mental health

Running Out of Marbles

Five years ago was my friend Lisa’s bachelorette party.

Now, to be fair, calling it a bachelorette party is a bit of a misnomer since we’re more the Girls Gone Mild variety. The plan was dinner and drinks, so it was more like a ladies night out and one of us just happened to be getting married in the coming weeks.

The five of us went to dinner and after went to a swanky bar here in Cleveland for drinks. Swanky bars charge swanky prices so we only intended to stay for one drink and then move to a less swanky, more familiar bar after.

But as the group was getting ready to relocate to the second bar, I said I was going to head out and go home.

This was not unusual for me: we are, by and large, a group of introverts and I was always the friend who hit her social wall first. Tonight, the evening we were sending our unmarried friend over the martial threshold, it was about 10:00 pm.

“Why?” the group asked.

“Because I’m tired.”

What they said was: “But you didn’t do anything today!”

What they meant was: “But you didn’t work today!”

Which is true. Fridays were my day off but that also meant that Fridays were the day I did all that stuff I couldn’t do because of work the other days in the week. So, while, they saw Fridays as the day I didn’t do anything, I saw Fridays as the day I went for my long run and I volunteered and I went to the grocery store and the bank and all those other places people go when they run errands. I had to deal with people. Lots of people. And not just people: strangers. I had to drive all around the city and then I had to come home and take a shower and make myself pretty and then I had to, once again, go out and drive around the city and deal with people. This time it was my friends, but still: more people. And, because I’m an introvert, all that dealing with people — friends and strangers alike — exhausts me.

At the time, I was the sole librarian at a very tiny library at a very tiny career college. A very tiny and very underutilized library. I could go a full day without seeing students in there and the students that were in there were mostly there to work on the computer so they didn’t need me and, when they did, it was a brief five minute interaction where I’d show them how to open Microsoft Word or attach a file to an outgoing email. I only saw my co-workers at lunch and when I arrived and left for the day.

In other words, despite having what most people would consider a customer facing position, I didn’t really have to provide much customer service and, therefore, inevitably dealt with people more often on my days off than I did my work days, which meant that my days off exhausted this introvert far more than my work days ever did.

So, by 10 pm the night of Lisa’s bachelorette party, I was done. Finished. Work or no work that day, I was going home and going to bed.

Firm words were spoken as my friends tried to convince me to rally. I may have snapped at them. I think when they started to see the tears start to well up at the thought of staying out any longer they let me go without a fight. I apologized to Lisa the next day and all was fine.

I didn’t know how to explain what I was feeling then. I usually keep it under my “introvert” umbrella, knowing most people would understand that or I talk about hitting my wall and, again, most people understand that.

But this is more. Because I know other introverts and either they fake it very well or I’m dealing with something beyond just introvertism.

I’m familiar with the concept of spoons for those with chronic pain but I don’t want to co-opt their terminology, so I’m going to adapt it slightly for my own purposes into phrasing that makes better sense for me.

Let’s say, each morning you wake up with a jar of marbles that represents your finite amount of energy for the entire day and every single thing you do, every single thought that passes across your brain, has a cost.

Getting out of bed: 1 marble.
Taking a shower: 1 marble.
Getting dressed: 1 marble.
Doing my hair: 1 marble.
Putting on makeup: 1 marble.
Deciding on jewelry: 1 marble.

I haven’t even gone downstairs yet and I’ve already spent 6 marbles.

All day, every day, this is what it’s like.

Feeding the cats: 1 marble.
Deciding what to have for breakfast: 1 marble.
Making breakfast: 1 marble.
Cream or no cream in my coffee: 1 marble

…… See where I’m going with this?

And, again, this is just basic daily tasks that happen in the first, oh, 30 minutes of my morning. I haven’t even left for work yet, let alone get to work yet and all that entails.

Over the decades I’ve figured out some tricks I need to employ to make the most efficient use of my marbles every morning. I set clothes out the night before so I don’t have to think about them in the morning. Same with my lunch, that gets packed each evening. But, hands down, the best day was when I realized the coffee maker at the house is programmable, which means I can set everything up the night before and not have to grind the beans (1 marble), measure the water (1 marble), pour the water (1 marble), put the grounds in the coffee pot (1 marble) and turn the coffee maker on (1 marble) in between all the other stuff I’m doing doing during that first 30 minutes.

I know that once I pay the price to get out of bed, things will usually be okay, things seem a little less exhausting as the day goes on. I have since learned, thanks to my psychiatrist, that this is known as Diurnal Mood Variation.

The hitch is that some mornings, inextricably, without rhyme or reason, I’ll wake up and the “cost” of getting out of bed has changed.

Sometimes I get lucky and getting out of bed is a freebie. I wake up, ready to attack the day and these are the mornings I go out for a run without needing to drag myself from bed. After that, well … that whole speech Elle Woods gives about endorphins making you happy and happy people don’t kill their husbands? That’s not bullshit. To some extent, endorphins can replenish my marble supply.  So now I have a marble surplus so I’ll do my hair, and my makeup, and I may even decide to wear a different out than the one I had planned and put on jewelry and have a fabulous, fabulous day.

