a woman sleeping at her desk, her head on her book

Chances are, if you know someone with a mental disorder or disabilityyou might have asked them or thought, “Why are you tired?”

For me, “I’m tired” is not a complaint or pessimistic. It’s merely a fact of life.

Allow me to explain why a person who is constantly battling their own brain and societal expectations may feel so drained.

These are people whose brains are stuck in overdrive and have a great amount of difficulty unwinding to fall asleep at night. For the “average” person, it takes seven minutes to fall asleep.

Imagine crawling into bed exhausted and it takes the average of an hour to fall asleep, instead of seven minutes. Every nap and bathroom break and the brain relaxation delay begins again.

These are people whose sleep is frequently disturbed and who spend their nights tossing and turning instead of resting. Sometimes they’re awoken by noises, pain, an inability to keep body parts still, by loud noises inside of their heads, vivid dreams and many other reasons.

These are people who wake up feeling, at best, slightly more rested than they were when they crawled into bed in the first place — like a battery that has been damaged that never seems to recharge properly.

These are people who for decades don’t feel rested after their slumber.

These are people who put an immense amount of effort into focusing on the task they’re supposed to do or perform, while their minds are trying to carry them down other paths or while they are struggling to remember just what those tasks are.

These are are people with working memory issues who — from school age on into adulthood — lack the skill to remember multi-step instructions in a world where they’re just expected to know how to do it.

These are people who are in a constant war with their own brain, people who are battling their own thoughts and fears; hearing every day from their brains they aren’t good enough, strong enough, skinny enough, that people don’t like them or that they should have done better… just to list a few things.

These are people who are in a constant war with other people’s judgment and lack of understanding. Who are often asked questions or who hear comments like, “Why are you always tired?” “Just suck it up and deal with it,” “It’s just a lack of discipline,” “It’s all in your head,” “Stop being so pessimistic” and “Stop being so lazy.”

These are people who experience sensory overload that mentally exhausts them. From the clothing they are expected to wear, the food they are expected to eat, the noise around them, the sights engulfing them and the odors surrounding them, these people’s senses are constantly under attack.

These are people who are exhausted from self-advocating to people who don’t understand and don’t care to understand.

These are people who spend most of every day dealing with fears that others sometimes find silly and irrational. It’s like living on a rope bridge swaying in the wind over a canyon while you’re afraid of heights, and hearing, “I don’t understand what you’re complaining about, the bridge is secure. Suck it up and deal with it. I can do it, so you can too.”

These are people who are struggling to communicate their experiences because communication is a skill that needs to be taught and exercised. It’s like those who don’t have a strong artistic talent being instructed to create a sculpture using the items around you to present how they currently feel within the next five minutes.

These are people who expel a large amount of energy trying to understand body language and emotions. It would be like showing you a picture of my cat and expecting you to identify what he’s feeling based on his facial expression and pose within minutes, multiple times a day.

These are people who are tired from the side-effects of medication, or self-medicating to cope with the symptoms of their diagnosis and the expectations of society.

These are people who are struggling with their brains to differentiate what’s real and what’s not, because their brains present everything to them as reality.

These are people who might be struggling with relationships, drug abuse and alcoholism.

These are people who have physical manifestations from their mental struggles because being on high alert takes a physical toll on a person.
These are people whose muscles ache constantly or whose muscles are tired from being tense too often, who get frequent headaches or migraines, whose appetite is affected and whose immune system becomes impaired… just to name a few things.

So please, dear readers, the next time someone with an invisible disability says that they’re tired, please don’t treat them as if they’re lazy or irrational. Instead, imagine living your life on a rope bridge over a canyon, or imagine how you would feel if someone jabbed you and woke you up several times a night for just one year, and the physical and mental impact it would have on you.

I beg of you, on behalf of all of us fighting our own silent battles, please be patient and empathetic. Just because you don’t experience it doesn’t mean that it’s not a reality for someone else.

Follow this journey on Rose’s Mighty Pen.

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Thinkstock photo via Monkey Business Images

Why Mental Illnesses Can Make People So Tired


I have canceled on my friends and family a lot. I don’t usually hear it, but I know you don’t like it. I know you complain. I am sorry. I hope my note below gives you some insight into my actions.

The idea of going out and hanging out with friends is something that is exciting to lots of people, or at least something they can look forward to. Seeing people you care about is a positive thing.

But when you live with debilitating depression and anxiety like I do, it is not at all like that. The idea of “going out with friends or family” is something I dread.

The dread begins 24 hours ahead of time when I realize it is just on the horizon. I try and tell myself how much fun it will be, but the anxiety and depression fight it. I begin trying to think of ways to get out of it. Can I tell them I am sick? Can I tell them I have a dog emergency? What about work? People have to work at 9 p.m. on a Saturday, right?

The day-of is a slowly growing sense of anxiety and stress. With every minute I get closer to leaving the safety nest of my apartment, the panic gets worse and my mind races faster. I am practicing conversations in my head, coming up with hypothetical responses I might receive. I make sure I have an arsenal of stories to tell, so there is not a moment of uncomfortable silence. I think about who is going to be there — do I like them? Do I have a bad history with them? I then think about everything that might go wrong and how I can fix it. Minor things like me saying something stupid or inappropriate, to the major things like a fire. This cycle repeats itself on an endless loop.

