Thyroid Patients Explain What Thyroid Fatigue Really Feels Like

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I asked fans of my Facebook page how they would describe thyroid fatigue to other people, because, let’s face it, it’s not just ‘tiredness’ or being ‘sleepy’. It’s much more than that.

When people say “Oh yeah, I’m tired too!” or “You need an early night!” it’s really infuriating. It’s not a matter of having a bad nights sleep or a late night. Our body is literally deprived of hormones meant to keep us functioning properly.

So, I asked: “It’s hard to describe to those who don’t experience it, but if you could put it in to words, what would it be?”

“It’s a monumental effort just to stay upright and put one foot in front of the other, and as for motivation, its so much easier to stay unmotivated. It takes grit and determination just to get through the day, its so unfair.” – Lynne

“It’s like coming round from general anaesthetic.” – Anon

“It’s my stomach sinking when I realise it is 3pm, I’m exhausted and have still got 4.5 hours of “mum duty” to do before husband gets home.” – Harriet

“It’s waking up more tired than when you went to bed the night before.” – Anon

“It is as if you are surrounded by a fog and stuck in a bubble. I feel like I should be able to shake my head really hard and, cartoon style, this fog will be shaken away and I’ll feel ‘normal’. I’ve had to change how I work to fit around the fact that, the that later in the day it gets, the more useless I become. It’s as if you’ve finished vigorous physical activity every minute of the day but you’re never able to recover. Basically it sucks!” – Emma

“The fatigue is like all the possible different pains that feel like a bee has stung you or someone just stabbed you with a needle. It is so strange how the pain comes and goes. It is making me crazier than I already am, plus staying so tired all the time is really a pain.” – Carolyn

“It’s like having jet lag, extremely draining leaving you very lethargic, your whole body is exhausted, you want to move, but you just can’t.” – Janice

“It’s having no motivation. It’s a struggle to force yourself to do things that you used to enjoy. It’s feeling like you’re going to crumble into a pile if you don’t sit down.” – Linda

“It’s definitely like being drugged. You have the urge to do things but you just can’t. It’s very similar to depression; It’s hard to motivate yourself to move or do anything. You choose the easier way even if you want to go the harder way. It just sucks.” – Theresa

“Extremely debilitating exhaustion, it’s past the stage of being tired. No amount of sleep rectifies it. A lack of energy to stand up in the shower even and when you do a need to sit down again! It is so awful it is painful, muscles scream at me and my bones hurt. This is not just being tired!” – Caroline

“Before my treatment started to work, the tiredness I felt was indescribable, exhaustion to the point of being unable to function at all, a trip to the supermarket wiped me out, it’s worse than just feeling tired, it’s like your body has just completely packed in. Even now I have to make sure I keep any physical activity to early in the day as by late afternoon the tiredness creeps in, but think the worst part is being so tired but then completely unable to sleep.” – Gwen

“Like someone has sucked all the joy, my actual soul out and I had no feeling or energy of any kind left. ( I no longer feel that way fortunately, my thyroid is managed well).” – April

“It gets me so that I would just curl up where I stood, even walking along, just anywhere!” – Pauline

“It feels like the air is sludge, every movement is a Herculean effort. Your thoughts are world class sprinters with your tongue a weekend jogger trying to catch up as they disappear in the distance. The pain is a big, hollow, indescribable thing that owns you.” – Teddy

“I’m reaching the point now where I’m going to have to reduce my hours at work as I can’t work full time and look after my own home and I don’t even have kids. I have massive respect for all parents with hypothyroidism, I seriously don’t know how you do it!” – Liz

“It’s like swimming through honey and someone filled your head and eyelids with lead. Every movement is such an effort and you really feel you need to just lay down and sleep wherever you can.” – Kathleen

“It’s more than being tired. It’s not ‘you had a late night and are a bit groggy today’ tired, I mean absolutely exhausted. Like you could drop sleep with every blink you take. When getting up the stairs is such a horrendous task, that you have to plan about half an hour before you want to go upstairs, to physically prepare yourself for it. And even then, you need someone to help you. I guarantee, if you do not have a chronic illness, you will not know what this feels like.” – Myself

“I’d say it’s beyond exhaustion. It’s spending every moment consciously having to keep my eyes open, using any energy I do have to stay awake from a major lack of energy. It’s waking up more tired than when you go to bed. It’s almost painful.” – Myself

Add your own in the comments section below. 

