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What ’I’m Just Tired’ Means as a Person With Anxiety and Asperger’s

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I have never been an overly social person. Let’s make that clear right from the start.

After many years, multiple medications and who knows how many doctors, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2, which meant years of struggle and a lot of medications that didn’t work. I functioned and I was social. I played in bands, I went to concerts and tried to make it to a weekly open mic where I would share my 20-something angst poetry.

Fast-forward another 10 years and, weeks before my 30th birthday, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). This meant taking me off some medications, specifically the medication I took nightly.

As the medication worked its way out of my blood and brain, things started to happen. Most notably, my anxiety spiked to levels I had not felt in years which included, but was not limited to, large groups and social situations. The mere thought of going to work, which was a retail pharmacy at the time, was downright terrifying to the point I was white-knuckling my steering wheel on the short drive from my apartment.

I started noticing other things as well. Social situations of any kind were physically exhausting; it felt like my brain would just shut off completely after a while or too many days being around people in succession. Then I started dating a girl a little over six months ago which was just as big a test of being social on a regular basis and sometimes even pushing myself to the point of meltdown because I have not learned my limits. However, these were learning experiences and that’s where I became very aware of my proclivities when this feeling started to set in: fidgeting, silence, downward gaze, far-away stare and eventually just shutting my eyes to shut out stimuli.

I have a very supportive and caring group of friends and family; they notice the change in effect and ask me how I’m doing, to which I automatically respond, “I’m just tired.”

But I’m not “just” tired.

When I say I’m “just” tired, I really mean this: I am mentally shutting down. It means the conversation, the interaction, the raw data I am trying to process has put my brain into a state of resistance where it tries to throw up a wall of anxiety that I can feel in the tension throughout my entire body just to try to stop the influx of traffic that’s now starting to bottleneck and I’m likely to melt down into a mess of tears and rocking back and forth if I don’t remove myself from the situation.

“Tired” means fatigue has started to set in because my body has slowly been releasing stress hormones that are dissipating, leaving only my body in an almost indefensible state which just makes mitigating everything that much more difficult to process. Responses become monosyllables.

So, when I say, “I’m just tired,” I’ve learned it’s probably the best time to leave.

It’s been a short journey from diagnosis to now. I find myself wishing I had been diagnosed earlier so I could have developed the ability to cope while my brain was still developing. Since I don’t have that luxury, I’m moving through each day at a time trying to be aware and mindful of how I’m feeling and firm about what I can and cannot handle. I’m not as social as I was when I was in my 20s, but some of that is age if I’m being honest.

Sometimes, I get the balance right. Other times, I fall apart anyway and, though I’m often exhausted, I try to learn from every experience.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Originally published: November 28, 2018
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