I’ve been whining a little on social media recently about being tired, and I really shouldn’t. I was musing on this at work the other day, while my hands were busy but my mind wasn’t. I am tired, yes, but it’s a good tired. It’s the tired of being physically tested after several years of sedentary jobs, the tired of mental challenges as I learn and grow. The tired that has me sleeping like a baby at night. No, not like a baby – I’m not up every hour or so!
I have been toxic tired. I know that feeling, and this isn’t it. That’s a whole new level of ugly, and I can remember it vividly. When a young, relatively fit woman is so tired she can’t think straight, for weeks on end, that’s not a good thing. That was when I learned that lack of sleep could cause mental issues, and no, you cannot retrain your body to do without so much sleep: not even if someone else insists that you learn to sleep less so you can match their sleep patterns. That way lies psychosis and poor decision-making.
It’s not even that I could see it, then. You don’t, when you’re in the fog. It’s not until later when you’ve climbed high enough up the slopes of experience and age, that you can look back and say ‘that misty valley there? Yeah, the fog-shrouded memories are what remains of being so tired I slept when the baby slept.’ Back there, where the battles between life and depression took place on the boggy ground of sleeplessness that left the shambling young mother a zombie, that was a tired I sort of remember with a shiver. Oh, there was more to it in my case – not all young mothers are fighting on multiple fronts – but I know there are others out there feeling that way. You can get through it. Take one step at a time, don’t stop, and sleep whenever you can. This too shall pass, and don’t let anyone beat you up for being tired – it’s not all in your head. You need to rest.
Even if it is in your head, you still need to listen to your body. The depression-sleep isn’t natural, but it is a message. The exhaustion like an elephant sitting on your chest when you lie down, the feeling like you are clawing with broken fingernails at the muddy wall of the abyss when you are awake… There’s no shame in recognizing that this is a slow poison, a toxic kind of tired and it means you need help. Perhaps you can make it through the slough of despond on your own, but if you can reach out and take a hand up, you won’t be quite so tired. And if you stumble through enough days, you’ll find that the tired isn’t so much there, like the sun breaking through the fog, and burning it away.
Until you’re on the mountaintop, looking back, thinking ‘I’m tired. It’s a good tired. I’m happy, and healthy, and I’ll sleep sweetly tonight without the nightmares.’ That’s when you’ve made it out. Life is beautiful up here. I highly recommend it.