In November, I’m going to do only things that bring me joy. No obligations, no work, just joy. Sounds almost outrageous, right? But the journey to this decision wasn’t a pleasant one.
It happened like this: I burnt out. I burnt out badly. I currently sleep over 18 hours a day, and just 15 minutes of (barely) concentrating on work means several hours when I have to lie down and don’t even have the strength to listen to an audiobook.
I have just started getting my life together after a bad breakup recently. We were together for almost 11 years. I still love him. But I’m beginning to see how our dynamic – dependent/codependent – was extremely unhealthy and how much my thinking changed for the better after the breakup. It still hurts, though. Knowing it’s good for my mental health doesn’t stop the pain.
My first burnout several years ago left me unable to work at all, so I was financially dependent on him. I hate to write these words down, I hate that I feel so useless.
And after the breakup, I had to start working, no matter how unwell I was. He promised he would continue to support me until I found my feet. So I began searching for clients, writing texts… and having impostor syndrome the size of a small planet. Because how can I be a professional, how can I be of any use to someone, when I’m in this state?
My already bad anxiety had extremely worsened. The first thing I felt upon waking every day was intense mental pain, and fear of the day ahead. When I thought about work, my head started spinning and I felt like I would faint. Sometimes I had to lie down even when I was outside on a walk, in order not to collapse.
I vomited. My therapist had sent me to bed from an online session that I tried to have in between bouts of barfing. And the next time, when I was falling asleep from exhaustion. And the next time.
You probably get the picture. And after three months of this, my body apparently decided it had had enough, and just shut down.
Just as I was beginning to feel less fearful about my writing, just when I landed a great part-time job as a writer for a magazine that I was so proud of, just when I started to overcome my social phobia and venture among people on a regular basis – everything fell apart.
I felt so betrayed by life. I had put so much effort in, just to have everything I achieved yanked from me.
But I had to figure out what to do. And the answer became obvious: I need to stop working. At least for a little while. I negotiated a month off with my clients, including the amazing, shiny new job at a magazine. Yes, I recognize that this is a privilege. But so is being healthy enough to work.
I knew I had to rest, rest and rest. “Rest until you are bored to tears,” one person from a late-diagnosed autistic Facebook group where I asked for burnout advice wrote to me. “And then rest some more.”
Of course, I have to fight an immense urge to jump on my other projects. I want to start an online business, it has been my dream for a long time. And now I have a whole mont… no! No, no, no. Just rest.
And I realized that a part of resting is this: doing what makes me happy. Even if it was just for the 15 minutes a day during the time when I can stay functioning. So I do it.
Yesterday, I edited a short story I wrote a while ago. Today, I translated it from English to Czech. (Yes, I had to translate it into my native language.) I changed my job position on Facebook to positivity blogger, and then once more, to authenticity blogger. And now I’m writing this post.
I decided to change the way I write on this blog to be more authentic. And I changed the motto of this blog to “Positivity despite adversity“. I wanted to keep this space focused solely on positivity, but I realized that it had felt forced. I had to force myself to write. It wasn’t the right way for me.
I decided instead to write about my mental health experiences, alongside the small joys. People say that they see my posts about mental health as positive. I usually get the best reactions when I don’t just gloss over mental illness and other hardships of life. When I write from my heart, the words come easily. They flow out of me like a river.
I feel fulfilled. Yes, I’m terrified about what is happening to me, when it will end, how long it will last, and how I will be able to take care of myself in the long run if it doesn’t go away…
But when I allowed myself to just do what makes me happy, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I didn’t give myself permission to do things that just bring me joy for a very long time. Everything was planned, everything had to serve some purpose. Now I just feel… and do. And rest.
I don’t know what exactly I want to do for my online business anyways. I jump from idea to idea and I’m not completely happy with any of them. (Even if I have a little something that I’m slowly building now.) Maybe this time will allow me to discover what truly makes me feel fulfilled. To find my direction. And if not… Well, at least I will have a good time.
Yes, it’s apparently possible to have a good time even when I’m in burnout. I need to learn to respect the needs of my body… and to respect the needs of my soul.
Yes, I’m terrified. And elated. I’m curious about what this month will bring. How it will change me.
P.S. I just realized the night after writing this post that most people call a month when they can do their active hobbies for 15 minutes a day just “life”. But whatever, I’m happy regardless. 🙂
Thank you dear Hela for your authenticity and for sharing your story. Your words flow so beautifully and I find myself captivated by your writing. You are a special soul!!
Thank you so much, Alison! Your words have warmed my heart 🙂 I love that people find something of value in my writing.