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How Anxiety Gives New Meaning to the Word 'Tired'


People tend to think of anxiety as being sort of over-caffeinated. So the idea it can leave you completely exhausted is rather confusing. But running this mental marathon morning and night can leave you completely unable to move, better yet function on anything resembling a normal level.

Anxiety means waking up halfway through a thought already. My brain wakes up before I wake up, so it is already going before I can stop it. That’s assuming I got any sleep to begin with. If I’m not awake all night worrying, I’m planning. I’m always planning. Everything is planned. Every part of everything is always planned. Always. Need to stop for fuel? Better make sure the gas station is on the right side of the road so I can easily get back out without cutting across traffic. Better yet, I’ll find one at a traffic light so I don’t even have to think about it. There is a reason I don’t let my car get to low on fuel.

Doctor’s appointment at 8 a.m.? 30-minute drive from my house? I will leave by 6:30 a.m. I have to be there by 7:30 a.m. because I have to be ridiculously early for everything, and I have to give myself an extra half hour for any potential traffic. That’s all if I don’t decide I need an extra hour just in case my car gets a flat tire, or I get pulled over (even though I don’t speed) or I get lost (even if I’ve been there 20 times before, it might happen so I have to plan for it). Even though it only takes me 30 minutes to get ready I will give myself at least an hour in case I spill coffee or simply can’t decide which shoes to wear — even though I have planned what I’m wearing the night before, I still don’t want to chance it. So maybe I’ll just go ahead and get up at 5 a.m. Maybe 4:30 a.m. Oh heck, let’s just round it off to 4 a.m. just to be sure. Imagine what it’s like when I have a 6:25 a.m. flight to catch. So even if I did sleep, it’s going to be an early start. But that’s OK because surely that means the rest of the day will go smoothly. Right?

Well, I will definitely have spent several hours the night before on Google Earth so I can visualize over and over how to drive there. And I will have several sets of directions, both there and back, plus a printed map in case my phone GPS doesn’t work. Then there is parking, oh parking. Well, I will definitely have checked on that. And I will add an extra half hour in the morning to stop by an ATM in case I need cash. And I will stop and get a bottle of water so I can break the $20 from the ATM in case I need smaller bills. OK, good, now I’m hydrated and I’ve got my directions and I know where to park. Now we’re set. Or not.

Great, now I have to find the office. OK, which door? I don’t want to walk in the wrong door and look stupid. I hate looking stupid. I’ll leave my sunglasses on so no one can see how nervous I look. Oh and definitely I’ll be listening to music so I seem distant and aloof because I’d rather look like a jerk than nervous. But, well, maybe I shouldn’t actually listen to music because it might distract me crossing the street and I might get hit by a car. OK, so I’ll pretend to listen to music so no one will talk to me or ask me if I’m lost since clearly I look lost. OK, now I’m good.

Wait, should I bring my purse? Maybe just my wallet. And phone. And keys. And gum. Can this all fit in my pockets? Good thing I brought an extra jacket, I need the pockets. Even if it is the middle of summer. Bringing my purse will be awkward because what if I have nowhere to put it. But wait, what else do I need? Maybe I should bring a smaller purse. Or a bigger jacket. Wait, what time is it?

Yes, anxiety is exhausting.

You’re always tired. That doesn’t mean you sleep. That doesn’t mean your mind shuts off; it just means you’re always tired. No matter how many naps you take or cups of coffee you drink — you are always tired in a way that is almost impossible to articulate. Anxiety doesn’t just make you tired. It drains the life out of you — mind, body and soul.

On the plus side – I’m never late, and I always have change.

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Thinkstock photo via AH86