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16 Everyday Tasks, and What They Feel Like for a Person With Chronic Fatigue

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One of the most common (and frustrating) symptoms those with chronic illness face is chronic fatigue: an overwhelming sense of exhaustion that can be debilitating, and is much different than “just being tired.” (It’s also different than chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis, a separate illness with its own set of symptoms.) Chronic fatigue can affect just about every aspect of your life, making it difficult to do even the “simplest” of tasks that most people might do without a second thought.

Mighty contributor Candida Reece recently shared an essay detailing what 50 everyday tasks feel like for her as someone with fibromyalgia. “Most may seem dramatic to you if you don’t have chronic illness, but I promise they really aren’t exaggerated much at all,” she wrote.

We wanted to shed some light on the unique challenges chronic warriors face because of fatigue and exhaustion, so we asked our Mighty community to share an everyday task they struggle with because of chronic fatigue, and what it feels like to do this task.

If you struggle with basic tasks because of chronic fatigue, know you’re not “lazy,” and you’re not alone. Let us know what you would add to this list in the comments below!

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. Getting Out of Bed

Getting up on time. Seems like I’m finally really deeply sleeping just when the alarm goes off.” – Colleen S.

Just getting out of bed is difficult. I don’t wake up rested, I wake up feeling exhausted and I’m always in pain. Sometimes I think if I lie there for a while, it’ll pass, but a couple of hours can go by and then I have to slowly sit myself up, wait for the dizziness to pass, then stand up. Sometimes I just get up to take my medication, then go back to bed until it kicks in.” – Jill W.

Finding the motivation to get up and do anything. Everything now requires a cost-benefit analysis before doing it. And I’m at the point where aside from sitting up to eat and going to the bathroom… nothing is worth the risk of triggering my symptoms.” – David S.

Getting out of bed. I never wake up feeling refreshed, so getting up in the morning when my ‘battery’ is still low on charge is very difficult since it takes a lot of battery power to get up.” – Sarah L.

2. Taking a Shower

Taking a shower… it’s exhausting, so much that sometimes I just want to go back to bed.” – Kimberly R.G.

Showering. It’s exhausting. Sometimes it zaps what little energy I have for the day.” – Sara O.

Taking a shower/bath. I take a daily *wash my body* shower with bath gel and a body puff on a stick, but the big bath is only once a week. The big bath is when I sit down to shave everything, wash my hair, and body. When I get out, I am absolutely exhausted, by the time I dry off, put lotion on my body, then go in and dry and straighten my hair, I have to go lie on the couch, and or go to bed afterwards. I’m done. My energy is gone. I go during the middle of the week and have my hairdresser wash my hair and straighten it in the middle of the week for me. This used to be something I never thought the first thing about. Now, I have to give myself pep talks to work up to doing it.” – Christy R.Y.R.

3. Fixing Your Hair

This is going to sound small, but putting my hair up. The act of holding my arms up while I wrap a hair band around my hair. My arms ache I just let them hang for a minute when I’m done.” – Katrina R.

Fixing my hair. If I have to blow dry or flat iron my hair, I have to take a break every two minutes due to pain in my hands and arms.” – Heather HC

As someone who struggles with self-image, now heightened by loss of physical activity, one of the things I love most about myself is my hair. I have long thick voluminous wavy hair that when styled makes me feel beautiful. Chronic pain has robbed me of the energy and motivation to spend the hour blowdrying and straightening my hair. I now have a messy side braid and lots of frizz. I never thought I would miss the chore of doing my hair but I do now that I have lost it.” – Ruqayyah B.

4. Getting Ready for the Day

Getting ready for the day is exhausting. I have to take breaks in between getting dressed, doing my hair, doing my makeup, etc. So I have to get up early because it takes me at least two hours with all the breaks.” – Melvaree L.E.

Taking a shower is hard enough, but pulling on underwear after should be considered an Olympic sport.” – Vonney B.

Doing my makeup. It’s exhausting to do it all the way through even though my basic makeup takes only five minutes. I take so many breaks.” – Allégra E.H.

5. Engaging in Conversations

Basic conversations after 3 p.m. I can’t take on board what anyone is saying to me, I can’t think about anything in depth. I’m just vacant. Trying to converse is difficult enough with one person, if there’s more than one, forget it.” – Janelle F.

Just staying awake doing menial tasks. Sometimes I’m falling asleep just having a conversation.” – Bailey S.

Socializing. Even if we’re just messaging I can’t watch my tone and often have to reassure those around me that I’m not mad or even unhappy, just so tired I can’t be hypervigilant about the way things come out of my mouth. I don’t have it in me to reassure and keep up with the conversation so I just don’t a lot of the time.” – Jillian S.

