Not every “I’m tired” needs a “me too”
Tiredness is what makes us human. It’s like a signal to the body that its battery is low and it needs to be charged. But what would you do if you’ve been “tired” for 5 years? Not from living, but actually, physically tired. For. Half. A. Decade.
When asked how I’m feeling, at times I go with “I’m tired.” And, I’m almost always encountered with a “me too.” But not everything needs to be relatable amongst us humans. Hearing “me too” could be a huge relief at times but not always.
Being a chronically ill person, fatigue is just another one of those “invisible” symptoms, which never leaves you. It is a tricky feeling to explain to a healthy person. But I’ll try. Here’s why you should never reply with a “me too” to somebody who’s been fighting every day for their normal life.
Let’s keep things simple. Imagine you have bad body aches, chills and you are feverish. You are already at 70% of your energy levels. You head to work and don’t get a seat in the metro. You are surrounded by snoring strangers so you feel all alone. You get off at the station, and can’t find a cab so you have to walk to the office 1km away. (Oh, poor little soul!)
By the time you reach the office, you are exhausted and dragging yourself to work. You are at 50% energy level, and the day has just begun. It’s time to switch on your laptop and start the day. Your colleagues are energized following a weekend, which, by the way, you spent sleeping since your pain killers knocked you off.
Meanwhile, you are struck with bad headaches during the day but you can’t take your pain killers because you know they’ll make you sleepy. There’s work to do! By the evening, your energy levels have reached 25%. Your brain is foggy and you can barely remember your name. You’re feeling weak, drained and so dizzy from exhaustion you can hardly stand.
Somehow you reach home. Fast forward to the night, and you can’t wait to pop in that pill and doze off. But wait, the headache and body pain is still there, which isn’t letting you sleep so you wait for your body to give in.
Despite sleeping all night, you’re tops 40% the next morning. This goes on for a couple of days. Eventually, your body becomes lethargic so you have to sit on the floor in the shower. But wait, your arms feel just too heavy to wash your hair. They aren’t strong enough to be raised above your waist. But somehow, you manage to get it done because you HAVE TO. By the time you are done, you are at 25%. And, it’s just the start of a new day.
Imagine living like this, day in and day out, for more than five years. That’s almost 2000 days of being sick. This is the tired I’m talking about. This is the energy level at which I function. I don’t remember the last time I felt 70%.
“Chronic fatigue” literally means being tired for a very long time. It’s not a post-weekend-party tired. I’m talking years of feeling lethargic. Years of overwhelming exhaustion that sucks every last drop of energy from the person.
The idea of sleeping all day long or being under the blanket might sound like a breeze to many. Maybe it sounds fantastic to you. But having fatigue due to chronic illness is not a lazy weekend spent watching Netflix. Chances are the person stuck inside the blanket was once a studious kid or a sportsperson with aspirations and dreams.
Imagine waking up one day and realizing you can’t be what you dreamed of because your body just doesn’t work. The realization of limitations comes with time. Chances are the person stuck inside the blanket wanted to do a lot more than sleep, rest and resent their body. Who would choose to feel like shit every single day?
Please do me a favour and don’t reply with a “me too” if I tell you I’m tired. I get that everyone gets tired, of course, they do. Chronically ill people don’t have the monopoly on feeling exhausted. We know every single person feels fatigued at some point but your fatigue goes away with time. By contrast, ours is here to stay.
We don’t expect you to “get it.” But it would be a whole lot nicer if my “I’m tired” wouldn’t be followed by “me too” or some remedy suggestions like “perhaps a walk/change of scenery/better diet would make you feel better.”