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Five Reasons Why Living With a Mental Illness Makes Us Exhausted

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?

Five Reasons Why Living With a Mental Illness Makes Us ExhaustedI 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 think this is one of the most misunderstood facets of living with a mental illness. People who don’t have mental health issues don’t realise that, like any illness, it is tiring! You’re constantly exhausted. When my depression was at it’s most severe, I could do a day’s activity but it would take three months to recover from that one day! Nobody understood why I was so lethargic, and so I was constantly called ‘lazy’. I tried to explain that mental illness carries physical symptoms, but because I looked fit and well, nobody could understand what reason I had to be tired after sitting around for months on end doing nothing.

    And, yes, recovery is also exhausting! It can take the whole day to just get up and brush your teeth! Sometimes I can’t even do that!

  2. So glad that you write about this so clearly… It has me in its grip right now. I was doing well, and chaos kicked up, and now I am down.This has been encouraging, at least the part about self-care. I WILL get up and move today, painful physically as it is,and as drained as i feel. THANK YOU!!! <3

  3. thank you for writing about this. i am always tired. i have ptsd and anxiety and fatigue is always with me. i usually take a nap everyday because a morning’s activities are so tiring to me. it’s very hard sometimes. i don’t know if it will ever change.

    1. Hi, dogwatcher:
      I also wonder if it will ever change. I recently tried not taking a nap each day if possible so I can sleep better at night. It’s working so far but it’s hard when my eyes are half closed at 12 p.m.!
      Thanks for your comment,

  4. Wow! You think you’re exhausted, try being the spouse of someone who is mentally ill. While the mentally ill person is focused totally on themselves, the spouse must go to work, pay the bills, be the butt of constant negativity, and try to protect the children as much as possible. That is truly exhausting. Just a little perspective from those who are also deeply affected by mental illness.

  5. Adding on to what Lisa says, and not to minimize in any way what those affected by these illnesses suffer, but being the mom of a son with bipolar is also exhausting, particularly during manic-psychotic episodes. Concern for the safety of my son, dealing with police, hospitals, lawyers, landlords while being subjected to enormous abuse from my son was exhausting–and will be again when the next episode hits

  6. Lisa, the difference is that you have a choice whether or not you want to deal with mental illness. Those who are sick, do not. Just knowing that our mental illness will NEVER go away, is enough to plunge us into depression. Please know, your spouse would give anything to be in your position instead of the one he is in.

  7. Thank you for writing this. I think it is very difficult for people to understand the exhaustion that comes with mental illness. It seems to be interpreted as laziness to many. I really appreciate the energy it probably took for you to write this. It helps to know I’m not alone in my exhaustion and to understand more logically some of the reasons why.

  8. Living with Borderline Personality Disorder is absolutely exhausting! You have to constantly monitor your emotions and behaviour and it NEVER goes away. I can SO identify with zhiv!

  9. Thank you for writing this, it is affirming. I just wish the people in my life would care enough to read, and at least try to understand it. Some of my family just say “buck up” or “just do it, it’s not about energy, you just have to do it!!!”. I have tried arguing, telling them it is not that simple, but they don’t get it. They see me as simply lazy. “All you do is sit around and do nothing” or when the family debate is happening, “she just doesn’t want to work”. Of course these are all the same people that helped me become disabled in the first place so why do i listen to them? (another blog?).
    You made a good statement that i think i will try next time i’m in the ring, “it takes energy to recover from an illness”. Wonder if they can dig that deep into their thought banks to process the meaning of it. I am not sure if I didn’t have MI that I would understand either. It is truly frustrating and that is a big part of why I often feel like giving up. I hate not “wanting” to do anything.
    Thank you for sharing.

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