What fatigue is really like

By | May 2, 2016
Children and people with clinical fatigue look like they fell asleep falling into their bed.

Children and people with clinical fatigue look like they fell asleep falling into their bed.

There’s so much out there about being tired, exhaustion, fatigue, feeling run down. Some of those are similar, most are vastly different. The easiest way to think of the levels of energy and motivation is with salsa.

Are you mild, feeling tired and a little run down? Maybe medium, where you’re well beyond tired and into exhaustion. Or, like me, are you hot and fatigued? (I am a bit spicy and an acquired taste… But we’re not talking about personality)

If you’re exhausted then a good, restful, full night’s sleep will often put you back to rights. If you’re fatigued then you can get as much sleep as there are hours in the day and you’re still going to feel like a rotting vegetable that’s been forgotten for too long in the back of a crisper. Careful, they tend to get slug slimy.

That’s how most people will explain the difference between exhaustion and clinical fatigue. Probably without the visuals of rotting vegetables, I simply couldn’t resist.

Here’s how I see my experience with fatigue.

Those 24 hours that’s in a day, you’re probably sleeping for about 7 or 8 of them, awake for around 16. You manage to get most of what you need or want done during those 16 hours; including the necessities like bathing and food and bathroom.

Now imagine a day being all of 16 hours. Your body still requires 8 hours of good sleep. That leaves you with a whopping 8 hours to get everything done that need be done. But wait, we’re not through yet! For the low, low price of a bad night sleep those 8 hours of being awake are going to feel like an eternity.

An eternity of having to consciously focus on each and every task. Reaching for that coffee cup? Watch your hand so you don’t accidentally knock it off the table. Now make sure you’ve got a good enough grip on it so it doesn’t slip out of your fingers. Carefully lift it, watch out, it’s starting to slip because your grip was aligned only for picking it straight up! OK, readjusted, let’s lift it again to your lips to take a drink. Careful how far back you tip the cup, don’t want to splash it down your front, that there is sacrilege! Rotate the cup back up into a vertical position. OK, swallow. Excellent, now slowly extend your arm and gently place the coffee cup down onto the coaster. Now easily, because you’ve done this before, release the coffee cup slowly so you know it’s not going to fall over. Perfect! You can draw your arm back towards you, being aware of where the cup is in relation to your moving arm.

Now, that wasn’t so bad. Coffee tasted pretty damn good, but I’m not really up to taking another drink just yet. Need to get up a little energy and motivation before I go through that again.

Now imagine cooking dinner or folding some laundry.

The next time someone who has chronic pain or is prone to clinical fatigue says they’re tired or not up to something, remember it’s not about you. They probably really would love to, but after a little while it takes too much energy to think through each and every movement.

When we clean the bathroom, go to work, tend to our children; in other words participate in life, we’re choosing those activities because they’re important. We’re selective about what we spend our valuable and finite resources on, and we usually choose love.

In the great words of Lili Von Shtupp:

I’m tired,
Tired of playing the game
Ain’t it a crying shame
I’m so tired
God dammit I’m exhausted


One thought on “What fatigue is really like

  1. Byron Herlong

    Happened across your blog. Sending energy, strength and peace your way. Hang in there!
    –Byron — diagnosed 2006


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