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Life is a never-ending rollercoaster that can offer us the highest highs and the lowest lows, but when lows outnumber the highs, we can end up utterly drained on just about every level.
When we’re being sucked dry of all our mental and emotional strength, the effects manifest physically as well as spiritually, and unless we find a way to stop all our strength being sucked out of us, we can bleed out, energy-wise.
If you’re suffering from any of the effects listed below, chances are you’re at the “can’t draw blood from a stone” level of being drained, in body, mind, and spirit.
When you’re suffering from fatigue, it doesn’t matter if you sleep 20 hours a day or drink 30 coffees in the span of a few hours: you will still be tired to the very marrow in your bones. You’ll feel as though you have 500lb lead weights strapped to each of your limbs, and it might be damned near impossible to gather the strength to do even the most mundane of tasks.
Adding to the bone-weariness of fatigue, insomnia can also be a horrible way that mental and emotional depletion can manifest. You are so very, very tired, all the time, and all you want to do is sleep, but you can’t. Why? Because your thoughts are racing at top speed and you can’t break the loop. Just as you start to drift off, some worry will intrude and knock you back into wakefulness, so you can’t get much-needed rest… which compounds the fatigue that’s already draining you dry.
3. Illness Or Physical Symptoms
Are you having heart palpitations from low-level anxiety? Or perhaps regular bouts of gastro distress or vomiting? Do you have a headache that won’t seem to go away? How about joint pain?
Emotional exhaustion can often manifest physically, especially if you’re the sort of person who carries stress in your belly, or if you clench your muscles subconsciously to brace against whatever is hurting you.
If you’re in a position where you’ve been walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting someone, like a megalomaniacal boss or emotionally unstable romantic partner, you may have TMJ from grinding your teeth, shoulder pain from hunching your shoulders, or intestinal issues.
4. Crying Easily
If you’re at the point where having toothpaste fall off your toothbrush first thing in the morning is enough to bring you to a bout of hysterical weeping, that’s… really not good at all. When we’re depleted emotionally and mentally, our natural ability to handle things like normal, day-to-day stress or upset is shaved down to pretty much nothing, so the slightest thing can make us burst into tears.
Another possibility is actually the opposite of hypersensitivity, and that is:
You can’t bring yourself to feel much of anything, good or bad. You’ve gone numb.
Whatever it is that you’re dealing with has drained your light to the point where you literally can’t feel the emotions you’d normally feel when you encounter a situation or subject. This is sort of like depression, only instead of feeling weighed down by emotion you’re weighed down by the absence thereof.
Anhedonia is a type of emotional detachment that specifically prevents you from being able to feel joy or pleasure, and is a strong sign that you are dangerously depleted.
Another way that depletion can manifest is as ever-present irritability, or even bouts of abject rage. Tiny things that you could ordinarily block out, like the sound of your partner’s chewing or the fact that your coworker insists on using Comic Sans in her reports, will irritate the living crap out of you or make you want to throw the office microwave through a window.
Instead of dealing with the source of what is actually draining you, you’re hypersensitive to the tiniest irritation, and projecting those feelings onto sources other than the one that’s really mucking you up.
7. Lack Of Motivation
You really don’t have the wherewithal to do much of anything. You might be wearing the same underpants a few days in a row because you can’t be bothered to change your clothes, let alone shower. You might have lost weight because you can’t bring yourself to eat (it’s not like you have much of an appetite anyway), and all you want to do is go back to bed so you can sleep and hide away from either the overwhelming emotions you’re dealing with, or your awareness that you don’t feel anything at all.
This is especially difficult to contend with at one’s workplace or school, since there are inevitably due dates for various tasks or assignments, but if you have no motivation to get to those tasks, you won’t get them done on time… so they’ll accumulate, which will make you procrastinate more, etc. ad infinitum. This can result in you failing classes or getting warnings at work – if not fired outright – but if you’re feeling numb, you really won’t care much about that, will you?
Running on the heels of a lack of motivation is the feeling of hopelessness: that it doesn’t matter if you even try to improve your situation – no good will come of it anyway. Or any attempt you make will be thwarted, so why bother?
It’s dangerous to reach this point, because once hopelessness sets in, you might feel so trapped in the situation that you’ll either resign yourself to this horrible fate forever, thus remaining in a state of depletion indefinitely, or consider taking drastic measures in order to stop it. If you’re at this point, please get help: it’s a very dangerous line to cross, and you may not be able to find your way back on your own.
If This Sounds Like You…
Basically, when it comes right down to it, we are made of energy. From the electrical impulses that zip through our brain cells to the hum of our spirits, we are coalesced balls of energy making our way through the world on a day-to-day basis. When that energy is sapped out of us thanks to damaged people in our lives who act as vampires to our energy sources, or draining jobs that suck our will to live, we end up depleted on every single level.
If you can relate to most of these symptoms, it’s really damned important that you take steps towards fixing whatever situation is causing you to be so wretchedly drained. Burnout isn’t something that goes away on its own: you have to determine the cause, and then take steps to staunch the flow.
It might be necessary for you to seek professional help in order to make that happen, and there is absolutely no shame in that. Sometimes we need an extra hand to help pull ourselves out of a quagmire of misery.
Ultimately, we owe it to ourselves, to our own wellbeing, to take steps to remedy the loss of strength and light. It’s up to us to replenish our energy source and honor the sacred beings that we are with proper love and care. Just like on airplanes that insist that we put on our own oxygen masks before helping others with theirs, we have to love and care for ourselves first, otherwise we won’t be able to love and care for others properly in turn.
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Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.