If you are on thyroid medication and still having these kinds of issues with fatigue and other symptoms, you are likely not adequately treated, or have other problems you need to address. A properly treated thyroid condition should have no or very few symptoms. Of course, other illness, conditions and deficiencies can cause problems too, so explore them all if possible.

Of course, getting ourselves adequately medicated and finding doctors who will listen to us, is a whole other topic!

You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.

If you found this article helpful please take a moment to share this post on social media so we can help other Thyroid Warriors get better and spread awareness.

Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism

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Rachel Hill, Thyroid Patient Advocate, blogger and author, has Six 2018 WEGO Health Award Nominations. She is a highly ranked writer appearing in the Top Hypothyroidism Websites and Top Thyroid Websites and has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Yahoo, MSN and ThyroidChange, to name just a few. She is well-recognised as a useful contributor to the thyroid community and also contributed the foreword to Emily Kyle’s The 30-Minute Thyroid Cookbook.

20 thoughts on “Thyroid Patients Explain What Thyroid Fatigue Really Feels Like

  1. When I have a flare up it’s like the death eaters from Harry Potter have sucked the life from me. I feel like a shell rather than a person and simply getting through the day feels like a marathon effort. I survive on sugar and caffeine to try to keep myself going, just desperate to collapse on the sofa and stop having to think, walk, talk. It’s beyond tired, it’s like constantly swimming against a strong tide and trying desperately not to drown.

  2. It feels like I just pulled 3 all nighters, went a week without eating, and ran a full marathon. It’s a combination of physical and mental exhaustion without having done anything. You have no motivation to do anything, not because you are lazy, but because you’re beyond exhausted, and no amount of sleep makes it better.
    23 and hypothyroid!

  3. Hypothyroidism feels like Ive taken about 4 Benadryls and I’m fighting to stay awake. I’m so forgetful it scares me.

  4. After being seen by 2 health care providers who both dismissed my constant fatigue and exhaustion, after them prescribing multivitamins and sending me home with a piece of paper on “proper sleep hygiene”, after having to insist that they palpate my throat because one side is CLEARLY swollen, after a year of all that, I finally have a diagnosis.

    I was so happy when my third doctor finally told me what was wrong. It validates all the horrible exhaustion I’ve felt for years. I feel like I need a nap just from waking up to silence my alarm clock in the morning. I need a nap for living. My house is usually a mess because I never have the motivation or energy to do anything.

    I miss waking up feeling excited and ready for the day. Having energy throughout the day and even *gasp* meet friends for dinner after work or go hiking on the weekends.

    I can’t wait to start my treatment and feel better.

    1. I’m glad to hear you finally have a diagnosis Joanna, and I’m sorry to hear you were dismissed for so very long. It’s crucial to be validated and know that you’re not alone or imagining it! I hope you’re feeling better soon.

  5. Wow!??? I thought I was only one who had these feelings!! OMG!?? I agree with all of you!!I feel so very exhausted. Just siting to have coffee. Just sweeping my floor.I have to rest every few min. My kids say wow, your so lazy, mom. I try to explain.

  6. I haven’t been diagnosed yet, but my GP has referred me to an endo doc. As much as I hate going to the doctor, I’m very excited about this appointment. For 9 years I’ve been told I’m tired because I’m a mom. For the past 4 months, I have progressively declined in health. I can no longer run a mile without needing a walk break (I’m an ultrarunner). I can hardly lift today half of what I lifted 4 months ago. I’m done for the day after a 5 mile walk. I’m putting on weight despite cutting calories when I wasn’t already overeating. My periods are heavy and every two weeks and the tiredness is affecting my work. In addition, I have the brain fog, hair falling out, ankle swelling as soon as my feet hit the ground in the morning. I could go on, but it seems you all know exactly what I’m going through. Sunday, it took all efforts to even walk down the hallway, I was so exhausted. This is hard to have my kids see. Both of my sisters have RA and my mom was a type 1 Diabetic, aunts on both sides have underactive thyroids so autoimmune disorders seem to run in the family. I hope I’m not once again dismissed when I go in to the doc.

