I felt drugged and weak, drowning as I fought the undertow of oblivion to waken. Fighting the feeling was like resisting an anesthesiologist’s mask; it seemed impossible that I would be able to open my eyes.
I groaned, then gave myself a pep talk. “Get with it, Letha. Get up. It’ll be better when you get in the shower. Do not be late again!”
There was a wave breaking over my head, and then a startling, waking jerk. I realized that I had fallen back asleep, but it was no easier to get up now than it was before.
With a supreme effort of will, I forced my eyes to open a slit. Waves of dizzy weakness washed over me, threatening to drag me back down into sleep. I forced myself to sit up, and before I lost my nerve, I threw off the covers and slid out of bed.
It was better, standing. The warm, tousled bed still sang me a siren song of comfort and rest, but I made my way toward the shower, glancing at clock on the way. Eight forty-seven!
“Goddammit!” I swore. I had overslept by more than two hours, and didn’t have time for the shower that would have helped energize me. Instead, I grabbed a can of dry shampoo, flipped my hair down over the shower floor, and sprayed it into my roots. After working it in, I plugged in my straightening iron and twisted my hair into a clip, then hurriedly washed my face. Barely taking the time to blot it dry with a towel, I moved on to brush the dry shampoo out of my hair, and used the iron to quickly straighten my sleep-crinkled, baby-fine blond hair. I ran my hand through my hair to blend it into its tousled style, and counted it finished.
I slapped some moisturizer on my face, running to the closet. I pulled on a stretchy black blouse, gray slacks, and my most often worn pair of oxford-style block heel pumps. Opening the second drawer of my jewelry armoire, I snagged my standby silver Tiffany earrings and stabbed them through my ears while heading back through the bedroom to the bathroom. I turned my head as I went, and checked the clock again.
Eight fifty-nine. I had at least a thirty minute drive to get to work, where I was due in one minute. A wave of hopelessness washed over me.
Grabbing my makeup brush and mineral powder, I daubed the powder all over my face, then worked it in in small, fast, clockwise motions. Without bothering to put anything away, I unplugged the straightening iron and picked up my makeup bag. I would have to finish my makeup in the car, at one of the two stoplights between my house and my office. The rest of the drive was thirty-one miles of interstate – no opportunity to safely finish it then.
I headed into my home office, unplugged my laptop, and put it in its rolling case without turning it off. I moved to the laundry room, snatched my purse off the hook, then stepped into the garage. I threw my laptop case into the trunk, hit the garage door opener, and was on my way.
As I drove, I thought about the way my exhaustion had progressed over the past few years. At first, I just felt a little more tired than usual upon waking, but as time passed, the tiredness gave way to the drugged, weak feeling I experienced this morning. I didn’t know what to do. When it began, I accepted it as my body’s response to the stresses of my job. As one of only two on call database administrator providing 24×7 production support to a large finance company on a weekly rotation, I regularly put in 70 to 80 hours per week, sometimes working twenty-four hours or more without sleep. It was expected that something would have to give, so I wasn’t surprised by my fatigue at first.
But about a year ago, my company hired two more DBAs, and the workload dropped to a more manageable level. I was only on call one week per month, and the 50 to 60 hour work week, while it cut into any personal time I might have, didn’t interrupt my sleep schedule. For the past year, I have been getting adequate sleep, with no improvement in my energy levels.
I’ve had every test under the sun to determine what was wrong with me. I’d had sleep studies, my thyroid tested, been checked for joint inflammation due to Lupus and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome… Every time I spoke to my doctor, and asked for a test, I felt like a hypochondriac. After a while, I just stopped asking.
I can’t sleep when I’m supposed to, so I’m fatigued, oversleep, and am late to work every single morning. I don’t feel like this is a choice I’ve made; I feel like it’s something that’s happening to me.
Lately, I’ve also started to get sick all the time. I think that between fatigue and nearing forty, my body just can’t fight off sickness the way it used to, but the upshot is that on top of tardiness and working from home, I call in sick a lot. I work remotely when sick, when I can, but sometimes I’m too sick to work. If I worked for any other company, I would have been fired over a year ago, no question, and deservedly so.
A shudder interrupted my reverie, then a sliding weightless feeling and I –
was swimming upwards in the dark, with a horrible pain in my skull, and aching all over my body.
Did I have too much to drink last night? I moved my hand toward my head, but was stopped by a sharp twinge in my arm. I tried to open my eyes, but I was falling, so I –
unfurled my wings, and spread them wide to catch the wind. There was a brief tug as they found the current, and I sailed through the dark, heading towards a bright –
light burning through my closed eyes. Something damp and cloth-like gently stroked my arm, and I flinched at the invasion into my personal space. I tried to pull away, but my body wouldn’t obey. I forced my eyes open. A blurry form stood next to me. I croaked something – I don’t know what – and the form startled.
“Ms. Banon! It’s good to see you awake.
“Where am I? What’s -”
“You’re in the hospital. You’re okay. I’ll get the doctor for you. Is there anyone we can call for you? A family member or friend?”
“No, no family, but my office” Oh, God, I must be so late! “…do they know I’m here?”
“I’ll call them for you after I get the doctor. What’s the number?”
“I…” I trailed off, realizing I couldn’t remember my work number, but I was too tired to think about it. “Are my things here? I have business cards in my purse with the number.”
“Your purse is in the closet here. I’ll take care of it for you.”
With a professional smile, she left the room. I dropped my head back onto the pillow, and fell asleep.