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17 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because Being Tired Is Your Normal

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When you battle a chronic illness day in and day out, constantly feeling tired is often part of the territory. Whether your illness or medication causes you to experience chronic fatigue, or your pain, insomnia and other symptoms wear you down and make you feel like a zombie trying to go about your day, this can be one of the most frustrating and debilitating symptoms of chronic illness.

Being tired all the time can make it difficult to do even the simplest of tasks, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower – much less trying to make it through an entire day of work, school, appointments and responsibilities. Many people develop certain habits or coping techniques they turn to when their body tires, like sitting down at every opportunity or fidgeting to keep their body awake. But other people might not realize you’re doing these things because your body is fatigued or exhausted due to chronic illness. This misunderstanding can sometimes lead to hurtful (and inaccurate) judgments, like assuming a person who needs to sit frequently is simply “lazy.”

We wanted to correct these misconceptions and raise awareness of how chronic tiredness can manifest, and how people respond and cope with it. So we asked our Mighty community to share something they do that people don’t realize they’re doing because they’re always tired. If you recognize your own behaviors in this list, know that you’re not alone — and if you have a loved one who’s always tired from battling chronic illness, hopefully this will help you understand and support them better.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. Leaning Against Something

Needing chairs with backs or a wall to lean on when I’m out anywhere because standing for too long hurts.” – Sarah C.

Constantly leaning on things to support myself. I know it just looks lazy most of the time.” – Lauren H.

2. Walking Away From Conversations

Having to walk away from conversations because of sensory overload. If too many people are talking or if the radio/TV is on and people are talking, [I] can’t hear with the buzzing in my ears.” – Wendy G.

Ending conversations early because talking tires me out quickly – especially when standing – and I need to lay down in order to avoid fainting.” – Shandi D.

3. Moving Your Body

Stretching… Sometimes I get a small boost of energy that lasts just a few seconds, but is enough to focus again on whatever I was doing.” – Sarah R.

I rock back and forth.” – Kris C.

4. Staying Seated in One Spot

Sitting in one spot until company leaves, because getting up can be embarrassing and due to my weakness and pain it’s pretty awkward and ridiculous to see.” – Annie E.

5. Resting Your Head on Something

I am constantly trying to rest or support my head. I have major rib issues and it is exhausting to sit and especially to stand. So any little support for my core, and my head, helps out a lot.” – Katie V.

I prop my head up on my hand. I get weak and fatigued muscles from my autoimmune disease, and of course I’m tired. I’ve even had people ask me, ‘Am I boring you, or keeping you awake?’ That’s not it. I’m exhausted, and my head is to heavy for my neck.” – Chrissy T.

6. Not Responding to Messages

Not responding to calls/texts ‘in a timely fashion’ because I’m resting/sleeping the day away since it’s hard to sleep at night sometimes…” – Rebecca K.

“Oftentimes I’ll also avoid answering messages or phone calls because I just don’t have the energy to hold a conversation. Messages will go unanswered for weeks at a time.” – Taylor R.

7. Sitting Down Everywhere

I usually try to find a chair nearby to sit. Standing hurts.” – Nicole F.

“Sitting against the wall of a restaurant booth… or slouching in my seat in the car and putting my feet up on the dash… Wow… I’ve been doing this for so long I can hardly remember I’m doing it.” – Johnna C.C.

Sitting whenever I can, leaning on things if I can’t sit. Holding my partner’s hand or putting my arm around him when walking or standing to balance myself or hold myself up. Going away from groups and conversations. Anything at all to conserve energy.” – Kirsten B.

8. Taking Frequent Breaks

Having to take a nap mid-morning and rest and take breaks constantly.” – Sarah C.

Sitting constantly. I take breaks to rest while I’m doing things, and I can never be on my feet too long.” – Siri P.

9. Leaving Events Early

I get so exhausted, I get dizzy and lightheaded, [and] I have to leave early at the store, or lay down for a nap before social interactions. Being social can be a huge drain mentally and physically.” – Metea M.

“Suddenly disappearing somewhere quiet if there’s a crowd of people or outside/somewhere cool if I feel like I’m going to pass out.” – Emma J.H.

10. Getting the Giggles

My coworkers can always tell when I’m tired from my pain. I get extremely giddy and in my opinion obnoxious. When I am so tired from my pain suddenly everything becomes funny, even when it shouldn’t be. I bounce up and down on the yoga ball. I make silly faces. I have no idea how I have the energy to do these things, but if I don’t I will either fall asleep or become extremely mean. I hate being the giddy, goody 12-year-old girl with the giggles but sometimes that’s what my pain changes me into.” – Mackenzie G.

11. Resting Before Every Activity and Event

I need to lay down as much as humanly possible before a planned event or activity to save my energy (well, what little energy I have).” – Valerie M.

12. Playing on Your Phone

Spending a lot of time on Facebook and games. Half the time it’s because I enjoy it, but half the time it’s because I’m too tired to do anything else, and I need a distraction from how gross I feel.” – Sheila V.

Sitting constantly while I’m at work. Messing around on my iPad and phone to keep myself awake. Always on the couch at home.” – Natalie P.

13. Not Participating in Conversations

“Being quite passive in conversations, because it’s actually taking all my brain power just to keep up with what’s being said, never mind trying to formulate a coherent response to it…” – Emma J.H.

14. Taking Bathroom Breaks

Going to the bathroom… it’s a quiet place to sit and recoup without interruption. When I can’t handle being social and interactive I will escape to try and conserve the little energy I have.” – Bay H.

15. Listening to Music

I have to have music playing or streaming something when I’m at my computer. If it gets too quiet, I might fall asleep.” – Nikki G.

“Listening to music through headphones to try to avoid having to talk to people in the first place.” – Shandi D.

16. Difficulty Speaking Coherently

I stay tired since I rarely sleep, and never sleep well. It makes my aphasia so much worse. I’m constantly trying to find words that should be easy, like ‘knife’ or ‘remote.’” – Mindi B.H.

Always hunting for seats, rubbing my eyes and sighing all the time, oh and being so forgetful and unable to speak as coherently as others would expect.” – Kirst F.

17. Napping

I take naps as much as I can. Sometimes I take purposeful power naps in between doctors’ appointments and errands, and sometimes I fall asleep on accident for several hours.” – Amelia H.

Originally published: April 5, 2018
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