Many people use the expression “I’m tired” when they’ve had a lack of sleep or when they feel like they need a nap. When you’ve got mental health problems, sometimes “I’m tired” can also simply mean you’re lacking sleep, but often it means so much more.
When I say I’m tired, I’m usually not just physically tired. I’m emotionally tired. I’m holistically tired. I’m tired even when I’ve spent the entire night sleeping in bed. I’m tired even when I don’t move all day. It’s not just tired eyes and achy muscles. It’s not just a yawn and just one more hour in bed. It’s getting up and getting dressed in a blur. Brushing your teeth and brushing your hair, and then leaving the house. All whilst tired. Emotionally tired. Numb. Drained. Completely out of it. Lost. But you move on with the day anyway, because there seems to be little acceptance of what mental illness can do to your body.
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. Tiredness is an accepted feeling — everyone gets it. A long day at work or sitting through a boring lecture. That’s tiredness for many can relate to. But that tiredness isn’t lying in bed all day and still feeling like you could sleep for a thousand years. For me, though, that’s what tiredness is. Tiredness accompanies my depression and my anxiety. It means lying in bed completely exhausted from life without even falling asleep. It means being spaced out and lost in thought most of the day, because it’s tiring trying to keep up with people. It means achy eyes and yawns even after 12 hours of sleep. It means not just feeling physically tired, but feeling oh-so much more.
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. 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 realise they’re not OK and to offer them a hug? Because I know when I say I’m tired, that’s what I need.
I don’t need sleep or a nap. I need people. I need love. I need understanding.
So many emotions…so much pain.
I know how life can turn on you sometimes. How it can make you feel…lonely. Scared. Life can be so cruel sometimes….I can’t handle it. I don’t know what to do. You asked me before it I was coping. I’m not coping. Not at all.
I distanced myself from my friends. I distanced myself from everyone. It doesn’t go away. It happened weeks ago. It might as well be minutes ago. Because it doesn’t go away. I don’t break down in tears anymore. Not much…
You put me through hell..but I survived.
I was supposed to go to work today. It wasn’t even a hard shift – just 4 hours. But I didn’t. I didn’t go. Not because I’m lazy or tired, and not because I just didn’t want to. I couldn’t. I don’t have the strength to turn up to such a positive, bubbly, colourful place or to plaster a smile on my face. I don’t have the strength to engage in social interactions with adults and the children. I don’t have the strength to smile or to laugh.
I don’t have the strength to be okay. Not today.
And I feel absolutely awful about it. I wish I’d gone to work. I wish I’d had the power to get over my weaknesses and be strong. I wish I’d had the strength to shake off the anxiety, the depression, the inability to be ‘normal’. I wish I’d tried…but I didn’t and theres nothing I can do about that but to start afresh.
I did wake up early. I did go to the gym. I did do my essay. I will be going swimming…My day is not unproductive but I couldn’t help but feel a small amount of failure for backing out of a reality that most adults do every single day.
This is just one downfall in a journey and it’ll be fine tomorrow…today will become another day in the forgotten past and things will work out okay in the end…
Sometimes you fail. Sometimes you succeed. That’s life really isn’t it.
On a plus note, heres a funny picture that sums up the aftermath of a meltdown 🙂
When British summer time came to a close the other week, we changed our clocks back. During this period, research has found that more people are diagnosed with Depression than any other time during the year. The month of November is associated with higher levels of low mood and more people suffering from poor mental health. This is possibly due to the end of daylight saving hour. This may be because the hour change disrupts circadian rhythms – something which has been tied to depressive episodes in the past.
In fact, throughout the end of October and into November, my mood dropped. Low mood, irritability, anger, frustration and sleeplessness all made their appearance. When the clocks go back; it gets darker sooner and the day seems to go so fast.
When its dark, I feel more depressed. Almost as though the darkness creates the shadows; erases all the happiness. Is this what causes such low mood during daylight saving hour?
We probably benefit less from the daylight in the morning between 7 and 8, because many of us are either in the shower, eating breakfast or sitting in a car or bus on the way to work or school. When we get home and have spare time in the afternoon, it is already dark.
