Emotional exhaustion is as real as physical exhaustion

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Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

This week is full of anniversaries for me.

In 2012, my first divorce was finalized on March 19.

In 2018, I began the process of leaving my second marriage on March 17.

In 2018, my stepdad died just after 1:00am on March 22 and it was the first time I had seen or spoken to my mother in fourteen months.

In 2018, I last saw my mom on March 24.

In 2018, my ex-husband berated and harassed me via text message, Facebook messenger, and phone calls on March 20, March 26, and March 27.

In 2018, the last time I pet the five cats I left behind was March 27.

In 2018, I packed and moved all of my belongings in a matter of days, moving into a new apartment on my own on March 27.

At some point around this timeline last year, I also saw my dad for the last time in person. He came to visit me after I moved out but wanted me to explain the ways I was abused before he would believe me. I had no patience for this and stopped returning his calls.

I think my body remembers all this trauma, sadness, and honestly hard ass work.

I have been nothing short of exhausted all week. I even emailed my boss that I’d have to work in the evening on Tuesday so that I could take a nap during my normal work hours. (Props to me for not forcing myself to work when I seriously had no spoons).

When I say all this to my friends and ask why I am so tired, they remind me that emotional exhaustion is as hard on the body as physical exhaustion.

I’ve been focusing on rest for the past month and a half. I try to get nine hours of sleep each night. I take baths almost daily to relax my muscles so my legs don’t hurt. I eat what I crave and no longer restrict myself, which has really opened up a lot of space in my brain that used to be filled with arbitrary rules and self-loathing.

It’s all happening at once, so fast, and I am tired.

I am, without a doubt, healthier and happier than I was a year ago. But I was also running on fumes, and my body remembers. I wasn’t taking the time to process any of my emotions then, because I needed to haul ass and survive. And I have done more than survive.

I have been unapologetically running my mouth about my abuse, my experiences, my loss, and my grief. For a year. They are mine, they belong to me, and if the people who mistreated me are upset about their portrayal in my story, they should have thought of that before they hurt me. I own everything that happened to me, and it is my right to share it.

So I share it.

Another driving force behind my continued storytelling about abuse and the self love that grew from my own personal forest fire is the fact that countless people have let me know that my story has helped them realize they were in toxic relationships too. They have left abusers, they have done the impossible.

The more we talk about it, the more we help others see that they can do it too.

But damn, I am tired.

 

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I’m tired of being tired

I’m tired, y’all.

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I’m the type of person who will hold it when I need to use the restroom so that I can start a load of laundry in the washer and get my dirty dishes out of my lunchbox so that my time in the bathroom is not wasted. As if taking care of something as basic as peeing is a waste of time if I’m not also doing something productive. I’m the type of person who can’t read a book anymore. I have to be taking a bath and reading, or driving and listening to an audiobook, for me to feel like I’m not wasting time by doing something as indulgent as reading a book without accomplishing anything else at the same time.

When I scroll through my Facebook memories, I see that I have been tired for years. When I was in elementary, middle, and high school, I was tired. During college, I was tired. I got married, entered grad school, had a part-time job, and was tired. I got divorced and I was tired. I moved into my own place and had my first full-time job, and I was tired. I moved again and got a new job and had a freelance side business and I was tired. I worked on my exercise and diet habits, lost a bunch of weight, got married, tried to have a baby for 18 months, gained weight, stopped talking to my mom, got on antidepressants, realized I was in an abusive and controlling relationship, moved out, got divorced, stopped talking to my dad, and I WAS TIRED.

September 28-29, 2018 I completed a Ragnar Relay race and I was tired. Like, really really tired. I got 3 hours of sleep on Thursday night, 2 hours of sleep on Friday night, and various naps in a van during a two day 200-ish-mile race. Also my book was due to the publisher on October 1. And I was tired.

Now, the race is over, I have an extension to finish the book so I feel confident in what I hand in to my publisher, and I am looking forward to finally not being so tired.

But there’s one problem: I don’t know how to not be tired.

Overworking myself is not a temporary season of my life. It’s habit I’ve developed since childhood. It’s instinct. I’m always going, going, going, taking on new projects, trying to creatively solve problems, and looking ahead to the next to-do.

It’s exhausting.

I keep hearing stories of people in their 30s and 40s having strokes or heart attacks brought on by stress and I know without a doubt, that could be me. I know I need to slow down, to rest, to be still, to stop being so damn tired. So I’m going to learn.

Decision fatigue

One of the reasons it’s so taxing and exhausting to have so much going on all the time is because of a little thing called decision fatigue. Just having a bunch of stuff to think and make decisions about is a mental stressor. Something as seemingly simple as choosing what to wear in the morning can throw your whole day off if you open your closet to face a bunch of options. We get paralyzed by the decision. It’s one more thing to do.

Gina from This Family’s Journey writes about decision fatigue and how simplifying your life can help reduce stress and boost overall productivity since your brain doesn’t have to have so many tabs open just to make the basic decisions of the day anymore. I recommend you check out her post! (Her email to me was in my inbox for nearly a month, marked unread five different times, while I waited for the motivation to write a post about this topic.)

Reducing my stress impact

I am dedicating the next 6 months toward learning new “lower impact” habits to reduce the stress in my life, focusing on the following areas:

  1. Rest
  2. Food
  3. Movement
  4. Schedule
  5. Creativity
  6. Home
  7. Finances
  8. Work
  9. Social media

If you are also tired of being tired, stay tuned. I’ll be blogging my way through this process as I start over from scratch to learn the basics of human existence. How to eat things that make me feel good, how to get enough sleep to feel good, how to create a home that makes me feel good, and how to do work that makes me (you guessed it) feel good. I want to feel good.

PS. I’m on Facebook hiatus, so follow me on Instagram @caitlinfisherauthor for social media updates.