Remember falling asleep in your spaghetti as a kid? I don’t, but there’s certainly photos of it happening. As kids we run around til our little hearts and heads can’t handle it any more, overwhelmed with the busy day of other kids, toys, cartoons, and cake, we shut down wherever we happen to be sitting. Our caregivers would clean us up, gently put us to bed and leave us until our tiny brains decided it was time to be crazy again. More recently (about 7 years ago), I fell asleep in my dinner due to similar exhaustion. I was working 6 jobs, all on a casual basis, so I needed to keep working, keep grinding to pay my bills and live a life of reasonable quality. My housemate at the time was sitting at the table with me and kindly took a photo of me asleep on my tortilla.
Last night I fell asleep still holding my bowl of the homemade gnocchi I’d spent an hour making. I remember climbing in to bed to leech the warmth of my blanket while I ate dinner, but that’s it. I don’t remember falling asleep, I don’t remember my light turning off, and I don’t remember my door being shut. So when I woke up to a text message at 5:30 this morning, I was super disoriented. Turns out my light had turned itself off and my housemate had closed my door upon seeing me asleep. Two mysteries solved, but why had I fallen asleep?
Exhaustion is a crazy thing. It’s even more crazy when you don’t realise just how exhausted you are. Over the last 4 weeks there’s been a lot of work and personal things going on that have had my brain running ragged, even though I feel physically fine. While it’s pretty common for me to beat myself up over things, I feel like this is one thing I should have seen coming. Let me explain why:
Trouble regulating my emotions
This is super common for people who are suffering from exhaustion. You’re not able to regulate stress chemicals properly and you’re more susceptible to depression and anxiety. You also start to lose your filter. Over the last week or so I’ve found myself staring off in to space, replaying what just happened after I’ve just said something that would normally stay behind my brain filter.
The flow on effect of your brain not being able to regulate chemicals (like cortisol) properly is not being able to sleep at night. I have insomnia occasionally, but most of the time I have a pretty decent sleep routine. I’m in bed and asleep by 10, maybe 10:30. I get a solid, restful sleep and I’m good to go for 6am. The last fortnight has been a shomozzle of 2, maybe 3am crash outs, regardless of how many stretches, breathing exercises, or sleep podcasts I attempt. And on the nights I get to sleep about midnight, I’m up 4 or 5 times through the night… talk about a messed up joke.
My doctor is pretty certain I’m on the ADHD spectrum, but I manage my life pretty well without medication. While I do absolutely become disruptive occasionally, I can reign myself in after an hour or so and get back to laser focus. Unfortunately, the last two weeks have been a disaster. I can’t hold attention to anything for longer than 10 minutes. Writing this blog entry has already taken me an hour because I keep stopping to do a push up, or read an email, or scan a file, or… literally anything. I just can’t focus. It’s also disrupting my work flow, to the point that instead of trying to focus on something, I’ll focus on nothing. Literally nothing. I’ll stare at the wall and just stop doing everything as long as it means I’m not doing anything productive.
I feel like I probably should have realised I was exhausted much earlier than I did (ie: i figured it out this morning as I sat up in bed feeling somewhat rested for the first time in a month), given it’s something I’ve experienced in the past, and given it’s something I do try to be weary of. Last night it just hit me like a sack of bricks. It was a wake up call (ha!) to be more mindful about the amount of pressure I’ve put myself under and how much pressure I let others put on me as well.
I preach safety at work. Safety is not just physical, it’s absolutely mental as well, and everyone needs to look out for their mental health. I’ve been unkind to myself in the last few weeks and have neglected my mental health to the point of falling asleep in my gnocchi. It’s time to go back to basics and take deep breaths, take time for me, and look after myself.
Until next time, stay silly, and stay kind… this means being kind to yourself too! Xx