I recently had a chance to talk to a gentleman who once spent a year in bed because of his severe depression. I had another friend recently tell me their struggles with anxiety had left them too exhausted to email me. Several years ago, I worked with a man who complained of chronic fatigue syndrome. In every instance, something forced these people down so far mentally that they couldn’t function physically.
I don’t get that.
I don’t mean that in any kind of disrespectful way. I just have never experienced a tiredness so deep that I couldn’t find the energy to complete an activity or obligation set before me. Now, there have been times in my life when I definitely wanted to stay in bed and not face the world. There was always something there dragging me along, though, almost forcing me to keep going when I didn’t want to.
I suppose that’s where my lack of understanding stems from. If I had a job, I went to the job. If I was sleepy, well, I just worked sleepy. If I felt as if I should reply to someone’s phone call or email, I would do it in the best way I could. I never felt like I had permission to stop. Probably more accurately, I felt like if I didn’t perform – even if it was badly – then I would be rejected and possibly miss some type of opportunity. And I couldn’t tolerate tiredness or someone using that as an excuse. I drug myself along; you should be able to do it, too.
As with so many things related to mental struggles, however, I’m beginning to see the world a bit differently now. To perhaps over-simplify things, some of us are just wired differently. Some people will just keep bashing their heads against the same wall over and over and over again because they really believe that’s the way to get through, while others will back off and go around it. One person raised in an emotionally-suppressed home will stuff their emotions just like their family did, while another will rebel against that environment and actually over-express themselves in an attempt to break the cycle.
I used to adopt a feeling of superiority over those who couldn’t push through those hard times. Looking back, though, I’m not so sure my methods of coping have been any better. I may not understand what that other person is going through, but I can ask questions, try to draw them out, and not get frustrated with them. I can let them know I care about them, and, hopefully, they can maybe get a better understanding of why I act the way I do, too. We may not be able to carry each other, but maybe we can at least drag each other along.