tired woman runner taking a rest

26 Things People With Mental Illness Mean When They Say 'I'm Tired'

Sometimes when people ask us how we are, we say, “I’m tired,” when we really mean so much more.

It’s a more “socially acceptable” answer when you don’t have the heart to say, “I’m good.” But saying, “I’m tired,” doesn’t always cut it if you’re having a hard day living with a mental illness.

So we challenged our mental health community to answer, “How are you?” without saying, “I’m tired.” Because although you don’t have to be brutally honest with everyone you meet, answering more honestly — especially with loved ones — is a great first step in getting the support you might need.

Here’s what they shared with us.

1. “Done… I’m done fighting all the time. Feeling like I’m losing a battle I’m never going to win. I just want to be able to answer the question with, ‘Yeah, I’m good thanks,’ and mean it.”

2. “Sometimes I can’t even put into words what I’m honestly feeling and saying, ‘I’m tired,’ is the easiest way to put it. It’s just a kind of tired that no amount of sleep will fix. When you are always fighting a battle, you’re always tired.”

3. “I’m exhausted of being in my own head. My thoughts overwhelm me, and even when I’m not doing anything my brain is running a mile a minute, obsessing over everything past, present and future. Convincing me all the ills of the world are somehow my fault, that I’m a burden, that I’m overwhelming to everyone else too. And even if I sleep, it’s never restful because I constantly have nightmares. I wake up feeling exhausted both physically and emotionally. It’s like my mind never wants to give me a break.”

4. “I’d say, ‘Well, I’ve been fighting with myself all day to keep going, to get stuff done, to stop getting upset about little stuff, to stop yelling, to stop beating myself up for mistakes (past and present), to fight back the feeling of being overwhelmed by everything, to worry about crying later, the list could go on and on.’ Saying I’m tired is just easier and not a lie. Because I am, just not in the way people think. Daily internal battles around the clock zap everything from you.”

5. “I feel like I’m at the open sea in the middle of the night with no light in sight. I’m just want to let go of everything and let the water take me deep down. But in reality I’ll lie in my bed to not break down in front of everybody.”

6. “I’m tired. Down to my bones. In my mind. In my body. In my spirit. I’m tired of everyone and everything, and I need you to leave me alone but still love me because no amount of sleep will fix this.”

7. “I feel like my head is exploding from the ambient noise of a million thoughts I don’t even want. I’m physically drained from the pain, confusion and fog.”

8. “I’m an emotional train wreck who keeps going over and over the same ground trying to figure out what I did wrong even though everyone tells me I did nothing. I’m terrified that I’ve become such an emotional burden to my friends because I vent to them; maybe one day they will say ‘enough,’ they’re done listening. But everything is great. I’m just tired.”

9. “I am lucky enough to have a friend online who checks in with me on the daily. Always, without fail a simple, ‘How are you today?’ For a while I would give the canned response, but when I knew she wanted me to be honest I would reply with a “hollow,” “detached,” “adequate” and on really low days, an “empty.” Just being honest about the feelings and having someone ask without fear of repercussion or distance or aloofness does wonders.”

10. “I’m tired also means I’ve reached my max capacity of sensory overload. Physically I can be tired, but my ability to process emotions, noises, conversation is exhausted. I cannot even act like a cheery human being. I need to step away from everyone and most everything so I can recover in solitude.”

11. “I’m tired of feeling like I’m an annoyance to everyone, most of all my boyfriend and parents. Tired of trying to concentrate in class when I’m on the verge of crying over ‘nothing’… And most of all: I’m tired of those thoughts that make me so tired of all the other things.”

12. “I did not want to get up today. The thoughts in my head are overtaking and it is such a battle to just get up and breathe and go to school. I lack in classes, and you guys do not understand. I’m quiet, and people ask why. I don’t have the energy to talk. I don’t have the energy to breathe.”

13. “Imagine a balloon you want to fill completely full with air: when the balloon is tighter you think it’s going to pop and when you breathe that one more breath into it, you’re both impressed that it could hold that much and more terrified about it popping on the next one. It’s confusing and overwhelming, but is my every day.”

