Fatigue: What Is Tiredness?
We are so tired.
So tired that we can’t think when we want to, move how we want to, or get up and go the way we feel we need to. Our brains, bodies, and our willpower are all burnt out.
Jenny told me that, now that she is off of Wellbutrin, she doesn’t understand why she is still tired. She recalled that she has struggled with this fatigue her entire adult life. The thing is that Jenny is totally functional. She gets up, works at a high pressure finance job, takes care of her bills, and appears totally put together, but still this cloud envelops her.
Jenny’s fatigue doesn’t surprise me.
Why should she be feeling energized?
What is energy?
The Hindu term Shakti derives from the Sanskrit, “to be able”. It refers to the primal life force energy. It has, necessarily, a feminine essence.
Have you felt it?
Have you ever felt so enlivened by an experience that your heart was racing, your eyes wild, and tingles ran up your body?
Have you ever been so in your flow that you forgot to eat or pee?
Have you ever greeted your day with a small smile in the corner of your mouth as you felt the mystery of what might unfold?
Have you ever felt head over heels in love?
Have you ever felt so connected to and seen by others around you that you wanted to cry just from the feeling of it?
This is shakti.
And she’s always in there. All the time, waiting to be accessed.
But we have forsaken her.
We have locked her up at the command of our productivity-oriented systems, and we pretend she never existed.
We go to our jobs, we check off the to do list, we contribute our small but significant part to planetary death and destruction, we turn a blind eye to all that might provoke too much feeling.
And then we wonder why we are tired!
Why would you not be tired, Jenny?
What are you doing to connect to or to cultivate your shakti? What in your life really turns you on? If your answer is nothing, then perhaps your soul is saying no and you are calling that fatigue.
What is fatigue?
Fatigue lends itself perfectly to the multiple narrative model of medicine. Psychiatry views fatigue as a brain-based imbalance or deficiency likely responsive to a stimulant or noradgrenergic antidepressant.
Functional medicine views it as potentially stemming from hypothyroidism, B12 deficiency or poor methylation, adrenal fatigue, or general mitochondrial dysfunction where low nutrient supply and abundant toxicant exposure impairs our energy-making cellular centers.
While I believe passionately in healing the body first to clarify matters of spirit, I think it’s important to search for the meaning of fatigue rather than accepting it at face value.
I know that I have never once yawned in my NYC office. Literally never. But that you would think I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome the second I buckle in for the drive to Whole Foods. Well, I know that we are not meant to procure our food from a commercial space (particularly one that is increasingly greenwashed selling more and more conventional food). I also know that the domestic space challenges my ego and sense of identity. Then my disdain for the experience is compounded by the self-conscious guilt around my ingratitude for the fact that I even have the opportunity and wherewithal to even choose to patronize this establishment! In this bundle of neurosis and primal disconnection from Earth energy, it’s no wonder that my soul says no.
When I see that simple context, I cease to take on the pathology and to blame my body for the fatigue.
Context is everything.
How to tap your life force energy
So, how can we cultivate that life force energy in order to dissolve fatigue?
Plain and simple. Turn on some music, make it loud, and move. Even for 5 minutes a day. Get past the weirdness of it, the awkwardness, and just feel it in your body. In fact, I have one patient who continued to struggle with fatigue after medication taper, who also had a history of having had her thyroid removed for falsely perceiving it as a time bomb for death. Now, after many years of psychiatric medication and general toxicant exposure, she had plenty of reason to be struggling with mitochondrial dysfunction. After thyroid removal, the replacement of hormones can be an inexact and frustrating process, giving her another reason to have chronic fatigue. How do you explain a resurgence of found energy, like a geyser unlocked, after I pushed her to return to a tap class – a form of dance that she had loved but lost. Quite simply, dance class healed her because it gave her the keys to the shakti palace.
Kundalini yoga is a shakti practice. It is, by design, focused on the divine feminine within all of us. This practice is a hard as it is sweet. As powerful as it is subtle. The source of energy that we are looking to cultivate, comes from way down in the creative center – literally and figuratively – of the womb. Start with this 3 minute practice for raising the divine feminine from the dead. Or simply press your left nostril shut with your left pointer finger and then breath long and deep out of your right nostril for 5 minutes. See what happens.
Femininity is feeling. Have you ever lit a candle for absolutely no reason? It seems indulgent and silly. But once you get past that, it may give you a feeling of nurturance inside. Whether it’s baths, essential oils, dance, love making, or self-pleasuring, we need to reunite with our body’s built with desire compass and a deep need to be cared for and luxuriated over. We need to learn how to turn ourselves on, as Mama Gena maps out in her epic bestseller, Pussy: A Reclamation.
When you feel totally bereft, the last thing you want to do is give. It might break you right? You need every ounce and morsel of everything you’ve got simply to get by, right? Wrong. Our Vital Mind Reset Community Leader, Shauna, was on the verge of homelessness, struggling through every day of her recovery, and she would be the first to tell you that volunteering at a local food pantry may very well have saved her life. Giving fills us up with shakti because we were wired to love each other, to help each other, and to receive in return the energy we put out.
Find community. It’s not optional. Isolation is killing us, literally. When we feel a part of a tribe, when we see reflected back to us the many eyes of our peers, we are lifted by their collective life force energy. Our sisters show us our best self, remind us what it is to feel unconditionally seen, and it helps us to fill our cracked places with gold.
Make room for radical, unexpected shifts in your energy. This is rarely a linear process of reclamation. Heal your body first (including a total elimination of addictive foods and drinks like wheat, dairy, processed sugar, alcohol, and yes, coffee, for one month), and then, when you feel tired, ask, what am I saying no to. And then give your mind, body, and spirit, something to say yes to. Watch the energy flow.
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