Monday, March 22, 2010

How Tired Am I? Let Me Count the Ways

Forgive me for the unplanned hiatus of almost 2 weeks. I will try to write a post soon that explains all that. But for today, I will discuss this phrase:

"I'm tired."

I tell my husband almost on a daily basis that I'm tired. I say it out loud to myself. I say it to my kids. I'm tired a lot. Usually when I say it to my husband, he replies, "You're always tired." To which I respond, "Not this kind of tired." See, what my husband doesn't get is that there are many kinds of tired. And he thinks I'm one kind of tired all the time, but this is SO not true.

The kind of tired that I am today is this: I did not get enough sleep last night. This is a very common kind of tired in our busy lives. I, for one, try to get 8-9 hours of sleep each night. But sometimes that is sabotaged my incessant need to check my email "just one more time" before bed, and then play a few video games. Last night, I went to bed at 10:30 - not terribly late. But this morning, my daughter climbed in bed with me just when Daddy was getting out of bed, and for whatever reason, I could not get back to sleep. Daddy wakes up at 5 AM. So, 6 1/2 hours of sleep for me means that I am sleep-deprived. And the feeling that I get can only be described as this: every bit of stimulation that I receive beyond merely opening my eyes is like a cheese grater going across my nerves. I call it the "cheese-grater" feeling, and understandably, no one knows what the heck I'm talking about. But you know what it feels like to be sleep-deprived (if you don't, then stop reading my blog because you are clearly an alien who is plotting some kind of hostile earth takeover and I will have no part of it), and maybe you can come up with your own analogy using a wire whisk, a blender, or what have you.

So, we all agree that this is only ONE kind of tired, right?

There is also something called "sleepy". I might possibly feel sleepy if I didn't have a good night's sleep. But, usually for me, sleepiness comes sometime mid-afternoon - like between 1 and 3 PM, when I just get that irresistible urge to take a siesta. My eyelids feel heavy, my head feels foggy. Sleepy isn't as severe as sleep-deprivation. Sleepy is like the tryptophan-induced stupor on Thanksgiving Day. Quite often, sleepy goes away with a brisk walk or a 20-minute nap.

And then there's fatigue. I believe that I am an expert on fatigue because I have experienced all kinds of fatigue, I'm sure. One kind of fatigue is a good fatigue, like after a good workout or a full day at the beach, or a day of shopping when you found everything for 1/2 off or less. I don't mind that kind of fatigue. It says that I've accomplished something.

Then there is bad fatigue: the kind that comes from being sick or compromised in some way. When you have the flu, you know fatigue like you've never known it before. There are times when I've experienced fatigue for no apparent reason, which is something I've written about quite a bit in other blog posts. My mind is ready to go, but my body is not moving. at. all. And I couldn't conceivably move unless the house was about to be blown over by a tornado. Then I could possibly drag myself off the couch and to the basement stairs and muster up just enough energy to roll myself down. This is not laziness. . . .I can usually talk myself out of laziness and get going on housework and the motivation follows. This is "I will need a nap if I walk to the kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee."

There is also mental fatigue. I experience this after major cleaning, like spring cleaning, purging and organizing. I do what I call a "semi-annual clothing sort," during which I assess every single piece of clothing in my children's possession - should it get handed down to another sibling or to a friend, should it be repaired, should it go to Goodwill or straight to the trash can, and do they have enough of each kind of clothing item for the coming season? I have 4 children; multiply that by 87 billion pieces of clothing each, and you have one tired mom-brain at the end of the day.

And as any mom knows, mental fatigue can also come from talking children (I realize that phrase is somewhat redundant, but oh well). Children can talk, talk, talk, just to hear themselves talk. They can ask questions until you have no answers left. They can talk, bicker, snicker, tease, fight, and then some, until an otherwise-sane adult has to scream at the top of their lungs, "Stop talking!!!!!!!!!"

Mental fatigue can also come from just being a woman. Because we as women generally have a hard time separating things in our minds. A popular Christian marriage speaker, Mark Gungor says that men's brains are like waffles and women's brains are like spaghetti. Most women think about everything in their lives and how all things affect each other and how that affects everyone around them. A typical man has a compartment, or a box, for each area of his life. He has a box for work, a box for financial matters, a box for children, a box for his wife, a box for fun and relaxation, and he even has a "nothing" box. Yes, indeed, if a man is sitting on the couch, apparently doing nothing, he really is doing nothing and thinking about nothing. This concept is so foreign to me that I just don't get it. I cannot for the life of me stop my brain from thinking. about. everything. And once in a while, my brain just kind of shorts out and sputters to a stop. There are definite moments when I can just suddenly lose track of everything I was doing and have to start all over with basic questions such as "Who Am I?", "What day is it?", and "What was I doing?" After some mental rest, I can get the spaghetti factory working again and continue on as if nothing had happened.

And of course, last but not least, there is emotional fatigue. The kind of exhaustion that comes from emotional overload like the death of a loved one or several family crises occurring within a short period of time.

Today, for me, it's sleep-deprivation. Cheese-grater tiredness.

But if I tell my husband, he just won't understand.


  1. I am definitely feeling the fatigue today!

  2. I also hear you on the fatigue...being almost 8 months pregnant and all, LOL!

    I hope you get a better night's rest tonight!

  3. When I was teaching the Koreans last year, for the VERY FIRST TIME in my entire LIFE, I experienced that mid-late afternoon sleepiness. I'd never had the faintest idea what people were talking about when they referred to such a thing. So, I do think that sleep-deprivation and afternoon sleepiness are related.


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