    1. Hi Lori. I’m so so sorry to hear how much Hypothyroidism has affected you. Are you on any medication yet? I relate a lot to what you’ve said and experiences the same things before I was optimally medicated. Please keep faith that you will get back to good health once more. Thyroid Hugs x

  7. I had to go down the route of self medication as my GP said my thyroid results were “normal” (despite elevated antibodies and very low T3/T4) and suggested depression – a very common story. Most of the time I’m functional but on bad days (like today) it feels like someone has given me extra weights to wear on every limb so that all movement is a constant effort and exhausting and it feels like I’m coming down with a bad case of the ‘flu. I’m constantly fighting to keep coherent thoughts in my head for longer than 5 seconds and I have to set alarms on my phone for the simplest of things otherwise I would totally forget to do them.

    1. Hi Sue, I had to go down the self sourcing of thyroid medication too. My GP was trying to pin everything, even my physical symptoms, on depression, which was more than frustrating. I had a flare up day yesterday and I described it as just that – as each limb is being pulled down by some invisible weight.

  8. The comparison that came to me the other day: it’s like when the remote control needs new batteries; if you jab buttons enough you get some results but you know eventually no matter how hard you press everything will stop working.

  9. It’s waking up in the morning and before you get your feet on the floor your counting the hours on your fingers before you will be able to get back to bed . The rest of the day is a chore that has to be endured.Once diagnosed and medicated it does get easier but I worked round it by doing split shifts so I could have an afternoon nap. Doing lunch with colleagues was always refused because I couldn’t go back out to work and concentrate without my afternoon sleep .I am now fortunate enough that I could go part time .

  10. I stumbled on this post and I’m so glad I did! I am on medication now so the Initial hell that came with my thyroid just up and saying “bye hon. I’m tired and you’re about to be exhausted beyond your comprehension. Hope you get it figured out. For now, I hibernate .”
    The exhaustion….pain in my body was horrible. I went from dancing, working out, being outgoing to barely being able to get out of bed without pain. Id sleep for hours and still wake up like I’d taken pain pills…foggy can’t even describe it. I wanted FOGGY! I’d just have blankness and try to figure out how to get home sometimes. The depression , the anxiety , the acne, the bloat, the weight gain…the tears and omg long periods. It was truamatizing and added exhaustion just trying to deal with that on top. I was a wreck! Now that I’m medicated pretty well, I still can have days where I just need to rest more. I can have my “dumb” moments but its manageable with meds and lifestyle changes.

    1. Hi Jessica, this is how I am these days too. getting my thyroid levels optimal with the correct medication was crucial, as were lifestyle changes. I’m glad you only get bad thyroid days every so often now.

  11. I was recently diagnosed (2 months ago, along with HS and PCOS) with hypothyroidism, the Dr didn’t specify what kind or why it happened (I think it’s related to a really bad rollover wreck that broke my neck). I’ve only seen this Dr twice, the first visit, I explained my symptoms and she completely disreguarded my hypothesis of needing my thyroid checked. I hadn’t lost more than 5lbs in the past 10 years, no matter what I did I gained weight. In the past 4 years I’ve put on more than 60lbs. Every Dr that I’ve been to said I was tired because I was so overweight, I needed to change my diet and exercise more. I tried walking every night, but only could make it through about 2 nights a week, and it left me completely drained for what felt like days afterwards. My memory left without me one day, and just never came back. I have several alarms set throughout the day so I don’t go spacey and forget to pick my kids up from school on time, make dinner, do laundry, showers, and even getting them to bed. It is a daily struggle to get everything done that needs to be done to keep my household running. I feel so overwhelmed by simple tasks like doing the dishes or just sweeping and mopping the floor. I feel so weighed down. It’s crushing sometimes. It makes me feel like I’m lazy and useless.

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