I’m Not Lazy – I’m Sick!

How many times over the years have you been accused of being lazy since developing your illness, or even before the ME/CFS was diagnosed?   I can remember long before I was ever diagnosed people calling me lazy.  I knew I wasn’t lazy, but I was too young to know what was going on wtih my body and how to explain that I just didn’t have the energy.  If I would complain about being tired I would be told, “You haven’t done anything to get tired!”.  I can remember as far back as my pre-teen years not helping at my grandma’s to make dinner with my sister and cousin because I would have terrible pains in my legs and I would feel so extremely worn out.   My mother used to say that I was experiencing growing pains but I know it was the ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia – I know that now.

I think being called “lazy” by others is one of the worst things you can say to someone – especially when the person is anything but lazy.  I know this is one of the reasons why I became such an overachiever because I was always trying to prove that I wasn’t lazy.  As children, we take what we hear and what we are told and it sticks with us even into adulthood.  I have heard Dr. Phil say over and over that it takes a 1,000 “attaboys” to erase one negative comment you have received. 

Those of us who are sick, and have been repeatedly called lazy most of our lives, will never get enough “attaboys” to erase all of the negative comments we’ve heard about ourselves.    Most of us do the exact same thing that I have done:  we internalize it and try to prove to the world that we aren’t lazy.  We are sick.

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  1. I cannot thank you enough for writing this article. It arrives in a very timely manner for myself, and I look forward to sharing it with many others!

  2. Thank you so much for writing this, this is how I feel all the time. Everyone on my husbands side of the family thinks I am lazy and that all this pain is in my head. This leads to depression for me, because I take everthing to heart. Thank you again.

  3. Jill, I’m so sorry to hear that. It’s really sad when people don’t get us and what we deal with. That’s why we need to be vocal and get the word out! Best wishes to you. The best thing to do is to stay away from those who don’t believe you are sick.

  4. Well, it may not make much of a difference, but here’s an “attagirl” for you – you do so very much good in the world, Sandy 🙂 Thank you!

  5. People don’t usually suggest I’m lazy, but more something like “looking for ways to avoid doing things” and suggesting I’m so mentally ill I don’t want to deal with the world, or something similar nonsense. Which is obviously very insulting, but in a way very funny because everyone who knows me knows that I hate not doing anything. I’m the kind of a person that works despite having a high fever (freelancers don’t always have a choice) and might exercise despite a migraine.

    I also have this thing about proving I’m not lazy, e.g. always having to have a super clean house when there are guests. On the other hand, I actually like cleaning up and most household chores. Yeah, I’m that lazy.

  6. I was told over and over again as a child that I was lazy and yet I started working (making money) at age 7. I was the fastest kid in the 7th grade when it came to the 50 yard dash and yet I could barely walk the 300 yard walk/run. As a teen, one tennis game and I was shot. We wrote it all off to allergies. Yet despite CFS symptoms since age 8, I did not become totally disabled until at 48. AND I was an over achiever, always pushing myself, always faking energy, never telling anyone just how exhausted I was.

    My house was never clean enough for my husband. When I had energy, I’d clean the house and doing that would knock me back on my butt. My choices seemed to be: have a clean house and not work or work and not have a clean house. I’m sure a lot of women relate to that, but literally cleaning was too much exercise for me. I love to clean house. I love to cook. But most of the time it was spaghetti with sauce from a jar. No energy.

    The ugly word LAZY stuck in my head. Whenever I heard it, it made me feel sick inside. I have never used that word to describe anyone. For me, it is a four letter word.

    I’ve had friends who are PE teachers and will describe a young person as lazy or unmotivated and I point out that perhaps the child is actually sick and nobody knows. I was that kid.

  7. Thank you everyone for your comments and for discussing your own issues with being referred to as lazy.

    Claire – I too think of lazy as a dirty word. Such a small word has such emotional trauma behind it for those of us who were called that. I too am not lazy and started buying my own school clothes at the age of 12. Sorry to hear about your husband not thinking your house was ever clean enough. I am fortunate to have a wonderful husband who would never expect more from me than I can do.

