My Battle with Parkinson's Disease Fatigue

Last updated: November 2022

I have Parkinson's disease (PD) and suffer from fatigue. My battle with PD-related fatigue is described as the type of total exhaustion that makes you unable to move, as though you don’t have any energy at all.

What does fatigue my feel like?

The American Parkinson Disease Association defines Parkinson’s fatigue as an "unpleasant sensation of lacking energy, making the performance of routine activities, physical or mental, a strain." I experience both physical, and mental fatigue. This fatigue is not the same as putting in a hard day at work, getting some rest, and feeling better to return to work. My fatigue is more like feeling run down, out of gas, and drained.1 

I feel like I am unable to do anything, unable to initiate an activity, and I then begin to experience Parkinson’s apathy. In addition, I experience signs and symptoms of depression. I feel that my fatigue is influenced by apathy. Apathy leads to the inability to perform certain activities of daily living, interact with my friends and family, and attend social activities.

How I manage Parkinson’s fatigue

I try to get a good night's sleep. Additionally, I try to conserve my energy by getting more sleep at night and pacing myself during the day with a short rest period in the afternoon. Surprisingly, when I exercise in the morning, it triggers my body with energy that lasts all day long.

Furthermore, taking a short nap in the early afternoon for about 10-15 minutes is restorative and refreshes me. The nap lessens my fatigue. I also try to keep to a sleep schedule routine at the same time every day.

I reassess my medication with my doctor during my scheduled visit. Being very astute, I make sure that I am taking my medications at the right time of day and at the correct dosage per pill. The amount might need to be adjusted if they are not strong enough to increase my dopamine levels.

Also, I tell my doctor if I am taking any other herbal or complementary medications that may interfere with my fatigue. When I feel fatigued at lunchtime, I drink a caffeinated beverage with lunch which works as a pick-me-up in the afternoon. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Parkinson’s fatigue.

My personal battle

Parkinson’s fatigue wears me out. Even if I get a good night’s sleep, when I get up in the morning, I experience fatigue and I have to sit in my recliner to rest. I sit there for 30-45 minutes until the fatigue passes and I am able to process my body to get up and start my day. Otherwise, I am so wiped out that I cannot do anything!

Things that I cannot do when I am fatigued, for example, are making a cup of coffee, taking my medicines, answering the phone, or even making a shopping list. My concentration becomes impaired. I feel like I am zoned out during this time.  When the fatigue subsides, I then start my activities of daily living.

When this fatigue comes over me, I do a Ben Franklin Close, which is, making a list of the pros and cons of either moving through the fatigue or not. I list the benefits of moving through the fatigue to achieve my short-term goal. I list the negatives of what will be the result of the impending inaction. Then, I logically see if there are more pros than cons and make an action plan to break the fatigue cycle and to resume the activity. Positive self-talk also helps me break the Parkinson's fatigue cycle.

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