But other times, the cost of getting out of bed has increased. Suddenly, instead of it costing only 1 marble, it costs 3 or 4 and now I need to budget appropriately and am now faced with the decision of what can I sacrifice to make sure I get to work in one piece. Maybe I don’t take a shower that day or I don’t put on makeup or I figure out some magical second day hair style that still looks reasonably professional or some combination of all three.

Sometimes, though, the cost of getting out bed requires all of my marbles for the entire day and so I don’t. Get out of bed, that is. If it’s the weekend it doesn’t disrupt anything but if it’s during the week I will call in sick and take a mental health day and just stay in bed and sleep and binge watch my latest television show obsession.

Thankfully this kind of day only happens maybe 2 or 3 times a year but still, it happens.

On the days where getting out of bed costs more, it seems like everything costs more and I’m spending twice as many marbles to do half the number of things. So even though I know exercising will make me feel better, the math doesn’t work out in my favor so I skip my workout and sleep instead.

On average, I know what things cost and I budget my marbles very carefully. Activities outside of my normal routine tend to require more marbles and so I will spend several hours or even entire days hording my marbles for an event in the evening. If I’m very, very careful and have enough advanced notice, I can take some of today’s leftover marbles and carry them over to tomorrow if I think the event will require it.

Because of all of this, I don’t do spontaneity very well. My day has a plan, my day has a budget, and I will spread my marbles out as necessary throughout the course of the day to make it to the end of the day without running out of marbles so anything outside of that routine throws everything into chaos.

Years ago, I noticed my friends stopped asking me to hang out randomly during the week after work. At first I was, naturally, hurt, but then I realized I would have done the same thing. If you continually try to invite a person out for something and they continually decline the invitation, at some point you’re just going to stop asking. It’s not that I didn’t want to hang out with my friends but I didn’t have any marbles left.

This is what it’s been like my entire life only in the past it seems like I had more marbles. Somehow, everything going on lately has either made my daily marble budget decrease or prices themselves as increased. Then add in the mental energy that comes with worrying about health issues and trying to get all of this figured out and I’m just tired all the fucking time.

I am basically running out of marbles nearly every day.

Exercise and endorphins can sometimes replenish my marble supply. The other thing that can help replenish my marble supply?


It’s such a cliche, I know, but food helps. Food is fuel, as us runners like to say, but I use it for other energy restorative reasons as well.

Food makes me feel better and, of course, it’s not nutritious food like carrots and shit. When I look at pictures of myself now, I can just see what the anxiety and depression has done to my food choices which then does something to me. Compared to when I was losing weight and doing really well — back then, I had a job where I was in that underutilized library and didn’t have a life that required a whole bunch of marbles every day so I was always dealing with a surplus.

The question is always “What happened in your past that caused you to get this big?” And the thing is, nothing happened. This is just how things are for me. The difference is that for a sold 2 year period I was in a position where I had an overabundance of marbles and didn’t need to rely on food to replenish my daily stock and I have always been able to point to the exact moment in time when that situation changed and I started running out of marbles again.

My psychiatrist and vascular surgeon have been working together to see if they can find an antidepressent / antianxiety medication that will not interact poorly with my blood thinners and, unfortunately, there isn’t one. After speaking with the psychiatrist on Monday, we decided to discontinue my treatment with him and, instead, I’ll continue to work with my therapist.

I know that medication in this instance isn’t a magic bullet and I was planning on continuing talk therapy all along, but it would have helped. Life is hard and it shouldn’t be this hard. But it is and has been for my entire life. For as long as I can remember, life has been hard and it’s only harder now and I don’t know why.

But because I don’t have the options of antidepressents and anti-anxiety medication, I need to find other ways of coping and that includes being open and honest with myself about what is happening instead of my brain all the fucking time. It means being transparent with other people about what I’m feeling and it means acknowledging and honoring it all.

And that means telling people about my marbles and, more importantly, telling them when I’ve run out.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

5 thoughts on “Running Out of Marbles”

  1. OMG this is so me. And lately the cost of getting out of bed, driving in traffic, etc has increased to the point that taking care of my health (exercise and eating well) nearly always fall by the wayside because I just have nothing left to give…

    Thanks for sharing this. Sending love.


  2. Thank you so so much for writing this. This is relatable to some extent to more people than you know. Thinking of you – sending you good vibes and a day full of lots of marbles!


  3. This post is SO great! Fellow blogger and Clevelander here 🙂 I relate to this post so much. Thank you for mentioning Diurnal Mood Variation. I love your writing and I'm so excited to dive into your archives and check out your book! Yay!!!!!!


  4. I feel you. I've lost my marbles a time or ten (you see what I did there? *winkwink) I kid, but I do understand. There are days that all I can do is work and sleep and then my days off, sleep. My fitness level goes down (this is also thanks to an angry SI joint) and my weight goes up (I previously lost 80lbs). Sometimes one day at a time is way too much, and I struggle through a minute at a time. Doc says I get the “manic lows, but not the manic highs” (how unfair is that?!) You're tough, I've creeped your blog enough to know that. And you will make it. If you ever lose your faith in you – know that others have it! Warm fuzzies to you!


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