Time (this blog post is too long)
Updated: Jun 3, 2019
Perhaps because I have been either self employed or a home-based worker for nearly a decade, I have a habit of planning my weekdays by the hour.
It may sound a bit obsessive given I don't have many deadlines to work to or an employer to report to but it really helps me stay on top of the various roles in my life. I think it's because, like many people, planning ahead helps replace some of the anxiety with motivation. I include both I need to do (mastery or accomplishment related goals) and things I really want to do (pleasure or enjoyment related activities). This means my schedule routinely tries to mix study time in the library with twenty minutes meditation practice, dog walks with time with my son and volunteering activities with time to journal. All are appointments In my weekly diary. If I am lucky most weeks they involve other people such as meeting for a coffee or attending a class, which break up what can be quite a lonely week. Importantly, I also schedule in rest periods. This is the first time I feel comfortable sharing this: Dealing with my life, myself, my roles and responsibilities my way means I need to take time to rest and recharge during the day. If this makes me selfish and spoiled, so be it. My sleep has been much better recently, definitely a function of being 133 days sober and having an alcohol free body and mind I should think by now. However, and I understand from others with anxiety and depressive disorders a similar story, sleep doesn't always equal rest. For me vividly upsetting dreams set the tone for the day and also often neutralise the benefits uninterrupted sleep now I have a child sleeps through until a sensible hour (has a 6 in it).
As a result, I wake up some mornings with the emotional overhang of what doesn't feel like 'just a dream' but a very real emotional experience. On those days, it takes a lot of energy to try not to focus on my confusion and worry, to get any offices at all and carry on as normal as possible for my family. This morning when I woke up I was fighting the usual groundless sense of dread which comes with generalised anxiety and for which I am both taking medication and in therapy.
Although I know this is my body-brain's overactive physiological response to feeling neutral, and therefore not about anything real as such ('just anxiety') I can't ever seem to get used to being like this most of the time.
Did I dream last night? I can't remember actually, but today like many Mondays, even after my second cup of tea, I found myself looking at my proposed schedule for the day and just not connecting with the person who planned it. Who was she and how come she thought I could do all this stuff? A lot of people hate Monday's and find it hard to get motivated. For me, it's another reminder that I am different to other people. Monday's are hard for me, not because it's back to work, I'd rather it was the weekend or I have a real life situation I don't like. But because I know I need to pull even more out of the bag to kick start myself after a weekend in the company of my family, I am alone again and all my roles and responsibilities just seem too much of a mountain to climb with this physiological and psychological baggage I seem to have stealthily acquired. A friend recently told me she thought I was more strong than most as in the absence of the demands of a job to get me up and at 'em, it was up to me to motivate myself rather than do the minimum required of me. You may be reading this and envying the control and choice that this gives me, you may be thinking she is spoilt and complaining about her first world problems…and you are probably right. Despite giving me more say in how I spend my time, it is not easy taking this path as without being anchored by others daily expectations and demands I often feel overwhelmed by doubt and a sense of having no value to others, with the exception of my very close family. It is hard to battle the negative thoughts, low self esteem and anxiety about whether I can cope with the day and week I have planned but this approach seems more sustainable than the various employments I have tried to make a go of in the past. (These include working full time, numbers/analysis based work, creative work, working 4 days per week, freelancing, working 2 jobs, career change to retail shift work, working from home as freelancer in advertising and working mobile as a self employed designer. As I feel the need to justify myself!) So today was supposed to be filled with some studying, a trip to the gym, a play with the dog and then the school run and trip to the dentist. Instead I find myself in a local café blogging away and having a conversation with the owner about psychology, individual differences and parenting styles. All provoked by my request that they display a poster for the upcoming Mental Health Mates walk. Whilst this morning I felt a strange sense of observing myself from the outside with anxiety and doubt, and although I have not stuck to my plan I feel that perhaps I was meant to go a bit off piste and be here right now to write this and have that conversation. From this I learn that flexibility perhaps shouldn't be feared and maybe a useful tool in my toolbox.
My week is full of doable activities so I make progress chunk by chunk towards my goals and I continually compare this with others I see with much more stresses in their lives and much greater achievements than 'managed to rest today or 'took the dog for a walk'. But I also would like to allow myself some room in my brain as well as my schedule for self-compassion so I can seek out opportunities to be around others and write when I need to. It may be through this that I inch my way forwards towards feeling better about myself, my life and chosen path.