Friday, 13 December 2013

Are you tired Sally?

My brother-in-law is mentally handicapped and this is a question he likes to ask.  It usually happens in the kitchen when I'm cooking.  He'll walk up beside me and give me one of his beguiling smiles and ask, "Are you tired Sally?"

I know he means well.

Yet, even before I got ME, I disliked this question.  Let's face it, if we are tired we don't want to be reminded of the fact, and if we are not tired we don't want to think we look it!

Of course, I recognise that anyone asking me the "tired" question is most likely doing so because they care.  So I am grateful of the sentiment behind the question.  Maybe it would be worse if no-one ever asked?

Yet, I really do not like that question or any version of it.  Here's a few examples of how the "tired" thing can work:

  • Out somewhere and my companion says: "I don't want to wear you out, perhaps we should go home now?"
  • Leaving a social event early: "Well, I think we'll go now.  Sally can't stay out too late."
  • Or when caught napping: "Oh dear! Is this all just too much for you?"

Again, I understand why folk say something.  They do care for me, and I'm grateful for that.  So, mostly I  try to bite my tongue.

But what I'd really like is for my friends to help me forget my illness when I'm out.  I'd much prefer they found some other little white lie for when the tired situation arises.

So dear friends here's what I'd prefer you say:
  • Out somewhere, try: "How are you for time? Should we head back now?"
  • Leaving company, make up an excuse. Perhaps even take the blame on yourself:  "I'd like to get back home early because <insert vaguely plausible reason here>.  Sally, are you happy to leave soon?"
  • And finally if you see me napping somewhere, please just pass no comment! 
As for my brother in law?  Well, I know he'll continue to ask the tired question.  It's just one of the regular conversations that we have.  He asks, and I reply that I'm fine, and then I turn the question back to him.  He chuckles and tells me that he's fine too.  And so the moment moves on.  

To be honest, I'll rarely give an honest answer to the tired question.  Does anyone?


  1. Even though it can irritate you know it is just people's way of demonstrating they care. Great idea for the blog - keep it up as there is so much education and information needed.

    1. Thankfully I am not too easily irritated Ian. And as you say, folk are showing that they care. :D

  2. Hi Sally. I totally agree. I had to to tell people that I would set my boundaries, other people didn't need to. I also had to tell people that I wouldn't talk about how I am, so any questions such as "how are you doing?" would be met with "Good" "Ok" "Fine" Being at any gathering and talking about how I really was was draining and unhelpful. Like you, I wanted to forget about the condition for a while... I am now a wellie. (Not a boot, a well person).

    1. Thanks for your understanding Simon, and I'm delighted to hear you are now recovered. :D

  3. That's right Sally, I have just been discussing this with Linda,as she says tiredness is not what ME is about : the list of issues that it is about, is a lengthy one. Tiredness implies a starting point that does not exist :the Severe ME my wife experiences goes way, way beyond tiredness; an indescribably awful level of illness is her starting point. Tiredness also implies that you can rest and recover -in our wildest dreams, IF ONLY that was possible !!! "Tiredness" has got to be THE great insult in ME. Excellent blog -as always .

    1. Indeed Greg, "tired" is not the right word ever really. ME is an illness not a tiredness.

  4. Right, Greg and Sally. Very good post, Sally. M.E. certainly is NOT about tiredness. Most people can't understand, or won't feel obligated to know about it. :-(

  5. Interesting and helpful. Now I know what not to say, thanks!