In the last year or so I’ve found myself in all kinds of new situations, dealing with people who do not know me well. I wanted to be able to jump back into the world after my hermit period, bringing all the energy, enthusiasm and stamina I used to have. The trouble is, I do not reliably have all of those things all the time anymore. I have to be careful around getting enough sleep, or I get ill. I don’t handle conflict, aggression or controlling behaviour well, either.
Admitting that I am a flawed and fragile thing, and flagging up in advance where I am likely to struggle, has not been easy. At first I hated how useless it made me feel. Arty, bohemian types often keep late hours, and trying to say that really I can’t start working in a thinky way at nine at night, felt really difficult. Especially not if I was ill and tired to start with.
As I’ve explored this, I’ve found there tends to be one of two outcomes. Option one is that the people around me take this seriously and budget it in, they plan extra time for me to manage energy levels. I get afternoon meetings, and if I’m flagging, it is ok for me to go curl up somewhere. A lot of the time, being honest about what I can and can’t do, simply results in the people around me gently flexing to accommodate that. No judgement, no criticism, no pressure, no problem. It’s an incredibly liberating experience.
Now and then, the outcome is very different. I might get a lecture about how I should not ask anyone to walk on eggshells around me. I might find people blithely overrun with timings and expect me to still be viable starting much later. I might be treated as though I’m letting the side down, being selfish or making a fuss about nothing if I can’t keep up. The assumption that I’m being wilfully awkward has caused me a lot of hassle along the way.
What has made it hard for me, is the feeling that if I own up to having serious but intermittent restrictions on what I can do, people will judge and reject me, assume I’m faking it, or otherwise think ill of me. There are definitely people who do that, but realising this is neither acceptable, nor inevitable has changed a lot for me. I can choose, and I do not have to choose the people for whom I am simply too much trouble and not worth bothering with. Why should I bother with someone who cannot be bothered with accommodating me?
In the last week, I’ve faced major anxiety sources, and done so with easy-going support. I’ve had some outrageously late nights, and watched my body seize up by slow degrees. So I’m back to the sleeping a lot, ready for the next big thing I want to do (Tuesday). As I can pace myself, this is no problem. If the people around me take on trust what I can and cannot do, and feel no need to tell me it’s not good enough or I should try harder, its fine. If no one treats me like a failure because I can’t run flat out all the time, life is a lot easier.
It’s been a bit of a revelation for me, over the last year. I’ve watched how people around me treat me, and react to me. I’m voting with my feet. Any space that can’t flex to accommodate my fairly modest needs, is not a space I need to be in.