Fibromyalgia Action UK
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Lack of sympathy

Hi all, does anyone feel really tired after friends have unloaded their problems onto you? I have some really good friends and I have always been a very good listener I was a counsellor and therapist before retirement. The problem I have is that friend,s problems exhaust me even when I,m having a reasonable day - I often feel I really don't care, which is not like me - do you think it's a defence mechanism? Of course my family,s problems are different but they don't seem to overwhelm me and I do care about them. It just seems that after about half an hour of friends chat I,m exhausted and want them to leave! Am I horrid or is it fibro?

17 Replies

In order, yes, no, no maybe.

Firstly, good as it is, listening AND PROCESSING is exhausting even if your own health is good.

Second, there are defence mechanisms but I don't think fatigue is one of them. Switching off might be.

Third, why should you feel bad at having a reaction pretty well out of your control.

Fourth Fibro MAY exaggerate the fatigue but I'll bet you feel it anyway.

Drawing on my own experience it's easy to think that because of your history and training these people assume

1) you are stronger than reality.

2) it's ok to unload on you without considering your feelings.

This doesn't make their problems less real. I wonder if a gentle explanation "I'm glad to hear about you but I get easily exhausted with Fibro" might help - or something along those lines.

When you worked I expect appointments were ah hour or so with some of that time delegated to note taking, with or without the client present.

Taken to the extreme, I'm not surprised listening to someone whinge for 1/2 hour is exhausting, especially now you should be enjoying a well deserved retirement. That's not to say stop doing it. I bet you would get unbelievable guilt! Without knowing more details I wonder if there's a way of reducing or avoiding the opportunities. But you ARE doing a fantastic job. And, as evidenced by this blog site, a fellow sufferer is often the most sympathetic and understanding.

Sorry that's a bit wordy.

Gentle hugs :-)


It's what fibro does to you. Living with fibro can be so draining it doesn't take much to become overwhelmed physically and emotionally, so maybe a little bit of self preservation is justified!


Self preservation or even self defence! Remember YOU are important too. I know I say that a lot but it's too easy to underestimate oneself. Been there, done that etc.


Totaly agree with mommH I love my family to bits and I can quite happily cope witn one or two at a time but when they are all here together I feel like I have spent hours at a rock consert, exhausted with jangling nerves after just a few minits .I cope by regulary finding some where quiet to escape to. Pre fibro I coped with a heck of alot more, we just cannot handle emotions like we used to so please do not feel guilty about somthing you cannot control. hugs Sue


I TOTALLY understand & "get" what you're saying!


Oh, what a pain... I'd written a great long reply on my phone but only the first line came out. :-/

Basically I said that I can totally relate to you, that I am also a trained therapist & counsellor before... Before my life stopped. And that, like you I get all sorts of crazy situations with people wanting a little (or actually rather a large) piece of me.

I now set boundaries, am liberated by doing so. That doesn't mean to say I won't help but I now simply give help line numbers and tell them to go to their GP.

Don't feel bad putting yourself and your own needs first. You, after all, deserve this just as much as anyone else does.



This has turned into a really interesting post thanks everyone. I too find that because I have always been a good listener-here by hangs the crux- friends use me as it were they off load perhaps and there are times when you do not need the extra when you are fighting so hard to be ordinary. Also it would be fantastic if they actually remembered to ask how I am not that I would say as it could really upset them. So yes fenbadger I use the defense mechanism of switching off! So basically I let the conversation go over my head.

However, I still manage to have recall afterwards of what was said.

People skills are so enormously important for both, as are a sense of humor, sense of morality, woops I think you have me launched of on to a topic I am passionate about!



Yay! are we in the same club gins :)

I could write loads on this topic. One of our friends went to Iraq in the navy and on his return from his tour he was very badly psychologically affected.

We were having a party to celebrate the passing of my Masters degree so the house was more then bustling at one point there must have been 60 people throughout the house and the yard etc...... it was a BBQ :)

All of a sudden we heard a huge clatter and a crash............. in his post iraq sense this friend thought it would be a good idea to build an obstacle course in the yard and people stood and watched him do it. Okay you might think!!!! Apparently he built it so quickly and then charged over it and then proceeded to dive through our kitchen window :o Gashing his arm open in the process.

What would your reaction have been to that? I'm curious for input on this as people still talk about it today like it was the funniest thing but in reality it wasn't.

It was a cry for help from him and we were left throughout the course of a very bad winter with no kitchen window. Everyone would come and say.. oh! still no window :o NO because its an old Victorian sash and we don't have the money :( Luckily during a storm our bathroom window got broken so the landlord relented and put double glazed units in instead as the back of the buildings aren't under a conservation order like the fronts are...............

Shut up sian enough said ;) really though what would you have said or done? :o


Hi Wild woman :)

I don't think its bad................ if I did I'd be chastising myself too ;)

Its a problem that I've had for a while and this was discussed last week too and some very interesting replies came from that post.

I look forward to seeing them and then feel drained after I've heard all their woes which I do care about but there are times when I really don't and have been known to open my mouth and say so :o Not a good idea................ they don't tend to like that and then don't speak to you for ages, month or so later they come back and all is sweet.

