Why Mental Illnesses Can Make People So Tired


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.

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Thinkstock photo via Monkey Business Images



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