• The aim of this study was to elucidate the meaning of fatigue and tiredness as narrated by women with fibromyalgia (FM) and healthy women. Twenty-five women with FM were interviewed with a narrative approach about the meaning of the lived experience of fatigue and tiredness. A reference group of 25 healthy women was interviewed about the same topic.
• A phenomenological-hermeneutic method inspired by the French philosopher Ricoeur was used to interpret the interview text.
• The meaning of fatigue and tiredness was related differently by women with FM and healthy women. The findings are presented in four major themes for women with FM — the body as a burden, an absent presence, an interfering obstacle and being in hope of alleviation — and in one major theme for healthy women: needing recovery.
• Women with FM narrated fatigue as making it obvious that I have a body, instead of I am my body; the lived body becomes urgently present, as an `it'. Healthy women narrated tiredness as a natural phenomenon when they need recovery and time to rest.
• The findings are interpreted in the light of the phenomenological work on the lived body by Leder, Toombs and Merleau-Ponty.