Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Chronicles of Exhaustion

Last week, I went to give blood and as I was lying there on the donors' chair, rigged up to a machine with a needle stuck in my arm, I realised that I had not felt as relaxed as this since, well quite possibly since the last time I'd given blood. I didn't know, upon realising this, if I should laugh or cry. Yet this moment was indeed nothing to be scoffed at: I had my feet up. I was responsible for exactly zero children. I had even closed my eyes and started to drift off (that is, until a nurse ran over and asked me if I had fainted).

Now one thing that this business of blogging has taught me is the importance of capturing the minutiae of everyday life on camera just in case they may be useful for future storytelling. And so, as I was reclined in my donors' chair, dreaming that I was, in fact, reclined on a deckchair on a cruise ship somewhere in the Caribbean, I reached down the side of the chair to retrieve my phone from my handbag to take a selfie of my arm. This was not, shall we just say, one of my best ideas. I was so relaxed that I had forgotten that the nurse had elevated my chair before inserting the needle into my arm and as I reached for my bag, I almost fell out of my chair and onto the ground. As a result, I am unable to provide a photo of this moment and you will have to settle for my illustration instead, for which I make no apologies (I never claimed I could draw!)

I settled back into my chair and closed my eyes again, hoping both to escape the concerned gazes of the nurses and to re-achieve my previous state of zen. And as I lay there, I asked myself exactly why I was feeling so exhausted lately. Yes, I'm busy, but I have been just as busy in the past. Yes, I have interrupted sleep, but I've never let that break my stride before. I haven't blogged for three weeks. Three weeks and a day, to be precise. That's a record for me. I don't have writer's block - the ideas all still swarm around in my head - I'm just too doggone tired to type them out.

I used to have a bit of a nocturnal routine: I'd put my kids to bed, do the dishes, have a shower, make a cup of tea, do some reading and writing, brush my teeth and go to bed. But gradually, the items on that list diminished until I got to the point where I would be lucky if I got my teeth brushed before I collapsed into bed. And more than once, I even hit the hay without even changing out of my daytime clothes (a nice contrast, don't you agree, with wearing my pyjamas during daytime hours?)

A couple of months ago, I gave myself permission to have my first nanna nap for reasons other than ill health. Ever since my eldest was born ten years ago, I had always filled up my children's nap times with various active tasks - studying, working, blogging, exercising. Even the occasional domestic chore. But once I finally said to myself 'you are tired, therefore you should sleep', it has become a habit that is hard to break. I find myself fantasising throughout the day about the next time I will be able to catch forty winks. The girl who used to run around like the energizer bunny on five or six hours of sleep has gone AWOL.

On a mission to find her, I brought up this topic with my bestie shortly after my trip to the Blood Service. She nodded at me in solidarity; like me, she too has experienced a relationship break-up this year and the spectrum of emotions that go hand in hand with that experience. "It's emotional exhaustion", she reasoned.

I chewed this theory over in my mind and it made sense. While I was in my relationship, my energy was propelled by fear and anger and my survival instincts. Now that I am well and truly away from that situation, those things that propelled my energy are no longer needed. I have finally given myself permission to relax. On the other hand, the near constant harassment and the continual need to fight off negativity is incredibly draining. I felt blessed to have the insight and the empathy of my best friend so she could help me to see this.

Sometimes, when we are in survival mode, our bodies put up with physical and emotional stress until we no longer have to live in 'fight' mode. When we can finally relax, that physical and emotional stress starts to take its toll. I remember reading once about prisoners of war who had survived in prison camps for years without dental care, but almost as soon as they were released from captivity their teeth started to show signs of decay. Their bodies were giving themselves permission to be unwell because they were finally in a situation where they could seek help for their physical problems. I am in no way suggesting that my experience is parallel to those of POWs, yet on a micro-level, it is a similar circumstance.

Now I really must add somewhere in the course of this post (and here seems as good a place as any), the role I think my parental participation in my son's weekly Little Athletics competitions is playing on my energy levels. It's a big commitment, this Little Aths. We have to be at the oval at 7am and the day isn't usually over until 2 in the afternoon. The parents are expected to help in some capacity with the timing of the track events or the measuring of the field ones, which is fun, but with a toddler in tow by the time the afternoon rolls round I feel like I've run, hopped, skipped, jumped and thrown every event out there with the kids. Oh and walked. I can't forget the race walking; it's the comical highlight of my week.

But here I am bemoaning the fact that I have to be wide awake and on my toes before 7am while my bestie, during the course of last week has: made and decorated a birthday cake, a christening cake and a wedding cake, completed a uni assignment and an oral presentation, played three games of netball and hosted her daughter's fifth birthday party. This is the girl who empathised with my emotionally exhausted state and yet still managed to do all that while being a marvellous mum to her three kids.

Urged on by her example, I planted myself in front of the computer last night determined to blog, only to discover that the computer had other ideas (which may have something to do with the fact that Annalisa climbed up onto the desk and jumped up and down on the keyboard the night before). Whatever the reason, no matter what I tried, it was not going to cooperate.

While I'm on the subject of broken things, I might just slot into this post that my car has also been broken for almost two weeks because some nincompoop decided it would be a good idea to drive into the back of me. That means that I have been walking a lot more which should, in theory, increase my energy levels, so I'm not quite sure what's going on there. Perhaps I'm not doing it properly. Perhaps I should stop giggling at those race walkers and start taking notes on Saturday mornings instead.

So here I am, carless, computerless, lying in bed in the dark, writing a blog post on my phone, hosting a pity party of one. I'm going to sign off now because my thumb is aching from all this phone typing (and if that's not a First World Problem, I don't know what is!)

But before I go, I have a favour to ask of you... 

Could you please either tell me that you've been here, done this and that before too long the energy does return, or could you please give me some tips on how to coax that energy back or, failing that, could you just tell me that you feel the same?

I will be eternally grateful.

one mother hen                                     The Multitasking Mummy
P.S please note - if you were planning on advising me to drink green juice in the morning, you'll also have to be willing to come over here and make it for me (I think I've already established that I don't do mornings :)