This week has been brutal for me. Waking up at 4 am and then having 10 hour days in the office. So some might think that I’d jump at any chance to unwind. But, when I got an invitation to go out for drinks last night, I declined. I declined not because I was tired from a long day and not because I had to wake up early again the following day (though thankfully not 4 am early), but because my defenses were down after a long day.
Everyone probably longs for a chance to unwind and crawl into a comfortable bed after having a long day at work. Yet for me the fatigue is multiplied because what tires me out isn’t just the strain of working a long day, but the strain of ignoring my social anxiety for 10 hours (longer if you count time on a crowded commuter train). And so I just didn’t have anything left for going out last night, even if I might have wanted to deep down. Because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to ignore my social anxiety anymore, and I worried people would see me as I truly am. And that worry, that fear, is even more exhausting than my long day.
When I am well rested I can build defenses in my mind against the wicked lies of mental illness. When I’m tired though, my defenses are down and I can’t hold them at bay. Loud noises that I can usually force to the background become jarring to me, and I become tense and stony faced by the people around me, made uncomfortable by the very noise of their conversation as anxious thoughts flood my head. For hours after I’ll be stressed thinking I embarrassed myself by saying something wrong, or not saying something, or not doing something, or not holding myself correctly, or wearing the wrong shirt, or breathing too loudly.
And now I’m worried I’m talking to much and even the followers I have on this site will judge me. Because that is what happens when your defenses against mental illness are down.
Thankfully, there are ways to combat this. There are ways to fortify your defenses. Making time for self-care and ensuring that you get a sufficient amount of sleep is so incredibly important and I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow, so I can rebuild my defenses as I head into the holidays. Hopefully, all of you will get a similar chance to rest up and strengthen your defenses if the holidays are particularly stressful for you.
And lastly, Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers here in the U.S.