I’m always writing out goals for myself. Every day for the last seven months I’ve entered a minimum of three of them in my bullet journal, then I rewrite them onto a sticky note that is dated and includes a short sentence long intention for the day that sits beside my work computer as I trudge through the day. Lately I struggle to get anything on those lists done. I’m not tired, nor do I feel like I am struggling with mental health issues like I used to, but maybe that is just me not accepting it. Four years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar type 2, which to be honest is more of a problem for the ‘neurotypical’ people that I meet than it is for me, at least when it comes to social acceptance. But with that, I don’t think that my wiring is what is affecting my bottom line here.
By that I mean this: I am fine with how my brain works and what I have to do to keep myself level, as it were. Many of the people that I engage with on this think all the journaling, the meditation, the weening off and on medications and avoiding triggers and such is a trial past measure. I’m so ‘brave’ and ‘strong’ for dealing with it and being so capable in spite of it. Or I’m so smart for using it as a fuel to get my shit in order. I don’t think it’s any of those things, because all of them I feel requires a certain degree of victimhood – of being put upon – that I just don’t see much value in holding or can justify as having.
I’m not at the whims of the mental illness I’m diagnosed with. I don’t lack control nor am I wrestling with a demon to gain it. I know people who that is (or seems to be) the case for, from the schools I went to to the places I’ve worked to the hospitals I’ve been unfortunate enough to have been kept in to the actual streets I’ve walked and friends I’ve always had. I am not them nor do I think I’m in a ‘better’ place than them. I don’t like that idea: that my organ is somehow more adept or ‘better’ than another, since so much of that isn’t up to me. It smacks of genetic determinism, which doesn’t fly as a means of judging the worth of a human life nor whether their experience of it is ‘right’.
So, no, my mental health isn’t the problem. It’s the cold and, rather paradoxically, the lack of good sleep.
I don’t sleep well, despite how I feel about it. My partner (I call her partner because, to me, it sounds like we’re a dynamic-duo [an a A-team, if you will] which is fun, whereas being girlfriend/boyfriend, while lovely, is not as multifaceted) says I wake up multiple times throughout the night, but I only register it once or twice, usually to eat a few bites of lime potato chips or drink some orange juice and try and get the anxiety or frustration of being awake again out. It’s not an exhausting process, as you might imagine, but a familiar one since this pandemic began. I have never slept that well, but it has become exacerbated since March of 2020 when my place of employment transitioned pretty much overnight to being work-from-home.
When it happened I was livid. ‘How?’ I thought (and maybe growled to myself), “How dare they intrude upon my home, my private life, like this? Forcing me to work in my own house? Where I sleep and watch really bad CW shows on Netflix? There is a big, CTA-train-sized line and journey that is meant to separate the office from my domicile, and never do I want it breached.” But for the just-above-minimum-wage I was making that I needed to live my only moderately irresponsible lifestyle, I gave up my meager protests and come Monday morning I was sitting on my home computer, typing into spreadsheets for the That-Which-Will-Be-Nameless internet corporation.
Now I wake up and the buffer between work anxiety and my refuge have been physically eliminated. Some of the few moments of peace I have in the morning before the negativity can take hold is my set of rituals: first I make my coffee in the French press, then meditation, then my three hand written morning pages, then brushing my teeth. At some point my partner comes in and we try to plan our day out or commiserate or whatever, but at around 8:30 AM I sit down at the table in our den, boot up the computer that my employment has now provided me for their tasks, log in, boot up the VPN, check my emails and go about the work of data entry in our Mid-COVID world.
Writing it out, it seems like a lot; and maybe it is. But it’s working so far, at least when it comes to doing the daily grind. Which, to be honest, has not been an ideal work experience. I can say now that while I prefer working from home, I don’t like doing it for someone else. It is slowly pushing me, day by day, just a little deeper into frustration – which is really just depression hiding behind an emotional shield. At least for me. That, on top of all the things I plan to do with my free time, most of which never gets done, also gives a few more nudges towards the fall.
I, like many, have juggled too many things at the same time. I genuinely don’t think that my problem here is the amount of what I’m doing as opposed to what I’m doing, which for about forty hours out of the week is, aside from the money I make, a waste. And a draining one to boot. Doing shit you don’t like, that you don’t value, and doing it all the time just to make sure you can have the obligation to pay enough to live is truly agonizing. If not for you, then at least it is for me. And if it’s not for you, please tell me how. Not so I can mimic you necessarily: I don’t really want to be in love with data entry. I do want to know your techniques to apply them to working out and eating greens, things I also despise doing.
I don’t want to do my practices as a remedy for my oncoming struggle of a workday, but it does act like that. And as each day is passing, it’s helping about the same amount but my frustration and anxiety never go below a certain threshhold. I don’t want to have to live like that.
I also mentioned it was cold, which it is: about 32º Fahrenheit here in my part of Chicago as I write this. The snow is melting and the sun is setting on a gray sky, so yeah it’s a little dreary. My partner said it was snowing earlier, but barely specks. The city is not the same to me as it was when I came here. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, but usually when it involves Chicago it’s a complicated one.
I can talk about that some other time, though.