6. Lifting Your Glass to Drink

Drinking water! Before being properly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, something as simple as lifting a glass a water off the table and into my hand and reaching my lips felt like a 1,000-lb. bar. This was one of the scariest moments of life, and it made me realize that my chronic pain was real and not psychosomatic.” – Esmeralda E.

Lifting a mug of tea to my lips feels as if I’m struggling to pick up a sack of potatoes at times, your whole body feels like it’s made of lead.” – Jill C.

7. Doing Laundry

Folding my laundry. It will sit in the dryer for a week before I move it to the basket and then the basket will sit downstairs for another week before I bring it upstairs. By the time I get everything put away I am taking more down to start the cycle again two weeks later…” – Jae M.

Laundry. The bend and lifting, the folding wears me out way more than it should.” – Adrian B.

Folding and putting away laundry is my kryptonite. I’m [in a] wheelchair right now so my hands and arms are the only thing that keep my body going to do all the other things I have to do. At the end of the day, folding and putting laundry is just so exhausting. I feel like I’m winning if I just make sure it is clean, my body is clean and I’m fed so I always say the laundry can wait ’til tomorrow, even when it seems it waits for a tomorrow that never comes. There are worse things in life. I mean, at least they’re clean!” – Gwendolyn A.

8. Changing the Bedding

Changing my sheets and bedding. I have to mentally prepare myself and rest enough beforehand, like I’m preparing for a marathon or a wrestling match.” – Laura S.

9. Cooking

Cooking is the worst for me. If it can’t be cooked within 10 minutes, I’m not making it. I tried to make some spring rolls a while back, by the time I finished the filling, I was too tired to roll them or eat.” – Stacie B.

Fatigue makes cooking really hard to do. Sometimes I have to lay on the floor while cooking, because I just can’t stand up any longer.
I have a 5-year-old daughter. When the fatigue is really bad I’ll feed her and not even feed myself, because I just don’t have the energy.” – Rebecca J.

Eating food that is both affordable and healthy… it seems like the only choices are expensive but healthy meal deliveries or relatively inexpensive but unhealthy microwaveable meals. Cooking isn’t an option right now between CFS and RA.” – Paige P.

10. Doing the Dishes

Doing the dishes is my daily nemesis. It’s all the standing.” – Murray C.

Dishes. Two fingers are continuously swollen no matter what I take and they don’t bend anymore. I’ve broke so many plates and dishes from [having] weak hands and fingers that don’t bend. The worst is washing cups because I bang my fingers around as much as I try not to.” – Tess N.

11. Driving

“Driving. This one just plain makes me feel unsafe. Besides the chronic fatigue, my vertigo or a migraine could hit at any time and it makes my vision and orientation completely untrustworthy. Also, if I’m in that seated position for longer than 10 minutes, my joints will start to scream in pain. Being in a car is miserable even in the passenger seat because of my chronic nausea from certain medications and extreme motion sickness.” – Jenny C.

12. Reading

Reading. When I was younger I used to read whole books in a day or two, now it takes me a day to read one page and by the time I’m done I usually can’t remember what I have read.” – Ellie M.C.

13. Climbing Stairs

Climbing up stairs. By the time I make it to the top, I’m ready for a nap.” – Sierra R.R.

I dread having to climb the stairs to go up for a shower.” – Barbara P.

Stairs. I struggle with my stairs and some days I just can’t go downstairs as I’d never make it back up again. Not having a downstairs loo doesn’t help.” – Jackie W.

14. Getting Your Kids Ready in the Morning

Getting up in the morning, showering, remembering errands. I have a 9-year-old boy and sometimes I have to call a family member to come get him or watch him because I’m not awake or functioning. I feel so guilty and I can’t do all the things with him… I get exhausted easily.” – Christi V.

Taking kids to school. Morning time is my hardest time. I’m exhausted, in pain, irritated and nauseous.” – Chassity F.

15. Cleaning

Cleaning. Especially vacuuming and cleaning the showers. Both jobs have landed me in emergency a few times so I generally leave them to others now. Then I feel depressed because I am so reliant on others.” – Lidia K.M.

Cleaning the house. Just tackling one room a day causes extreme fatigue, back pain, neck and shoulder pain, knees hurt, muscle spasms, etc.” – Sarah C.

16. Thinking

Thinking. Getting up in the morning is hard, showering takes a lot of physical effort and energy, but just thinking about what I have to get done – get up, shower, go to work, do some laundry, do this, do that – by the time I’ve run through the list I’m drained because the fatigue isn’t just physical anymore.” – Sammie W.

What would you add?

Photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash

Originally published: November 21, 2018
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