When Fatigue is More Than Just Being Tired
It’s been three years since my husband and I learned fatigue can be more than being tired. As someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it was normal for him to spend his winters dealing with bouts of insomnia, having a general lack of energy, and coping with the winter blahs. He bowled two nights a week, was busy with his band, and had just started a new job that was a bit more physically demanding than what he was doing before. With all this going on, it was easy to explain his need for naps after work and sleeping in until 10 on the weekends.
Except that it wasn’t just SAD. It wasn’t just starting a new job, or having a busier social life. What we didn’t realize was his fatigue was a symptom of something more serious going on with him.
By March, the fatigue had brought along some new friends, including a feeling of pressure in my husband’s chest, bouts of nausea, and eventually a shooting pain up his neck and jaw that sent him to the emergency department. It was then we learned my husband was having a heart attack. That the fatigue was actually a symptom of a blockage in the left coronary artery, reducing his heart function. That the nausea and pain were symptoms of him experiencing the Widow Maker, a nickname for a very serious heart attack caused by a blockage in the left coronary artery.
Although he had ignored his ongoing fatigue as a symptom, things did work out for him. The 95% blockage in his artery was quickly resolved thanks to a fast-acting cardiologist and a team of cardiac care specialists. My husband’s health has been excellent since then, which is awesome since he just recently turned 50 years old.
Yes, he JUST turned 50. Heart attacks, strokes, and other illnesses traditionally seen in older generations can happen to younger people as well. My husband’s experience tells the story of listening to your body and paying attention to symptoms and signs that could mean something else. Fatigue isn’t just being tired; pay attention to your fatigue and learn more about weakness and fatigue, what may be causing it, and when you should see a doctor about your symptoms.