14. “‘I’m alive.’ Because at this point, there’s no way to properly covey to anyone that you’re ‘tired’ with it being understood or not reprimanded. ‘I’m alive:’ I’m breathing still, so that’s something.”

15. “I say, ‘I’m just a bit tired,’ but what I mean is, ‘I’m mentally, emotionally and physically drained/exhausted from the effort of putting one foot in front of the other. Of ‘being me.'”

16. “I am exhausted. Exhausted by my thoughts and feelings. I am overwhelmed. It feels like I’m drowning… And I’m really frightened and scared because I’m telling you all of this… And I’m grateful for your asking and listening to the honest answer.”

17. “Sometimes all I want to say is that I feel like I am drowning and all I can do is try to keep my head above the water.”

18. “Struggling. Struggling to walk, struggling to even talk. Breathing is like daggers, from both physical and emotional pain. Struggling to not let the voice in my head take over.”

19. “I feel like I’m drowning in a swimming pool with my thoughts with no way to get air, and my mind is a like a super fast wave racing at the speed of lightning!”

20. “I’m OK, thanks. I’ve seen better days, in more ways than one. I’m still alive, despite what I’m going through. I’m thankful.”

21. “How am I? I am struggling and I feel alone. My mind is going a hundred miles an hour and I can’t keep up. I am in constant physical and emotional pain. I often think of dying, and by ‘often’ I mean multiple times in a day. I wish people could understand. I would do anything for the stigma to end. It is harder for me to do ‘normal’ things and on top of that I am constantly fighting urges, fighting off negative thoughts and feelings and trying to keep up with my mind. And this is only a sliver of how I really am and what it is really like for me.”

22. “I say [‘I’m tired’] a lot; it’s kinder to other people than the truth. Usually the honest answer would be something along the lines of, ‘I’m feeling worthless and insignificant today, I don’t feel like I’m able to do anything right. I don’t know why people put up with me. I’m feeling so afraid but I don’t know why.'”

23. “I’m really struggling with my depression today. I’m finding it so hard to keep fighting, and it feels like I’m made of lead. Everything feels 10 times harder than it should be.”

24. “‘I’m mentally exhausted’ because that’s what I feel every time I say ‘I’m tired.’ And I’ve noticed the pattern, on bad days when coworkers ask, my automatic response is, ‘I’m tired.’ And what that means is it’s a bad day, I’m struggling, on the verge of tears, anxious and putting all my emotional and physical strength into the appearance of being outwardly ‘normal.'”

25. “I would tell them this: Every day I feel as if I am falling down a rabbit hole and no matter how hard I try, I can’t climb out. I’m fighting an illness that feels terminal but since it’s in my mind, there’s no end to it. And mainly, I’m tired. I’m just so, so very tired. (There’s simply no way to avoid that part of it if I’m answering honestly).”

26. “Ready to explode. I’m so fragile, say the wrong thing, I don’t know what emotion will come flying out of me. I am frustrated. I am irritated. I am fatigued. I am spent. I am unworthy. I am hopeless. I am angry. I am sick. I am tired but I am here and I am surviving.”

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

 26 Things People With Mental Illness Mean When They Say 'I'm Tired'


Why These Depressed Cookies Are Good for Mental Health

woman sleeping on her couch

Napping Was My Coping Mechanism of Choice

It wasn’t until Friday night that I realized I hadn’t been taking care of myself. Until then, I just thought it was a rough few weeks. A rough couple of months. A rough semester.

Plenty of people I know were also having “off” semesters – boring, draining, confusing, just overall off-putting. I attributed my feelings to some universal disruption that was causing everyone to feel weird.

And then, next thing I knew, I was sobbing on my roommates bed — “couldn’t breathe” sobbing. I was crying over absolutely nothing, and absolutely everything. I had finally collapsed under the weight of my own emotions and I was lucky enough to have some good friends by my side. In the moment I fell apart, I realized it was because I had been putting no effort into keeping myself together – I was always just napping.

This was my regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday routine for the semester:

6:40 a.m. – Wake up (not mentally.)

7:15 a.m. – Get on the bus.

8 a.m. – Try to pay attention in my soil science class.

9 a.m. – Go to work and drown in dishes and boredom.

