Fatigue is the number one symptom reported by people living with MS. But because it is “hidden,” it can be frustrating to get others to understand what you are feeling.
You may feel that only people with MS truly understand. But it’s important to talk about it to your family, friends, and coworkers. Otherwise, they might interpret your fatigue as laziness or lack of interest.
With some planning, You CAN talk to others about your fatigue!
Talk to your family
- Explain fatigue to children in ways they can understand. For younger children, it may be enough to explain that it is part of your MS. Explain what it feels like to older children in your own words.
- Plan to participate in family chores, like cooking or cleaning, around your other activities, including rest breaks. This will help your family understand that you are actively managing your fatigue, and that you are not lazy.
- Proactively managing your energy by pacing your activities, along with restorative sleep at night and rest breaks before becoming overly fatigued, will help educate others by your actions that "You Can".
Talk to your friends
- Share your personal experiences with fatigue in ways your friends can understand. Try comparing it to the flu.
- Give friends written materials about MS and fatigue.
- Don’t feel like you have to explain it every time. It’s OK to just say you’re tired. If you follow the two steps above, your friends will understand.
Talk to your coworkers
- Accommodate your work to your fatigue, so people can see that you are carrying your workload, but in a slightly different way.
- Give coworkers written materials about MS and fatigue (if you have disclosed your MS at work).
- Talk about fatigue in ways your coworkers may understand, Try comparing it to running a 10-mile race.
- Don’t feel like you have to explain it every time. Choose when and where to talk about your MS.
Author: Cindy Gackle, OTR, University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview; Can Do Multiple Sclerosis.