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Five Reasons Why Living With a Mental Illness Makes Us Exhausted

Recovering from mental illness often makes us feel exhausted. This blog explores five reasons why mental illness makes us so tired.

I came up with this topic when I was in a state of serious depression–less than a month ago. I was certain I would never become well. Those of you who live with a mental illness understand this on a very deep and personal level.

While I was glued to the couch I started thinking about how much time I spend exhausted–some days less and some more. Mental exhaustion and physical (or both) can define a large part of our lives.

Without further explanation (coffee in hand) let’s explore this topic.

Why Does Mental Illness Cause Exhaustion?

I want to make this easy to digest; a bit easier for me to write. Today is shaping up to be one of my not-so-infamous exhausted mornings and soon afternoon. Point in case: Let’s make this easy on both of us!

In no particular order. . .

1. Psychiatric Medications

Yes, I know, this is obvious. My telling you that psychiatric medications cause exhaustion is something you have probably experienced and you also know that this nasty side-effect dissipates after some time. Or it does not and you move on to the next medication. Yay!

2. The Negative Impact on Sleep

Mental illness, particularly when chronic, impacts our sleep-cycle. We sleep too much or sleep too little, and this directly affects our ability to function and our level of energy.

3. Recovering From Mental Illness is Exhausting

Recovery itself is bloody exhausting! In my opinion, it is more exhausting than sleep and medication combined. Recovery takes a huge amount of mental energy and physical energy–add psychiatric medication and trouble with sleep and it can be hard to get through each day.

4. Learning About a New Diagnosis

First, you are told you have a serious and often chronic mental illness–that in itself is exhausting. Then, like a rotten cherry on the top of melted ice cream, you have to learn about the illness; the impact it will have on your life and the changes you will need to make to ensure you can recover.

PS sorry about the cherry metaphor. I’m sort of certain it’s lame, but I’m exhausted at the moment and I’m not a huge fan of cherries and ice cream.

5. Learning About and Practicing Self-Care

I write about self-care, touch on it at the least, in pretty much every blog. And it’s not that I like talking about the same thing but it’s because self-care is important.

Learning to sleep, eat, exercise, communicate and not isolate keeps us sane. Oh, and avoid alcohol and drugs! Please! Learning how to do these things can be hard; it can feel impossible. It is, yes, exhausting.

I’m  sick of the word exhausted right now but I believe it’s important to validate why we often feel this way: to recognize that it’s normal and will not always define our life. It’s part of recovering from mental illness. It’s part of the journey we take to find a place of stability. A place of, at the very least, relative peace.

23 thoughts on “Five Reasons Why Living With a Mental Illness Makes Us Exhausted”

  1. I’m having trouble seeing Lisa and Terri’s comments as anything but manipulative martyrdom. Of course being a caregiver is an incredibly tough commitment, but surely the place to toot ones own horn is not in front of those who would trade places in a heartbeat? I’m open to other interpretations though, feel free to help me understand.

  2. I hate the feeling of being too exhausted and deptessed
    to do the things I Know make me feel less exhausted and depressed

  3. On the topic of coping with mental illness for both the patient and those who love them…
    I have bipolar disorder–have coped with it for the better part of 37 years, but wasn’t diagnosed/treated until 17 years ago. I’m 52 now. After a 10 year bad marriage and 15 years of going it alone, God blessed me with a beautiful soul who married me in 2010–despite my illness. I thank God for him every day. I want to do everything I can to love him every day, even though I often don’t have the energy to do it. I battle with a lot of guilt over that. He works so hard all the time, while I can barely get one thing done in a day…and he loves me anyway. I know how lucky I am, and how rare this level of support can be. I just want the loved ones out there to know that we love you back. It’s just hard to show it much of the time. Thank you for all you do to love us in spite of our illness, and for all you do to help us cope with it.

  4. you know I found out that the less I stress myself the better my mental health will be, I don’t take medications anymore, I eat healthy, I sleep a lot, I keep busy walking, exercising, Reading, cleaning, or watching movies, I keep my mind busy, I have body massage at least once a week, I use herbal teas, and I love chatting with people all the time, expressing yourself takes a lot of anxiety out of your system. it Works for me, find out what Works for you, also using cannabis helps

  5. To Megan, while I understand that you might think that the difference is that those who are there for spouses and children have a choice in whether tomorrow deal with mental illness, I’d like to inform you that I love my wife VERY MUCH and not dealing with it IS NOT AN OPTION!!! That would mean turning my back on her when she needed me most. And SORRY to say that what you said is inherently selfish. Learn that those who love don’t see a choice. I will admit quite freely that sometimes my wife can be a pill and drive me to tears, but I wouldn’t turn my back on her OR my child for the world. OUR only choice is to love and support those we care about, and you might go further in your own life by trying to understand that rather than hiding behind your ignorance.

  6. Huni Betenbough: I can totally relate to part of what you are saying. I was diagnosed 17 yrs. ago with Major Depression and have been on every anti-depressant out there. I am what they call treatment resistant. Meds work for a time and then stop. On top of that, I am so sensitive to meds and have problems with side effects. Right now I’m not on any meds for various reasons. I am so exhausted from 10 yrs. of lack of sleep from my sleep disorder. To make matters worse, my insurance company only pays for 1 therapy visit/week. But if I had to have physical therapy, they would pay for up to 3 visits/week. So, like you, I am tired of the stigma and discrimination that goes with it. And like you, I battle suicidal ideation every day. And like you, I do not want to go back to the hospital again. I have been hospitalized 2X in the past year and that is the last time I agree to go. The exhaustion has made me short on patience and tolerance. It feels like a never ending battle that I am losing.

  7. I wish I had never been diagnosed. I am exhausted from ten years of different meds and their side effects. And now that my children are beginning to experience depression and suicidal thoughts I feel helpless because I passed it on to them genetically. Had I known I was bipolar, anxiety disorder and ADD 21 yrs ago, I would not have had children. I am tired of battling the stigma and tired of worrying my family. Currently I battle with not committing suicide daily. Yes I should probably go to mental hospital but I would rather go check my self in an animal shelter because I would better treatment. Thank you for sharing.

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