So if you’ve started to feel low recently, consider it may be down to the clocks!
“I don’t care. Everywhere I go, I seem to break things. And the more I try to fix them, the more I make it worse.”
“Because you cant fix other people until you’ve fixed yourself.”
“But I can’t be fixed because i’m crazy.”
“You’re not crazy. Now I want you to tell me what you don’t like about yourself but be honest with me.”
“I’m fat. I’m ugly. And I ruin things.”
“I want you to imagine the ten year old version of yourself sitting right there on this couch. Now this is the little girl who first believed that she was fat and ugly and an embarrassment. I want you to imagine her sitting there right now. What do you want to say to that little girl? If she said to you thats how she felt about herself, what would you tell her?”
“That she’s fine. That she’s perfect.”
“That’s what you need to tell yourself. You need to tell yourself that everything is going to be okay.”
I came across this reading just now and it absolutely broke me to tears. I’m not feeling great and there are so many things swirling around my mind. These words are just perfect. I’m sorry for not trying.
Somehow the bruises changed my plan. And there’s a silent storm inside me, looking for a home. I hope that someone is going to find me and say that I belong. I’ll wait forever and a lifetime, to find I’m not alone. There’s a silent storm inside me, and someday i’ll be calm.
Some days, I have such highs. Some moments, I feel like you could never bring me down. I laugh. The smile actually reaches my eyes. I feel free. But most of the time, I just feel like I’m drowning. I can reach the top, and continue to sore up, but once I’m dragged down, I’m weighted down and I can no longer fight. All the air is sucked out of me, I crawl myself into a ball on the bed and fight the silent depression and raging anxieties that continue to take over my mind. Mental illness seems to rear its ugly head at night time – when you’re on your own, ready to sleep, absolutely exhausted and unwilling to fight. It picks you at your weakest moments and tears you down even further. It chokes you up, brings tears to your eyes, leaves you a rocking, screaming mess on the floor until you eventually submerge to all the pain and fall into a restless sleep…
A lot of the time I filter my blog posts so that my real struggles are hidden from view…but the true and raw reality is
Mental illness fucking sucks. Anxiety plagues you with thoughts that are completely irrational but they consume you anyway. Depression leaves your mind whirling with lies and disturbing thoughts until you hate your entire being.
I am so damn tired. So utterly exhausted. I probably need to sleep…
Starting University is a big step for anybody, but when you’ve got a mental health problem or illness to go with it, it can be even more worrying. Although there are not many studies that have been carried out on mental health statistics on young people at university, it is estimated that 2.2% of 16-25 year olds experience a depressive episode and that 3.6% of 16-25 year olds have experienced generalised anxiety disorder. 6.2% of 16-24 year olds have attempted suicide in their lifetime and 8.9% of 16-24 year olds have self-harmed in their lifetime. Although to some these statistics don’t mean much and don’t seem to be as high as other age groups, it has been noted by researchers that a lot of mental health problems in university students goes undetected or unreported; meaning that these numbers are likely to be higher. Aside from the statistics listed above, 27.3% of people aged 16-25 year olds experienced other types of mental illness including personality disorders and neurotic episodes [Young Minds – 2011).
The one reason why I wanted to write this blog post is because I have been truly experiencing the effects of living with mental illness at university ever since I started my first year in 2015 and haven’t really been 100% honest about it. It’s been nearly 9 months now since I have had no medication and no treatment for my diagnosis’s (who would’ve thought, hey?) I also got asked recently to write a blog post on university and mental health problems for another blog/research due to the rise in the issues. I wanted to list a few things that I have noticed about being at university with mental health issues not only so others with a similar illness can be prepared and feel less alone and reach for help but so those without mental health problems can understand what issues we face.
- It feels like there are more ‘bad’ days than good. Most of the time university causes me a lot of emotions. Living in a very confined space with strangers (especially when you’ve got a severe anxiety disorder such a SAD and GAD) can become claustrophobic and make me feel trapped. I often get so overwhelmed with anxiety that I cannot leave my room. This was particularly worse in my first year due to the flat and my well being decreasing. Although I functioned outside of the flat it was incredibly difficult to leave my room to do simple things like cook dinner. This caused an increase in my depression, my tiredness increased so I slept all the time and my anxiety was through the roof. This year its so far been better. Although the bad days do feel like they’re occurring too frequently, I take hope in those few good days that arise. Going outside and sitting with nature has been my coping skill and escape route.
