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18 People Describe What Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Feels Like

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Chronic fatigue syndrome is not simply being “tired.” It’s a debilitating chronic illness with symptoms that affect sleep, concentration, pain and energy. Between 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans have the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Because chronic fatigue symptoms are typically invisible and thus misunderstood — or even dismissed — by people who don’t have the condition, The Mighty asked our readers as well as the ProHealth community to describe what chronic fatigue really feels like.

Here’s what they told us:

1. “The best way to describe chronic fatigue is looking through a foggy glass every day. Nothing ever seems real; it always seems dreamlike.” — Kathrine E.

2. “It feels like I have concrete in my veins. My legs are heavy and my arms do not want to move. I ache. Trying to fight off sleep is fruitless sometimes; best to give in before I pass out.” — Judith B.

3. “Imagine plugging in a dead cell phone over night. When you awake, you expect it to be at 100 percent. But when you wake, it’s only at 9 percent and you have to try and function on that 9 percent. You’re never fully charged.” — Michelle L.

4. “Chronic fatigue feels like I’ve gotten hit by a truck. It doesn’t matter how much sleep you get. My body feels heavy, and it’s a struggle to have the energy to do anything.” — Megan R.

5. “It feels as though days have no beginning and no end. Very much like not being able to participate fully in your own life due to the overwhelming weight of the perpetual, debilitating exhaustion.” — Kaitlyn M.

6. “I often feel like a limp dish rag. It’s hard to put one foot in front of the other and to sit up for long.” — Sharon A.

7. “It feels as if you are walking through mud. The mud is up to your waist and you can hardly move your legs. Your eyes feel like they weigh 100 pounds and you can hardly keep them open.” — Hannah W.

8. “Fatigue is an invisible full length cloak, weighted all around so your reality is this heavy, filmy, dense shroud. Wearing it constantly saps your energy, but there is no clasp to remove it from your body. It makes movement slow, awkward and exhausting. The cloak of fatigue grows tolerable at times, but there is no shrugging off the weight completely.” — Erica C.

9. “It’s like swimming upstream every moment you’re awake and your brain is in a fog like when someone hasn’t slept for two to three days straight.” — Oriana H.

10. “No amount of sleep I get will be enough. That feeling people have first thing in the morning after a bad sleep is what I have all day, every day.” — Calliope K.

11. “A cross between the flu and being intoxicated 24/7.” — Twilight M.

12. “It’s like when Superman gets to close to kryptonite. It feels like the energy is literally being sucked out of my body.” — Ashley G.

13. “It’s like a cross between a pin cushion and a tanker running over you 10 times forwards and backwards, plus a fluffy cloud inside your head not deflating until you move… then pop!” — Robyn A.

14. “Imagine having to lean against your desk at work in order to sit up, and having to prop yourself up on your forearms at the sink so you can wash dishes, budgeting trips up and down stairs and having to rest after you shower.” — Eleanor M.

15. “It feels as if you moved an entire house full of furniture up five flights of stairs by yourself.” — Denise N.

16. “Doing everything a ‘normal’ person does… in a vat of Jell-O.” — Emily Matejic S.

17. “Like the sun never comes out, the Folger’s never brewed and like I live in a constant fog.” — Tiffany I.

18. “Walking for five minutes feels like running a marathon.” — Sarah N.

Getty image by Kateryna Kovarzh

Originally published: February 12, 2016
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