"How are you?"
"I'm okay. I'm tired."
It's true, but it's not the whole truth.
I'm exhausted. I am fighting my own brain 24 hours a day - and have been for months. I am constantly ambushed by surprise panic attacks. I have a list a mile long, and so much anxiety that I can't even start on it, which causes me more anxiety. I drag myself out of bed, out of the chair, out of the house, when I can, when I have to. I maintain what I can through sheer stubborn force of will. But dammit, it's exhausting.
I'm overwhelmed. I have children who need a million small things every second. I have a job/hobby that requires research, and leadership, and decision-making skills, and making my own costume - none of which I feel "good enough" to do acceptably. I have a household to run, groceries to order and pick up, dishes to run, laundry to fold, clutter to donate, dust bunnies to sweep, papers to file, appointments to arrange, lists to make...
I'm weary. The world is falling apart around me. Hatred. Death. Destruction. War. Tyranny. Injustice. Prejudice. Xenophobia. Bigotry. Illness. Poverty. Struggle. I cannot observe without feeling, and I have felt so much, so constantly, that I am weary of feeling. I want to feel numb, just for a little while. And yet, I know how much I hate that feeling, so I avoid it, too, trying not to feel anything at all, not even numb. I don't have the energy, even for that.
I'm sleepy. The new meds don't give me vertigo, at least, but I can't keep my eyes open. I sleep seven. eight. nine. ten hours. Still sleepy. Take a nap. Wake up more sleepy than when I fell asleep, if you can call it that. Is it really sleep when your brain doesn't stop asking, worrying, chewing on a problem, even when the rest of you is asleep? Is it really sleep if all your dreams are of being chased, of running away, of being too slow, too stupid, too weak? Is it really sleep if you wake up just as sleepy as when you laid down?
I'm anxious. Above all, I am anxious. Every second of every day, my body vibrates with it, this underlying but certain dread that everything is going to end, soon, and badly. My face smiles while my brain whispers, "Watch for the other shoe. It's about to drop. Any second now, all of this will be gone." I put on lipstick and try to pretend I'm someone else, someone whose brain doesn't insist on playing out visualizations of all of the horrible things that could happen to a person. I stay at home, pretending I just need to get things done, that I'm not terrified of taking my children in a car on the highway where my brain will play a video of us crashing, rolling, dying, screaming. On repeat. Until we get where we're going. And then I get nothing done at home because I'm so anxious about all that needs to be done that I ignore it all and sleep.
I'm panicking. Not multiple times a day, anymore, not like last week when I couldn't go more than a few hours without my brain hijacking my body and making me feel like I was dying. No, at least not that. Now, it's only once - or maybe twice - a day. Only once - or twice - that my heart races, and I can't catch my breath. Only once - or twice - that my muscles tense, preparing to fight, or fly - only there's never anything physical to fight, or to run away from - so they just stay tense, waiting. Only once - or twice - I get so nauseous I think I'm going to puke from all of the built up nervous energy collecting in my belly, filling it up with worry, so that I'm not hungry for food. But this is improvement, and if I keep it up, maybe, someday, it will all go away, and I will stop having to watch over my shoulder for its inevitable ambush.
But that's all too much. That much truth would overwhelm you. That much truth ruins the social niceties. That much truth makes you chuckle, nervously, and change the subject. That much truth makes me seem crazy. That much truth will make you sad. That much truth is too much, for most people. That much truth is too much for me. It's too hard to explain, over and over again.
"I'm okay. I'm tired."
And leave it at that.