Hello, my name is Katy Louise Allanby, and I am an abuser of the word tired. I’m addicted to it and can’t get enough. And if you, dear reader, are a modern day person caught up in the world, then I bet you’re the same too!
I was reading this article on the Guardian about the children who never get enough sleep. As a teenager I would go to bed when I felt tired, and then I would lie awake for hours, struggling to get to sleep. This was at the beginning of the social media take-off, and maybe I texted my friends late at night, but it would only be a couple of messages. I used to read in bed a lot – so I wasn’t glued to a screen every night. I also had a little job in our local pub so I was busy. It’s undeniable that children nowadays (and that makes me feel old!) have lots more screens. There weren’t no iPads when I was in Year 10! And I definitely think there still persists a FOMO culture – Fear of missing out. Because our kids document their every waking moment online, if they’re not on that page every second, they might miss something crucial. And there’s lots of other things – the usual suspects: peer pressure, the in-crowd, etc, etc.
But this post isn’t about children. I can’t really offer more on that topic than my own vague musings because I don’t have much exposure to children. Mind you, my cat sleeps for most of the day and still yawns her head off when she’s awake, so she’s maybe got some tiredness abuse going on too.
I’m 26 and will be 27 this year. It’s been a funny couple of years. I’ve done enough things to validate being tired. Driving a three-hour-plus round trip to work and back for three years is probably a fine indicator. Studying full-time and working full-time at the same time is another one. Throughout my little life, I’ve always taken too much onto my plate, exposed myself to stress and anxiety, never performed to optimum, crumbled under the pressure, and beaten myself up mercilessly about it. I think anxiety has a lot to do with it. I recently tweeted about my own mental health, something I’ve never done before, and got some really lovely caring responses from my little twitter network.
Wanted to go out for best friends birthday last night but stayed in b/c I feel so low about myself, can’t stop crying #MelancholyMind
— Katy Allanby (@KatyAllanby) March 5, 2017
I’ve gone to the doctors before with what I think have been forms of anxiety and possibly a minor depression and have been fobbed off with diagnoses of anorexia, bulimia, exam stress, boyfriend pressure, all the sorts of things they love to smear girls with. (For the record, I have never had an eating disorder, which is a serious enough thing in itself, and I have utmost respect for those battling through them. Previous anxious episodes have realised themselves in bulimia-like symptoms but it’s never been a weight problem.) It’s quite a strange feeling to be writing all this down. They are thoughts I’ve held in my head for a long time and have to-ed and fro-ed with. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there’s a bit of minor depression in there, too. But every time I’ve dared to voice such things, I always get the same responses: “well how do you think I feel?”, “everybody gets like that, you just get on with it”, “well I have it much worse and I’ve never needed help”. And that’s not the point.
When somebody asks what’s wrong, I always say the same thing, “Nothing, I’m just tired, that’s all.” But I don’t mean I’m tired. I get my x hours of sleep. I don’t go to bed at the same time, we don’t get up at the same time because of Scott’s driving, and I am often stuck to a screen before I go to bed and when I get up because it’s the snatches of time I can grab to do my writing. I can fall asleep in minutes, or lie awake and stress about how I can afford this, how we’re going to last until I start work again, did I make a mistake leaving work, why won’t that calf stand up on its own. I do something now that’s very physical and uses my body in a very different way, and even though I’ve been doing the farm now, every day with maybe one day off in every two weeks, my body still isn’t used to it. I’m outside now in all weathers. Fresh air might make me sleep but it doesn’t guarantee restful sleep. But when I say I’m tired, it’s a code word I have with myself to cover a plethora of emotions and feelings:
- I’m fed up of what I’m doing,
- I’m stressed and need a break,
- I’m worried to death about x, y, z,
- I feel sick with stress,
- I feel used,
- I feel ignored,
- I feel like my pain doesn’t matter,
- I wish I was somewhere else,
- I wish I didn’t have to worry,
- I regret doing x, y, z,
And the list goes on.
There are scales of tiredness. It’s not a competition. And there are scales of stress and anxiety, and they’re not comparable because how everybody deals with things are different. The worst thing to say to someone worrying about these things is, “well everybody goes through stuff like that, look at so-and-so, they had this happen and they’re alright”. It makes the person feel worthless because they can’t magically click their fingers and everything be better, nor can they just smile and be suddenly happy again in the face of adversity that is often inside their own head.
One thing I’ve identified, through years of having this same argument with myself, is that being a writer (aspiring or otherwise), I live inside my own head a lot. If I’m sat with my computer and an unfinished chapter open, I can channel that into text and it’s fine. But if I’m sat still, with no distraction and no vehicle into which I can pour the constant stream of thoughts in my head, I turn them on myself. And I stress, and I stress about my stress, and it’s a dark cycle. I get tired of myself. Because I know I put a lot of pressure on myself – pressure to cope, to do well, to keep everyone happy, to live up to expectations that are probably imagined on my part – and I know that I can’t achieve such things. I am perfectly aware of my own limitations, but that doesn’t stop me pushing against them.
I’m trying to write my first book and get it into a shape to be able to present to agents. I set a deadline of the Writers and Artists event in York, which is less than 3 weeks away. I have about 12 chapters still to write, including changing massively the finale. A considerable ask, considering all the other things that are going on. My book is my first priority, but other demands get in the way, and then I start to feel poorly about myself because I’m denying myself.
I am tired. My little brain aches, I feel sick a lot of the time and I feel quite lonely. I wanted to go out the other day for my best friend’s birthday, who I haven’t actually seen for a long time, and yet I felt so low about myself I couldn’t do it. Some people can deal with pressure and thrive under it. And that’s good for them. And other people can’t. We can take ever so much of a load onto our shoulders, but every little stick and stone that’s added onto it, even though it looks small and insignificant, adds to the weight, and with no means to offload, it can get to be too much.
Writing about it in this blog post has helped a lot. Talking about mental health is getting a lot more common, but in certain places or situations, it’s still not welcomed, or simply shrugged off. And I don’t always think medicines are the immediate solution, because a lot of the time it can stem from an environment, or circumstance, and, as with so many things, the root of the problem should be looked at. But dealing with the consequences is often so much easier and quicker, though if that root is left in, the problem will always come back.
I’m working on trying to minimise the things that cause my anxiety. I’ve never learnt that taking on too much has such a negative effect on me. I’ve recognised it, but I still make the same mistake. So I think applying this to my future will help, even if it’s just one baby step at a time.
Thank you for listening to my ramblings! I feel a little less tired for writing this post, and that’s thanks to you!