Recent Times.

Before I go to sleep, I stare at the ceiling. I want to calm down, but my mind is up, up, up.

I’ve got the itch.

I’m manic with adrenaline.

Pregnant with possibility.

Sleep brings me no solace: the visions go with me, as real as the beat of my heart, and I wake up in those terrible night terror-induced sweats.

After years of stillness, I’m eager to go. I don’t want to wait. I don’t want to talk about getting round to it someday because I’m anxious that someday might not come.

It’s not a given. Nothing is.

I spend the days fantasising about the opportunities that tomorrow could bring. I see myself stronger, leaner, faster, taller. I see myself successful and ambitious, but content and grateful. I see a place that is my own, where I govern myself and myself only. It’s a cosy and comfortable space. It’s not much, but it’s home to me. It’s the place I feel safe.

It’s a home, not a house, filled with patchwork furniture dotted around the living room and framed photos of those uni mishaps, awkward family photoshoots and pixelated selfies at a festival on the walls. It’s the stack of bequeathed vinyls, yet to be sorted through, and a record player poised on the shelving unit, no sign of dust: ready to play. It’s the coffee machine finally unboxed and perched on the kitchen unit where it belongs. It’s the lived-in office room, desk littered with paper and shadows cast on the wall by tilting bookshelves, spines of all varieties spilling over the edges. It’s the faint aroma of incense sticks that are so constantly burned that their musk is practically embedded in the walls. It’s the silence in the mornings as coffees are sipped on the breakfast counter, interrupted only by audible yawns and the creak of dry eyes as the sleep is rubbed away to reveal the world anew. It’s the night-light aglow as the hypnotherapy tape plays aloud and lures me into sleep.

I’ve grown attached to the ideas of what could be. But that’s all they are for now: ideas. And that’s what really gives me the itch.

Until I act to make these fantasies real, they’re about as valid as the Tory government. I want to act instead of talking, talking, talking and never seeing these talks into fruition. I’m desperate to manifest it all before the energy is all gone and I’m completely deflated again.

I want to carve out an existence for myself, the kind I can grow to be proud of. I want to look myself in the mirror and know that I saw and I conquered, or at least I tried.

I want to get out and see the world. I’ve genuinely forgotten what it feels like, to adventure beyond the perimeters of safety and routine. The same faces and the same places make for a stagnating mind.

I want to reconnect with the friends from my old life, the pre-illness life where I was independent and capable as my own person.

I want to drown out the constant chatter of UNWORTHY INCOMPETENT NOT ENOUGH TOO-SENSITIVE. I want to be formidable and fierce, a real force to be reckoned with. I want to be.

What Unemployment Taught Me About “Failure and Success”

On this day: unemployed me helped to build a bar in the back garden with my dad. The stereotype that unemployed folk are unproductive is totally and utterly wrong.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been the busy-body, workaholic, type-A individual. My life has comprised of working very hard towards a focused goal, accomplishing that goal with blood, sweat and tears, and then swiftly moving onto the next big objective in line. It has always felt alien to “rest” and has been a legitimate struggle to find ways to relax, as it seems my mind has always been more adept with chaos and, in contrast, struggled with stillness.

As you can imagine for a person with my tendencies, a period of unemployment earlier this year, for two whole months, could have been more than enough to send me spiralling. However, I actually found this quiet time for reflection to be very powerful. This was because I was emancipated from a job that was, quite frankly, completely draining me dry. After more than a year of “What’s wrong with me? Why aren’t I good enough?”, I was finally free.

Of course I had the standard anxieties about the prospect of finding a new job and financial security, but first and foremost, I was relieved. I was no longer bound to a job that was making me, and consequently my loved ones, deeply unhappy. My life suddenly had perspective again: there’s so much more to living than being chained to a desk chair for 9 hours a day! There’s so many things I used to enjoy before this job took over every brain cell! I am so much more than just an employee! I felt like an absolute fool for allowing the drama of that employment spell to sink me so considerably for such a long time.

I don’t think I’d have felt this sense of clarity and peace without the context of my previous illness. Up till a few years ago in 2019 when I hit ultimate burnout/the darkest depression/the fiery pits of hell, AKA literally not having the physical or emotional capacity to keep on carrying on, I thought I’d be that person who just kept going forever and ever. I had never really imagined myself succumbing to full physical sickness due to mental exertion. However, when that burnout period came along, aspects of my life changed irrevocably and I have since learned a lot about my unhealthy coping mechanisms and attitudes towards failure/success.

I definitely feel the outside pressures of wanting to make my family proud and wanting to be perceived by society in a successful light, but the majority of my pressure to succeed comes from within and is entirely irrational. I’d always envisioned being unemployed as a sign of personal failure. I’d always considered overworking to be a sign of professionalism and necessity. I genuinely once thought that taking time to “do nothing” was a lazy cop-out for people without stamina. How criminally wrong I was.

This is evidenced by the fact that I stayed for so long in a working situation that made me so stressed, anxious and depleted. Despite absolutely giving my all, working endless overtime, taking on extra responsibilities and trying to pick myself up after being repeatedly knocked, I just couldn’t make my previous role work for me. Even though I knew I was regressing mentally and physically due to my efforts, I couldn’t throw the towel in because I was scared that it would amount to failure. The official nail in the coffin: “I’ve failed myself. I’ve failed the company. I’ve failed my colleagues. I’ve failed my family”.

In reality: I absolutely bloody did not.

It seems that I’ve been hardwired to push myself to absolute exertion for the majority of my life and, as a result, I’ve suffered massively. On a personal level, I’ve sacrificed a lot of precious time with family and friends. On a professional level, I’ve managed to self-sabotage opportunities for advancement due to being inundated with other responsibilities after overloading myself with absolutely everything else possible.

Part of me is ashamed by the fact that it’s taken me this long to redefine my ideas of success and failure, yet overall, I’m glad I’ve learned it in the first place. Sometimes I look at people far older than me and wonder whether, despite all the letters after their names, certificates on the walls and zeroes before the dot on their salaries, they’re actually content. Because when it comes down to it, I think that would be the ultimate success story now to 26-year-old me.

Summary: Life isn’t linear and neither is progress. Losing a job or a relationship or a status does not amount to failure. Wads of mullah do not amount to success. Working yourself to the bone in the hopes that you’ll please everybody will not lead to anything but incredibly bad and sad times. Life is precarious and oh so short. Don’t waste it always looking ahead to what you want to be and what you want to have and focus instead, at least sometimes, on the person you’ve already become and the things you’ve already accomplished.