Show This to People Who Don’t Understand Why Mental Illness Makes You So Tired


If you live with a mental illness like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, chances are you know the meaning of tired.

Not the I-only-got-four-hours-of-sleep-last-night kind of tired, but the kind of tired you feel regardless of sleep, that manifests as both mental and physical exhaustion.

This is the kind of tired mental health advocate PJ Palits explained in an informative Twitter thread about why living with a mental illness can make us so tired.

“Chances are, if you know someone with a mental disorder or disability, you might have asked them or thought, ‘Why are you tired?'” she wrote. “Not many people ask me if I’m OK, but when they do my answer is always the same ‘I’m fine, just tired’ — and people seem to accept that reply. For me, ‘I’m tired’ is not a complaint or pessimistic. It’s merely a fact of life.”

She then goes on to explain why living with a mental illness or disability can make people exhausted. For anyone who needs to explain what being tired means to you, we’ve summed up her points below:

1. Living with a mental illness can affect your quality of sleep.

“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.”

2. It can be hard to focus.

“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.”

3. It’s exhausting battling your own thoughts.

“These are ppl who are in a constant war w/their own brain, ppl who are battling their own thoughts & fears; hearing every day from their brains they arent good enough,strong enough,skinny enough,that ppl dont like them or that they should hav done better just to list a few things.”

4. It’s exhausting battling discrimination.

“These are people who are in a constant war with other people’s judgment and lack of understanding.”

5. Sometimes you experience sensory overload.

“From the clothing they are expected to wear, the food they are expected to eat, the noise around them, the sights engulfing them & the odors surrounding them, these ppl’s senses are constantly under attack.”

6. You often have to advocate for yourself.

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

7. You sometimes have to battle fears people don’t understand.

“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.'”

8. It can be hard to communicate.

“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.”

9. You often have to deal with side effects of medication.

“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.”

10. It can sometimes take energy to distinguish what’s real.

“These are ppl who are struggling w/their brains to differentiate whats real and whats not, bcoz their brains present everything to them as reality.”

11. There are physical symptoms.

“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.”

Considering all of this, Palits says when someone with a mental illness tells you they’re tired, sometimes you need to look beyond their answer. Although they might need sleep, they also might need support:

Do they need somebody to look them in the eyes and tell them they’re not fine but that you’re there for them? Do they need someone to realize they’re not OK and to offer them a hug? Because I know when I say I’m tired, that’s what I need. So please, 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.

To see more from Palits, you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, where you can check out her artwork and find more words of wisdom.


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