Love, Wellness

I didn’t want to take care of myself – until my body fought back

To put it simply, I didn’t care about myself as much as I should have.

A few years ago, my energy levels randomly dropped, and I began to just want to sleep all the time.

I couldn’t figure out why. I would get so tired that I couldn’t physically do anything but fall into my bed. Going out would be a struggle, as would staying awake during the day. It became very easy to feel sad and depressed because I was being so unproductive and felt so lazy. I tried coffee, energy drinks, fruits, and multi-vitamins, but nothing worked.

I’ll admit that self-care isn’t something I’ve ever been great at. It was pretty normal for me to not address important issues in my life. I just didn’t care about myself as much as I should have. I was happy to ignore things in hopes that they would go away and I tried to do the same with my fatigue.

After a while, my family started to get concerned and urged me to pay a visit to the doctors.

It turned out that I had iron deficiency: anemia. Because of the lack of iron, I had a reduced number of red blood cells. Symptoms of this kind of anemia range from feeling lethargic to having a paler complexion to heart palpitations and getting short of breath. There are other symptoms, but these are the most common ones. I would get pretty pale but the most life-affecting symptom was the lethargy.

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I was prescribed iron tablets, and towards the end of the course, I began to feel more like myself. I had a lot more energy. The thing is, I still hadn’t gotten better at looking after myself. I was pretty happy to rely on the tablets, but obviously, they aren’t a miracle cure. The iron deficiency did not go away, it was just remedied for a short period of time.

Over the next few years, I was stuck in this perpetual cycle.

My anemia would strike, I’d go on iron tablets for a course and get better, only to have it come back after a few months. I was busy studying and working, I barely had time to get myself to the doctors and just couldn’t be bothered with the extra hassle.  When the lethargy hit me, it was frustrating because I could not bring myself to do anything. I was constantly feeling exhausted and it made daily life so difficult. I’m lucky that I’m not the type to pass out but I had many days where I felt faint and came close to it.

After some time, I realized that I couldn’t keep going like this, it was getting ridiculous. So I did my own research into iron deficiency and how to overcome it.

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I’d already resolved to cut out tea and coffee due to my IBS, but I learned that tea and coffee actually reduce iron absorption. So, those two to three cups of tea a day I’d been having were making everything worse. So was the coffee I’d tried to drink to get my energy levels higher. So, I made sure that I stuck to avoiding these coffee and caffeinated tea. I switched to herbal teas, though, because what kind of monster doesn’t have a hot drink in the morning?

I knew that there were tons of foods out there that are high in iron, so I tried them out. Although I do eat meat, I live in a vegetarian household so adding fish and meat to my diet would not have been sustainable. I tried kale and I absolutely hated it. I’m a huge snacker, so incorporating nuts and seeds into my daily diet was an easy alternative. I would buy packets and keep them in my bag to snack on during the day and I began to feel a lot better.

It has been over a year since I’ve had to last have a course of iron tablets. The last time I had a blood test, I was told that my iron levels were average which made me ridiculously happy.

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I no longer get randomly exhausted. It’s such a small thing but I do not take it for granted. After such a long time of feeling so crappy, I’ve learned to appreciate being energetic. It was such a minor adjustment to my diet but it has changed my life dramatically.

It seems like I have beat the anemia, for now. However if only I had taken more time to look after myself when I was younger, I could have avoided this whole issue.

  • Mitta Thakrar

    As Senior Now & Beyond Editor, Mitta is on a quest to make science relatable and popular. She is based in the UK, in the countryside far away from humans. Mitta has a law degree but has somehow ended up in the wondrous land of writers. She writes everything from poetry to short stories and hopes to finish her novel one day. Additionally, Mitta can be found avidly reading or playing with her cats.