Exhaustion, etc.

My body has been freakishly tired lately, and last night I did something very unusual for me: I went to bed early. I was in bed at 10:30, and asleep by 11. Not only that, I didn't wake up until 10:15 this morning. I slept right through the night. Well, Aria woke me up once climbing all over my pillows and such, but otherwise, I slept right through the night.

And to top it all off, I took another nap this afternoon for about an hour and a half.

Even though a part of me knows I needed the rest, most of me feels pretty guilty. My apartment needs to be picked up. I have another tasks that should be accomplished one of these days. Instead, I slept.

Yes, I know, I will probably be more efficient at these tasks now that I am rested. I get that. But I also get that this is not rational, so rationalizing things with me probably isn't going to be all that effective. Like my old high school history teacher said: if you didn't reason your way into it, I can't reason you out of it.

I have had issues with sleep way before my food issues cropped up. One of my college friends called it, jokingly, "sleep anorexia," and I think there's some truth to that. The deliberate lack of sleep was due, in that case as well, to OCD. I was compulsively studying.

It sounds odd, right? I had all As for the semester (as always- I've never once gotten a B+. You'll know if I do because the world will stop and you will hear a sound something akin to Edvard Munch's "The Scream."), but I was absolutely petrified that there would be a question on a test that I wouldn't be able to answer. So I studied for hours each day. I had to log over 40 hours a week. Yes, I kept track. This was also independent of class and lab time (over 20 hours) and a part time job (over 20 hours). I color coded my notes, copying them out perfectly. One mistake and I had to chuck the page and start over. I memorized chunks of my biochem textbook. For a calc exam, I had to re-do every homework problem until I could do it--you guessed it!--perfectly.

I was a miserable anxious mess.

Lots of people pride themselves on being the most stressed, or being able to go with the least sleep. There's an appeal there, a sort of I-have-more-guts-than-you kind of thing. A willpower kind of thing.

Now, I don't want a job that will force me to work long hours. Partly, I don't want to give up my routine, I don't want to have to eat out all the time because I'm never home to cook, and I don't want to be too busy to exercise like I do. I also do my freelance writing and blogging and Etsy stuff in the evenings, so maybe it really isn't all that different. But all of that work has just lost its appeal. For all of the 11 years of education I've had since middle school, I worked myself to the bone.

Yet I can't shake those last vestiges of that thinking- the idea that I need to be productive, that I'm lazy if I let myself sleep. I don't know if there's a solution. I think I need to simply be more like Aria, who I can guarantee doesn't feel guilty for eating OR sleeping!

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MelissaS said...

i once read that katharine hepburn insisted on ten hours of sleep a night. it made me feel better. my mother tackled the world on four. my sister wakes up at 5 to exercise. only my father needed sleep, and he was considered lazy or, perhaps, depressed. somehow there seems some moral value to existing on minimal sleep. i need it and am lost without a good night's sleep.

is that what nature intended?

Anonymous said...

So if getting a B+ is horrifying and makes you feel guilty then what does that mean about me? I got Cs and Ds in school because my family didn't believe my ADHD diagnosis and told me I was lazy an stupid. So if getting a B+ sucks then what am I? Am I a piece of sh*t?

Sorry for my snippiness. My academic failures have long been a source of frustration and it sets me apart from other mias and anas who are mostly overachievers.

Carrie Arnold said...


Have you ever thought of perfectionism as a prison? That I might have wished to be able to let myself go and have fun but instead stayed up until 4am every night studying, barely made friends in college and lived in misery? I'm not saying it to brag, not by any sense of the imagination.

And I NEVER made a comment about what I thought about others, so don't assume that I am judging you, EVER.

Anonymous said...

i too set the bar very high for myself however the lofty and sometimes unrealistic expectations that i hold for myself I do not maintain for other, not ANYONE else. I guess similar to the ED, I don't judge others based on how they look however in the past when I gained weight or ate more then I deemed ok for me it was unacceptable if not appalling but never did I think this of others. I have moved beyond the prison of the scale and calorie counting, for the most part, however still imprisoned with the high bar, similar to what you so perfectly (play on words) described! Thank you!

Libby said...

I got up early and did a couple quick errands. But then I came home and napped for most of the day. Didn't even shower till 7:30 this evening (I'm typically a morning shower person). I understand what you're saying about guilt over it... I typically have that. But not this time. I think my body just really, really needed it.

Anonymous said...

wow - i thought i was the only one like this. i function on VERY little sleep and feel terribly guilty and lazy (and fat!) if i allow myself to sleep more than 4-5hrs max.
And I have this attitude with others who DO SLEEP. Like I am somehow more virtuous than them because I do not allow myself to give in to that... just like i can override my body's need for food, i can overcome the need for sleep.

