Jar of Marbles – A Tale of Fatigue

By | January 11, 2018

One of the most frustrating experiences of living with fatigue is the inability to help others truly understand what one lives with on a daily basis. Following is an analogy that I have found useful for describing how fatigue affects one’s life.

First of all, what is fatigue?

Fatigue can by physical or mental. It is a overwhelming weariness, an extreme tiredness combined with feeling weak that reduces one’s ability to concentrate, be fully present and participate as a productive member of society. Fatigue is often confused with being sleepy or tired, but it is far more than that; it is a chronic condition that isn’t helped by proper, restful sleep. People with fatigue often feel weighed down, as if every step they take uses every ounce of energy that they have. Physical fatigue causes muscle weakness, and steals a person’s strength; it makes doing daily activities exacting and exhausting. Mental fatigue steals a person’s ability to fully function, making it difficult to just get out of bed in the morning, let alone accomplish one’s daily tasks. Fatigue makes it severely challenging to concentrate, become motivated, and/or find the energy or ability to go about one’s day.

Now that we have a basic idea of fatigue, picture a jar of marbles.


Every person has a certain level of energy per day, and the marbles in the jar represent that amount of energy. Each person’s level of energy is different, leading some people to have larger or smaller jars than others. The marbles of energy are used throughout the day for our daily tasks, including, but not limited to: personal hygiene, meal preparation, eating, maintaining one’s home, relationships, parenting, caring for a pet, work, volunteering, communication, errands, transportation, appointments, hobbies, mobility, sports, and/or exercise. Many people find that by the end of a day they have little to no marbles left in their jar. Fatigue affects a person’s daily life by starting them out with smaller jars, and then stealing their marbles of energy at a much faster rate, using up one’s supplies long before their day is finished. For some people with fatigue, getting out of bed in the morning, brushing one’s teeth, and/or making breakfast can use up their entire supply of marbles for that one day. In other cases, people with fatigue are only able to accomplish necessary daily tasks by stealing marbles from the next day’s jar, which causes them to have little to no marbles of energy the following day.

Life with fatigue is draining. People with fatigue can go for days without any marbles of energy in their jars. They are weighed down by fatigue, and while they want to accomplish daily tasks, their energy, concentration, motivation and ability are stolen by the lack of marbles. As fatigue is something that is felt, and not seen, it can often be hard for people without fatigue to understand how it affects one’s life. I hope this analogy helps to shed some light on how fatigue affects one’s ability to go about their daily lives.