Waking up is not a problem. Every day at 9 a.m., the sound of 30 orso preschoolers screaming their Keds off blasts out of the open windowsof the daycare center below my apartment. It’s getting upthat’s the nightmare: My body feels like rubber. My mind’s in a totalfog. By the time I work up the energy to crawl out from between thesheets, those rambunctious rugrats are practically sprouting body hair.
Considering all the HIV-related crises I’ve survived over theyears—KS, wasting, CMV—I never dreamed that common, everyday fatiguewould be the toughest one to overcome. What’s truly tiresome about mytiredness is that I don’t know for sure what’s causing it: one, some orall of the dozen meds I take? HIV itself? The fact that I’m over 40?All of the above? These questions, in turn, raise more unsettling ones:Is fatigue simply a part of “long-term survival”? As the beneficiary ofHAART therapy, should I just shut my mouth and be grateful that I’malive?
I know that sleeplessness is part of the problem: My usual nightcapof five meds includes Sustiva, which often makes me hallucinate beforeI drift off—my bedside radio once morphed into a dollhouse—and gives medisruptive dreams. Another culprit could be the stress my meds put onmy liver, but a recent biopsy showed that, all things considered, it’sholding up fine. My doctor thinks I “don’t have anything to get out ofbed for.” When he said that, I wanted to scream at him: “Stayinghealthy and fighting AIDS is a full-time job!”
But I didn’t have the energy.
Here are some of the things I’ve tried in order to combat myfatigue: Yoga. Vitamins. Vitamin B-12 mixed with testosterone shots.Maintaining a positive attitude. Taking Percocet and OxyContin torelieve painful neuropathy in my feet. Taking the antidepressantLexapro. Drinking coffee. Stopping coffee. Drinking tea. Switching togreen tea. Acupuncture. Injections of Procrit and Neupogen to build redand white blood cells. Cutting out sugar. Napping. Taking a day offfrom all doctors’ appointments. Going to the gym because “the moreenergy you build, the more energy”…zzzzzz. Sorry! Drifted off there.
Easily the wackiest anti-fatigue tack I’ve taken was a visit to“internationally recognized healer” Dr. Eric Pearl (he’s trained as achiropractor). I finagled an assignment to interview this handsome guruat a New York hotel. When he ushered me into his suite overlooking thecity’s glittering harbor, my energy level perked up immediately! Heexplained that he allows energy to move through him to the patient andasked me to remain “childlike” and “open.” But as he spoke, my mindwandered to a realization: I hadn’t come to see Dr. Pearl to relieve myfatigue; I wanted him to rid me of AIDS. I’d never have to take my medsagain.
Shortly after my sexy but not terribly productive encounter with Dr.Pearl, I unexpectedly scored two weeks vacation at my acupuncturist’scountry house (now that’s alternative medicine!) And I had areal rest. I breathed good, clean air and spent a lot of time justsitting and staring at the sky. I confess that when I came home, myfatigue hadn’t lessened. But on some deeper level, my batteries wererecharged. For the first time since my first major illness eight yearsago, I was able to remember who I was before I got sick, before AIDShit. And remembering all the dreams and plans I had got me going. Now,when those high-pitched screams wake me up at 9 a.m., I remind myselfthat fatigue’s a bitch—but I’m not going to wear myself out about it.