Family Lies Chapter 4

Drawing of a partly-built brick wall with a sign saying: "Under construction." Caption reads: "Work in progress."

Family Lies Chapter 4: Fatigue chapter of work in progress by Iris Carden

Emily took a deep breath.  The headache was overwhelming.  The stress of the day was taking its toll on her body.  

Lupus fatigue hit with full force.  All of her muscles felt weak. A fuzzy feeling not quite like pins and needles overcame her whole body. Her stomach turned to jelly, wobbling, building up to release everything.  She was both hot and cold. Overloaded nerves sent contradictory messages to her brain.  Clammy perspiration covered her entire body. Her hair was soaked with sweat and too hot for her head. Her vision lost some of its focus, as her overworked brain stopped bothering to fully interpret the signals from her eyes. She had that feeling of unreality, that she was there and yet not there. The world was fog and she was mist lost in it. 

“I’m out of spoons,” she said.* “I need to go lie down.”

Emily put both hands flat on her desk, on either side of the laptop computer.  She pushed against the table to stand up, wavered for a minute, and collapsed back into her office chair.

“Stay there,” Jenny said.  “I’ll get the wheelchair.” 

It would only have taken Jenny a couple of minutes to get the wheelchair from Elsie’s suite, but Emily’s deep state of fatigue, it could have been seconds or it could have been years. 

“OK, arms around my neck,” Jenny said. “We transfer on the count of three. One. Two. Three, up… and down.”

Jenny picked up Emily’s unresponding feet and put them on the wheelchair’s foot rests.  She wheeled Emily to her bedroom, and helped transfer her to the bed.

“How’s your pain, on a scale of one to ten?” Jenny asked.

Emily heard the voice from a long way away.  “Not bad,” she answered slowly.  “Maybe a six or seven.”

“You know, people who don’t have chronic pain consider a six or seven to be quite bad.”

“Lucky them,” Emily answered weakly.

Jenny went to a small ornate desk beside Emily’s matching ornate dressing table.  On top of the desk was Emily’s weekly pills, in a sorting box, sorted by day and time, each day in its own box in the larger frame.  She picked up the day’s box, then pulled out the desk’s drawer and removed out three boxes of medications in their original packaging. She opened the “evening” section of the pill sorter box, and added one of each of the tablets she’d taken from the drawer, and carries it to Emily’s bedside.  

“Take your night time pills now, so you don’t have to wake up again later.  I’ve added an anti-diarrhoea tablet so your tummy doesn’t let you down again, some temazipam to help you sleep and some oxycodone to block the pain for a few hours.  

“It’s only four o’clock,” Emily tries to argue.

“Your body’s done for the day whatever your brain might want,” Jenny said.

She handed the pills, and the water bottle Emily kept on a bedside table to her patient.   Emily took the pills, and Jenny put the pill box back in the sorter tray, closed the curtains to cut down the afternoon light, wished Emily a good night and left the room.

Emily was troubled with strange dreams of a menacing shadow figure, undefined threats, of a secret that needed to be discovered.  

Occasionally the dreams changed to Jack wheedling and whining, accusing and gaslighting, threatening and menacing.  

Then back her mind went to the mysterious shadow figure.  

Where they the same?  Her troubled mind went from one to the other in her sleep, unable to come to a resolution.

*“Spoons” is a common metaphor used by people with chronic illness to talk about the level of energy or fatigue they feel.  It comes from Christine Miserandino’s Spoon Theory which can be found in full at

Chapters of Family Lies

Note, this is the first draft. What eventually is published as a book (if it is published as a book), will be edited, rewritten, and re-edited, and may not have much in common with this first draft.

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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