The Guilt of Exhaustion

Can we talk about the guilt?

About this unspoken side effect of struggling with exhaustion?

I’ll be the first to admit that as a nearly lifelong member of club insomnia, I feel like my general state of being is existing somewhere around the “always tired” marker. It’s really easy, especially after several nights in a row without rest, for that tiredness to turn into flat out debilitating exhaustion.

For me, that is often accompanied by things like brain fog, headaches, and other physical challenges that make functioning even more challenging.

Facing two choices

When my body reaches this point, I find myself faced with two choices.

Do I power through, with the aid of caffeine or exercise or adrenaline or whatever can keep me going?

Or do I give in, and rest? Do I cancel my plans, shift my responsibilities, and reduce the expectations I have for my brain and my body that day?

To be honest, I usually try really really hard to go with option A. I am a mom, and a wife, and a doula, and a businesswoman, and a writer. I love what I do, and to be honest, my days are fairly difficult to reschedule.

But I’d be lying if I said that it was easy, or without heartache, to attempt to adjust my outlook and my game plan each time I fail to sleep during the night or each time insomnia-stricken evenings start to stack up. I rely on my mental capabilities all day, every day. This is complicated significantly by exhaustion, and by brain fog, and by headaches or generally feeling ill.

Struggling with consequences

On the regular, I find myself struggling with the side effects of these feelings. Exhaustion, for me, is often coupled with guilt. My mind races at any given point with a series of questions and consequences…

Am I giving my daughter enough attention, enough engagement, enough fun? 

Did I remember to respond to that email? What about that client request that came through via text?

Oh shoot, I was too tired to go to the grocery store yesterday. What are we going to have for dinner tonight? 

My husband. I haven’t spent quality time with him all week. I don’t have the energy to think about this right now. I don't want him to resent me for the extra support I’ve needed lately, for the extra help with our daughter and around the house that he’s been required to add to his already full schedule. 

My friends. When’s the last time I proactively reached out to see how someone was? I can’t remember. Why aren’t other people awake in the middle of the night? That would be easier for me to chat then. 

Guilt is a tricky thing

You see, guilt is a tricky thing. It’s something that can sneak up on you when you don’t even realize it. It’s also something that can color all of your thoughts, every single one. That's often where I find the guilt. It’s in the back of my mind. Without even realizing it, it’s laced into statements I make regularly.

Without a better word to describe it, it’s exhausting. In a space where I’m already filled with fatigue and weariness, I find that the guilt I carry for my exhaustion makes my daily life more draining than I am ever able to explain.

If you struggle with the guilt of exhaustion, how do you cope? I’d love to hear your stories below.

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