William Lo: Fatigue, managing limitations and why this is crucial to recovery

Thursday, December 07 2017, 1:21PM


Hey all what’s going on? Welcome to another edition my blog.

Today I want to talk about the issue of fatigue, managing limitations and why this is crucial to recovery.

Fatigue is something many of us are too familiar with, some more so than others (For those in the acute phase of stroke you know exactly what I mean 😊).

Even to this day, five years after my stroke, fatigue is something I am still struggling to come to terms with. Especially as I attempt to balance my ambitions and the need for my brain to be efficient with my limited energy.

In the past I used to get worked up about not getting enough done and having to take more breaks than I wanted to to make up for my brain’s limited ability to keep up.

Now, I’ve come to the realisation this attitude has been detrimental to my recovery. By imposing these expectations on myself I was preventing myself from accepting reality as it was. I found exercising like I was made of titanium helped to fuel my ‘drive’ but it was at the cost of rest and reflection.

When I injured myself recently, I was forced to come to terms with my limitations. I needed to build strategies to perform to my best particularly at work and university and I realised that ‘knowing my limitations’ could actually help my recovery.

This was a big lesson for me and I learned the hard way – I have been headstrong for most of my life.

This is my experience and I know everyone is different, studying to become an OT (occupational therapist) has helped me look at my own recovery differently.

I now believeto make the most of my recovery I need to be aware of my own capability and not always attempt to push beyond my limitations.

Outdoing yourself every time may actually backfire, setting you back rather than helping you move forward.  

After stroke some people may be too focused on ‘getting back’ what has been lost, we still need to take care of ourselves particularly now that we’re living with new barriers. 

Knowing our limitations does not only apply to exercise but many elements of every day life. This may mean choosing go home early after a partyor cutting back work or study to a manageable pace.

Small changes in how you manage your limitations may be beneficial for recovery..

Something I’ve found difficult to accept in the past is feeling that I should be able to do more than the average person, even with my deficits, I have always been ambitious.

Having made exercise and “coming back” a core part of my identity I found it difficult to relax, conscious that I was pulling my foot off the pedal. Clinging very tightly to this belief actually hurt me in the long run as I started to take on more things than I could handle, just so I could prove to myself that my capability was better than it really was. This insatiable drive for success caused unnecessary stress and actually impacted my insight of what I was actually capable of.
Every individual’s stroke journey is different and we are all aiming to improve. This does not mean that your foot has to be on the pedal all the time. In fact, you might find that by knowing how to relax and perform within your capability you’ll find that fatigue after stroke may improve as you’re now capitalising on times when you are refreshed and motivated.
It’s not a competition. I believe it’s taking incremental steps daily and appropriately managing limitations with my workload, which will help me to reach my potential.

This also ties into the idea of accepting that stroke is a lifelong journey and that most of the journey is a lesson in better understanding and improving  awareness of ourselves.

Often as stroke survivors we ask our therapist’ “how long” something recovery take? I believe that by doing this we are being unfair to ourselves, perhaps the correct answer is - as long as it takes!

Best of luck in your recovery,