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What 'Tired' Feels Like When You're Chronically Ill (Because It's Not Cured by a Nap)

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Your friends and family may think they know exactly what you mean when you explain that you’re tired. You need to grab a cup of coffee and head to bed early, right? But when your tiredness stems from your chronic illness, your tiredness doesn’t look exactly like the tiredness someone without chronic health issues experiences. It won’t be cured with an early bedtime; it’s the kind of exhaustion that makes doing anything difficult.

To help the people in your life understand what “being tired” feels like for you, we asked our Mighty community with chronic illness to share what tiredness feels like for them, and how it’s different than what others may understand as “tired.” Spread the word: it’s more than just wanting a quick nap.

Here’s what the community told us:

1. “My husband or my kids say they are tired and they can take a nap or go to bed for the night and they will feel refreshed. I wake up from a night’s sleep, and then I’m up for a few hours and sleep for another four… Resting doesn’t refresh me at all, I just constantly feel tired.”

2. “Bone-deep, crushing fatigue that can’t be helped with ‘rest and relaxation’ or ‘caffeine.’ It’s difficult for those without chronic illness to understand that our fatigue comes from the disease itself, some of the meds we take for it, plus whatever activities we do on top of that.”

3.Fibromyalgia tired is like sleeping for several days on end, waking up and needing a nap. When I am fibro tired I could drink three pots of coffee, an energy shot and B-12 injections and still fall right to sleep. I have no control over my fibro tired, like I do regular tired.”

4. “‘Tired’ is too tired to climb the stairs, lift your head or make a drink. ‘Tired’ is insomnia and chronic fatigue, being sick for sleep with a double whammy. ‘Tired’ is not showered, not dressed, permanent state of exhaustion from poor sleep. ‘Tired’ is dirty hair and staying in. ‘Tired’ is years of this, it’s cumulative.”

5. “It’s like having every third frame of a movie at normal speed and the rest in slow motion… When you go to bed bone tired and wake up even more exhausted and it starts all over again. Except you’re not reset to zero like everyone else with a ‘good night’s sleep.’ You’re at -20.”

6. “Tired with a chronic illness is waking up tired, and not just mentally but physically. Even on the good days, you are exhausted and sleep doesn’t help — you are always sleep deprived no matter how many hours you get a night.”

7. “Being tired feels like my whole body weighs four times as much as it does, and it’s a trial to drag myself around the house… Being tired is feeling so much fatigue I used voice dictation to write this comment instead of actually typing it with my fingers.”

8. “The exhaustion my conditions cause me leaves me trying to talk my legs into supporting my body, it’s getting through a simple task and needing to rest from that, it’s struggling to speak and find the correct words. I break down constantly because my brain fails me just as my body does. But along with the physical exhaustion comes a great deal of mental exhaustion… the kind of tired sleep won’t fix.”

9. “Feeling severely exhausted and tired from my myasthenia gravis feels like I’m going uphill with tons of weights on my legs arms and neck. Rest barely helps on bad days Even sitting takes so much energy I don’t have.”

10. “For me, it’s like my muscles refuse to move any longer and my brain shuts down. I live off of monster energy drinks to feel ‘normal tired’ at best and push to keep going.”

11. “Using the phrase ‘I just can’t’ 1000x a day, no matter what the task is. I feel like my body is weighted down, like I’m laying under a pile of sandbags, and every movement is too much of an effort to accomplish. Spontaneously crying multiple times a day, because you need to do things, and you can’t even take a shower or feed yourself because the effort is just too much.”

12. “‘Tired’ is when you’ve spent the day at Disneyland and you can’t wait to get some sleep so you can go back the next day. ‘Tired’ is going to buying a new car, and taking a nap after to get home. ‘Tired’ is when you don’t get enough sleep. When I say I’m tired, it’s because I’m flaring and can’t get out of bed. Not that I don’t want to, or that’s hard… I literally can’t. It’s when my entire body feels like it’s on fire. People don’t want to hear that, though, so I just say I’m tired.”

13. “My tired is like a healthy person staying up for two days straight. It isn’t being tired, it is complete and total exhaustion.”

14. “I have endometriosis, thyroid disease and exhaustion. I can’t just rest my tired away. I’m never functioning cognitive at my usual level. My “tired” hurts physically. Achy joints, headache, tension in my body and even my eyes hurt with impaired vision.”

15. “It feels like I’ve run a competitive sprint but I’ve only walked to the kitchen. It always takes me back to crossing the finish line after my event in track.”

16. “You know when your car battery got drained and you keep trying to desperately start it but it just sputters and gives out so matter how many times you try before it dies? Like that. Only there are no jumper cables, there is no way to charge or restart, and it’s never ending.”

17. “Tired feels like being exhausted all the time, but still not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep. It’s not showering for weeks at a time because just holding my arms up to wash my hair feels like trying to hold a cinder block up in the air. It’s having to take a break while getting dressed, or brushing my hair. It’s struggling to move, struggling with cognitive problems that make listening to a friend or family member incredibly difficult. Hell, even forming sentences, speaking, is a struggle. Being tired is feeling like my body is made of lead.”

Originally published: April 13, 2017
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