The last couple days, I have reached mid-afternoon and felt totally exhausted. I finish up whatever I’m doing (Pokemon Go Community Day events yesterday and moving the bed set I bought from a friend today) and, as soon as I take a moment to relax, I’m suddenly so tired I want to collapse.
Because of my insomnia and tendency to avoid sleep in order to maximize the amount of time I have to do things with my day, I tend to crash when I go to bed instead of just fall asleep. While I could easily blame this for my sudden exhaustion after doing something moderately active (lots of walking and moving a bunch of crap), I’ve lived in this state of perpetual crash-readiness for over a decade now. You can’t lie awake staring at the ceiling for hours because you can’t turn your brain off long enough to fall asleep if you’re so tired your brain shuts off as soon as you’re in bed. You can’t waste your night feeling anxious if you’re too tired to feel anything but sleepy.
Yes. I am quite aware this isn’t healthy and I’m taking things to an extreme to make a point. I live like this all the time, even when I’m being very physically active, so why am I suddenly exhausted when my day is barely even half over?
As I lay on the couch, trying to not fall asleep so I didn’t let my dinner burn in the oven, it struck me. I’m so tired because I’ve been spending so much mental energy on myself lately. Normally, my mental energy is what I’ve got in excess and what I use to help mitigate a shortage in either my physical or emotional energies. It is my will power and I’ve been spending it a lot as I try to make myself focus on something I’ve been deliberately ignoring for a couple of years or longer. Which means my relatively low levels of physical energy due to sore muscles from my weekly fighting practices and my very low levels of emotional energy because I’ve been digging through some tough shit don’t get replenished. This can cause weird moments like how I felt when I got back to my car after dropping off the U-Haul van I rented to move the mattress, box spring, and bed frame. I wanted to just collapse on the seat with the door open, cry my eyes out (not for any particular reason, I just felt like crying), and then drive home without calling my girlfriend to see if she wanted to do anything like we originally planned or just rain check it because she was tired from the engagement party she went to the night before. I just burned through all of the energy I had and was left with only the last dregs of my willpower.
I did not of those things. I turned my car on, took a few calming breaths, spoke with my girlfriend, and then drove myself to get some things for dinner. Now, having eaten my dinner and had a bit of caffeine to help me hobble through the rest of the day, I’m updating this blog because I’m not letting anything stop me from updating it daily. Even now, as I write, I want to just lean back in my chair and cry. Or put my sheets back on my bed as I exhaustion-cry before closing the blinds and collapsing onto my bed to sleep until time has no meaning and idea of “Chris” has melded with my new mattress and the universe returns to being the illusion new age gurus would have us think it is.
This leads me to believe that my willpower is limitless or at least a poor concretion of a difficult abstract idea. I’m doing none of those things. I’m doing what I think is an important part of my day-to-day life, keeping up with the goals I set for myself, and taking the requisite actions to ensure that my health (physical and mental) doesn’t deteriorate beyond repair.
I used to really love the “spoons” metaphor as an example of what it means to live with a chronic illness (mental illnesses are included in this) but I’ve kind of found that it doesn’t exactly work for me. If I feel something needs to get done and I have no way of making it easier on myself by adjusting the goalposts, I will just get it done. It’s hard to say I’m restrained to a certain number of spoons if I just give myself more for free when I feel the situation calls for it.
Now, I wonder if I am hurting myself by pushing myself past the point where all I want to do is collapse, or do I just feel like I want to collapse because my depression and mental illnesses tell me that I’ve done so much already and deserve to rest? Do I naturally have this energy and don’t feel like I do because my depression hides it behind a steady litany of how unable I am? I’ve heard of a lot of people who have similar anxiety, OCD, and depression problems who have said they felt like they regained a ton of energy once they were on a medication that helped treat their mental health without over-burdening them with horrible side-effects. Part of me wants to try out the medication route again just to see if I can get a similar boost. Even if I have the same amount of energy overall, no longer needing to fight myself and this weird feeling of consumptive exhaustion in order to use it would be amazing.
I don’t know. I’ll talk about it with my healthcare providers and we’ll see what comes of it. In the mean time, I’m going to reflect on my habit of exhausting myself, why I feel so tired this weekend, and how I can seem to spend so much energy on untangling my mind without realizing it. I hope you had a great day and found something in this rambling reflection piece that got you thinking. I know I did.