  8. I just want to thank you for sharing this article with us! I had a particularly difficult day and reading this helped me more than I can say!

  9. Thanks! I fight 2 labels like that. I’ve always been fat. Even on extremely low calorie diets, with at least an hour of daily exercise & an active lifestyle, I’ve been told if I’d quit lying about what I eat & get serious about really dieting & exercising, I’d lose the weight – but I never got even close to a normal weight. So for me, there are 2 fronts where I’m called “lazy” & accused of lying about things (like what I can really do with CFS & fibro). Plus, the fat makes people say if I’d lose weight I wouldn’t be tired. I worked 22 years with fibro & 12 of those with CFS, too. I am a nurse; I spent 12 hour shifts running up & down long halls, tending to patients’ needs. How is that not physical? I’d go home & exercise. I took my son & his friends places on my days off – places like skating rinks.
    Plus I have a whole list of other, smaller but still irritating, chronic conditions that make me sound like a hypochondriac (20 besides the fibro & CFS), but they’re all real, & when they all gang up on me, I feel pretty lousy. But disability is proving hard to get & part of it is my size. If I could work that long, that hard, & even when I was getting worse, be a caregiver for my mom & for the last 2 years, my husband, how am I lazy? Or a hypochondriac?
    So to me, that’s another area they need to stop blaming people or calling them liars. Sure, some people get thin if they quit eating what’s bad for them, but many don’t. Obesity is occurring in countries where people live in garbage dumps & get a meal a day or less, for Pete’s sake, while thin people who are professional eating contestants scarf down sometimes 10,000 calories a day in “training” & aren’t heavy. So obviously, there’s more to it.
    To me, this, the fact that in the early 20th century, sickle cell anemia was considered laziness, & MS was considered “hysterical paralysis,” is just more proof that doctors mostly prefer calling people names & labeling them than saying, “I don’t know what this is, let’s find out.” A few do, but they’re usually outnumbered by a profession that ridicules them & even runs them out of the profession, rather than admitting they missed the boat & there are real illnesses out there that are disabling people. Just like they did to Semmelweiss, a doctor who instituted handwashing in the mid 1800s amidst cries by his colleagues that it wasn’t necessary – even when he reduced the death rate drastically, they threw him out of the profession; when he left, they stopped & more people died. And they still didn’t admit he was right! So if doctors want to know why they’re not at the top of the list of professions Americans trust, guess what? It doesn’t help that you’d rather call people names than try to help them find out what’s wrong & try to fix it!

  10. hello i was just reading every1s comments and it makes me sad 🙁 support is needed being put down just makes us feel worse!people make me angry!im 22 and have narcolepcy,cataplexy, depression n bipolar people label me nuts.lazy.idil,but im not and i think its ignorant i have to live with it every day and have a lil 1 with adhd and autisum people cant expect me to be on top of the world but i manage my sons well looked after and has clean clothes and a cooked meal every day how i dnt no but you just do it dont ya lol n i keep smiling but i am tierd and down and in pain i think people who live normal lifes will never understand untill they ever become ill 🙂

  11. Kimberly Dearmore says:

    It’s hard when your own sister calls you that, while I am still trying to work and she doesn’t. I am the lazy one, she told me today anyone with CFS/ME or FM is lazy and using it as excuse not to work. I wish she could walk one day in my or “our” shoes.

  12. I’m kinda sickly like my grandma.
    I loooooooooooooooooove being active when I feel well, good! But, I get sick often. AT CAMP I got sick, and when I came home lots of people thought I was being lazy because I was lounging and that was all I felt like doing. Yea when you have a fever and hallucinated your not going to come out all La La La O.O
    It really hurts when people call you lazy when they don’t know crap.

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