- Anxiety can be overwhelming. University brings lots and lots of anxiety, even for those who don’t experience any type of anxiety disorder or problem. There are people everywhere, and I mean everywhere. In your flat, in your lectures, on the campus, on the bus, in town. Everywhere. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because people can be awesome friends and good distractions…but when you struggle with anxiety issues, especially Social Anxiety Disorder, people can just get too much sometimes. Most of the time I need to carry a tool known as a ‘tangle’ around with me just to cope with my anxiety. A tangle is designed by a company called Tangle Creations. They are used as a way to fidget and keep a person occupied. They are mostly used for SEN but are on the rise for those with mental health problems, addictions and sensory disorders. Without this little thing, I never would’ve gotten through all the anxiety-filled situations I have.
- University can either cause mental health problems or increase existing ones. This is particularly true in my case anyway. Living by yourself can cause existing mental health problems to increase or reoccur due to people not being around to stop a relapse or intervene with coping methods. Stress and anxiety that can be related to university work and pressures can trigger a depressive episode and vice versa. There can be a rise in panic attacks and self harm. Again, keeping yourself distracted is the best thing for this. People are a good distraction tool and also great company but are not always available. A good book, movie, a walk outside or a nap are good alternatives.
- It can be devastatingly lonely. University is supposed to be a time for fun, lots of friends, societies and good class mates but when you’ve got a mental illness all the fun stuff can be daunting. I’ve wanted to join societies and go on nights out but due to anxiety and low self-esteem this has so far proved impossible. Going on nights out was successful until I started feeling like a burden to those I was with. Have you ever felt the loneliness that comes even when you’re in a room full of people? yeah? That’s the type of loneliness (the worst type of loneliness) that I’ve ever felt at university. To avoid feeling lonely I’ve learned that you need to become comfortable with being by yourself. You need to stop yourself from depending on other people. If your friends are busy, find something in your room to keep you occupied. Go outside and explore a new place or a take a bus to somewhere you’ve never been.
- Sometimes, you just want to quit. I can’t even count on my hands how many times I’ve sat and thought about leaving university. Sometimes the emotions obscure your thinking and lead to irrational thoughts. Sometimes I’ve wanted to quit or go home so bad. Sometimes I’ve wondered why the heck I’m still going on, but then I sit and think about where the end of this journey will take me- to my dream job with the amazing special children I have grown to love over the years. The thought of eventually being a special needs teacher keeps me going. I know that I can do this job because I have done it before, and it really feels like something when you believe you can do it. Don’t quit university, even if you feel you want to. Your mind is just wishing you’d give up. Don’t. Not ever.
Although my REAL feelings and experiences of university seem quite negative on the points above, there really are ways to enjoy university and have an amazing experience even with mental health problems. I have a lot of down points, but each day I try to find at least one, and I am having a good time. After all the feelings pass, I feel okay. Because I have family who love me and friends who try to understand. Even if I feel I have no one to turn to, I will always have myself. There are plenty of ways to find support whilst at university whether its family, friends, lecturers, counsellors or health professionals. If people don’t listen, keep going until they do. You’re the only person who knows yourself and what you can accomplish. You’re an amazing person with a passion for life hidden deep down inside of you. You’re strong for surviving every bad (and good) day to date. Your imperfections make you absolutely perfect and I love you (yes, you reading this.) and I believe in you with everything I have.
If you are feeling troubled by mental illness, feel you suffering with a mental illness or just need to talk then you are welcome to email firstname.lastname@example.org at anytime for information and links for advice. Even just to chat.
I am also starting a ‘share my story’ section on my blog in the upcoming months in order to get other people’s voices heard. If you’d like to feature on my blog and share your story in regards to mental health please send it to email@example.com. Your identity can remain anonymous on the blog if you wish.
I wish you the best in your recovery.