One step at the time. And that’s a good start.

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Over the last couple of weeks, three to be exact, my life has literally done a 180 turn and gotten me back almost to where I started over three months ago. I am over worked, under slept and unhappy. Stress is building exponentially week over week and in the beginning I was at least able to separate the “workload stress” from “emotional stress” but at this point the two are becoming blurred. So blurred that I am scared that I have started sliding down that slippery hill again, really fast.

All the signs are there: I don’t sleep well. I don’t eat well. Or don’t eat at all for days and then binge eat on crappy, so called “comfort foods” that are in fact the opposite, and just make the whole situation worse both physically and mentally. I am getting moody and impatient and I am starting to lose my temper again. The happy girl that a month ago just shrugged things off with a smile and didn’t worry about things she anyway couldn’t control, seems long gone. And I am starting to isolate myself, having no will to go out for exercise or meet a friend. I still try to break from work at a decent hour but that mental deadline is also slipping in terms of what is an acceptable breaking point, each night.

I am starting to feel depressed. But what is worse is that I am starting to give up. I am starting to doubt that I have the will power and mental strength to break those negative habits and turn things around. I am mentally exhausted and I am starting to feel listless.

So what is going on? Work of course! Many of my well-meaning friends have told me over the last week to “just let it go”. “Just stop working at the end of a full (normal) workday because it is in-humane to expect you to work 15 hrs a day, week in and week out.” And it is in-humane. But is it really that simple? How do you just leave things for the next day, when every day new priorities are handed to you and everything is urgent? When there are so many things to do, that are all so tightly inter-dependent that even trying to figure out how to prioritise becomes impossible? When every issue resolved is replaced by 2 new ones?

And it was at this point when I was about halfway through writing this post, almost choking on my own negativity (or perhaps a better word is despair?) that I slammed the lid on my laptop down and decided I had to get a shower, put some clothes on and go meet my quirky neighbourhood-friends down at the coffee shop.

Because I didn’t feel like it. Because all I wanted to do was stay at home, alone, and continue to wallow in self-pity. Log-out. Switch off. And not interact with any other human beings, in any way.

So I went. And I met up with this wonderful group of (new) friends, who always make me laugh so hard about all the crazy, weird shit that goes on in our lives… Whom all together have the most politically incorrect – and loud! – opinions on everything and nothing at all. Who has the integrity and courage to call things out for what they are and how they see them. It’s a total no-nonsense, no-bullshit group of people where no one judges you, even if they don’t always agree. I’ve known most of them briefly for at least a couple of years but it is only in the last few months that I have started getting to know them, and started hanging out with them. They have now become part of my weekend routine: Saturday mornings I sleep in, till about 8.00 am and go for breakfast at Polar Café; Sundays I get up at 6.30-7.00 am and head out to Fall City to bike with John.

For someone like me, at the point I am at in my life journey and the state of mind I am in at the moment, routines are very important. As well as having something to look forward to. Someone you have made a commitment to and that you care about enough not to want to let them down. And oddly enough, these guys have become that close and important to me, even though I haven’t known them very long and I think the key reason for that is that they are so genuine. They don’t ask how you are to be polite but because they care. And they don’t expect you to give the polite answer back, or look awkward when you tell them the truth, and that makes all the difference! These people have become my friends because they don’t only ask but they listen, and they hear me. Of all the things I have done over the last three months to change my life around, having the courage to let people in, is probably the most important one. It has given me the strength to take that blasted mask off and throw it away.

Gradually I have gotten stronger and stronger and I think I am close to the point where I am ready to throw my mask so hard against a wall, that it shatters and cannot be put back together again. It will soon be gone for good and I will be able to breathe and live my life fully. But I am not quite there yet. I am a little further away than I was three weeks ago, because when stress levels go up, the defence mechanisms start rising too. I am grateful for having made that realisation today. Understanding that will help me see when the mask is creeping back on, and once I see that clearly, I can make a conscious decision to throw it off and kick it into a corner of the room at least.

So, what am I now going to do about the work situation, since that is what has pushed me down and made me regress? I don’t know yet. But managing to make the decision to get out of the house and go for breakfast today, has inspired and motivated me to keep on fighting and not give up and succumb to it. It helped me pry the window open enough for a few rays of sunshine to come into my life and remind me how much I enjoy being out there basking in the sun, instead of hiding away denouncing life.

I am not feeling very strong but I am feeling a little bit stronger than I did yesterday. I think I can take one step at the time. And that’s a good start…

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