There’s regular tired, when you had a rough day or a bout of insomnia. And then there’s the kind of tired brought on by many types of mental illness—which can leave a person tossing and turning night after night and so bone-exhausted the next day, they can barely function.
On January 20, Philippines-based artist Pauline Palita gave social media a realistic and unfiltered look at the latter. She took to Twitter and launched a thread that’s since gone viral. “Allow me to explain Why Mental Illnesses Can Make People So Tired. Chances are, if you know someone with a mental disorder or disability, you might have asked them or thought, ‘Why are you tired?’”
“For me, ‘I’m tired’ is not a complaint or [a sign that I’m] pessimistic,” Palita wrote. “It’s merely a fact of life … For the ‘average person, it takes seven minutes to fall asleep. Imagine crawling into bed exhausted and it takes the average of an hour to fall asleep.”
As the thread went on, thousands of people joined the conversation, explaining that their mental illness triggers a kind of fatigue that’s more complicated than simply needing to hit the snooze button. They shared examples from their own experiences, including suffering from memory issues and having a “constant war” with their brain.
“I beg of you, on behalf of all of us fighting our own silent battles, please be patient and empathetic,” Palita wrote to close the thread. “Just because you don’t experience it doesn’t mean that it’s not a reality for someone else.”
Countless Twitter users thanked Palita and told her how much they identified with her. “Thank you so much for this, it feels great to not feel alone,” wrote one. “I’ve never been able to put into words how these feelings are, thank you so much for this,” said another.
Palita’s thread resonated so much because mental illness really does cause a change in sleep habits and/or excessive fatigue, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Anxiety can bring it on, and fatigue can also be a consequence of depression.
“Many people will come to their doctor complaining about sleep problems, or headaches, not realizing that it’s a mood disorder because they don’t have low mood,” Michelle B. Riba, MD, associate director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center, told Health in a previous article about depression. “Not all symptoms of depression always occur at once.”
Are you feeling excessive sleepiness? Dr. Riba suggested talking to your doctor about your symptoms and your mental health history so you can be properly screened and find the best treatment options.