what happens when someone who spends their whole life ‘living to work’ suddenly discovers that this way of life is killing them…
I must apologise for my absence from the blog. I’m sorry I have been so absent from not only posting, but from sharing and commenting on other’s blogs. Emotionally and mentally, I needed to step away from here for a while to regather myself and focus on healing. So I do hope you understand.
Following my break in December, came a path of intensive self-discovery and healing. December and January were perhaps the hardest months of my life. Admitting to myself that I had indeed suffered a psychotic break was a very hard thing to do, especially for someone like me. You see I’m a bit of a control freak…and to lose all control over everything, including my mind, was almost too much for me to bear. I was in disbelief of everything: my feelings, my state of mind, my circumstances with my family and with uni. I felt all this pressure bearing down on me, compacting me, squeezing me to my limits, and all I could do was curl up into a ball and stare off into space. I couldn’t read, concentrate, sleep, or function. Getting up to take a shower was more arduous than climbing Ben Nevis.
And finding myself in that state made me crumble all the more, because I couldn’t understand how I could let this happen — TO ME!
Going back into therapy truly did save my life. Once again, I refused medication, despite the recommendation of several learned individuals, and I began the process of examining my life and my choices in order to understand what had happened to cause this break inside me. My therapist was patient and kind. He allowed me the space to make my own discoveries and my own mistakes. He encouraged me to take a lengthy period off from my studies, and we negotiated for a few weeks before settling on a much reduced 3 month leave from uni. For weeks I only left the flat for therapy. I couldn’t manage the market, or seeing any of my mates. I had nothing to look forward to, and only wanted to be left alone. It was hard to go through the day-to-day. But slowly, I did make progress, and I came to realise that the choices I had made, and the pressure I had put on myself were mostly to blame.
What I came to realise what that, for me, it wasn’t just a matter of dealing with the symptoms, although they did need to be addressed, but I had to come to terms with what I had done to myself. I did this. I pushed myself far too hard for too long. It was time to make a drastic change in my life — one I had never even considered. My family, and especially my father, is a driven man…as a child I always remember him being ‘at work’ even on the weekends. He drove himself so hard because he was new in our country. He wanted to succeed. He instilled in me, even back then, a compulsive need to ‘live to work’. I grew up accomplishing so many things because I thought that those accomplishments defined me. They were the markers with which I could assess my life as a success or failure. I pushed myself to work 18 hour days so that I could accomplish even more. I told myself I didn’t need breaks, or holidays, or more than 4-5 hours sleep each night, because that was ‘wasted time’ in which i got nothing done. I was wrong. I was slowly killing myself that way, and everything finally came crashing down around me just before Christmas hols. In order to begin healing, I first had to come to terms with this because otherwise, I would have continued to repeat the same pattern again and again. Eventually I would be doomed to repeat this break as well– if I didn’t change.
I began to understand the difference in ‘living to work’ and ‘working to live’. And I made a conscious choice to live…and to work towards that goal. It meant a huge change in the way I saw life, my place in it, and the way I lived day-to-day. I had to learn to say no. I had to learn to sit quietly. I had to learn that down time wasn’t a waste but a necessity. I came to discover that my accomplishments didnt’ define me, my day-to-day life did and the choices I made.
Once I came to understand this, my therapist said there was no more he could do to help me. I was afraid to leave therapy, but I took his advice and my ‘discharge’ and went back into the world ready to begin again, but this time with a whole new outlook and a whole new plan. Yet again, therapy saved my life, and I am grateful for both the time and lessons I learned there. Not a day goes by where I don’t look back and reflect on what I learned — especially as I apply this knowledge to my day-to-day life. I’m not quite sure I can say I’m whole again. And I probably won’t feel whole again till I have my babies back with me…but that’s another story, and another blog.
Thanks for reading…and remember to be good to yourself — you deserve it!