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Emails to my Therapist

Extreme Emotional Exhaustion: Email to My Therapist

Nicholas — Sunday I fell into a 48-hour stupor, the accumulated effect of the 5.5 months of my family’s medical adventures. I’d already taken a 4-hour middle-of-the-day premonitory nap on Saturday. This longer “nap” felt like extreme emotional exhaustion.

My ostensible focus of dismay on Saturday was our current invasion of millipedes. (We live in a log house in deep damp woodland shade) My thought: I can’t even keep bugs out of the house. Clearly a reason to go back to bed.

The day a tree fell on our house.

Half a day later, it was clear that millipedes weren’t the primary problem.

Primary problem: I can’t stop anybody’s ailments or aging. Can’t be everywhere at once either.

So the temporary solution: irresistible rest. As if I had an alternative. At home on the sofa, I couldn’t stay awake. This afternoon in my office, I dozed for several hours, some of the time with my computer propped in my lap. In between naps, I simply sat and stared. Couldn’t even answer emails from friends.

And now the world is starting to come into focus again.

Apparently, 48 hours of this sort of thing is helpful. I’m still not up to doing a load of laundry, but getting there. What a weird unsettling and settling Memorial Day weekend. The surprises do not end.


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  • May 31, 2017 at 2:36 am Reply

    A tree fell on our house too. And we had millipedes one year; I had to all the exterminator. I am a big fan of naps; the older I get the more I want to nap!

    • Peggy Payne
      May 31, 2017 at 2:38 am Reply

      I suspect you’ve been through a few of these more serious experiences as well, kenju.

  • Linda Stott Franklin
    May 31, 2017 at 12:38 pm Reply

    That day sounds like a wonderful refreshing gift. When I do that, which is more often these days I figure it’s my body trying to tell me something!!

    • Peggy Payne
      May 31, 2017 at 1:37 pm Reply

      I wish it felt better in the process. Feels like the bottom of a well to me. Will reframe…

  • Gail Waters
    May 31, 2017 at 2:15 pm Reply

    Maybe a PTSD kind of thing, too. I know I can be great in the immediate crisis but usually fall apart a month later, both physically (as in no stamina whatever) and emotionally (as in sleep being the antidote). Sometimes just breathing can be an effort. My inability to keep others safe is a reality I dislike intensely, as if I should always be able to put the bandaid on the pain or hurt. I also do not like to be reminded of my own vulnerability and aging process.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 31, 2017 at 4:57 pm Reply

      I do identify with the calm-first-exhausted-later reaction, Gail. And you’re right that the reminder of vulnerability is always important in the mix.

  • Sandra Groat
    May 31, 2017 at 3:21 pm Reply

    Hi Peggy. Don’t try to analyze it. Just let it happen. When I was in the midst of volume people and someone waiting for me all the time, I went to lunch with Kristen and Kelly mostly. What a treat in life. (We worked together). Then I took a little nap no longer than 20-30 minutes. I could hear the phone ringing but had no concern with it. I always ready for my 2pm appt. When I was extremely worn out I did not make big decisions. I gave myself permission to just be so tired. I would never take on creative projects – sort of just treading water doing the basic. To let myself be tired has been good for me

    • Peggy Payne
      May 31, 2017 at 4:55 pm Reply

      Very wise strategy, Sandy. Thanks.

  • Randy Wasserstrom
    May 31, 2017 at 6:43 pm Reply

    Good for you. Always wise to take of yourself. Naps can be invaluable.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 31, 2017 at 7:08 pm Reply

      And sometimes involuntary. Good as long as one isn’t driving.

  • Miller Sigmon
    May 31, 2017 at 8:33 pm Reply

    After 6 months of stress you were burned out…and your body finally shut down…I’m just glad you listened to your body..!! There are people who would have kept pushing with caffeine and no sleep.. At least you paid attention (by choice or maybe no choice) Anyway , take care of yourself.. You are only human..!!

    • Peggy Payne
      May 31, 2017 at 9:22 pm Reply

      Thanks, Miller!

  • Robbie Lane Jackson
    June 1, 2017 at 5:52 am Reply

    The millipedes made me laugh. I moved (and cut in half to do that), an 1890s old, wooden house. One of the first weekends we were booked solid in our “new” B&B, I got up to do last min. stuff for the guests. I tripped over about 100 of the critters as I walked into the kitchen. I freaked completely out. Stepped into the hall bath, and they were everywhere. I picked everyone up and carted them outside. Found out they were safe, no harm, but would come back every yr, as did the lady bugs in the upstairs bath. This went on for 8 yrs, until we decided we’d tried the B&B thing for enough yrs! Keep sleeping. Your body tells you when you’ve finally had enough. Hope you feel better and no more rashing trees or medical unk. Our barn met one of those giant trees this past yr. The tree won.

    • Peggy Payne
      June 1, 2017 at 6:49 pm Reply

      I can’t even imagine trying to run a B&B in the midst of a ‘pede invasion, Robbie Lane. You deserve an award for lasting so long.

  • June 1, 2017 at 4:08 pm Reply

    I’ve experienced similar periods of exhaustion from time to time ever since my husband, Greg, died in 2015. I think my body and spirit get tired of fighting the battle of learning to live with loss and managing all the new responsibilities. Thanks for sharing your experiences. It’s good to know we’re not alone.

    • Peggy Payne
      June 1, 2017 at 6:51 pm Reply

      I’m so sorry about Greg, Sally! And that’s still so recent. Bob has had his recent health glitches, but so far so good; I’m grateful he’s still around. Such a loss would really redefine exhaustion for me, I think.

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