Over the years, my friends and family have stopped asking me how I am. This is because each time, the answer will invariably be “tired”.
I mean, why are you lying on it? There is no way to avoid the fact that I look tired. The bags under my eyes have bags. I walk like a woman who has been sentenced to the gallows and I am waiting for someone to ask my 67 year old mother if I am her mother.
Of course, if you are a stranger, or the girl at the check-out and you ask me how I am, I always answer with the obligation, “I’m fine”, when what I really want to say is: “Are you are you sitting comfortably? Then I will start. It all began during the summer of … “before giving them a long history of my pain and suffering in every detail. But not me.
The answer “me too” is sometimes difficult to take and makes you feel extremely in a hurry. It’s not that I have the monopoly of fatigue, but unless the other is also suffering from chronic fatigue, I find it difficult to assimilate the two.
So how am I going to describe how my fatigue is different from your tiredness, when I can hardly describe it? How can I make them understand that it’s not just an elegant name to be extremely tired? What to light on the laptop, pick up the phone or just read is an exhausting experience in itself?
It seems odd to call debilitating fatigue, but that’s what chronic fatigue is. This makes you weak and unable to do most of the tasks. Even this last paragraph took more than 45 minutes to write because I had to rest a few times between writing. It disturbs your mind and weighs you so that you can not put one foot in front of the other or raise your arms. Sometimes it seems so oppressive that it seems like your whole body is sinking into the ground. Everything you do is like doing it while splashing in a few inches of mud, or as if you’re still swimming against the tide …
You could ask them to imagine having the flu 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Although for some, the symptoms appear and disappear. Or tell them that even if I managed to sleep 10 hours, I would probably feel even worse than before going to sleep. And muscle pain, sore throat, headache, swelling and stiff joints, chronic cough and nausea? What about psychological and physical symptoms? What about the impact it has on friendships and relationships? How can I explain this to someone who just thinks I’m tired?
The fact is, I do not do it. It’s a lot easier to say that I’m fine, and I’m doing it. Like many people with chronic illness, we paint our smiles and let the world think that everything is sun and lollipop, and during this time, we continue to suffer in silence.
I do not try to belittle those who say they are tired. Whether you’re stressed, overworked, pregnant or run after a handful of “uterine fruits,” fatigue can have a detrimental effect on anyone. I am tired of people who assume that “my tiredness” is an excessive exaggeration, or something that can be easily solved by resting well at night. But would not it be great if I could?