11 a.m. – Fall asleep in physics class and genuinely feel bad about it.

12 p.m. – Take the bus home.

12:30 p.m. – Sleep for hours

The fact that I did this every single day, without fail, didn’t strike me as a problem. I justified it by telling myself “it’s OK, I had an 8 a.m. class,” or “There’s nothing else to do,” or “I didn’t get enough sleep last night.”

Well, there’s always something else to do — I just didn’t want to do it. I would put off homework, decide I didn’t need to study, tell myself I could eat lunch later, etc. I began to prioritize sleeping as more important than my actual life. It wasn’t depression, at least not yet. But it sure did feel like the beginning of a downward slope into what I went through roughly one year ago – mild depression without even knowing it.

I began to notice I could no longer make it through a day without taking a nap – no matter how well I slept the night before. It was a routine, a habit, an addiction and I had to do it in order to be happy. Because that’s what I was… right? I was happy?

Deep down I knew I wasn’t, but I sure as hell didn’t think depriving myself of sleep was going to make me any happier. So I decided to look at any possible external causes and I found my friends. Or rather, the instability I had been feeling with them since the beginning of the semester.

There was stress to find housing for our senior year – we decided to move closer to campus/downtown so we could better enjoy our lovable city before we graduate. But we couldn’t find a place that would fit us all, and that induced immense stress, the issue of splitting up being the largest stress-induced problem we faced.

There was talking behind backs, there was deciding who didn’t want to live with who, there was lying, there was deceiving and there was a serious decline in trust. This tested us and some of us held on to each other more tightly than others. Our little friend family started to feel more like a battleground and people were choosing sides, myself included. The worst part was that not everyone was even aware it was happening.

It was awful. I am the kind of person that makes very meaningful, but very few, lasting relationships. I am an introverted extrovert, and I have social anxiety, so it’s not exactly easy for me to create quick, purely for fun friendships with people I just meet in class or at work. My friend family was really all I had and I loved them, but they seemed unreliable and I didn’t know what to do.

So I took naps and funneled all of my waking energy into my friends. I spent no time on myself. I did nothing I enjoy. I became less and less invested in my own commitments. I stopped going to some of my classes and I found that even my horseback riding was struggling. And I seriously took a whole lot of naps.

And this continued to grow worse and worse until finally, on Friday night, my mind and body had enough. I was crying over nothing and everything at the same time. And it was so terrible and so wonderful. I laid in bed between my two friends as my world came tumbling down and they loved me through it.

It was exactly what I needed. It made me understand I cannot get through these external problems if I am not taking care of my internal ones first.

Now, instead of taking a nap I make myself do something. Anything. Sometimes I just take a shower, sometimes go for a walk, or even just eat and watch TV. I am reading and writing again. I picked up my film camera for the first time in months, even though I can’t develop for another month or so. I am preparing for a trip to Indonesia that will reignite my love for nature and motivate me to do well in my classes. I still take the occasional nap (what college student doesn’t,) but I don’t have the same dependency as before.

I am remembering that my relationship with myself is the most important thing. Just because I don’t have a bad relationship with myself doesn’t mean I have a good one either. For these past few months I didn’t even have a relationship with myself. But now I’m working on it.

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Thinkstock photo via Liderina

Girl Scouts Can Now Earn a Mental Health Awareness Patch

Diverse People Studying Students Campus Concept

What I Want College Students Struggling With Mental Illness to Know

Being a college student in general is difficult, requiring a lot of dedication and motivation. But being a college student with a mental illness can feel like pure hell sometimes. People always say college is supposed to be the “best four years of your life.” You imagine yourself as a freshman going out to parties all the time, meeting new people, creating new memories, experiencing new things, new people and ideas, yet when you’re struggling with a mental illness, this can all seem more difficult than it is for everyone else.

Imagine having a mental illness and trying to fit the standards of everyone else. Getting help can be often be a real problem on college campuses. For some of the schools in my area, there’s a six month waiting list for counseling. Imagine needing to wait half year to receive help. The semester could possibly be over by then and you wouldn’t be able to get help when you’re struggling to keep up in your classes and keep up with your life. There needs to be in increase of counselors and staff on college campuses.

