Are Healthy Young Adults as Tired as I Am?

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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“I’m so busy” feels like it’s now a common response to the question, “How are you?” It’s like being busy is glorified or worn as a badge of honor among many of us, myself included.

Living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a life-threatening and debilitating lung disease, has forced me to slow down physically since my diagnosis in 2016, but it’s still a work in progress. I find that each week passes quickly because I commit to many different things, such as working full time and participating in various IPF advocacy projects.

Many of the advocacy projects I’m a part of might feel like they occupy as much time as an additional full-time job, even though each involves only a few hours per week. I feel privileged to be part of these projects, including writing this column, as they enable me to connect with other patients struggling with IPF. That’s good for my mental health. As a result, I don’t want to give them up, but maintaining this pace is becoming nearly impossible because I’m exhausted mentally and physically at the end of every day.

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Appreciating Other Perspectives on the IPF Journey

On the drive to my parents’ house last weekend, I reflected on the projects or tasks I might be able to give up or outsource to preserve my energy. I identified a few, but my mind then started to wander, and I began to compare myself with young adults who are healthy and don’t have to deal with a chronic lung condition. Specifically, I wondered if healthy young adults are as tired as I am.

Excluding IPF or other health conditions, young adulthood seems like a busy stage of life in general. Often, people in this age group are raising a young family, saving to buy a home, paying off debt, or trying to advance their careers. I am noticing this within my social circles more than ever. I don’t see my best friends regularly anymore, as many of them have young kids or are working long hours to manage their finances. With everything going on in this stage of life, perhaps all young adults are as tired as I am, regardless of whether or not they have a chronic illness.

While I don’t have to contend with some things that might cause my peers to feel exhausted, IPF forces me to deal with a lot. Following are some of the issues I regularly manage that are specific to my lung disease and contribute to the fatigue I experience as a young adult.

Medication management

Sadly, many chronic illness patients have to jump through hoops to have their medications covered by insurance companies. Even when one of my medications is covered by my health insurance plan, sometimes a request is denied. When this happens, I must review my benefits with a fine-tooth comb to understand the denial. From there, I usually end up on the phone with the insurance provider or a physician to have the referral submitted again for approval. In addition to causing me a lot of physical fatigue and emotional frustration, it requires me to rearrange my schedule to accommodate everything.

Staying on top of prescription renewals also takes a lot of coordination. I use an application on my iPhone to help me track these renewals so that I can ensure my medications are available. While a little different, I liken the management of this schedule to many of my friends who are juggling multiple schedules or appointments.

Lastly, due to the financial implications of IPF, I’ve had to apply for compassionate care grants to have my Ofev (nintedanib) prescription covered, as I can’t afford it out of pocket. I dedicate a significant amount of time each week to ensuring that the requirements associated with medication management are met.

Frequent appointments

As a chronic illness patient, many appointments fill my day planner. In addition to some of the common doctor appointments for IPF, which involve pulmonary function tests and 6-minute walk tests, I also have a number of appointments in anticipation of transplant. I must see the dentist every six to eight weeks to maintain healthy oral hygiene, and I also see a dermatologist regularly due to medication side effects and a lingering rash after having COVID-19.

While my schedule may not be filled with the typical young adulthood tasks, IPF forces me stay busy as I fight to remain healthy. As a result, I’m often exhausted and wonder if other young adults are just as tired.

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Subram Dixit avatar

Subram Dixit

After having been on Ofev for a few months, I suddenly developed acute Gastroenteritis which was unbearable followed by vomiting and nausea. I got severely dehydrated, and my blood pressure dropped to an alarming level. I was rushed to Stanford Hospital in the emergency ward. My blood pressure was still a concern and failed to come up. It continued to be low. The nurses after a meeting decided to pump in 5 liters of lactate. I was later admitted to the hospital for 3 days. I was then advised to stop CellCept and Ofev. I was off these medications for 2 months. I am now on Esbriet.

Judy Coultress avatar

Judy Coultress

I understand the frustration of exhaustion and try to stay positive everyday. Sometimes I feel like i have added extra burdens to my spouse as this condition has changed me and my life energy is so low. It is a constant struggle.


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