I wrote the other day about toxic levels of fatigue, and I’m following up with that. Bear with me, this is related – I’ve started blogging in the early mornings. I sit down at my computer with a cup of coffee, twenty or thirty minutes, and I write. The house is fairly quiet, so I have the time to think, and more importantly, I have the clear mind of an early morning. In the evenings, by the time I’m in from work, have spent time with family, any urgent projects around the house, and have eaten, I’m too tired to think straight.
My daughter texted me yesterday morning that the dandelions in the hayfield are going to seed, and they look really neat. We should go photograph them, she texted. I replied that I’d love to. But by the time I was on my way home from work, I’d lost that enthusiasm. We will do it – yesterday was a day of new pantry shelves, a broken jar with attendant mess, and strategic planning for the next career step – but I thought as I drove: “Too tired to care.”
This is why you should never make a big decision when you are worn out. I’ve been there, where I was so tired I couldn’t focus to make an informed decision, and there have been times I would have agreed to anything at all if the person arguing with me would just let me sleep a little. It’s an altered state of mind, no different than being intoxicated (although to be honest I’ve never been that drunk, so I’m going on what the science says here). It’s a place that cannot lead to wise decisions. Not that you can’t stumble onto a good choice while there, but that would be pure dumb luck. The imperative is to stop, rest, and only then to make the proper decisions to continue with life. And it’s not just a full night’s sleep, when you are terminally tired, that’s not enough.
Sometimes fully rested isn’t an option. I can look back at days when I was handling babies, toddlers, and a business and wonder how I was even somewhat functional. I can remember days I never left the house, and yet could not muster any energy at all. During those times, if at all possible, don’t make life-changing decisions. I realize that it’s not always possible. There are times you have to muster the last shreds of your self and do what needs to be done. I had not been allowed to sleep on the night before I told my now ex-husband, as calmly as I could, that he had a week to get his stuff and get out, that the children and I were walking out the door and would not return until he did so. It was not a snap decision, but it was brought on by the realization that I had to do it now, before the fatigue got so bad I was too tired to care.
It can be used as a weapon, sleeplessness. I’ve had it used on me, not being allowed to sleep as much as needed, or not allowed to sleep at all. Being woken repeatedly when you have just gone to sleep… you reach a point where it’s not that you don’t want to, it’s that you simply cannot think. Now, I have people in my life I’d trust enough to ask for help if I was that tired. Sort of the equivalent of a helping hand under the elbow to keep you upright and going in the right direction rather than careering off the path and straight into a tree. On my own, it was a depressing spiral into bewilderment and despair.
Being a little tired, like I am after work, can usually be remedied by a full night sleep, a good meal, and I’m ready to go again. Being so tired I felt like a prisoner of war undergoing torture required a lot more recovery time. And more than simply sleep, it needed some time where I didn’t have to do much other than hug my children and sit in the sunshine for a few hours. It was more than a little like recovering from a serious illness, and there were months after where I found that overdoing it caused me to relapse – only that wasn’t just tired, it was physically ill as my body took revenge on my mind.
I’m running out of time this morning, but not out of what I’m trying to say… This isn’t easy to write, and I’m afraid I’m not being clear. All these years later, it’s still a foggy place in my head, and one that conceals wounds I’ve left behind me. I suppose it’s enough to say that tired can be recovered from. Stupid decisions when you’re too tired to care are not so easy to track back and away from. If you have anyone you can trust, ask for help. If you can wait on the choices, the fork in the road, take some time to lie down and sleep, to sit in the sun, and to recover before you get back on the road again.