How Being Too Tired to Work Doesn’t Count as Rest

Last night was one of those nights. I had been so anxious about giving my first lecture of the term, for a number of reasons, that while I think the lecture went fine, I was completely exhausted and barely finished anything else last night.

It was one of those nights where my own voice sounded strange to me, like someone else was talking, where I could barely remember where or who I was or what had even happened earlier that day. That’s how dissociated I was. Now, those nights of dissociation don’t happen as often as they used to but they’re still a regular part of my life.

I used to think that I was lazy when I didn’t actually get anything done while dissociated or that somehow the next day I should feel completely rested and right as rain because, after all, I’d done so little the previous day. In other words, I believed that “rest” was simply the absence of labor. It’s more complicated than that, isn’t it? There is a distinct difference between true rest and simply being too hamstrung by disability to function. It isn’t restful to keep dashing yourself against the rocks, hoping that the next push will give you back “your ability to can” as they say on Tumblr.

That’s the problem with “invisible illness”, really. Since you don’t have a socially justifiable reason for being incapable of work then you must not have a reason, and if you don’t have a reason then you must just be being lazy, and if you’re being lazy then surely you should be well rested and raring to go once it’s over. I’d love it if that’s actually how it worked, but ignoring the distinction between “incapable of labor” and “useful rest” leads one down the path of total burnout rather quickly.

I guess I don’t even really have a conclusion, here. Just sharing this frustration that I know is actually really common. There’s an entire industry built around productivity and productivity tools and all that. I’ve read a number of books on the topic, but yet no one really talks about needing to organize and schedule and work efficiently in order to make up for all the times your brain is just broken.


One thought on “How Being Too Tired to Work Doesn’t Count as Rest

  1. Really useful to hear this articulated clearly. I know that even though I’m not struggling with disabilities messing everything up as you are, I still have an incredibly hard time actually relaxing — I don’t quite know how to do it to be frank. And it shows: not-working and relaxing are so very different from each other that once you look at it it’s almost weird to confuse them…

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