“Why am I always tired?”
It’s one of the UK’s most Googled questions, but there is no one answer: in fact, there are many possible causes for feeling tired all the time.
It might be as simple as not getting enough sleep, or getting sleep of a poor quality. You could be low in iron. You could be sick (both a flu and glandular fever can cause you to feel absolutely exhausted). You could have a dietary intolerance. The list goes on and on.
One thing that many people don’t realise, though, is that mental health conditions – such as depression and anxiety – can make someone feel mentally and physically exhausted, even after a good night’s sleep. So much so that it’s easy to mistake the symptoms of depression for chronic fatigue syndrome.
In a bid to help people better understand the link between depression and exhaustion, mental health advocate PJ Palits has published an informative Twitter thread on the subject.
“Chances are, if you know someone with a mental disorder or disability, you might have asked them or thought, ‘Why are you tired?’” she writes. “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 – and how the sleeping schedule of a person with mental illness differentiates from that of the “average” person.
Allow me to explain why a person who is constantly battling their own brain and societal expectations may feel so drained.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
These are ppl 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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
These are people who for decades don’t feel rested after their slumber.
“These are people who are in a constant war with their own brain, people who are battling their own thoughts and fears,” continues Palits.
“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.”
She adds: “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 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 ppl 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 & the odors surrounding them, these ppl’s senses are constantly under attack— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
These are people who are exhausted from self-advocating to people who don’t understand and don’t care to understand.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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.”— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
Palits goes on to say that it can be hard to communicate when you’re suffering from depression, pointing out: “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.”
And she goes on to add that you not only have to deal with side-effects of medication but also the physical symptoms of your mental illness, too.
“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,” she says.
“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.
“I beg of you, on behalf of all of us fighting our own silent battles, please be patient and empathetic,” she finishes.
“Just because you don’t experience it doesn’t mean that it’s not a reality for someone else.”
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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
Depression, according to Mind, is a low mood that causes us to feel sad, hopeless, or miserable about life; these feelings last for a long time, and usually affect our everyday life.
Psychological symptoms include:
• Feeling upset or tearful
• Finding no pleasure in life or the things you usually enjoy
• Feeling isolated and unable to relate to others
• Experiencing a sense of unreality
• Finding yourself unable to concentrate
• Feeling hopeless, empty, or numb
Physical symptoms include:
• Losing interest in sex
• Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
• Physical aches and pains with no cause
• Feeling tired all the time
• Moving very slowly
• Having no appetite and losing weight, or eating too much and gaining weight
However, while there are many signs and symptoms, everyone’s experience of depression will vary. As a general rule of thumb, mental health experts advise that you visit your GP if you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day, for more than two weeks.
You can find out more information – including a series of approved self-care tips – on the Mind website.