Why Am I So Tired? My Experience With Bipolar and Fatigue
I'm Tired, Now What?
Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? I am honestly not able to count how many times I have been asked that question as I live a life in addiction recovery. I actually have a dual-diagnosis of bipolar II mood disorder and addiction disorder.
In the year 2000, I was diagnosed with depression, and I was simply given a pill to take everyday called Paxil. The general practitioner didn't suggest that I speak with a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or anyone else—but simply kept refilling the prescription. My doctor told me that the depression would pass, and I should "just keep putting one foot in front of the other."
Well, two addiction treatment centers later, I now have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I was first diagnosed by a psychiatrist at the addiction treatment center, and it was confirmed by an outside psychiatrist after I had been in recovery for a year. Bipolar was definitely not the answer I was looking for...
Whereas the diagnosis of depression has become more socially acceptable in recent years, the diagnosis of bipolar isn't quite there yet—and I am not certain it will ever be. In general, awareness of bipolar hasn't been raised in our society's consciousness as much as depression has. As a result, not many people understand bipolar disorder.
What it's Like to Have Bipolar Disorder?
Breaking Down Bipolar
According to WebMD, bipolar is known as "manic depressive illness that brings severe high and low moods and changes in sleep, energy, thinking and behavior."
The primary 4 types of Bipolar Depressive Illness are:
- Bipolar I Disorder
- Bipolar II Disorder
- Cyclothymic Disorder (also referred to as cyclothymia)
- Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorder
People with bipolar disorder may also exhibit psychosis, addiction disorder, anxiety, or ADHD. These diagnoses are often linked to people that have been previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder, because of the hyperactivity displayed in their behaviors.
In the year 2000, I was diagnosed with depression. In 2005, I was also diagnosed with an addiction disorder during my 28-day stint at the Hazelden / Betty Ford Treatment Center in Center City, Minnesota. I remained sober for one year but then started drinking again, essentially abandoning all of my work in treatment.
In 2011, my diagnosis of depression was changed to a diagnosis of a bipolar II disorder as a result of formal and informal evaluations at my second addiction treatment center (La Hacienda in Hunt, Texas). I received treatment for my bipolar disorder while I was in treatment, and that treatment continued afterward with my psychiatrist at home. After a year in addiction recovery, my psychiatrist did another bipolar evaluation, and I continued to meet the criteria for this disorder.
While I continue to be treated for bipolar II disorder, an anxiety and ADHD disorder have been added under the umbrella of my diagnosis.
Bipolar and Fatigue
During depressive and low mood swings, a person with bipolar may exhibit signs of being excessively tired. This fatigue can be described as a extreme lack of energy, and wanting to rest or sleep. In these low and depressive mood swings, a person usually loses the desire to do pleasurable activities, and other activities required in their day-to-day life such as being productive at work. Fatigue is one of the most noticeable, and heart-wrenching signs of a bipolar illness a person can show. At these times, the person usually withdraws from family, and friends.
Some of the best ways to battle fatigue are:
- Eliminate daytime naps
- Set a sleep schedule
- Stay hydrated
- Limit caffeine use to less than 200mg
- Begin an exercise routine
- Get outside and enjoy the sunshine
- Take vitamin B12 (consult your doctor first)
- Meet with a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist
- Prioritize daily tasks
- Set minimal non-functional hours
Reaching Out for Help
You are in luck in finding resources to help you manage your bipolar disorder or to help someone else manage theirs. It is crucial to be open and talk about it, especially with loved ones or close friends. Generally speaking, I do not recommend bringing it up to a co-worker, unless perhaps they raise the subject with you.
If you have tried some of the above recommendations and your energy level or engagement in social situations is not improving, it may be time to reach out for help.
Here are some other resources for you:
- Bipolar and Depression Support Alliance
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Mood Network
- Better Help (Online Counseling)
- Bipolar Crisis Hotline (Confidential)
- Healthful Chat (Online Community)
Note: If you have insurance, pull up the website from your carrier. Look for psychologists or psychiatrists who are covered by your insurance in your area.
Tell Me About Bipolar
Bipolar and Fatigue
Do you struggle with daytime fatigue related to your bipolar disorder?
Please Share Your Experience
Please share your thoughts on bipolar and fatigue by answering one or more of the questions below. You can share your experiences in the comments section, below.
- Do you notice a correlation between bipolar disorder and daily fatigue?
- Is fatigue (e.g. tiredness, lack of motivation, withdrawn from social situations, insomnia) a problem in your life or the life of someone you know?
- What other symptoms do you experience in your day-to-day life that is related to either your bipolar disorder, or a bipolar disorder of a friend / family member?
- What specific ways do you manage your fatigue, or how do you help someone else manage their fatigue?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.