Anonymous said...

Anon #1 again,
I know you're not judging me or anyone else. I'm just saying that the "OMG I got a B+" comments are hurtful. I'm not blaming you or anything. Just expressing my frustration. Do you know what it's like to try and try and try and repeatedly fail? Like you, I often stayed up til 4am trying (keyword "trying") to study but not actually getting any studying done. And guess what? My hard work was not rewarded with good grades.

Do you know what it's like when the whole world (including your own PARENTS) keeps telling you that you are STUPID and lazy and worthless?

I know you're not judging anyone. I'm just trying to show you what it's like from the other side. I would have cut off my arms just to get a B+ report card. Am I making any sense?

And for the record I am not stupid. It was the ADHD that made me look stupid. I was diagnosed in grade school but my mother never told me about it! She abused me and allowed me to think I was stupid! I only found out about my diagnosis as a young adult.

Don't take any of my rants personally. It's the envy talking. If only I had received proper treatment for ADHD as a child. Then maybe I would be the one complaining about a B+.

Carrie Arnold said...

Anon #1,

To be really honest, I find your comments a bit hurtful- specifically the first one where you assumed I thought you were sh*t. It's a little insulting.

I am sorry that you had such a hard time when you were younger. And I hear your jealousy loud and clear. The thing is, the whole post was about why the crazy things I do aren't really something people should be striving for. Yeah, I got good grades, basically because I was so terrified of "failing" that I put my body through hell and drove myself nuts.

I hear your pain and frustration and I wish you had things differently. But so do I sometimes.

sarah said...

I feel you. Left the conference I was at yesterday (and am at right now) early because I was too tired to stay - I may end up doing the same thing again today because, well, I feel like I could fall over. Despite the fact that I know that self-care is essential and that I'm going to be running around all day tomorrow volunteering for Powershift on Capitol Hill, I keep feeling a bit pathetic for thinking about taking off...

Loosely translated - I get the idea that it somehow feels "wrong" to give in to what the body needs when there are those mental/emotional/irrational forces at work that lead to the whole sense of inadequacy; I just wonder what's going to "allow" the shift - at least for me.

Carrie Arnold said...

The interesting thing is that I no longer deprive myself of sleep long-term. Part of the reason is that, pushing 30, my body can't handle it anymore. The other reason is that I'm less inclined to see the purpose of it.

I do get twinges of jealousy when I hear about people who live on very little sleep, just as I do when I hear about people who restrict their food. But then I have to have a little chat with myself and remember that this is not a fun way to live. It's not worth it to me anymore.

Kristina said...

This is more along the lines of the "perfectionist" tendencies of people with eating disorders...
I was listening to NPR this morning and Scott Simon was interview Neko Case, one of my VERY favorite people, who talked about her life and how it's been a series of mistakes, and how that has been a good thing.
I think the sleep thing is a bit of the same - being able to relax, to let go of the anxiety, the need to be perfect in one way or the other. I now take naps, am famous among my friends for going to be early, and I'm quick to acknowledge that I make plenty of mistakes.

Tiptoe said...

Carrie, I resonate with this post a lot. I've always had a hard relationship between sleep and productivity. Even though I know I can no longer go as sleep deprived as my more youthful days, I still have those thoughts of lost productivity.

It's hard. I wish I had the solution. I think this is just another extension of learning to accept ourselves, sleep included.

Gwen said...

I contend with vestiges of my eating disorder, too. Like you, being "lazy" is a guilty spot for me. I force myself to indulge and relax despite those underlying guilt feelings about it. I think if I didn't allow myself these lazy moments then my stress levels would skyrise and the eating disorder would worm its way back in

alice said...

can i just say to you all, listen to your body.i had an ed for 16 years, and the last two years ive suffered with m.e/cfs. i too was on the move all the time, keeping my mind occupied. being perfect, i understand. this has made me stop. listen to your body, please.

Sad Mom said...

This sounds just like my son. I think now he is beginning to realize the value of down-time, the need for sleep. He is practically narcoleptic now. I believe it is his body sending the message loud and clear that it cannot handle the abuse anymore. He hasn't the strength left to bully his way through the day on 4 hours of sleep.

You may be going through a healing cycle as well. Or - see the mom hat? - you may have a low-grade infection and simply need the sleep. Drink plenty of clear fluids and rest.

Anonymous #1 - my oldest is ADHD. I understand what you went through and I'm sorry your folks were jerks about it. School is hard enough without a learning disability. I wish you peace.

Working on my jealousy issues said...

I'm sorry for hurting your feelings CA. Thanks for your kind empathetic words Sad Mom.


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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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