What It Means to Be a Tired College Student With Fibromyalgia


When somebody asks me how I am, my standard response is “tired.” As a college student, I’m not trying to be funny and I’m not talking about pulling all-nighters to study, because my body can’t handle those. No, I’m referring to my sheer physical and emotional exhaustion that I deal with on a daily basis.

As someone who struggles with fibromyalgia, I do not acquire the proper amount of sleep every night, or any night really. Yes, I can usually get eight to nine hours a sleep if I go to bed at a decent time, but it’s a very light, restless sleep. I don’t often go into the REM cycle of sleep, which is the part of your sleep cycle that “resets” your body and makes you feel well-rested when you wake up. Instead, I hover in the lighter sleep stages, only to wake up exhausted again.

My attempt to combat this constant fatigue is to nap. You see, when you’re tired, you can’t concentrate. Can’t concentrate, can’t absorb your lecture material or homework readings. So I nap. But it doesn’t help, really. I wake up just as exhausted as before. The only difference now is that I don’t remember my name, where I am, or why I need to be awake.

This “fibro fog” only lasts a couple minutes as my mind slowly searches for my answers. And no, my memory vanishing like that is not a result of being half asleep still.

I once woke up from a nap to my alarm and had a panic attack because I didn’t recognize the room I was in, couldn’t remember why I had an alarm set (to get ready for work), or who I was. That’s right, not just my name, but my entire identity was gone. Oh, and as to where I’d been sleeping? The bedroom in my new place that I’d already lived in for two months at that point. That time took almost five minutes before I could remember everything.

This is a normal occurrence for me and comes with the territory. Some say that fibro doesn’t exist. I’d love for you to say that standing in front of me, after listening to me describe my most common symptoms, and the ones that are less so. Go ahead, tell me that it’s normal for a 21-year-old to forget that she started making tea in the microwave until she goes to make it again. Tell me that my pain doesn’t exist, that the reason I can barely walk on my own anymore and the fact that my symptoms get worse as my stress goes up is something my four specialists over the past year didn’t think to check for.

Just because fibromyalgia is not well understood does not negate its validity. Doctors once knew very little about HIV, about cancer, about even the flu. So yes, sometimes even doctors don’t understand my condition very well. Neither do I half the time, but I’m still in pain, and I’m still suffering whether you think my condition is “real” or not.

Getty Image by fizkes


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Fibromyalgia

19 Metaphors That Explain What Fibromyalgia Pain Feels Like

If someone has never experienced fibromyalgia firsthand, it can be difficult for them to understand what it’s really like to live with the condition. Simply saying you’re “in pain” often isn’t enough to convey the full reality of what you’re going through. Although just about everyone has felt physical pain at some point, it can manifest in different [...]
A hand throwing dirt in the air.

How Fibromyalgia Makes Me Feel Like I'm Being Buried Alive

The darkness is all-encompassing. I can’t breathe, and there is an almost unbearable weight on my chest. I feel like I’m being crushed and the pain is excruciating. All I can hear is thump, thump, thump – although at this point I’m not sure if it’s the beat of my heart, or if it is more [...]
man lying in a hammock on the beach looking upset and pensive

Never Getting a Vacation From Your Illness – Even When You're on Vacation

I am currently on vacation in Tennessee visiting family. It is a welcome reprieve from life and the stresses in it. We have not had a true vacation in five or more years. This spring break for my girls is their first since entering the public school system. It is exciting to see their minds [...]
fibromyalgia and pregnancy

How I'm Managing My Fibromyalgia During Pregnancy

Since I was diagnosed in 2016, I’ve struggled daily with widespread pain, brain fog, anxiety, migraines, IBS, skin sensitivity and sleepless nights. Living with fibromyalgia was never easy before I conceived and I knew it would continue to challenge me during my pregnancy. Similar to my arthritis, the first 12 weeks of my pregnancy were [...]