This post is going to be a bit more personal than my normal ones, but I think it is important to share. Everyone has their own perspective which shapes their attitudes and this is certainly something that shapes mine. Suffering from chronic fatigue affects my finances – both how I view them and how I manage them.
At this point I should say I am lucky in that I don’t suffer from ME or serious chronic fatigue in the way many people do. I’ll go into more details later in the post but I have coined the term (someone else may well have already used it) high functioning chronic fatigue to describe my condition. Although mild now, it has had and continues to have a big impact on my life.
With the increasing discussion around long-Covid, chronic fatigue has been on my mind a lot recently, so I felt now is the right time for this post.
In this post I will aim to cover:
- My story
- How fatigue impacts work
- How I manage my money accordingly
- Side hustles/hustling mentality
- Going forward
I first encountered chronic fatigue when I was 14. I got hit with a nasty bout of Swine Flu – anyone remember that? – and developed post-viral fatigue afterwards. As a teenager, this was incredibly confusing and I didn’t really understand what was going on.
After this, I made a full recovery and lived a normal life. That was until I was in my final year at university and developed glandular fever. The initial illness completely knocked me out and I barely left bed for six weeks.
While I started to feel better, I was still left completely exhausted. I couldn’t make it to the corner shop 100 meters from my house without stopping for a rest. Sitting through a two hour lecture was near impossible and running – my favourite hobby – was completely out of the question.
Through hard work, a bit of luck and a lot of support I started to improve, but one simple activity, like going to the shops, was still all I could manage in a day. This only became harder, because by this point a lot of friends were starting to get bored of me not being able to do anything and began to stop checking in.
This problem amplified when we left university, most of my friends graduated and got straight into ‘big city life’, while I was left at my parents struggling, but determined, to finish my degree. This made it a lonelier experience, but a few close friends and my family, got me through.
More positively, the fatigue gradually improved over time, to the point I’m at now. I can go about my daily life pretty normally and most people I meet have no idea it’s a problem for me. I even run 30+ miles a week!
Where I really notice a difference is with sleep – I could honestly sleep 12 hours a night and still want a nap in the day. This is clearly not feasible in normal life, so I spend most of my life permanently exhausted.
I also get ‘phantom illnesses’ – while I have no physical symptoms, I feel run down and like I have a nasty cold fairly regularly. This is more likely to happen when I’ve been particularly busy or had difficult things to cope with. I think it’s my body looking for a physical cause for my fatigue – although don’t quote me on that, I’m not a doctor!
How fatigue impacts my work
I have always prioritised work in my recovery. Luckily, I have been in a position and healthy enough to do so but it hasn’t always been easy.
At 14, it essentially meant going to school, doing as much homework as possible and then going to bed. Hardly the life most teenagers would want. However, it gave me a routine and contact with the outside world – both of which benefited my recovery hugely.
When I was at university, this meant prioritising getting back to lectures and seminars as soon as possible and focusing on completing as much work as I could possibly do on time. I even fell asleep in one of my finals! This worked for me, but wasn’t without sacrifices. I didn’t go on a night out for over 8 months (almost unheard of for uni students!) and missed out on socialising with friends a lot. However, I would be in a much worse place now if I hadn’t done this.
Now I work fulltime, the most important thing is sleep. But, this isn’t easy when you start work at 6:30 each morning. Lunch breaks may often been forgone in favour of a nap (working from home really helps here!) and I am very often asleep by 10pm.
I know there are days when I am able to work better than others but overall I nearly always manage a good day’s work.
Strangely, taking time out to exercise and do other things also helps as it helps get me out of the ‘fatigue mindset’ and makes sure I am physically tired, so I tend to sleep better too.
How I manage my money accordingly
This whole experience has taught me that I really value control and routine in my life. I like to plan ahead and be prepared in case I have another bout of illness that means I can’t work for a period of time. Did someone say emergency funds?
I also like to plan my finances. I love a good budget and usually know exactly how much money I have going in and out each month. This has been slightly harder while on reduced hours because my income has varied significantly, but I still make a budget at the start of every month and know how much I can spend and save.
Another thing I’ve learnt is the value of support. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. While I want to be independent, I know my support network is incredibly helpful. For that reason I currently live with my parents (who are very accommodating and even let me have a puppy in the house!) This means I am currently able to save a lot more than if I was renting. However, I hope to be in a position to move out within the next six months or so.
Side hustles and the hustling mentality
One thing I had to learn to ignore very quickly is the ‘hustling 24/7 mindset’. The idea that if you’re not working seriously long hours or waking up at 5am every morning then you’re not working hard enough is incredibly dangerous – and not just to those suffering from fatigue.
Taking breaks is important for everyone. You will work better for having a proper rest and doing something fun and/or relaxing.
Obviously, I do add an extra pressure to my working life with this blog. But, I try and manage it in line with my fatigue. I’m not expecting to suddenly make £1,000s each month from it, simply because I don’t have the energy to put in the work required to do that. Instead, I hope to grow steadily and consistently – something I’ve managed to achieve pretty well so far.
I also don’t beat myself up if a post goes out a day or two late. I’ve found that negative thoughts only increase fatigue and are therefore counterproductive.
I’m hoping for more of the same really. As I get more secure and established in my life, I hope fatigue will affect my finances, and, of course myself, less. However, I think it is always important to be prepared, so will continue managing my finances accordingly.
If you found this post interesting, please like it and share across social media or send it to your friends. I’d also love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Have you suffered from fatigue or a long-term illness? What impacts your outlook on money?