One thing you'll often hear time and again from those battling mental illness is that they're tired. And to may people, that may not make sense. So Twitter user PJ Palits, an art director and mental health advocate, recently decided to take to social media to explain why mental illness makes people so tired.
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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@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.
Palits explained how the sleeping schedule of a person with mental illness differentiates from that of the "average" person.
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
Palits goes on to make some comparisons.
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 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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
These are people who are in a constant war with other people’s judgment and lack of understanding.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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.”— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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
These are people who spend most of every day dealing with fears that others sometimes find silly and irrational.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@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
These are ppl who are struggling to communicate their experiences bcoz communication is a skill that needs to be taught and exercised.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
These are ppl who hav physical manifestations from their mental struggles bcoz 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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
When someone tells you they’re tired, sometimes you need to look beyond their answer. Are they tired? Are they physically tired and need some sleep? Or do they in fact need you.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
Palits provides some advice on how to help someone going through all of this.
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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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.— ⓟⓐⓛⓘⓣⓢ™ (@PJ_Palits) January 20, 2018
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
The thread seemed to attract a very positive response from social media users.
The amount of ppl who've phased outta my life because they didn't wanna understand. I hope threads like yours will help them then truth thank you 💞💞— 💫 D💍lly Rambles 💫 (@Duckyrose09) January 21, 2018
I, too, like many others would like to thank you for so eloquently describing what living with mental illness feels like. I have always found it quite difficult to put my experience into words but you've done it. Thank you.— Qila (@aqilahsulaiman) January 21, 2018
Just dragged myself out of bed after getting only 3 or 4 hours of sleep because of anxiety and discomfort and this was the first thing I read today.— Melasaurus 🦕 (@High_INT_No_WIS) January 21, 2018
Thanks for making me feel seen and for sharing.
Thank you so much for this thread! I identified with nearly everything you wrote but have never drawn any of these links before and it all makes so much sense. But especially the yearning for someone to empathise.— Rebecca Smedley (@becsmog) January 21, 2018
The worst for me, I have something akin to Unbidden Memory Syndrome. I try to fall asleep, and then I remember some stupid thing from years ago and dwell on it for hours.— Twenty Hate-Teen (@bmillette) January 22, 2018
This is so insightful. I've never thought about it like a damaged battery, but that's exactly how I feel.— 🐟 Michelle Most 🐟 (@Chat_Mort) January 22, 2018
Did this help you understand?