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What It Means to Be a Tired College Student With Fibromyalgia

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When somebody asks me how I am, my standard response is “tired.” As a college student, I’m not trying to be funny and I’m not talking about pulling all-nighters to study, because my body can’t handle those. No, I’m referring to my sheer physical and emotional exhaustion that I deal with on a daily basis.

As someone who struggles with fibromyalgia, I do not acquire the proper amount of sleep every night, or any night really. Yes, I can usually get eight to nine hours a sleep if I go to bed at a decent time, but it’s a very light, restless sleep. I don’t often go into the REM cycle of sleep, which is the part of your sleep cycle that “resets” your body and makes you feel well-rested when you wake up. Instead, I hover in the lighter sleep stages, only to wake up exhausted again.

My attempt to combat this constant fatigue is to nap. You see, when you’re tired, you can’t concentrate. Can’t concentrate, can’t absorb your lecture material or homework readings. So I nap. But it doesn’t help, really. I wake up just as exhausted as before. The only difference now is that I don’t remember my name, where I am, or why I need to be awake.

This “fibro fog” only lasts a couple minutes as my mind slowly searches for my answers. And no, my memory vanishing like that is not a result of being half asleep still.

I once woke up from a nap to my alarm and had a panic attack because I didn’t recognize the room I was in, couldn’t remember why I had an alarm set (to get ready for work), or who I was. That’s right, not just my name, but my entire identity was gone. Oh, and as to where I’d been sleeping? The bedroom in my new place that I’d already lived in for two months at that point. That time took almost five minutes before I could remember everything.

This is a normal occurrence for me and comes with the territory. Some say that fibro doesn’t exist. I’d love for you to say that standing in front of me, after listening to me describe my most common symptoms, and the ones that are less so. Go ahead, tell me that it’s normal for a 21-year-old to forget that she started making tea in the microwave until she goes to make it again. Tell me that my pain doesn’t exist, that the reason I can barely walk on my own anymore and the fact that my symptoms get worse as my stress goes up is something my four specialists over the past year didn’t think to check for.

Just because fibromyalgia is not well understood does not negate its validity. Doctors once knew very little about HIV, about cancer, about even the flu. So yes, sometimes even doctors don’t understand my condition very well. Neither do I half the time, but I’m still in pain, and I’m still suffering whether you think my condition is “real” or not.

Getty Image by fizkes

Originally published: March 14, 2018
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