What I Really Mean When I Say ‘I’m Tired’

Kalegin Michail

Sometimes when people ask us how we are, we say, “I’m tired,” when we really mean so much more.

It’s a more “socially acceptable” answer when you don’t have the heart to say, “I’m good.” But saying, “I’m tired,” doesn’t always cut it if you’re having a hard day living with a mental illness.

So we challenged our mental health community to answer, “How are you?” without saying, “I’m tired.” Because although you don’t have to be brutally honest with everyone you meet, answering more honestly — especially with loved ones — is a great first step in getting the support you might need.

Here’s what they shared with us.

1. “Done… I’m done fighting all the time. Feeling like I’m losing a battle I’m never going to win. I just want to be able to answer the question with, ‘Yeah, I’m good thanks,’ and mean it.”

2. “Sometimes I can’t even put into words what I’m honestly feeling and saying, ‘I’m tired,’ is the easiest way to put it. It’s just a kind of tired that no amount of sleep will fix. When you are always fighting a battle, you’re always tired.”

3. “I’m exhausted of being in my own head. My thoughts overwhelm me, and even when I’m not doing anything my brain is running a mile a minute, obsessing over everything past, present and future. Convincing me all the ills of the world are somehow my fault, that I’m a burden, that I’m overwhelming to everyone else too. And even if I sleep, it’s never restful because I constantly have nightmares. I wake up feeling exhausted both physically and emotionally. It’s like my mind never wants to give me a break.”

4. “I’d say, ‘Well, I’ve been fighting with myself all day to keep going, to get stuff done, to stop getting upset about little stuff, to stop yelling, to stop beating myself up for mistakes (past and present), to fight back the feeling of being overwhelmed by everything, to worry about crying later, the list could go on and on.’ Saying I’m tired is just easier and not a lie. Because I am, just not in the way people think. Daily internal battles around the clock zap everything from you.”

5. “I feel like I’m at the open sea in the middle of the night with no light in sight. I’m just want to let go of everything and let the water take me deep down. But in reality I’ll lie in my bed to not break down in front of everybody.”

6. “I’m tired. Down to my bones. In my mind. In my body. In my spirit. I’m tired of everyone and everything, and I need you to leave me alone but still love me because no amount of sleep will fix this.”

7. “I feel like my head is exploding from the ambient noise of a million thoughts I don’t even want. I’m physically drained from the pain, confusion and fog.”

8. “I’m an emotional train wreck who keeps going over and over the same ground trying to figure out what I did wrong even though everyone tells me I did nothing. I’m terrified that I’ve become such an emotional burden to my friends because I vent to them; maybe one day they will say ‘enough,’ they’re done listening. But everything is great. I’m just tired.”

9. “I am lucky enough to have a friend online who checks in with me on the daily. Always, without fail a simple, ‘How are you today?’ For a while I would give the canned response, but when I knew she wanted me to be honest I would reply with a “hollow,” “detached,” “adequate” and on really low days, an “empty.” Just being honest about the feelings and having someone ask without fear of repercussion or distance or aloofness does wonders.”

10. “I’m tired also means I’ve reached my max capacity of sensory overload. Physically I can be tired, but my ability to process emotions, noises, conversation is exhausted. I cannot even act like a cheery human being. I need to step away from everyone and most everything so I can recover in solitude.”

11. “I’m tired of feeling like I’m an annoyance to everyone, most of all my boyfriend and parents. Tired of trying to concentrate in class when I’m on the verge of crying over ‘nothing’… And most of all: I’m tired of those thoughts that make me so tired of all the other things.”

12. “I did not want to get up today. The thoughts in my head are overtaking and it is such a battle to just get up and breathe and go to school. I lack in classes, and you guys do not understand. I’m quiet, and people ask why. I don’t have the energy to talk. I don’t have the energy to breathe.”

13. “Imagine a balloon you want to fill completely full with air: when the balloon is tighter you think it’s going to pop and when you breathe that one more breath into it, you’re both impressed that it could hold that much and more terrified about it popping on the next one. It’s confusing and overwhelming, but is my every day.”

14. “‘I’m alive.’ Because at this point, there’s no way to properly covey to anyone that you’re ‘tired’ with it being understood or not reprimanded. ‘I’m alive:’ I’m breathing still, so that’s something.”

15. “I say, ‘I’m just a bit tired,’ but what I mean is, ‘I’m mentally, emotionally and physically drained/exhausted from the effort of putting one foot in front of the other. Of ‘being me.’”

16. “I am exhausted. Exhausted by my thoughts and feelings. I am overwhelmed. It feels like I’m drowning… And I’m really frightened and scared because I’m telling you all of this… And I’m grateful for your asking and listening to the honest answer.”

17. “Sometimes all I want to say is that I feel like I am drowning and all I can do is try to keep my head above the water.”

18. “Struggling. Struggling to walk, struggling to even talk. Breathing is like daggers, from both physical and emotional pain. Struggling to not let the voice in my head take over.”

19. “I feel like I’m drowning in a swimming pool with my thoughts with no way to get air, and my mind is a like a super fast wave racing at the speed of lightning!”

20. “I’m OK, thanks. I’ve seen better days, in more ways than one. I’m still alive, despite what I’m going through. I’m thankful.”

21. “How am I? I am struggling and I feel alone. My mind is going a hundred miles an hour and I can’t keep up. I am in constant physical and emotional pain. I often think of dying, and by ‘often’ I mean multiple times in a day. I wish people could understand. I would do anything for the stigma to end. It is harder for me to do ‘normal’ things and on top of that I am constantly fighting urges, fighting off negative thoughts and feelings and trying to keep up with my mind. And this is only a sliver of how I really am and what it is really like for me.”

22. “I say [‘I’m tired’] a lot; it’s kinder to other people than the truth. Usually the honest answer would be something along the lines of, ‘I’m feeling worthless and insignificant today, I don’t feel like I’m able to do anything right. I don’t know why people put up with me. I’m feeling so afraid but I don’t know why.’”

23. “I’m really struggling with my depression today. I’m finding it so hard to keep fighting, and it feels like I’m made of lead. Everything feels 10 times harder than it should be.”

24. “‘I’m mentally exhausted’ because that’s what I feel every time I say ‘I’m tired.’ And I’ve noticed the pattern, on bad days when coworkers ask, my automatic response is, ‘I’m tired.’ And what that means is it’s a bad day, I’m struggling, on the verge of tears, anxious and putting all my emotional and physical strength into the appearance of being outwardly ‘normal.’”

25. “I would tell them this: Every day I feel as if I am falling down a rabbit hole and no matter how hard I try, I can’t climb out. I’m fighting an illness that feels terminal but since it’s in my mind, there’s no end to it. And mainly, I’m tired. I’m just so, so very tired. (There’s simply no way to avoid that part of it if I’m answering honestly).”

26. “Ready to explode. I’m so fragile, say the wrong thing, I don’t know what emotion will come flying out of me. I am frustrated. I am irritated. I am fatigued. I am spent. I am unworthy. I am hopeless. I am angry. I am sick. I am tired but I am here and I am surviving.” Thought Catalog Logo Mark

This story was published on The Mighty, a platform for people facing health challenges to share their stories and connect.

About the author

Sarah Schuster

Sarah Schuster is the mental health editor at The Mighty. She thinks every day should be a mental health day.

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