Chronic Fatigue Is Not Just Me 'Being a Teenager'

“Don’t all teenagers have chronic fatigue?”

This is what someone said to me when I tried to explain what fibromyalgia is like. By now it’s automatic: “Fibro means chronic pain and chronic fatigue. It means when you touch me, it hurts.” The first question, always, is, “But does it hurt when I do this?” Yes. It hurts even when you touch me that lightly.

But the fatigue is different. It means I can literally fall asleep anywhere, anytime. It means after an eight-hour day I’m collapsing without even eating dinner. It’s falling asleep at my desk, missing my bus stop because I dozed off, being too exhausted to even get out of bed some days.

When she said that to me, I felt more disappointed and frustrated than I have in a while. No, all teenagers do not have chronic fatigue. They might often be tired, but it is not the same thing, not at all. My friends, my healthy, teenage friends, have the ability and the energy to go out every weekend. To see their friends, hang out at bars, go to parties. Me? I haven’t gone out since last summer. Between my constant tiredness and my debilitating pain, forcing myself to get dressed and leave the house, sacrificing precious hours of sleep, it is almost never worth it.

I need at least eight hours of sleep per night, or I don’t function the next day. I don’t mean I’m tired or can’t focus. Fatigue is much more than that. It’s not being able to open my eyes. It’s ultimate weakness, my body unable to hold me up. It’s needing to sit, always, because if I stand for more than five minutes I might just collapse or pass out.

It’s afraid of being seen as weak, and lazy. Yeah, sometimes I am just lazy and don’t want to do anything. But more often than not, I just can’t. It kills me to watch my boyfriend’s grandmother slave away cleaning and cooking when I can’t even lift myself off the couch to help her. Hell, it’s one of the things that scares me most about his family. What if they never understand? What if they always just think I’m a lazy, ungrateful person?

I want to apologize, I want to offer my help, but it’s not that easy. I do what I can when I can, but more often than not I end up sitting while all the other adults help set the table or wash dishes or make salad. I will not apologize for my chronic disease, for something I have no control over. However, I do apologize that I cannot make you understand. I would never wish this upon my worst enemy, let alone my family. But maybe, if you just experienced it for one day, you might be a little kinder, a little less harsh.

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