Back from my breakfast with a friend. We get together every month or so for mutual support (not to mention a huge bacon-eggs-homefries-toast-juice-coffee extravaganza) at a local diner. Good times. We both have been going through similar issues with our respective spouses, and although I’m faring better than they are, it’s good to compare notes with a kindred spirit.
Anyway, back to the sleep business. I’ve been experimenting with fatigue (somewhat to my detriment), to see how it affects me and what it does for/against me.
On the up-side, fatigue chills me out more than when I have had a lot of rest and am rarin’ to go. It also mellows me out somewhat, and I sometimes feel like I’m a little stoned. Someone commented here once that they used to work with someone who said they like going to work tired, because they feel drunk. I’ve been paying attention to how I feel when I’m fatigued, and I have to say, it does feel a little like that — a low-level buzz that puts me in a slightly altered state that’s not entirely unpleasant. Sometimes, it actually feels good.
On the down-side, fatigue impairs my thinking (like being drunk or stoned), and I can find myself in situations that exceed my capacity to deal. The problem is, with my thinking impaired, I don’t realize that I’m headed down a slippery slope, and then I end up in hot water… all over again.
I have really noticed how I “use” fatigue in tight spots to focus me and kick me into high gear. It’s like my system knows it’s not quite up to the task(s) ahead, so it pumps itself full of adrenaline and other tasty stress hormones, and then I’m off to the races. I might as well quit, once I get going, because I end up going steadily downhill, even as my brain is telling me I’m just fine.
It’s not unlike being drunk. When I’m fatigued, I become impaired. I exercise bad judgment. I become antagonistic. I become moody and agitated. I am difficult to live with. Yes, it’s almost exactly like being drunk.
And like drunkenness, I know what causes it, and I know that there are bad consequences, as often as not. So, I need to take steps to stop the cycle before it takes off.
I don’t drink — gave it up years ago — because I realized that I did it so easily and so readily and so… enthusiastically, that it could quickly take over my judgment, and then I’d end up in bad situations. I’m fortunate that I never got thrown in jail because of my drinking. The ruined relationships and lost jobs and havoc in my life and my finances (heavy drinking is a huge burden on the wallet, I can tell you), were bad enough. I learned at least that much — alcohol and I do not mix. And I found that if I just never drank — never accepted the offer of a beer, never picked up the glass of wine, never bought myself an end-of-day martini — I was never in danger of becoming drunk and doing/saying/being things that I’d deeply regret in the morning.
Fatigue, though, is a bigger challenge. Because it’s part of life. You can’t just say, “Oh, I’m never going to get tired again!” because I need to get tired, if I’m going to rest well. And I live all-out. I like to give it my all, and when you do that, you end up tired. A lot.
So, what to do? First off, get honest about “using” fatigue to do things for me that I should be doing for myself — like focusing my attention properly and screening out distractions that do not serve to get me where I’m going. It’s on me, to bring order to my life and deliberately not make a total mess of things. If I don’t take matters into my own hands and allow events to just “unfold”, I run the risk of descending into the sort of chaos that takes days, if not weeks, to recover from.
And it’s not just me that needs to recover from it — it’s my immediate circle, most notably my spouse. Even the people around me who aren’t familiar with my real melt-downs still notice an edginess to me that makes them really nervous. And they comment on it. This could possibly get in my way of advancement at work. This I need to keep in mind. Because my fatigued brain may not realize just how edgy I’m becoming, and things can quickly get out of hand. Which is not good. Especially at work, where they have been giving me more responsibility and advancement.
Well, I can’t get down on myself and get up in my head about how I’m totally screwed because my anger is preventing me from moving ahead in life and work. I just have to stick with the basics and keep steady, keep rested as best I can, and get in the habit of taking breaks that will let me recharge.
Sleep. Good sleep. It’s not an option. It’s a requirement. I have to get proper sleep, or rough stuff starts to happen. What do I want — a life of advancement and progress, or a perpetual roller-coaster of set-backs and compensatory techniques that keep me just enough above water to not sink like a rock … but never get me closer to shore?
Sleep or chaos. It’s my choice. Think I’ll go for sleep.