Work as a coping mechanism

I’ve always turned to work as a way of coping. That can mean paid work, volunteering, housework or making things. It’s something I can put between me and the teeth, and the teeth are very sharp and have been with me my whole life.

The theory is that if I can make enough, do enough, be good enough then I can stay out of the teeth. It doesn’t work, and I know it doesn’t work, but I’ve never found anything that does. The problem with working as a coping mechanism is that it can add to the exhaustion and make things worse. I’d be better off with some sense of worth that doesn’t depend on doing stuff, or being validated for doing stuff but I’ve never figured out how to have that. Self help articles and books are all about increasing your self esteem, not how to start from scratch.

I suspect the trick is to have a sense of self and self worth rooted in who you are, not what you do. It’s just that I’ve never felt intrinsically good enough. It’s hard to imagine feeling good enough without having to be useful, helpful or productive. I’m also no sort of ornament.

It also doesn’t help that every single thing I might do to try and keep myself out of the teeth depends on confidence. The worse things are, the harder it is to believe that I can do anything to offset it. The more in pain I am the less able I am to feel or appreciate any wins I might achieve.

It’s not a good way to be. But here we are, and I can still write blog posts,so there’s something.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “Work as a coping mechanism

  • potiapitchford

    Not feeling that you are “enough” and feeling as if you “should” do or be more are very hard things to deal with. As a parent is it enough to have played a major part in the raising of younger being who you are immensely proud of? As someone who used to hold down a full time job is it enough that you used to do that? It should be but society at large makes us feel like we are failures if we don’t keep on producing or working. Is it time to add this issue to our own rebellion against capitalism? And if we decide that we are going to rebel against these notions of doing or being more how do we move this from the intellectual to the emotional? Can we shift the way we feel about ourselves as a rebellion? It might be an approach that helps some but nothing works for everyone. Will we finally allow ourselves to feel “enough” if doing so is something that helps other rebels, even if only a few of them?

  • sarahlissyjenkins

    Hi, I haven’t worked in the conventional sense for a while due to being chronically ill, and I suffer from similar fears that I’m worthless. However, what has helped me is knowing how many people my life has touched without me even realising it or intending to. All of us affect people and we can choose how we do that on a daily basis. That’s even without acknowledging that everyone has intrinsic value for being human (I know it’s hard to feel that though, trust me). Blessings.

  • Laura Morrigan

    I think I am a bit the other way, I get so stressed I don’t create. working on that! I definitely agree with Sarah Lissy JEnkins about the way we touch other lives being much more important!

  • lornasmithers

    I can relate to this and another driving force is feeling I need to work to gain security. Anything that might help me get ‘that permanent job’ which will keep me off the streets when I can’t stay with my parents any longer. Similarly the flip side is that working too hard means I cope less well at work and end up having near-meltdowns over admin and management. Bad cycle.

    • Nimue Brown

      The whole way we organise as a society is a mess around this, which is so frustrating. So few jobs are secure, and it would be so easy to put everyone on a stable footing with UBI.

  • Dr. Qwufua Broomstick.

    This is one of the best writings from you I have ever read it reflects on me,
    Hails for the post

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