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I’m of No Use – Save Yourself!

You feel guilty about running out of energy when you shouldn’t, don’t you?

You’ve done everything right – You got the correct amount of sleep, ate the right things (and more importantly, avoided the wrong things), you’re in an air conditioned room, but you’re completely toast.

Your spoons are all used up.

I had this happen to me when I was put in charge of cooking dinner for my youngest son. My wife and oldest son had something to do. As Bobby Brown would say – that’s their prerogative. Just because I’m losing my abilities doesn’t mean that they should lose their’s!

I used to do all of the cooking. I loved it. I was good at it. This was an easy meal and it would just be me and my boy. A little one-on-one time.

I knew pretty quickly that things weren’t going to end well. I nearly collapsed while I was preparing the meal. I was totally useless and fell asleep when we sat down to watch a movie.

It’s frustrating.

As much as I try and pretend that I can do the things I used to, I fail. As much as I want to be a good father to my son, I can’t – at least not the way society would have us believe.

It’s the concentration – the focus. It makes everything worse. A lot worse. Of course, that’s impossible to explain.

If I’m looking for my keys, I get completely wiped out.

If I am slicing tomatoes – trying not to cut myself or squash the fruit… or vegetable… or whatever the heck a tomato is – I’m beat.

The extra-maddening part of it is that it compounds itself. I’m fixated on not cutting myself with the knife so I get even more stressed and tired, and I have to concentrate even harder.

It’s a useless endeavor.

Then I get warm as things become more difficult. My body not only gets worn-out from the strain but now that rise in body temperature makes it harder to get the easiest things done.

Am I the only one? I can’t possibly be.

How do you explain that? How can you make people think that you’re invested as a parent when you look “normal” and appear lazy?

How can I convince people that I’m a good husband despite my apparent lack of effort?

I look selfish even though I feel like I push myself – maybe too far. People think I’m taking it easy but I really never take a break. Never.

“What other people think of me is none of my business.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

Easier said than done, right? You can either do it or you can’t.

I think a big part of communicating that to others is confidence. Sit down sooner or don’t start a futile project. Look like you don’t feel bad about “quitting.” And definitely don’t look the part.

You’re not quitting, anyway.

Is it quitting when you stop running after six miles? Is it quitting when you just can’t eat another bite?

It’s stopping because you have to. It’s not giving up – It’s making the right choice because you’ll get sick or injure yourself if you don’t. Everyone can understand that because they’ve all been there. They’ve never felt like you do, though, so the assumption is that they don’t believe you.

Compare it to something that they ARE familiar with. That they can relate to. Even if it’s totally off-base.

Expectation plays a big part, too, so keep that in mind. Don’t plant a seed that you MIGHT be able to do it – then they’ll expect it. When you can’t accomplish what you said you would, they see you as not trying hard enough. You become a disappointment.

So what if you DIDN’T give them an unreasonable expectation. What if you stopped before it was a problem and DIDN’T explain it. Years ago, I had a boss that told me “you can always tell if someone is lying because they over-explain everything.

Make a statement that they’re familiar with but don’t go into detail. “That’s the last one I can do” or “I can’t eat another bite.” Even – “go ahead… save yourselves.”

Are you just being funny? Have you lost your marbles? Maybe, but let them wonder. They can ask if they want to, but you don’t have to shoulder that guilt. You’ve thrown them off and they’ll wonder what you’re talking about. But they’re not thinking about your abilities or lack of effort.

Who cares what they think, anyway?! I say “screw them!” They should be smart enough to figure it out and the people that are close to you know what’s going on, anyway.

Yes, it seems a little weird – ok, really weird – but there’s a break in the tension and the focus isn’t on you to explain what’s happening. It’s just Jim being Jim and everyone moves on.

The best part? Nobody feels bad about it.

Your identity might be in question, but that’s what you were worried about, anyway. You we’re desperate not to appear lazy or incompetent. So – give yourself a new identity. A crazy, matter-of-fact identity.

Make them wonder – but they probably won’t. Maybe looking guilty is what makes them think you’re making it up. It’s like coming home to a chewed-up couch cushion and a dog that won’t look at you.

The point is that they don’t get it and you shouldn’t feel bad about it. My son would have been happier if we’d ordered a pizza, anyway.

Make goofy, cryptic comments like it’s an inside joke. Smirk a little.

Don’t sweat it.

Do you want to look like you have a problem and are hopeless, or that you are self-aware, confident, and dealing with it?

Jim Turk was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2008 and has been featured in several publications and on TV. He has a passion for helping people make the best life for themselves despite their circumstances.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • tfs
    3 years ago

    Thank you for this insightful article. I was diagnosed with PPMS later in life. (2014) I am no longer able to work and am on disability. I loved this article: concentration is a problem and causes extreme fatigue. It is not laziness and guilt and shame never help anyway. My goal is to live everyday to the best of my ability and to be as physically and mentally active as I can be within my own limitations. Short statements without explanation might help with the invisible symptoms. I am not le lazy. I am struggling with a progressive illness.

  • GN Glaser
    4 years ago

    You hit it on the head. Thank u.

  • JimmyT author
    4 years ago

    I appreciate it. I’ve since had a discussion with my youngest and he seems to get it. It doesn’t make me feel less guilty about it, though :). Thanks much!

  • Jan Adair
    4 years ago

    I can TOTALLY relate to what you are saying. I’ve had MS since 1979 and have gone through alot as you can imagine. Being a single parent of 2 children was the hardest. They were young and couldn’t understand why I was so tired. Beyond tired! Worked full-time job to support us. And was able to get two degrees. Now I’m wondering whether I will be able to go back to work.Ive been off since July due to a flare up that has affected my eyes as well as my memory. I want to get better and go back. But I also have to be realistic. Sometimes that’s awfully hard.

  • JimmyT author
    4 years ago

    I agree, Jan. Sometimes (often times…) it seems like the only way is just to have skin that’s as tough as leather. Sometimes I think that “baby-steps” is a good approach to use for young kids. As recently as last night, I sort-of thanked my youngest for being so helpful. I started by saying “it’s great that…” and “mom really appreciates that you…” and ended with “I really appreciate it, too. Especially as it gets harder for me to do things.” I think/hope that sank in a little…


  • JimmyT author
    4 years ago

    Yup, I agree. The problem(s) I have is that I’m chronically guilty – especially when it comes to family. You SHOULDNT feel guilty, but sometimes it’s hard not to when things aren’t talked about. You feel like a sad-sack if you make an excuse and feel inadequate if you don’t.

  • Johan
    4 years ago

    Mr. T…
    No, I don’t feel guilty about running out of energy. I do push myself farther than I like to sometimes but fortunately nobody has gotten hurt. Yet. I tell people once, what’s up, if they believe me great, if they don’t, their problem. My friends and family are getting better. Yesterday my friend called me lazy. I think I swore at him.


  • JimmyT author
    3 years ago

    Good attitude – at least you limited it to swearing :).

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