My absence from work was not planned. Nor did I think I’d be out as long as I was/have been. I thought I’d bounce back and jump back into work and life in January. Didn’t happen. I started to pull it together again the beginning of February after the medication roller coaster. And then I collapsed again. My depression and anxiety has laid me flat in a way I’m still trying to understand. My steps to rejoin life and work has been hesitant and full of fear and incredibly uneven. Some days I think “I can do this” and then 2 hours later or the next morning I’m a sobbing shaking mess on the floor with a very concerned dog sticking her cold nose in my ear.
I’m struggling with feeling guilty. I’ve left folks hanging to pick up the pieces for me. As the one that usually is picking up the pieces for everyone else and “powering through” I know how frustrating/angering/irritating that can me. Which is where the guilt kicks in. And the shame that I can’t pull my shit together.
And there’s all consuming fear. That everyone will hate me. That I’ve damaged relationships and friendships beyond repair. That other’s trust in me has been broken permanently. That I’ll never be able to pull my shit together. That I’ve hurt people I love and care about. That people will never be able to move past the resentment and hurt and anger. It makes me sick to my stomach, the fear, especially on top of my fear of disappointing people because I know I have and I hate that.
I know that some folks won’t be able to understand or forgive me for the past few months. That I have lost some friendships and colleagues. And as much as it pains me (emotionally and physically), I have to accept that. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make everything OK, but the world doesn’t work like that.
I’ve questioned everything in my life since June. Questioned every decision (or non-decision/decision by default). Questioned every relationship. Wondered if I am in the career I am because I had to pick something and it was there in front of me when I was being forced to decide and “move forward” with my life. Wondered the same thing about what I studied in college and grad school. Looked at my hobbies and tried to figure out why I did them (because I enjoyed them? or because someone told me I was good at it so I should do it?). Did I pick the “default” because it’s what I was “supposed” to do? Looked at everything with new eyes, with an acknowledgement of my fear/terror of disappointing people, and my fear of being alone. Analyzed everything, trying to figure out if I was doing it by choice, out of fear, or because it was expected I just did it without wondering if it was right for me. And I don’t have any answers. None.
I’ve spent so much of my life turning myself inside out and into pretzels trying to be what everyone around me needs. Trying to be what they expect. Hiding my insecurity and hurt. And people have taken advantage of that. And I’ve let them. Why? Because I was so desperate to be included, to be needed, to not be alone. Desperate to belong and to not be different for once. I don’t remember the last time, or if I ever, truly felt like and trusted that I belonged and was accepted.
I really do want the people around me to be happy. Honest. I’ve put everyone else’s happiness and needs and interests above mine, done what was expected of me, to the point that I don’t even know how to define my own happy or my own wants and needs are anymore. What do I need? What do I want? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.
And it’s hard. And I’m so fucking tired. And I still want the people in my life to be happy. Which is why I feel so guilty. And angry at myself. Because me falling apart and being absent has made the life of others difficult and frustrating.
I’ll be 41 in a few weeks. And as I look at my life, I don’t see what 20 or even 25 year old me envisioned. Or even 30 year old me. Some of that is good, but a whole lot of it is because I pushed what I needed and what I wanted to the back of the queue so long that I’ve forgotten and now I’m floundering. Wondering if it would be easier for everyone if I just walked away. Wondering if it would be easier for me if I just walked away.* Try something completely new and random that has nothing to do with my current life and career in the hope it will help me figure out what I need and/or what I want my life to be.
But, there are good things in my life. I’ve receive an incredible amount of support from so many people, which I never expected. And I am very very grateful for each and every gesture, email, text, voicemail, or other effort to support me, even if I don’t say it or respond. I’m trying to focus on the good and get back to work, even if it’s one stuttering step at a time.
*Please do not freak out…I am NOT suicidal. I mean literally walking away from all the expectations and responsibilities and letting things move forward without having people try to save my “place” in it.