I found myself overtired on Friday. One of the main perks of my career is that I don’t have to wake up to an alarm in the morning. It is a privilege that makes me feel like a millionaire. I still usually get up before 9am, but there’s nothing more luxurious than knowing I don’t have to rush. I love snuggling my face into my super soft sheets and smiling happily as I let my body wake up in its’ own time.
In the times when I have to wake up to an alarm, it throws me off completely and I end up tired for two days. Last Thursday, because of an appointment, I had to wake up at 5:30am. 5:30am is still nighttime to me and although I’m fairly pleasant in the morning, I could feel bits of crankiness seeping through as the day moved on. But on Friday, I was back to my normal routine… or so I thought.
I woke up with a rush of deep sadness. I know this sadness well. I experienced it every morning and night for over a decade. It scares me. I’m always worried it’s going to sink in and lay me out for a week (or a month). Luckily it didn’t last. It was just a reminder of how grateful I should be for the tools and help I’ve received over the years disengaging with depression. A rush of forever-itis floated over me as I ate breakfast. (Forever-itis is a word I made up to describe the phenomenon of thinking that something will last forever (good or bad). ) The first wave of forever-itis was lined with conceit. I felt like I’ve overcome my feelings of depression so well that I will NEVER have to worry about them again. I should have known, at this moment, that I was in for a difficult day, but I could not see the forest for the trees. The anxiety started in the morning with a few, seemingly difficult decisions I had to make about my spring schedule. By the end of the day, EVERYTHING was difficult. I could barely make a decision about what sweater to change into and my conceited forever-itis had transformed itself into thinking that I’m never going to make the right decisions. Everything is going to be difficult forever! Tacked onto this was a brewing paranoia about the choices I’ve made and how they all come back to get me. I had a shame-storm over a gig I’d canceled over 10 YEARS AGO! 10 YEARS! It was bad…and I felt like it was going to be bad FOREVER!
By the time the day was over, I felt completely unraveled. (Sometimes I see myself as a cartoon character with messed up hair in which birds are building a nest, a dirty face, and one eye half closed from crazy.) Quentin sat across from me at dinner, and listened to my anxious talk for nearly half an hour. Finally, I must have paused because he took my hands and gently said, “my poor baby, she forgets when she’s exhausted.” As soon as he said it, I could feel the chemical disorientation in my mind. Half my mind breathed a sigh of relief, “oh yeah, I’m tired! This is not going to last forever.” While the other half was like, “Wait! What? I’ve been on an awesome roller coaster ride and you’d better not be thinking of stopping right now before the big ending dive!”
It surprises me how easily our minds can convince us that our troubles are real. I see it in children when they get upset about things that seem irrelevant like having to leave the sandbox in order to eat lunch. Or when they lose their doll and freak out when there are 50 other dolls to choose from in their closet. Every year, I could look back on my worries and scoff at the irrelevancy of them. Yet, I still decide that today’s concerns are the most important. It surprises me how much we can remember, yet we struggle to remember that we will feel better (or worse) than we do at the moment. I tend to make outlandish commitments when I’m feeling awesome. It’s as though I would never feel crappy or overtired again. And when I feel crappy or overtired, I tend to link up all the other times I’ve felt this way and decide that my new fate is to feel this way FOREVER. My rational brain knows better than to let this belief take over, but it often takes an outsider to point it out. Forever-itis is a tricky virus. Its’ symptoms don’t present in a way that is obvious to the patient. I’m glad to have people in my life who understand forever-itis. So long as you can convince the patient that there is a reason they might be tired (or hungry) you can usually soothe the forever-itis. It is in the times when the exhaustion is so great that I am beyond reason, when things get tricky. There are times when Quentin will refuse to talk to me until I’ve eaten plate of chopped cucumbers and taken a nap. (He’ll have the cucumbers chopped before I get home). This can be very frustrating when you’re tired, “I’m not a child! I don’t need snacks and naps!” But I totally do. I’m a child in an adult body worrying about the same irrelevant stuff that children do.
Yours in Forever-itis,