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When You're Exhausted From Living With a Mental Illness

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My wife and I were talking last night, about… I’m not sure, something, we talk about a lot of things and the topics either get very silly or very serious. Last night was serious night and we talked for a little bit. Then I told her I loved her and hoped that she truly understood just how much I love her and how sincere I was and am when I do so.

Anyway, last night we were talking about our life of various mental health problems (we tend to flock together easily), and how one thing people tend not to realize is just how exhausting it is to have depression. Hell, to have any kind of mental health problem. It’s physically draining to be like this, even if it’s just for some of the time, and it causes other physical symptoms, too. Like I’m having a bad anxiety day, and I slept, but not peacefully, and I know I slept curled in a ball for a lot of the night because my legs ache so much today. My knees aches and my legs are sore, just from one bad night’s sleep brought on by anxiety.

The anxiety was caused by having a strange cat in my house, who did not want to sleep in my porch (he wanted to be outside), and would bang on the door every now and again. Waking me up thinking we’re being attacked or broken into.

This morning my anxiety was so bad I couldn’t move. I was immobilized by my own panic. My wife had to physically sit me up, stand me up and help me walk to the shower, step by slow step. I could move my own legs, I was holding onto my glasses so tightly she had to take them out of my own hands because she thought I was going to break them. If I hadn’t had so much to do today, I would’ve begged her to leave me.

I’ve begged her to leave me before. Actually God damn begged. Desperately asked her not to pull me out of bed, not to get me, not to help me because I can’t stand to face the world outside because the panic is so overwhelming the only part of my body I can move is my damn mouth and I can’t even breathe and just because I am actually breathing doesn’t mean I can breathe. I can’t breathe.

But I had the cat to take to the vet, and a letter that needed to be written at the charity where I volunteer and I was supposed to see the “The Lego Movie” (my niece was too ill to go in the end) and for the first time since I’ve had a panic attack that bad, I beat it. I got up, went into into town, did the stuff I needed to do, and came home, with the anxiety reduced to the low level I tend to live with on most days.

And when I came home and cleaned up the bathroom and made tea and sat down, I started to panic again because I was so freaking tired. I was too tired to play Skyrim (I kept dying) and I went to bed and slept for four hours (despite the cat crying in the bedroom with me).

I’m exhausted. Right now, I’m physically, and even more so, mentally exhausted. I’m writing this because I’ve had tea, and dinner, and I’m on a writer’s roll. I have words, I will get them out, or I will not sleep. And I really need sleep (lie-in tomorrow though).

And that’s just anxiety. Depression, for me, has always been exhaustion but with self-harm and suicidal tendencies thrown into the mix. When I have depressive days (and I get them still), I get sad to the point where I can move again. Or can’t face a five minute walk to the garage for food (even when there is none in the house), because all the energy is gone, even if I slept well, even if I’ve had all the sleep in China (like the tea, but lazier). I think that makes it worse. All that energy, it just gets sucked into the atmosphere and I lie there, unable to move again, though, able to breathe at least.

I used to get anxiety attacks. Like panic attacks but much more physical. Rocking, violent rocking. The self-harm meant blood loss and, well, anaemia and blood loss are pretty tiring in their own way. And the pain, all that pain takes up the energy I tended not to have in the first place because, well I’m depressed, and in pain — and even on the days where I’m so numb I swear even my heart has stopped working — it’s tiring because you spend all your time trying to figure out why the hell you feel (or don’t feel) like this.

Why you?

You spend all your time thinking, overthinking and then thinking some more and only about this. You think and obsess and get no where because sometimes there is no answer (and more often than not, a diagnosis is not an answer) and you are always desperate for understanding and meaning and change. Change. Better. To be better, but it never comes and your brain never stops.

It never stops.

Once, I suffered from some psychosis mixed with my obsessive compulsive disorder. For six months I didn’t step on a line or crack. Not a single one. I had all sorts of rules for what counted as lines and where I had to walk, and I did this for six months. And do you know why? Because I was convinced, without a moment of doubt in my mind, that the devil was sucking up my soul and my “good things” through the pavement every time I stepped on a line or crack. And sometimes that devil was my dad, and sometimes he was red with horns and the reason my bank account was empty so often. I actually should’ve been on antipsychotics or in a hospital at some point during those six months, they were pretty bad (and I don’t talk about it much), but I was working in temp jobs in Warehouses, sweeping, putting boxes together, etc. I was self-harming every day (at work), I was suicidal and trying (and failing) and while I was in therapy, we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere with that or anything else. Because I was convinced it was the devil and that was all there was to it.

And I managed to work, and stay out of hospital and convince my boyfriend at the time (who I lived with) and my family that everything was normal, and I was (mostly) fine and not going freaking “insane” on them. Which is something else that is exhausting.

Trying to be normal.

Either trying to be normal, or pretending to be normal, or even just trying to stay under the radar of normal people. That is exhausting. Trying not to have a panic attack until you’re alone or at home. Cutting and hiding the cuts and scars from everyone, all year round, including the man you live with. Trying to hide the fact that you are walking funny for six months because if you step on the line the devil will have your soul and if you tell anyone, they’ll put your in hospital and the devil will own you. Own you. Just trying to be normal because you don’t want to explain anything, or talk about it because you can’t guarantee a good reaction, or even a non-reaction and you are so, so scared about being laughed at, or picked on even though school’s been over for years and you’re in your 20s, and if you tell people they might put you in hospital and you don’t want to go there, don’t want to go there and you can’t go there because you have to work and pay the bills some how and you still owe the gas company £300 because you were too scared to leave the house for six months and pay the bills and they took you to court and put in a meter and it all went wrong and you’re so, so tired of it all and would really like it all just to go away.

And this is just me, and just some of my stuff. I was tired for 10 years and I didn’t even sleep for most it because I suffered from insomnia from the age of 13 onwards until a few years ago and after a year of full-time and exhausting therapy.

I am still so tired sometimes. For a few years I was napping in the afternoon. Every afternoon. Even when I slept in until noon, I would have to nap around four. I was really worried about going to America last year because I was still napping at the time. Being in the U.S. for those three weeks actually got me out of that habit or need. I manage my days much better now, manage to stay awake all day, most days now, unless they’ve been particularly tough (today) or a I slept really badly (day before). Yes, all these things are terrible, I’ve been suffering since I was roughly 16 and I’m still tired, still suffering a little and still tired.

Still exhausted. But less so. It’s getting better. But, you should know, if your friend with the depression, or the anxiety, or the OCD is tired a lot although they may be sleeping just fine, it doesn’t matter. It’s exhausting being like this. Trust me.

Check out Bread’s blog — Weird and Important — for more.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Originally published: July 5, 2016
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