One of the things that I have learned to accept, even though I am not thrilled with it, is that it will take a miracle for me to lose the feeling of lingering fatigue caused by my heart failure. Don’t misunderstand, there are some points during the day where I feel energetic, and I am learning to use those times to my best advantage.
But there are also times when I just feel like something is draining every drop of energy out of my body. For someone who was always known as being “perky”, a energetic, lively and even feisty, this is one of the most significant impacts of heart failure.
Yes, I do know that I am sounding like a broken record. The terms “fatigue”, “bone tired” and “weary” have populated my blog and my conversation for a long period of time. Indeed, even months before I had my blackout on the treadmill in December of 2012, I complained to my sister and others of feeling bone tired. So you may wonder if I ever considered using one of those energy drinks that have become really popular.
This idea never occurred to me on my own. But I was meeting with a colleague at work in his office in the fall of 2012. I was at my wit’s end and distraught, and I complained of being just so very tired. He pulled out one of those teeny bottles labeled as an energy drink. He recommended that I take the drink and use it to boost my energy level. He said he used them and they always helped to restore his energy.
I gave the bottle a skeptical look. It seemed to me that the energy drink was just a 21st century versions of No-Doz, the remedy some students used when I was in college to engage in all-night cramming sessions and final exams. I never took No-Doz. A warning from a professor during the first quarter of my freshman year made a big impression on me.
The professor said that he remembered a student who had taken No-Doz before studying and taking the professor’s final exam. It was an essay exam. The student apparently began to fall apart right after the exam started. By the time he finished the exam, he had become a complete wreck. He turned in his exam paper even though there were no legible, much less complete, essay answers on the exam paper. Instead, there were comments scrawled throughout the margin like: “Help me! “ My brain is melting!” Rescue me!”
After the professor graded the exams, he found that that the student had taken No-Doz. I think the student concluded that No-Doz was a less than effective solution for getting through the exam season. After hearing this cautionary tale, I swore that I would never take No-Doz, and would just budget enough time to study for each course and then get some sleep before each exam.
So if I decided that I would never use No-Doz during my college years, why would I start using energy drinks at the age of 55? Why did I even take the bottle with me? Knowing that my insistent colleague meant well, I just accepted the bottle and put it in a drawer in my office. It stayed there untouched until I threw it away before I retired. My gut told me that it just didn’t seem a wise thing for me to use an energy drink.
There are people who swear by energy drinks, and I have no reason to dispute their claims. But if I had used the energy drink, do I think it would have helped me? Well, knowing that coffee can sometimes make me a little hyper, I think it an energy drink would have just created a state of unfocused, frenzied energy. I probably would have been pinging off the wall, like the cartoon character “Ricochet Rabbit”. I suspect my speech would probably have sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks on speed.
To be honest, I had not even thought of this incident in the last 4 years until recently. I was walking back to my condo and along the way, I saw a discarded bottle of the same energy drink my colleague offered to me. At the time of the incident, I did not even think to do any research on the substance. But now with time on my hands, and with the knowledge that things we partake of every day (potassium, sodium, too much fluid, etc.) can cause potential harm depending on one’s condition, I decided to do some research. So was I right not to use the energy drink in 2012 or since that time?
According to the Mayo Clinic, most energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine, which can provide a temporary energy boost. But the boost is short-lived. The caffeine or caffeine-like substances in the drinks may lead to a number of problems, one of which is rapid heartbeat. The Mayo Clinic also said that for most people, occasional energy drinks are fine, but try to limit yourself to about 16 ounces (500 milliliters) a day.
Wow – now I am really happy that I never used the energy drink. You see, I have learned over the last four years that I do not fall into the category of “most people” referred to in the Mayo Clinic article. While it may not have been clear in 2012, it has become crystal clear in the last few years that I have a defibrillator for the very reason that I may develop an irregular heartbeat. So the most caffeinated beverage that will be included in my intake of 64 ounces or less of fluids each day is one normal size cup of coffee (and yes, I have cleared this with my heart doctor’s office). But my fluid intake definitely does not and will not include a high energy drink.
As I began to write this post, I patted myself on the back for avoiding something so popular in today’s world but that may well have made my then unidentified heart problem even worse. But then I was not happy when I realized that I also avoided some common sense solutions to my dilemma. If I was so bone tired, then the answers were: take some time off, avoid caffeine, try to get more sleep at night, or just ask for help in my job duties. I certainly had enough tenure in my career that I could justify time off or pleas for help without feeling like I was letting anyone down. And getting more sleep and avoiding caffeine were all within my own control. No one had to help me implement those fixes.
But I didn’t take advantage of any of these fixes. I forgot the wisdom I showed as a college student: just get appropriate rest and budget your time during the exam period. I also forgot that even the Bible endorses recharging your batteries by making Sunday a day of rest. Instead, I made my precarious health much worse by just throwing myself into work for even more time, to the point that I was likely drinking more coffee and getting less sleep. Moreover, I was not letting anyone know that I was in need of assistance.
I eventually did come to my senses and made the decision to act find out what was causing my fatigue and blackouts. I then chose to call it a day, retire and ditch the stress. I made the choice to honor myself as the unique individual that God placed on this earth. I felt that I still had something important that I was intended to do, and I needed to be around on this earth a little while longer to accomplish that purpose.
I’m still working through what that purpose might be, but through yoga, meditation and prayer and discernment, I think I’m getting closer to the answer. The energy and fulfillment I get using my own determination and focus will provide with enough energy to last what is left of my lifetime.
So please do not try to lure me with energy drinks! I would rather protect my heart and get my energy high from the joy of living and not from a bottle!
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. Since that time, she has been learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth.