 20-40 times a day and my doctor said to me, "Well, it's not exactly training for the Olympics but it's probably actually helping you." It was pretty hilarious. Still today I think about getting up and down to pee as my level of Olympic training!

    Anyways, Melanie, the decision you made was a tough one. And as I read your blog I found myself thinking, oh please don't let her have decided to do this to her body. I wanted it for you, I tasted it for you (because I am a dancer too) but I just could FEEL in my own body the price you would pay.

    You are so right about the fatigue. It's like I'm in this cognitive haze all of the time and also like my body weighs a thousand pounds. It's impossible to explain, and it is so different than the old-fashioned tired-out after a big day we used to feel. It's so unrelenting.

    I'm so grateful you've been able to enjoy at least a good portion of Nutcraker time. And that picture of Ellen is FANTASTIC.

    Later alligator!

    Love, Emily