Everyone gets tired, whether that’s physically, mentally, or emotionally. Some of us work very early or long hours or have a physically demanding job. Some of us are parents who are juggling kids, the home, and work. And some of us are just depressed.
See, there’s a vast difference between normal tired and depression tired. Some people may think that people who are clinically depressed don’t have a reason to be tired. After all, they just lay in bed all day right? Don’t they sleep that entire time? They’re not even using any energy.
I don’t blame people who don’t understand depression when they react this way. They have no way of knowing what goes on in the minds of people with mental illness. How could they? “Tired” can mean a range of things for those suffering from any mental disorder. From personal experience, I’ll explain what it meant for me.
Dismissing the dreadful “What’s wrong?”
For anyone who is emotional (cough, cough, me), the question, “What’s wrong?” breaks them. When I get asked that question, the floodgates holding back my tears burst open and now I’m sobbing on the floor. (I’m clearly a wild animal at parties, guys). The easiest way to stabilize my emotions and dodge any follow up questions when I can’t mask my depression well enough is by responding with, “I’m just tired.” If your eyes are a little puffy and your smile is badly faked, usually people believe the “tired” excuse. We’ve all been so tired to the point where we just can’t fake it anymore and we look like crap- similar to the crappy way we look when we’re depressed. Almost every time, the “tired” excuse works and the person you were talking to either says they’re tired too or something to the effect of, “Man, that sucks.” And then you both can move on past my undone hair and the duffel bags under my eyes. An added bonus is that the tear flood gates stay welded shut.
A lot of the time, people with a mental illness can’t sleep. The thoughts that run rampant in our heads act like an alarm clock without a snooze button that goes off when we’re trying to fall asleep. My head hits the pillow and as soon as I close my eyes, my jerk of a brain plays flashbacks to everything I’ve ever been embarrassed about. It will replay things I said earlier that day and tell me that what I said was stupid or poorly phrased or irrelevant. It will make fun of me for stuttering and tell me that everyone else noticed and laughed at me, even though they didn’t. It will remind me of any awkward moments that may have happened and tell me that it was actually ten times worse than I thought it was and everyone around was judging me. My brain will do this for hours. It has gotten to the point where I became dependent on alcohol to numb my brain so I could finally sleep for more than four to five hours a night. In these cases, I really am tired, but my depression still lingers during the day. Then, I actively try to avoid responding to questions like, “Why didn’t you go to bed earlier?”
Sick and tired of being sick and tired
The mental illness itself, whatever it may be, is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. That constant, bickering voice in your head that tells you you’re worthless? It’s an added weight to carry with you everywhere. Being up all night overthinking is one thing, but to also be overthinking all day is taxing. Imagine trying to hold two conversations at once 24/7. One conversation with your brain as it nags and nags and another conversation with the real people in front of you. It’s like trying to text someone and hold a conversation with someone else at the same time but nonstop. Your mental energy gets drained hours into the day and you still have to get through the rest of the day and night. Mental illnesses also affect appetite. This can lead to someone eating too little, meaning they have no energy, or too much, which leads to feeling bloated and groggy. Sometimes when a depressed person says they’re tired, they mean they’re tired of being depressed.
And the Oscar goes to…
If you’ve ever worked a customer service job, particularly hospitality, you know how exhausting it can be to produce that signature faux smile and cheerful voice every time you see a customer or guest. Doing that for eight hours a day, especially when you have personal issues that are overtaking your brain, makes you feel pooped by the end of the day. Those suffering from mental illness have to do it every single time they’re around anyone else, except maybe their therapist, if they have one. That means they’re fake happy (anyone else a Paramore fan? This song is therapeutic) at work, at school, with friends, with family, with strangers at the supermarket, with colleagues, with acquaintances… you get the picture. There’s this awful stigma surrounding mental health and the easiest way to avoid judgment (that your brain will kindly remind you of at two in the morning) is to just fake it. Fake smiles, fake laughter, fake tone of voice. I even perfected crinkling my eyes at the corners to make my smile seem genuine by practicing in front of a mirror. All of this acting adds up and by the end of the day, you’re about ready to collapse in bed from the exhaustion. Except, hello, anxiety! Now you can’t sleep until four a.m. because your sadistic brain won’t shut up.
People with mental illnesses not only have a harder time getting through life because of their illness, but also because they have to pretend they’re okay. Our society does not encourage taking care of your mental health, as resources are either scarce or expensive, and the stigma surrounding mental health makes seeking help all the more daunting. Employers are not willing to accommodate an employee who is suffering, friends and family who lack experience with mental disorders may not be accepting and supporting, and therapy and medications cost a fortune. Therefore, many victims suffer in silence and do what is necessary to hide their illness, at the cost of their health.
If you know someone who is always “tired”, please reach out to them. You never know what they could be going through and having one supportive friend could make all the difference. Ask them to be honest and listen without interjection. Tell them you love them and you are glad they are talking to you about it. Assure them that you are always there to listen. And always research what to say to them before you say it. Many times, well-intentioned words have serious negative effects.
Don’t let anyone suffer alone.
If you have a mental illness and have hid it from the world, please reach out. There is a world of help out there in people you know, trust, and love. And if your financial situation is hindering you from getting help, or if conventional methods of help did not work for you, I have shared what helped me.
You are not alone.