I know why I’m in this mess, and there are two key strands. Strand 1 is my history, and the traumas and stresses in it. I did not get ill on my own. Strand 2 is that there has never really been a time when getting well and looking after me seemed like the most important thing. Strand 2 is very much a consequence of strand 1.
Being told I make a fuss is a whole-life issue. As a child I learned I had a low pain threshold, and over-reacted. Accusations of attention seeking, melodrama and emotional manipulation have happened repeatedly. So, my first response to distress is actually to hide it, partly because I’m afraid I really am doing all of those things, and partly because when I’m in distress, the last thing I need is to be accused of making a fuss for attention or being unreasonable. I’ve become the first person to diminish my own distress and I am easily persuaded that anything and everything is more important than whatever I happen to be feeling.
It doesn’t help that my work situation makes it hard to take time off. It doesn’t help that the publishing industry is a mess and it is very hard for anyone to make any money doing this – the stats are out there, I’ve talked about it in other posts. It doesn’t help that most outfits only want a few hours here and there of marketing and social media work so I have had to do lots of jobs to make ends meet, which takes far more energy than doing one job for the same hours because there’s so much more information to keep track of. At one point a few years ago I was doing 7 different jobs. It was hell and it still wasn’t enough to get close to an average wage.
I don’t get enough time off, or rest, or restorative stuff. I’ve known this for some time. The difficulty is turning that knowledge into action. Can I persuade myself that being well is more important than anything else that comes along? Can I hold boundaries when other people want more from me than I can afford to give? Can I deal with the voices in my head that yell ‘you are being emotionally abusive’ if I express distress or need? I don’t know. It’s a hard fight, and it’s a fight I have to take on when I’m at my most exhausted, currently. In many ways, accepting that everything and everyone else is more important than my mental health has always seemed like the easier, safer choice. In some contexts, that has definitely been true.
I’ve got to the point where not being able to push through is a real issue. I can’t keep going by will alone, because I’m exhausted. I don’t have resources to deploy, no matter how important situations seem. I’m struggling to work, and if this gets much worse, working is going to get ever more difficult. I am running out of options, and trying to persuade myself that this is not me making a fuss, or being lazy, or not trying hard enough. Either I get on top of this, or I hit the point where I really can’t get out of bed, and I do not think that point is so very far away.
What I’m hanging on to right now is a very powerful instruction to survive. It’s something to hold as a shield between me and all the things that push the other way. It might be enough to enable me to turn things around. It may not be melodramatic to say this is at a stage where ‘not survive’ is a potential outcome otherwise.