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21 Signs You Grew Up With Chronic Fatigue

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If you grew up feeling chronically fatigued (which is different than having chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis, a disease with its own particular set of symptoms), your childhood probably looked a lot different than that of your friends. Maybe you preferred reading or watching TV to playing sports, or required a lot more sleep at night than your classmates. Chronic fatigue is a common symptom for many of those with chronic illness, and for some, including myself, it’s been a part of our lives as long as we can remember.

Fatigue was one of my most debilitating symptoms as a kid. I was never involved in many extracurricular activities because any time I wasn’t at school I needed to be resting. There was even one (painful) instance in which I literally fell asleep while running on the track during P.E. I just couldn’t stay awake. Like so many others who experienced chronic fatigue during childhood, I thought it was totally normal. It wasn’t until years later that I learned it was actually a very real symptom of my illness.

We asked our Mighty community to share signs they grew up with chronic fatigue which they can now recognize in retrospect. Maybe some of the following will remind you of your own childhood.

Here’s what the community shared with us:

1. “I used to sleep all. The. Time. My parents used to get so angry because they thought I was just being lazy. Thankfully they believe me and support me as an adult with chronic illness.”

2. “P.E. was my worst nightmare. I could never keep up with the other kids and would be teased. The teachers would even make hurtful comments when I tried to get them to understand why I didn’t want to participate – especially at sports carnivals.”

3. “Light and noise sensitivity, being exhausted after school and having to nap, always sick with flu-like symptoms and sore throats, couldn’t be bothered [to hang] with friends, always sore and achy.”

4. “I had dark circles under my eyes at the age of 11 due to fatigue. I just never felt rested and I thought it was normal.”

5. “I didn’t put the puzzle pieces together until I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 16. Every time I would be a [wild] kid, goof around, laugh a lot [and] play outside with my brothers, I would feel terrible. I would always try and fight through it and at the worst times, give up and sleep. It was such a revelation to look back on my childhood and realize it wasn’t normal. I’m now very conscious of my fatigue level when I’m having fun with my loved ones and often think back on those days when I push myself too far.”

6. “I took a nap after school nearly every day – and we are talking about fourth grade all the way through high school. Oftentimes it was at the bottom of the staircase. By the time I got home each day, I was too tired to climb the stairs. I’d sleep there till dinnertime (my family just stepped over me) then, after eating, I’d go up to bed. No energy for homework or fun.”

7. “I never ever had even close to a normal amount of stamina for a kid.”

8. “I would fall asleep in class a lot and get in trouble for it. I literally could not stay awake in class after just a couple hours and so I would frequently find myself either laying my head down to rest or actually falling completely asleep. Teachers would scold me but they really didn’t understand that I honestly couldn’t control it.”

9. “I got headaches all the time from having not slept well. I’ve been waking up exhausted from a young age.”

10. “Knowing exactly what essential oils help relieve fatigue.”


11. “I feel like kids always want to run outside and play and do activities. But even as a little kid I preferred low energy activities: playing with Barbies, watching movies, etc. I always detested sports, and found P.E. to be so incredibly exhausting. For years I chalked it up to just being out of shape. But looking back, I think I never enjoyed those activities because they took so much energy for me.”

12. “I often didn’t have the mental or physical energy for schoolwork and was called lazy so often it lost its meaning. I also used to injure myself to get out of gym class because I couldn’t make it through the day if I had to run a mile in the middle of it.”

13. “I was always tired or sick. My parents had to homeschool me because I was so sick all the time. I knew something was wrong but would have never guessed at 17 I would be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I had never even heard of it! Even when I was a kid I would always get tired and also needed my own space to deal with things that were going on. I never imagined I would be on the couch for so long.”

14. “I could never focus on tasks in school. I’d always get in trouble for not being able to complete ‘simple tasks’ like everyone else could.”

15. “As a kid I couldn’t fathom how anyone had energy for extracurricular activities, period, when I frequently would come home from school and pass out until it was time to leave for school again. My family was active but I just wanted to stay home and rest. (Seriously though, my brother did so many sports/activities I actually doubted if we were really related.)”

16. “I always had leg aches at night. All through school, I would have many occasions where I stayed home from school because I just felt ‘sick.’ [I had a] low stamina for sports.”

17. “When I was little, even continuing now, I would get anxious when I didn’t have enough downtime during the day.”

18. “Hated gym? Didn’t leap at chances for summer jobs? Socialized as a first instinct impulse? It’s felt like a part of me for so long that it’s hard to tell where it began and I ended. All I knew was the world was going faster around me, like I was in a time lapse, slow motion blur dealie. It was a daily wonder how I was going to keep up with it all, if I was, and how long could I possibly fake keeping up the pace.”

19. “I didn’t feel like doing the things I actually wanted to do.”

20. “I remember being tired all the time. I never had enough energy. I rarely felt good and got sick easily. Stress made it worse.”

21. “The fact that not everyone needs to nap every day still blows my mind. I’m 33 and have had to nap/rest constantly my entire life.”

Originally published: August 18, 2017
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