As some of you may have seen, I recently posted about holiday anxiety which I then followed up with a particularly adorable rant/word vomit about blogging and how I was reacting to it now I was on holiday. It was the first day of my holiday, and I was worrying about my blog. I let it all out, then I switched off. I was still on Twitter and Instagram, but I didn’t blog or even try to.
The holiday gave me some much-needed distance from the blog, but my mental health difficulties didn’t afford me a similar luxury. I didn’t expect a week in the sun to solve anything, which is for the best as it didn’t. In my holiday anxiety post I bemoaned the idea that you’re expected to have a good time, 24/7, when on holiday. You’re supposed to come back home with a sun-kissed glow and a halo of calm.
Well, I’ve come back home with a few more freckles and a feeling of sick anxiety in my stomach. Honestly, sitting on my sofa scrolling through Twitter can either be very helpful for me, or the exact opposite. Today, it was the opposite, I think I just felt overwhelmed and as though there was some pressure on me to say or do something. There isn’t, of course. Let’s not forget that nobody actually knows who I am, and furthermore I am not accountable to anyone for what I say or do online unless I am directly communicating with that person.
It’s an interesting experience, going on holiday when your brain is still functioning in a rather pain-in-the-arse manner. I had my first day blog-anxiety meltdown, I had a near-miss panic attack on my way down from a tower and an exhausted, anxious wobble in a beautiful, sunny park. I had several days where I got up and needed to go back to bed, meaning we didn’t do anything ‘holiday-ish’ until the afternoon. It didn’t really matter much, but it left me feeling a bit guilty and incapable.
Did I handle my mental health when I was away? Absolutely, I did. I let myself rest. I didn’t even try to keep anything inside, however I was feeling got let out. Perhaps because we were on a time schedule, but it felt almost like a waste of time to sit on or hide my feelings. I needed to get them out of the way and try to carry on. I hope that’s something I can take with me when I’m not on holiday (i.e. for the rest of my life now I am a half-heartedly-self-employed-something-or-other).
I know I need to get back to working this week, and already there’s the familiar pressure to work as many hours as I can and earn some money. I’ve deliberately avoided getting myself into full-time work, but I’m still trying to define my worth by what I spend my time doing and whether or not I get paid for it. I feel guilty for having a week off, as though I can’t afford to do that now I don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from or how much it will bring me.
There are other social things I need to sort out now I’m back – time to go and visit my friends and their baby, who is nearly six months old and I still haven’t met. A weekend back in Yorkshire for my sister’s hen do. A visit to my friend’s house for her birthday party. I need to make a hair appointment, another therapy appointment, and get back to my driving lessons. I allowed myself to ignore these things when I was away, but now I feel obligations to start making arrangements. I’m not sure if I just used my holiday as an excuse to hide from life for a bit.
That’s not an unreasonable thing to do. Unfortunately, my personality and my shrewd, cruel, brain will not accept this as true. According to it, I’ve let things go. Missed opportunities. Shirked my social and employment responsibilities. It seems I can’t give myself a break for, well, giving myself a break.
By allowing myself some time away from things, I’ve come to realise not that I’m taking too much on, but rather how it actually affects me in day-to-day life. I tweeted whilst I was away:
This holiday has made me feel totally vindicated for any time I took off work.
— Seeds in the Wasteland (@seedsinthewaste) May 27, 2018
I finally realised that if I was struggling on a holiday, a self-imposed break, it was no wonder I wasn’t able to function in a full-time working environment. My reaction now I am back home is not necessarily ‘Oh, I have so much to do, I want to hide away’, more of an understanding that I excessively worry, focus on, and catastrophise anything that I do have to do. I am sitting, back in my own bed, surrounded by all my own things, and I am anxious. My heart is beating too fast and I can feel it in my stomach.
Simply because a time has now passed where I allowed myself to take some space. It was okay to do that, I was on holiday. I’m not any more. I’m back home, which means I have to get back to focusing, over-thinking and working myself into a frenzy about very little.
My lesson should be to allow myself some time, some space, whenever I need. The feeling in the pit of my stomach tells me that I can’t do that, I shouldn’t, I mustn’t and I must do everything now.
As I opened my laptop to write this and check various other things, I had to stop myself from signing on to do a bit of work. ‘I am too tired, and I don’t want to.’ It was a close call that I let myself get away with that. It might not have made me feel any worse, hell, it might even have made me feel better. It might have helped, but for the wrong reasons. It might have helped because it meant I was doing something, I was taking ‘control’. In reality, it would only have meant I was listening to my anxiety and my misplaced need to get back into life, to stop relaxing and to grab the reins back from this ‘holiday’ nonsense.
I am now deliberately not allowing myself to do anything pertaining to work. The anxious whirlpool in my stomach will remain. The insistent rapping of my heart on my ribcage will not subside. I am forcing myself to stay in ‘holiday mode’ even though it causes me discomfort. I am doing this to show myself that I don’t need to do everything, or anything, right away. That I am perfectly capable of continuing with my life in an organised, stable, way without giving in to these urges.
I allowed myself a break, and I wish I had never bothered. If I hadn’t, though, maybe I wouldn’t have realised how much I was punishing myself behind the scenes. I’m miserable, distracted, confused. If I had never gone away, I’d have just carried on. I’d have found new ways outside of full-time work to burn myself out. I didn’t expect something as simple as a holiday to be a learning experience, and I am angry at myself for allowing it to be. Cognisance is uncomfortable, and makes me feel helpless. I’ve noticed something, but now what do I do?
It is my constant need to ‘do’ that is my downfall. Even when I notice something that is useful, that I should learn from, my only thought is ‘How do I change this?’ I am holding myself to account, expecting immediate change, and castigating myself for not doing anything.
It is draining. I have come back from a pleasant, different experience where I allowed myself to ‘let go’, only to grab back on to everything with all my might, screaming ‘Where now?!’ as I get dragged off once more by the wild horses that run rampant across my mind.
‘Did you have a nice holiday?’
It’s just easier to say ‘Yes.’