12 Things Only Someone with Chronic Fatigue Would Understand

Written by Kirsten Schultz on April 27, 2017

chronic fatigue

Chronic fatigue can be hard to explain to friends, family, and even your dog when he’s waiting to go for a walk. The exhaustion runs deep, and no amount of sleep is going to magically turn you into the energizer bunny.

From needing multiple lattes just to make it through the day, to napping before heading out the door, here are 12 things you’ll definitely be able to relate to if you live with chronic fatigue.

1. Naps won’t do

Well-meaning pals will say, “Hey, go nap, sleepy head.” They just don’t understand that fatigue runs deeper than a lack of sleep.

2. Things get lost in translation

People often feel as though we aren’t listening to them. It’s not for lack of trying. But mentally processing things can be difficult.

3. It’s emotionally draining

One of the worst parts about fatigue is realizing that we can’t accomplish what we’d like each day. It’s extremely emotionally draining. We can feel useless and like we have to be babysat.

4. Pacing yourself is necessary

To get through the day, we must fight the urge to do too much at once. When we overdo it, we can’t function during the rest of the day.

5. You feel frozen in time

It can often feel like we’re frozen in time, watching everything move around us incredibly quickly.

6. You need to rest after basic things

Fatigue means that, on the days you’re lucky enough to shower, you have to rest right after — or sometimes even during!

7. All planning goes out the door

We can wake up with the greatest intentions to knock out a bunch of to-do’s and then find that, suddenly, we don’t even have the energy to do one of those things. Simply taking a shower and eating can take a lot of effort.

8. Coffee isn’t optional

When we can manage getting things on our to-do lists done, it requires a large amount of caffeine. It’s just a fact.

9. It can take days to deal with a one-time event

When people have big events on the calendar — weddings, traveling— everyone seems to understand that resting before and after is necessary. Those of us with fatigue have to do this with just about every event or outing we have, no matter how basic.

10. Canceling plans is inevitable

We often have to cancel plans, so we aren’t always the best kinds of friends… This can get pretty lonely.

11. You feel lost

Fatigue steals so much of our personality. You may normally be incredibly bubbly and outgoing. When fatigue hits, though, we can become incredibly introverted, withdrawn, and quiet to conserve energy. Unfortunately, with our true personalities hidden so much of the time, we often feel lost.

12. Technology is a lifesaver

It’s hard to maintain friendships in person, so technology is a must. Social media makes it so much easier to connect with our loved ones, even when we’re having a rough day. We can even meet new pals who understand what living with fatigue is like! These days, you can even get medical appointments online (for the win!).


Kirsten Schultz is a writer from Wisconsin who challenges sexual and gender norms. Through her work as a chronic illness and disability activist, she has a reputation for tearing down barriers while mindfully causing constructive trouble. Kirsten recently founded Chronic Sex, which openly discusses how illness and disability affect our relationships with ourselves and others, including — you guessed it — sex! You can learn more about Kirsten and Chronic Sex at chronicsex.org.

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