English is a funny language.
One bear, two bears. One horse, two horses. But one mouse, two… mice. One goose, two… geese. One octopus, two… octopi?! (I guess neither ‘octopuses’ or ‘octopeese’ would have worked…) Fish and sheep? Doesn’t matter how many. One fish, fifty fish. One sheep, a million sheep.
And what about that whole, ‘i’ before ‘e’ rule? Yeah, that works great: except when you want to run a feisty heist on a weird beige foreign neighbour…
In English, we have words that look the same, but mean totally different things.
B-o-w, for example. Subjects bow to the Queen. Robin Hood used a bow and arrow.
Sometimes we’ll even use a word to mean the same thing, but on a different level. I say that I love hot chips, and I say that I love my husband. Do I have the same feelings for both? Well…I really do like hot chips (although I can’t eat them anymore) but my feelings towards them are nothing compared to the way I feel about my husband.
What’s another example? Hm…how about that little word ‘tired’?
That’s a word I hear used a lot.
Person A says: “I’m so tired! I stayed up watching a movie last night, and didn’t get to bed until late.”
Person B says: “I’m so tired! The new baby never seems to sleep – I don’t remember the last time I had a good rest, let alone a night of undisturbed sleep.”
Both people used that word, ‘tired’. But is the mother of a seemingly never sleeping newborn expressing the same sentiment as the person who stayed up late for one night to watch a movie?
That’s something I feel like people most often misunderstand about Dysautonomia (and lots of other illnesses). They don’t understand the level of tired we are talking about.
When I say I’m tired, I never mean I feel like I just stayed up late one night to watch a movie. My level of tired ranges from day-to-day. But on a good day, I’m so tired that my body hurts all over. Processing information is an effort. I struggle with memory. And after I do a few basic things, like showering, getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, a lot of my energy is gone. On a good day, I could maybe go for a walk, or potter in the garden. But I’ll pay for it with less energy and more pain in the days following, so it has to be something I think is really worth doing. That’s my good days.
On a bad day I’m so tired that my muscles don’t hold my joints together anymore, and I dislocate things rolling over in bed, or drying my hand on a towel. I’m in significant pain. Breathing is a struggle, and I choke on my own saliva, because my throat muscles are too tired to swallow. When I try to move my arms or legs, they feel heavy, like I’m wearing concrete clothes. Sometimes I’m so tired, I can’t move at all. I’m stuck, lying however I collapsed into bed, dribbling onto my pillow because I can’t even close my mouth.
The worst part is not the level of tiredness. The worst part is that you can be this tired from doing nothing. It’s one thing to be tired as a result of working full time, raising kids, taking care of the house, visiting friends, exercising at the gym… You’re busy, and your energy is being drained by all the things that you’re doing. But to be so tired, every single day, and have nothing valuable to show for it? That’s hard. It’s hard to live with. It’s hard for people to understand.
No matter how many early nights I have (and I usually go to bed early), no matter how long I stay in bed, I will be tired. My body is working hard just to semi-function, so I should probably cut it some slack. But I sometimes wish that healthy people would stop telling me that they are ‘tired too’. It’s not because I’m so pretentious that I think I can tell exactly how tired someone is. Even if I could, it’s not a competition: I’m definitely not excited to be ‘more tired’ than someone else. But I often get the feeling that they are saying they’re tired like I say I love hot chips. I believe they are tired, I just think that maybe we’re tired on different levels. Or for different reasons – they’re tired because they’re doing things.
I’m sorry if you’re tired because you’re busy. Being tired is not nice, no matter the cause. It’s our body’s signal to slow down, to give it time to repair and replenish. It’s not meant to be enjoyable, or we’d never stop! But I am glad that your body makes so much energy for you to use, and that you’re wringing out every bit of it. I hope you’re spending it on worthwhile things.