................ or not so sweet! as it happens again and again.

Some of them would come round 'unannounced', (banging endlessly on the door and even peering through the window like debt collectors) knowing my request to call or message to see if I was okay enough for people. I was called boring and unsociable if not joining in with their 'we've come to see you, how rude of you' campaign grrrrrrrrrrrrrr

I have CFS I'm fighting for energy all the time and after a number of years you'd think they'd accept it :o

We discovered that most of our 'friends' weren't really friends anyway! When my OH and I needed them, where were they? nowhere to be seen :o The most remarkable thing about it was the fact my OH's opinion of them changed too, they hurt him badly not just me :(

The only solution we found was to stop listening to the ones that don't actually care about our woes, which, in my case was very important for health reasons. Its not easy switching people off but you have to put yourself, your needs and your feelings first hun and remember to care about you :) We now have a lovely set of friends :D

You are not alone hunny sending you healing and warming fluffies

:) xxxsianxxx :) forgot to say my home is my safe haven so I would say it could be a defence mechanism :D


Oh Zeb something really triggered you today! For your friend who Kamekazed through your window. Well the shock must have been horrendous for you all and some will have laughed and some looked bemused. I hope he got treatment and is a happier settled guy now. My your life is never boring!!

I hope you have managed to get a good group of friends now who are there for you both what ever the weather- please count me in xgins


Awwwwwwwwwwww thanks gins of course :)

We have a lovely group of friends now, here in Sunderland and dotted about the UK too :)


Hi zeb, (on iPad, so the z works,!) Thanx for reply, how awful to have folks banging on the window, my home is my haven too, and I,m inclined to growl when people come uninvited (or even invited). I agree that even friends that you love can outstay their welcome, especially when they offload. often by the evening I,m so tired I can't speak, luckily my OH is incredibly understanding, it's been a steep learning curve for him during this last year. Thank you for lovely fluffies they are returned 100fold! Xxxxxxx


Hi there WW!

Yes, I definitely feel this. I find any socialising exhausts me, not even just problems. Like you, I used to be be a good listener and prided myself on it and could for many more hours! But now I realize that just concentrating on what someone's saying and having to respond is exhausting because with friends they don't want to just sit and read or sit quietly with you, they want to talk and socialize and share and this requires an expending of one's energy! I also find the phone exhausting for the same reason. Short phone calls are fine but long distance phone calls from friends who want to talk an hour completely exhaust me and so I avoid them where possible.

Kirby xx


Thanks Kirkby, I,d forgotten about the phone, same problem there, even if i,m trying to sit or stand comfortably, I still end up feeling stiff and exhausted, although I am excellent at 'oh yes, uh uh, really? " and all the other ones that indicate you,re still there! Xxxx


Haha, yes! I Know that one! I also often need a wee but the thought of an hour long phone call makes that anxiety worse! K xxx


Hi there , it's so unfair that people still unload THIER problems on us even though they know how ill we are !!! My own sister used to ask me if I was enjoying being home !! She knew all the hospital / drs and pain I'd been through over the yrs !!! I used to cry over it ( I still do !) she couldn't even pronounce fibromyalgia it used to really get to me that she couldn't be bothered to learn how to say her own sisters illness !!!!she then became Ill had a stroke and it was me who went to hospital appointments with her and filled in forms for her to claim money and then a few weeks ago she blurted out that she had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia months ago and that I had just said to her when she told me she had it THEY TELL EVERYONE THAT NOW !!!! It really knocked me off my feet I felt sick !!! I remember when she was in my car my husband was taking us to buy birthday cards (he takes me once a month & I buy the whole months at once !!! Because I'm too ill to go out often !!!) that when she was having physio (for her stroke I thought !!) she was diagnosed ????? I remember the conversation she told me a physio told her she had fibro type pains !!! I'm heart broken I told her if that was the caseWHY DIDNT she put that on the forms ???? She then said she DID !!! So when I had spent hours helping her and hurting like hell she would then write fibro in after I'd left ! Every morning she rings me and moans how ill she is !!! I've even stopped answering every day I pretend I didn't hear the phone !! But today she asked when are we going to get birthday cards ??? What a cheek !!! I'm not being used like that anymore !!! If she could believe I'd been that nasty about her illness why does she want my husband to run her around ???? Just using us is the answer and I'm sorry to have gone on and on !!!! But the answer for us all is to STOP AND SAY NO!!!! We must put ourselves first !!!! It hurts when we realise we are being used !!!

So as from now I. Going to practice what I preach !!!!! And good luck to you all !!!!!! XXXXXXXX


Hi allpainedout, I do feel for you in your situation, it is so hard to say no isn,t it. My OH is better at saying no for me if he can get in first. I,m so sure that a lot of our probs come because we look Ok, like mental health problems, unless you,ve got a bandage no one really notices or cares. Also I don,t know about others, but I,m really good at putting on a brave face, to my cost! hope you feel better for the rant, that,s what,s so good about this site, there,s always someone who understands! Hugs xxxx


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