Before I start this week’s blog, I want to treat you to a little (relevant) musical interlude.
Since the start of this year (and to be honest, since very late last year), I have been doing my best to commit myself to a handful of little things. So far, they include: a weekly-ish blog post, a photo a day, a few pages of a (secret) major project a week, organising a climate action protest, a nightly routine… It’s not a long list, but there’s certainly a few things on it.
While I was in Canberra, I found these things relatively easy to achieve. Despite sharing a one bedroom flat with my mate Sophie (who has a brilliant podcast you should listen to) for the better part of a week, I managed to develop a degree of routine to my days, ticking through things I wanted for myself, both in terms of being constructive on a personal and slightly more professional (is this blog professional? idk) level. I wrote. I remembered my meds. I started to organise a small scale protest against climate change. I even found myself waking up naturally at a reasonable hour. It was freakin’ great.
But the day after my return to Dubbo, I felt all my energy sapped. Wednesday, the day I’d set aside to write this blog post, was a write off: I started it with an “ice pick” headache – the kind where you feel like someone is ramming an ice pick into your temple – which was then followed with waves of bleakness that is the hallmark of my lighter depressive episodes. In the days since, I’ve struggled to get things back on track, which I was really hoping wouldn’t be the case – surely a week is enough to build the beginnings of good habits?
Nevertheless, I’m still doing my best to make attempts at following through on these little things, doing my best to make the little decisions required to get through the day without feeling like I’ve done nothing with it. It’s really fucking hard, and I don’t think that it’s visible from the outside just how difficult it is to have to consciously think through every step of being a functional human being, but I’m trying.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my face, brush my teeth, take my meds, write in my diary and get into bed, because that’s what real people do, and that’s what I’m (re)learning to be.
Today is the last day of my week off work. I turned 26 last Sunday, and since that was a strange sort of milestone (one that deserves its own explanation) and I had been working my arse off at work for the last month, I figured I deserved a Break with a capital ‘b’.
It’s been an odd nine days: delightful most of the time, but more sobering towards the end. I spent Saturday through Thursday in Sydney, seeing bands and Men of Letters, going to a neurology appointment (not as dreadful as it sounds), hanging out with my wonderful mum, seeing friends I haven’t seen in ages and meeting new ones.
Friday and Saturday were spent almost entirely in bed, with a brief writing sprint on Saturday morning, before whiling away the late afternoons and evenings by binge listening to The Black Tapes Podcast or jumping between series on Netflix. It was these two days that marked the biggest shift in my mood; I had gone from blissfully plodding through my daily itinerary to flipping between being edgy and numb in the space of what felt like no time at all. Such are the perils of having a neurological condition, I guess.
Despite all the wonderful things I’ve felt and experienced over the last week, I have found myself frustrated. Part of the reason why I took this week off was to work on personal projects: writing blogs, recording audio for a new podcast I’m working on, finishing diaries and getting a new study space in order. This post means I’ve got the first one done (although I guess you could also count the two pieces I wrote for BMA), the second has gotten absolutely nowhere, and I’ve barely made a scratch on the diaries and writing space, even if I did finally manage to get hold of a desk (see above).
Now that I write all that down, I realise I’ve done a lot more in the last few days than I initially thought. It’s definitely far more than I have managed over the last few weeks and months, but I feel like that’s more of an indictment of my laziness, poor mood and terrible management of non-work time and energy rather than any great recent wave of progress.
This frustration has caused me to revisit the memories of the dark days of 2012/13, when I was living at home, depressed and disillusioned. Even though they were the worst ten months of my life, towards the end I was starting to work out how to manage my own time and energy to build personal projects. I was building Gigs Out West in a very slow but steady fashion, starting to do copywriting and voicing jobs for my dad, and I had enough confidence to start applying for jobs again. At the time, I knew that this ‘floating’ time was important, but now I’m stuck wondering what it might have turned into had I stuck with it rather than returning to the conventional workforce.
Until recently, I was sure that I probably would have got absolutely nowhere, but now I’m starting to wish I’d taken it a little bit further. I wish I had more time and far more energy and drive to develop freelancing skills and a resilience that could open new options outside the usual employer/employee working dynamic.
Coming to the end of this week away from the office, I feel like I am ready, just like I was as I came to the end of that ten month period in 2013, to start doing things off my own back. I’m refreshed enough that I have the energy to write my first blog in months, and I’m keen to start sitting down and making stuff at the times that suit me best, like late at night without the worry of having to get up in the morning. I’m ready to explore new ways of thinking and making content, reading and writing and trying to make myself into the person I want to be.
But all the optimism in the world won’t make the following facts go away:
I have to go to work on Monday morning.
I don’t have the money to make that leap into the unknown.
Even if I did have the money to make that jump, would I really be able to afford to take the time I’d need to recalibrate and refresh beforehand?
That’s what has really bothered me for the last few days: just as I’m getting ready to start work on reaching for new horizons, the reality of employment obligations and my financial situation comes up and taps me on the shoulder to remind me that I don’t have the right or the ability to go forth and be an explorer.
The idea that this is how I’m going to spend the next 40+ years of my working life terrifies me even more than the concept of death.
For now, I’m refreshed and ready to get things done, even if it’s a feeling that only lasts for another 24 hours or so. It feels like a waste to use this new energy on housekeeping, but if I can do that, maybe I can get to the next stage?
So despite my misgivings, I am spending today cleaning my room, moving my new desk into place, doing washing and cleaning my bathroom. I have to learn to celebrate the little successes I have when I’m up and going, and then try to keep them rolling. Once I’ve got those sorted, then hopefully everything else will be that little bit easier.