Something happened, it seems, that stopped me blogging. It didn’t just stop me blogging, it stopped me writing altogether. I’m not sure when it happened, only that it did… and now I’m sorry.
When I first went back to work part-time after what I suppose used to be called a nervous breakdown, everyone was very pleased. What a triumph! I thought so, too. There were days (when I was at my worst) where I couldn’t leave the house without being crippled by fear and, then, there I was, back at work and managing. Not only managing, but actually enjoying it. The buzz I used to feel for teaching was back – the kids were great – and I had proved to myself that I wasn’t, actually, totally useless and a drain on society.
That was two academic years ago. For the first term, I had people looking out for me at work, and some amazing support from friends and family. And then, slowly, imperceptibly, that support went away.
This is not a bad thing, of course. I didn’t need that support anymore. Not only did I not need it, but it would have been detrimental to my recovery to rely on other people as much, then, as I had needed to before. I liken it to being a teenager, in many ways. It took me months to understand why I was desperate for people’s help one minute, and then felt suffocated by their meddling the next. (The Husband got the worst of this, for which I apologise). I digress. The fact is, I appeared ‘better’ and people left me to it.
When I first when back to work, I used my two days off to get ‘better’. I have since, of course, discovered that better is a process not a destination – but at the time, I really believed in a magical morning when I would wake up CURED. One morning a week, I saw a counsellor, and I spent the rest of the day exhausted. Emotionally and physically battered. So I slept a lot, and I watched a lot of bad TV. The other day I wasn’t at work, I spent racked with worry about work, and drowning in CBT forms to make it better. And bad TV. When I first went back to work, this was necessary. And then, it wasn’t.
I needed to fill my days with something. I needed to find myself something to do. So I went on a writing course. In fact, I went on a couple. People started asking about my writing and I, full of excitement about my new hobby, wanted to talk about it. The feedback I got from these courses was positive. I began to feel like being a writer was something I could actually do. And that’s where it went wrong. The minute I began to believe that this was something I could do, I was plagued with all those old thoughts about why I couldn’t. All the little voices that mocked me for even believing it was possible. The manuscript I had worked on for so many months, is still unfinished. Opening the file makes me feel physically sick.
And people kept asking about it.
This weekend, my Dad, trying to make conversation where we have something in common, asked how the writing was going. I couldn’t answer. I choked. The thing is, it isn’t going. I’m not writing at all. Not only am I not writing, I don’t even think I want to write. Writing is stupid. If I’m not going to be Margaret Atwood, Doris Lessing… Kafka – for God’s Sake – then I don’t want to write at all.
So I spend my days off – since you asked – doing absolutely nothing but make myself miserable and watch bad TV and I HATE EVERY MINUTE OF IT. Which is not something to say to your friends, or colleagues, who all have to work full-time like normal people. I am wasting the gift I have been given – the gift of freedom from full-time work – and I feel guilty for it. And the guilt paralyses me, and eats away at all the hard work I did in recovering.
I am still a very long way from being ‘better’. I need to remind myself, again, of that poem that so resonated with me: “You do not have to be good”. When I take my eye off the ball, I am still likely to slip back into unhealthy ways of thinking (and of course! I thought like that for 30 years, it isn’t going to go away so easily). I need to write for fun, not for any other reason. I need to give myself the freedom to just enjoy stuff, without needing to prove myself. I need to be better at telling people, when they ask, “actually, I’m part-time because I believe that there should be more to life than work… I’m just still working out what that means”.