Napping My Way Through Life

Napping My Way Through Life
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napping

Adjusting to life with a chronic illness requires you to alter your mindset in many ways. It might be a fundamental change, an existential shift that alters your perspective on life itself. Or it could entail changing your values and what something means to you.

I used to hate napping because it highlighted my most challenging lupus symptom: fatigue.

Early on in my lupus journey, sleeping into the late morning wasn’t a choice. Between the crippling fatigue of my first flare and the introduction of a half-dozen medications, sleep was my body’s only escape. When I went to bed each night, I didn’t know when I would wake up. But I was sure that no matter how many hours I slept, I would still be exhausted upon awakening.

For over two years, napping had negative connotations for me. It was something over which I had no control. I had two choices: nap or be unable to make it through the day. At a time when I was mentally fighting to take charge of my life, this made me feel particularly powerless.

Every day for nearly a year, my overwhelming tiredness was a reminder that my life had changed.

Looking back, it sounds foolish to say that I fought against napping — particularly now that the extra sleep enables me to live my best life.

It took me a long time to accept that fatigue would be my lifelong companion. Whether I liked it or not, fatigue and I were bound together. I am greeted by it every morning. Eventually, I realized that I could either waste my precious energy battling it or find a way to beat it at its own game.

I will never escape my fatigue. Its severity varies on a daily — sometimes hourly — basis, and I manage it as best I can. Napping has become my most powerful weapon against my sleeping dilemma.

I have big ambitions. I don’t merely wish for a life that is good for someone with a chronic illness; I want a great life by any standard.

I’m halfway through a double degree in philosophy and mathematical modeling. I study part time and hold four jobs, including this one — a combined total of somewhere between 50 and 60 hours a week.

Is that insane? Yes, I’m the first to admit it. Would I recommend it? Not a chance. But I want it all: a career in a field that I’m interested in, to travel the world, and my own house in the next five years.

How do I make it happen while managing my fatigue? The answer is by napping. I nap as much as I can, whenever I’m able. If I have five minutes free between shifts, I nap in my car. Give me 10 spare minutes on my lunch break, and I will set an alarm and doze off. If my body needs it and I’ve got the time, I don’t fight it anymore.

When I reflect on my disdain for naps three years ago, I’m amazed at this shift in my attitude that represents a mindset transition on my lupus journey. Napping used to make me feel powerless; now it fuels me to live my best life while I chase my aspirations.

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