No Chill Pill?

They have pills for everything it seems, but not a chill pill.

When I was young, I would often look up to see my mother’s concerned face outlined in the kitchen window, knocking, beckoning me into the house. “Quickly,” she’d say, leading me to the sink where she immersed my wrists into cold water, while draping a wet hand towel over the back of my neck. This was a normal occurrence for me: getting overheated, face red, white around my lips. “Sit in front of the fan,” my mother would say, as the headache started.

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For Some Ills, There Is No Pill

Fatigue comes in many forms. Physical fatigue. Compassion fatigue. Emotional fatigue.

I should know about physical fatigue, the kind I experience when I realize that I can’t jog for more than three minutes without taking a break. Then I remember that I am overdue for my iron infusions. Way overdue. I blame my poor self-care on my recent move–in the midst of a pandemic–and how the circumstances were not exactly conducive to getting under the care of new physicians, despite being a physician myself.

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Moonshine

I wake when the sky begins to darken. As the sun buries itself beneath the horizon, the hospital beckons.

Nights bring a kind of calm. I find that wakefulness, while others sleep, grants me something sacred—time, untouched.

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Ennui

“There’s no hurry. Take your time,” the wife said patiently.

“Time, that’s all I have since I’ve retired,” the physician-husband said. “What do you have?”

“I’ve finally figured it out,” she replied. “What I’ve been feeling since the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s ennui.” She hadn’t used that word in many decades, probably since college French, nor even thought of it. “It just came to me,” she marveled.

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I’m. So. Tired.

Tired doesn’t even begin to describe it, actually. Exhaustion. Weariness. A deep, gut-wrenching physical ache that fogs my brain and fills my body with despair. I can feel the ache arise somewhere in the vicinity of my stomach, worm its way past my heart, and drive deep into my forehead. I close my eyes and imagine the bliss of sleep.

I’m so tired.

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Sleep Deprivation

Jeez, I’m tired! Hope I make it home without falling asleep! Okay, windows wide open, radio blasting. Here we go.

I had just finished working the 11 p.m.-to-7 a.m. shift at a hospital in Burbank, California. Now I was facing an hour’s drive home. Because I was afraid of falling asleep at the wheel, I always kept my right hand at the twelve o’clock position. That way, if I nodded off, my hand would relax, fall off the wheel, and awaken me. I was thankful the freeway congestion kept my speed slow.

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Breathless

In B.C.—the “Before Covid” world—I always woke up before my alarm, set for 6 a.m., rang; by the time I was ready to teach at 9 a.m., I had often done laundry, dashed to the grocery store for a few necessities, and dusted at least one room of my apartment. If I napped, which I rarely did, it was always a brief respite to get a second wind. When I finally retired for the night—usually at 9 p.m., with time set aside for reading—I slept well, confident that I had led a productive, rewarding day.

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Editor’s Invitation: Fatigue

Dear Pulse readers,
Our More Voices theme this month is Fatigue.
Many are feeling fatigued these days. Fatigued by grief, by isolation and by worry brought on by COVID-19, a murderous guest that arrived in January and is still among us.
Fatigued every time an unarmed Black man is killed by police. “I’m weary,” a friend wrote to me shortly after George Floyd’s murder, “Simply weary. In every sense, spiritually, physically, emotionally…”
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