Even while this cycle of hell is happening, I try and fight my mind and tell myself that I like these people, that it will be fun, that I should not be so nervous. But it is of no use. By the time I leave, I am either about to have a panic attack or I am already having one.

There are physical symptoms too — shaking legs and hands, heart racing and exhaustion. The last one is one of the worst parts of all of this. The simple act of going out to see my friends or family can sometimes make me so tired it knocks me out for the day after, or longer.

These symptoms do not depend on who I am seeing or what I am doing. Even if it is friends I consider as close as family, the anxiety is there. And if someone who I have a bad history with, or is a trigger for me, will be where I am — this whole experience is 10 times worse and can result in me having a major depressive episode.

I write this so my friends and family know that while I do care immensely about them, if I blow them off, or cancel on them at the last minute, it is because this anxiety has taken such a strong hold of me and I just can’t break free. It is not their fault. I am not a flake. Sometimes, I just lose the battle to myself. I hope you can understand.

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Thinkstock photo via Marjan_Apostolovic

Contrary to Nike’s famous slogan, I can’t just do it.

When you have an eating disorder, you can’t always just eat. You can’t always just look at food and be OK with eating it. I know, in my logical, rational mind I need to eat, that I need a variety of foods of different nutrients to be healthy. I know that. But sometimes I can’t do it. And I especially can’t do it if my food is touching. If the sauce touches vegetables or if my rice spills over to touch the meat, I can’t do it. I can’t eat it. I can’t even look at it, let alone touch it.

When you have anxiety, you can’t always just go out there and do it. Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Oh I want to. I desperately want to and I have the urge to, but my anxiety stops me, telling me all the terrible things that will go wrong if I do. Do you know how hard it is? To so desperately want to feel like and live your adventure, knowing what’s out there, but can’t live it because of anxiety?

When you have depression, you don’t just get out of it. Your rut. Your episode. Your head. How can you go out and live your wildest dreams when you can’t always even get out of your bed? How can you, when your only thoughts are those questioning your existence? When you’re trying to convince yourself tomorrow is worth it, but life is worth the fight, despite the daily battle?

When you have chronic pain, you can’t always just do things. You can’t always jump out of bed, run to work — sometimes you can’t even share a walk in the park with your loved ones. When you have chronic pain, you have to constantly monitor your spoons and hope nothing jumps out of your day to steal your energy.

When you live with debilitating illnesses, you can’t always just go out and do stuff. Of course I would love to. It would be great to just be able to leap out of bed and seize life by the lapels and conquer mountains. But sometimes, the biggest accomplishment is dragging myself into the shower and putting on a clean shirt.

Please stop telling me to just do it. I’m not staying in bed because I’m lazy. I’m dealing with a lot of pain – mental and physical, and trust me, if I could just do it, I would.

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.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via KatarzynaBialasiewicz

I often wish I could be a “normal” wife. I wish I could keep a clean house, cook dinners, bake and have people over. I wish I could keep up on laundry and be organized. But no, the house is always a mess, I hardly ever cook, I rarely bake and I’m always behind on laundry. Organization? I spend 20 minutes trying to find my textbook for school and several more trying to find a pen that works.

Instead, I find myself curled up under a blanket in the recliner, watching reruns of sitcoms and scanning Facebook while stress eating. I feel so lazy. I feel like I’m not good enough.

But then I remind myself, this isn’t laziness.

I remind myself I work very hard each day to deal with my mental illness. This battle takes most of my energy. So then I have to rest to recharge.

I look back on my day and see it differently.

This morning I had difficulty getting out of bed. My anxiety causes me to have a lot of problems sleeping. I take sleeping medication to sleep, but then it’s hard to get up in the morning. This morning I couldn’t find the energy to take a shower. But after 45 minutes, I summoned the strength to get dressed and get ready for work. I made it to work early. Getting to work early was a small victory.

I made it through work with a clear mind and no panic attacks, despite being in places that sometimes trigger panic attacks. I was professional. I was able to be talkative and friendly. It’s difficult with my social anxiety to be friendly. And it’s exhausting.

After work, I worked on relaxing my body, finding healthy things to read, caring for myself. With some work, I was able to relax and be calm. It felt healing, to rest after a long, stressful week.

In the evening, I gathered my energy to play a board game with my husband and run two loads of laundry. I also caught up on emails with friends. These things are good, but draining.

At night, I spent three hours trying out strategies to help me fall asleep since I struggle with insomnia.

I look back on the day and I don’t see a lazy person. I see a person who has to fight battles to overcome daily challenges. I see someone who still manages to be a good employee and sociable friend and wife, despite all of her inner struggles. I see someone who makes self-care a priority since she values her own health.

I’m not lazy. I fight small battles every day. I don’t always win the battles. But I keep fighting.

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Thinkstock photo via Slavaleks.

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