Put your hands up if, on a given day, you can nod your head and say ‘yeah’ to any three of the following five things:

  1. It’s 8am and I’m bloody dying to get into bed tonight.
  2. I can’t go out mid-week any more, sure who has the energy for that?
  3. It’s normal to feel completely bet down with tiredness. Isn’t it?
  4. I can’t imagine not feeling tired.
  5. I’m over 35, surely this is just how I’m meant to feel?

I felt like all of the above for a long time. Wrecked. Hassled, and really, really, really exhausted.

Like, so tired, that I could function until the middle of the day, and then I was struggling badly. I went to bed after dinner. I zonked out, I got up, did it all again, had basically enough energy for work – but not really.

Nothing left over for exercise, me, going out, a social life. I just thought it was what it was. I’m past 40, I’d had a lot of stress; started a new job, had had a really bad flu before Christmas, had broken my leg very badly a couple of years ago and for various reasons, had had no proper convalescence for it.

So I accepted the tiredness and rationalised it. “I could have two small kids at my age,” I thought. “Then I’d be frigging exhausted!”

But things got worse. The exhaustion escalated and I started feeling dizzy all day, every day. I started to not be able to think straight. For me, a creative, whose ideas and her ability to a) have ideas in the first place and b) action those ideas are her stock in trade, this was terrifying. I began to think I was going a bit mad.

So I turned to Dr Google. After a good bit of searching and narrowing down, I was fairly sure I knew what was up.

Doctor, doctor

So I made an appointment to see my doctor. I wanted him to run some blood tests. He, however, had other ideas. He asked me lots of questions about how I was feeling, why I felt I was so tired, and was going to put it all down to the fact I’d broken my leg and hadn’t had a proper recuperation period.

That made me feel very tearful – because while it was true, it wasn’t bloody helpful. The upshot was I was still knackered and would remain knackered along with this nice piece of posthumous validation. So he took the bloods – after I had to ask again. I did feel slightly humoured, like they were being taken just to hush me up.

There’s a separate piece here about why women aren’t listened to (hit me up if you would like to contribute to said piece), and it has been explored well on websites such as The Pool excellently, but it is, in my experience, true. I like my doctor a lot. He takes time – more time than a lot of GPs – and he does listen, but in this case he was willing to put my exhaustion down to one thing, and I knew – it is MY body – that it was going to be something else.

Testing times

The results came back, and to my complete and utter lack of surprise, I was iron deficient. My Googling had pretty much prepared me for that and it was exactly what I expected. Everything else normal, by the way – I’d been taking all my other supplements religiously for ages at this stage.

Galfer liquid iron supplement

So I was prescribed iron supplements daily and told to come back in a couple of months for a follow up (I have yet to go back for a re-test, bad me). I dutifully began to swallow 10ml of liquid Galfer along with vitamin C (you need C to absorb iron), and crossed my fingers. You can take iron in solid tab form too; that can be harder on your stomach so I went with liquid – it’s just a personal preference.

It takes time: there isn’t an immediate lift – or at least there wasn’t with me – and I didn’t start to feel better for several weeks. The dizzy feeling lifted first, but it really took months for that deep-rooted exhaustion to go. All-in, I’ve been taking iron since April. So expect it to be a process.

I definitely feel much less tired now and my tiredness feels ‘normal’ – I’m tired as you would be after a hard day at work. I’ve been doing a lot of 11 and 12 hour days in recent months as my job is hectic, and there is just no way I’d have handled that earlier this year. I’d have collapsed.

Talk show

But what I really want to get across here is that we need to be talking about this more, and accepting our knackeredness less. I wonder (sorry, Carrie Fucking Bradshaw moment there), is there something about the innate cult of busy-ness we’re all operating under that prevents us from seeing that being really, very, very tired 24/7 is actually not that okay?

For women in their late 20s/30s/40s and onwards, who have spent years menstruating, having babies, done the thing we’ve all done and cut out food groups to lose weight and all the rest, it really is no wonder that we might be iron deficient.

It is no surprise at all that – especially if you’ve given birth, have heavy periods or a health issue around periods such as Endo, or you’re a vegetarian or vegan – that your level might have dropped. In fact, according to The Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, a “survey suggested that 42% of Irish women could be at risk of iron deficiency.”

I want to see a billion magazine articles about this issue, please, and less about why we’re all so busy. We are busy, it’s unavoidable – at least I can handle it a bit better now.

The ins and outs

To finish, four details you need to know.

  1. Taste is not a sensation.
    Please to note, Galfer is disgusting. I mean – foul. Like licking bloody rusty gates off the set of Carrie. Puke-tastic. I have to get it down me as fast as I can and then swill my mouth out with water, it’s that vile. I have also tried Blue Iron but it’s not a lot better. Just like rusty bloody blueberries. Gag.
  2. Know what you’re taking.
    You also have to be careful about any other medications/supplements you might be taking. Iron can inhibit calcium absorption, so I do all my regular supplements (which include calcium) in the morning and do my iron and C at night, on as empty a stomach as I can manage, for maximum absorption.
  3. Poo, you.
    Your shit will turn black. Sorry. You may also have tummy-style explosions frequently. If you’re also taking B12, you’ll have neon wee to go alongside. It’s a bathroom-based experience, kids.
  4. Do NOT self-diagnose.
    And the last, and most important of all: do not diagnose yourself as iron deficient. Having too much iron is very dangerous too – so a blood test is needed to ascertain what your level actually is. Only a doctor can do this. Get a test, take the advice, and if your level is low, then supplement.

So, hit me up below with your tales of tired-related woe. Have you tried iron? Will you?