When someone asks how I am these days, I have two answers: “I’m fine” and “I’m tired”. They both mean pretty much the same thing, but it depends on who I’m talking to which one I choose to use.

When most people say they’re tired, they mean just that. Maybe they didn’t sleep well, had a busy day, or any other number of things.

When someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome says they’re tired, what they mean is quite different. Being tired with this illness can mean:

  • Being so exhausted that you can barely move, if you can move at all.
  • Your body feeling so weak and run down that simple tasks like brushing your teeth or hair are insurmountable.
  • Feeling hopeless and just sick and tired of being sick and tired with no signs of relief on the horizon.
  • Feeling the exhaustion deep in your bones, and having even the smallest movements make it worse, or worse still, cause pain.
  • and many other things.

Of course, these aren’t things that we say when someone asks how we are. For the most part, it’s just easier to keep conversations like this general and short…the feeling that the person you’re talking to doesn’t really want or need to hear all the details is one that happens often, and even those closest to us may be unaware of just how awful we feel.

The next time you ask someone with a chronic illness how they are, and they respond with “I’m fine” or “I’m tired”, take a moment and think – there is probably a lot more going on below the surface than you realize.