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When I Try Describing Exhaustion to People Who Haven't Experienced It

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I often find myself looking for different words and adjectives to explain my overall excessive, abnormal exhaustion. There are days that I can sleep 14 to 17 hours out of the day and feel the same level of exhaustion the following day. No matter what, my body is physically tired every day and I have stopped looking for the “whys” and started looking for the “hows” in regards to managing my exhaustion and ways to help myself. After a while, it becomes pointless asking questions such as “Why is this happening to me,” or “Why am I so tired.” Instead, it’s worth more to put the effort forth to find ways you can manage the exhaustion.

When people ask me about my conditions or if I say I’m tired, I get told I’m too young to be that exhausted and I receive unsolicited medical advice from people who are not doctors. It is difficult for anyone to understand this exhaustion because it’s abnormal. It is impossible to grasp the feeling of this particular exhaustion with words and adjectives. It is hard for anyone to understand unless they have experienced a similar fatigue or exhaustion. Physical pain, weakness and fatigue are difficult to physically imagine if one has never experienced it. For example, I describe my feet to people and doctors as if I am walking on thousands of needles while they are on fire and up in flames. That has been the only way I could describe the physical pain. Even after I explain the physical pain, people ask me to go to the coffee shop or stay out later. It has to be in the top three most frustrating parts about having a chronic illness.

It becomes increasingly frustrating as I explain the physical agony my body experiences more often than not and always feeling misunderstood. I have to realize that not everyone is going to understand how I feel and I cannot expect them to live their life according to my body and its unpredictability. I also can’t expect everyone to understand how I am feeling and to be honest, they really don’t need to. This is just one of the most frustrating aspects of having a chronic illness because it is extremely difficult to comprehend if one has never experienced this excessive exhaustion or fatigue.

Try not to become frustrated when people do not understand. Try to imagine how you would have understood it from someone else prior to your chronic illness. We’re all human and we can only do so much.

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Originally published: November 8, 2016
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