Additionally, it’s important to realize having a mental illness while attending college does not mean you aren’t capable of doing the work. Mental illness can be an obstacle in your life, but obstacles can be overcome. You’re no less smart, dedicated or hard-working than anyone else just because you’re struggling.

Those who are struggling with a mental illness in college can feel left behind and disregarded. When you surprise yourself with a good grade or surprise yourself by getting up for class, people may say, “Those are things you should be doing anyway.” Responses like these can really undermine the inner turmoil you’re feeling and ultimately make it worse.

For anyone who is struggling at a university, please know you’re worth it and you can make it. Don’t let your illness win, no matter how hard it seems. Recovery is real and possible. Stability is real and possible. You are enough and you’re no less than anyone else just because you struggle with mental illness.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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"Next to Normal" poster

The Play I Relate to Most as Someone With Mental Illness

“Make up your mind that you’re strong enough

Make up your mind let the truth be revealed

Admit what you’ve lost and live with the cost

At times it does hurt to be healed” — Make Up Your Mind/ Catch Me I’m Falling (“Next to Normal”)

In my lowest periods, I’ve always had music to console me. During my last two low periods, the musical, “Next to Normal” has been significant figure in helping me when my therapist was out of reach. Its lyrics were so poignant and real, both qualities I love. The more I listen to the music, the more I find ways to relate to each of the characters.

In Dan, the father, I find the “me” who was a witness to the cries in the dark of a former friend’s volatile and tumultuous mental issues. In Natalie, the daughter, I find the “me” who is an ever patient but frustrated daughter who feels unheard and wants to break free of it all. In Diana, the main character and mother, I find the “me” struggling to come to terms with my illnesses and figuring out how to manage them in my life. In Gabe, the son, I find my demons anxiety and depression, who use me like a marionette doll. In the characters of Henry and Dr. Fine/Dr. Madden, I find the two things I want in my life. They represent the love I want for myself and a clear level-headed conscience. The two things that have to fight every part of me to make sure I stay afloat. The characters of this family represent every part of me. They show the kaleidoscopic person I have grown up to be.

There are also certain songs that hold an enormous meaning for my life. The first song I always come back to every time I’m feeling low is called  “Make Up Your Mind/ Catch Me I’m Falling.” The words Dr. Madden sings as he encourages Diana to free herself from her memories always gets me. There were times I would be listening to this song and crying on the floor holding myself tightly. I would hang on to every word they sang, willing myself to be strong and believe I would get better. I would sometimes write the lyrics on myself like a tattoo, willing the ink of the pen to seep into me so that my troubled heart and mind would get the message. I still use them as a spark to keep myself going. They tell me if I work harder and keep focused I can work to a time where I finally feel like I am OK.

The other song I come back to is “Light,” which is the last song of the musical. It sings of acceptance of your flaws and letting the light in so others can do the same. It also sings of hope, a hope that things will get better for everyone. It’s the hope that the shame of having a mental illness will dissipate and people will open themselves up to others. It’s also the hope you will overcome your trials, learn to be OK and come to terms with everything in your life. It has the characters coming to terms with where they are in their lives and moving forward. I find myself still coming to terms with myself and everything. There are days where it’s lighthearted and easy to feel good about myself, then other days it’s extremely hard and I can’t find a good thing to say about myself. I am still learning how to accept and love myself after years of being inwardly hateful and destructive.

I can’t ever say my life has been “normal,” but I can say it has been an interesting ride so far. I may have made some mistakes and took some wrong turns, but some of those wrong turns and mistakes have led me to places I never thought I would go. I am still learning every day and at 22, I would never have pictured my life the way it currently is. I guess it’s truly all a journey, one  I am still figuring out as I am writing this. I am finding my way to a happy life. One step, one day, one month and one year at a time.

Day after day, wishing all our cares away.

Trying to fight the things we feel, but some hurts never heal.

Some ghosts are never gone, but we go on, we still go on.

And you find some way to survive and you find out you don’t have to be happy at all,

To be happy you’re alive. — Light (“Next to Normal”)

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Photo via “Next to Normal” Facebook.

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