“I’m Tired” versus My Chronic Fatigue

I think one of the most common complaints of people with Chronic Fatigue, actual and diagnosed is that many people respond to them with “I’m tired too”.  Most of these people mean well and are just trying to relate, but they do not understand the difference.

I have so many issues related to my Multiple Sclerosis and Meniere’s Disease but my top two are fatigue and cognitive decline.

Fatigue, in the sense of a chronic illness can be crippling. We don’t want to hear about how you are tired because you took your children to school, went to work and then car pooled the kids to after school activities before going home to make dinner, help with homework and getting them to bed, and on and on. Some days it takes all the energy I can muster to get out of bed and walk to my basement office to log onto my laptop to work from home. There are days, most of us don’t want to admit this because people are so judgmental, that we have to decide if a shower is worth the energy it takes to get undressed, shower and redressed. That is what fatigue looks like, not your sense of being tired after a workout or long day in the office. When you respond with “I’m tired” we may silently judge you, because telling you that what you experience is in no way like what we experience takes way more energy than we have to give just to inform you that you are mistaken.

If I am feeling extra frustrated with people I may respond with “do you have the energy to shower everyday?” I will just leave it at that, I will get a weird look and then they will drop it.

Just know, even with the best intentions, it comes off across differently to the people who suffer from bone crushing fatigue. We try, we will fake it and may look fine, some of the better of us (not me) may not even tell you how much fatigue impacts them. Chronic fatigue feels like it is slowly killing me from the inside out and no amount of sleep gives me “pep”. I drink caffeine all day, do not judge me, just to stay awake at my desk and make it through the day.

Does fatigue impact your life? Let’s start a conversation!

Frustrated Youths

The media reports on suicides more now than ever before. Bullying from social media and in person seems to be rising. Mean kids have always been around though, teen suicide is not new. As far back as the Salem Witch Trials teens have played “mean girls”, accusing people they didn’t like of being a witch so that they must go on trial.

The summer before my freshman year in high school one of my closest male friends took his own life by jumping off a bridge into a large, rough river. He probably didn’t expect to be in a coma prior to finally succumbing to his choice, but his choice impacted many people. That’s what people who choose to end their lives don’t realize. Their suffering may end, but they leave behind a life time of memories and questions for those who care for them. It’s been more than 20 years and I still think about him around his birthday and the month he took his life every single year. Until I started therapy a couple of years ago I wasn’t entirely sure why I was so angry every year around these times. I never got to say good bye, I never got closure, with the help of my therapist I was able to resolve my anger and now I can think of him fondly when he comes to mind.

I have two boys, I am pretty sure they are happy kids. When I talk to them they tell me the good things in life, if they are having issues with peers we brainstorm on how we can resolve the conflicts or move past it. I do not want either of my kids to be the next statistic. It terrifies me every time I see another kid on the news who couldn’t handle it and completed suicide.

According to kidshealth.org “Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after accidents and homicide. It’s also thought that at least 25 attempts are made for every completed teen suicide.”

This is heart breaking and should be to every parent out there. We need to talk to our kids. Pry if you must, this is our future generation and what kind of world will we have if the good kids, sensitive kids all disappear and are left mostly with the bullies? Mental health for everyone is important, no one should feel shame for having to work with a professional, there are so many ways of getting help now that you don’t even need to go into an office to talk to someone.

This hotline should be like poison control number on the magnet of parent’s fridges. You probably won’t need it, but it’s there just in case. 1-800-273-8255, if you or someone you love is having thoughts of suicide or self harm.

Stats from the CDC:

  • Boys are 4 times more likely to die from suicide than girls.
  • Girls are more likely to attempt suicide than boys.
  • Guns are used in more than half of youth suicides.

Some of the leading causes of suicides in youth:

  • Changes in their families, such as divorce or moving to a new town
  • Changes in friendships
  • Problems in school
  • Other losses

Youth at higher risk of suicide:

  • One or more mental or substance abuse problems
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Undesirable life events or recent losses, such as the death of a parent
  • Family history of mental or substance abuse problems
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical, sexual, or verbal or emotional abuse
  • Past suicide attempt
  • Gun in the home
  • Imprisonment
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as from family or peers, in the news, or in fiction stories

Warning Signs that can also look like depression:

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family members
  • Acting-out behaviors and running away
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Neglecting one’s personal appearance
  • Unnecessary risk-taking
  • Obsession with death and dying
  • More physical complaints often linked to emotional distress, such as stomachaches, headaches, and extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Loss of interest in school or schoolwork
  • Feeling bored
  • Problems focusing
  • Feeling he or she wants to die
  • Lack of response to praise
  • Says “I want to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide.”
  • Gives verbal hints, such as “I won’t be a problem much longer,” or “If anything happens to me, I want you to know ….”
  • Gives away favorite possessions or throws away important belongings
  • Becomes suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
  • May express weird thoughts
  • Writes 1 or more suicide notes

Sources:

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=90&contentid=P02584

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/suicide.html

https://www.aacap.org/aacap/families_and_youth/facts_for_families/fff-guide/teen-suicide-010.aspx

https://www.suicideinfo.ca/resource/teensuicide/

https://www.speakingofsuicide.com/2017/09/21/suicide-language/