There are so many things that this could apply to, so many situations but I'm going to point out one I thought I "got" but I didn't, not until I was there.
I thought I knew what it was. I had read friends' attempts to describe it. I had put myself through university working 2 or 3 jobs at a time while studying. I worked all nighters. I was a marathon runner. I am a single mother of twin boys since conception. I had read the spoon theory and other comparisons. I thought I understood fatigue. I didn't. Yes, I knew about being tired, about exhaustion and sleep deprivation but I didn't understand fatigue.
Fatigue is not exhaustion; not even close. Fatigue not physical nor mental exhaustion, nor even a combination of the two. Fatigue can exist at the same time as either physical or mental or even both but it can also exist with neither being present.
Fatigue has nothing to do with sleep; quantity or quality, abundance or lack of. Fatigue can be there with continual regular nightly sleep and even additional daytime naps. It can also exist when you are sleep deprived too but fatigue is not about sleep.
Fatigue is not about how much energy you do or don't have. Coffee is irrelevant.
Fatigue is not about spoons and a limited or unlimited supply of them. This was one person's attempt to describe it and it helped some people to a degree but it's not enough to cover what it truly is.
To anyone who has fatigue who tried to describe it to me and I said "oh yeah, I know what you mean", I'm sorry. I only thought I knew.
Fatigue contains emotional, physical and psychological components at the same time. It can exist because of a chronic condition or terminal illness. It can exist because of medication to treat a chronic condition or terminal illness. It is not something that can be controlled with sleep, rest, time away, food, meditation or medication. Fatigue is something you deal with when it hits, often without any warning.
Some of my friends are far into the genius category. They still wont get it because it's not about what you know or can read about. Some of my friend are the most caring and empathetic people you will ever know. They still wont get it because it's not about how much you feel for another person. I know that now. I was one of them before. I thought I knew.
Fatigue cannot be described with words. It is one of those things you need to experience to understand. I hope you never experience it.
Accept it when someone says they are dealing with fatigue from a condition or illness that they know themselves what they need, when and how much. And if they don't know what they need, they know what they don't need and what they can't handle, so don't force it on them.
Accept that they could cancel plans at the last minute, even plans that are important or carry a financial cost.
Accept that they can look amazing and healthy.
Accept that when you see them they seem to have a ton of energy but suddenly say no, I need to sit, now, here, indefinitely, even after what seems like no physical exertion.
Accept that they don't answer your calls or take a long time to respond to a FB or text message.
Accept that they are doing the best that they can.
Accept that you have no clue what they are feeling.