Does anyone feel like they are currently on a never-ending rollercoaster? Not in the fun way, but in the I-have-to-ride-this-ride-over-and-over-because-a-small-family-member-is-obsessed-with-it-but-I’m-getting-sick-and-I-want-off-immediately. Well, obviously, I wouldn’t classify what we are all going through at the moment as a result of someone being “obsessed” and “enjoying” the global pandemic because what we are doing is of the utmost importance and contributes to the safety of all of us. But what I mean is I feel like my mental state is in a constant up and down and loopty-loop of trying to remain positive and feeling absolutely helpless. It seems I go days feeling pretty good, feeling blessed and grateful that I and my family and friends are safe, feeling okay with the fact that I am working from home and that my day-to-day life has not shifted that much in the grand scheme. This past week, however, I have had an onslaught of bad days of feeling what I can only describe as melancholy: a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause.
Even when I was feeling productive and pushing through the overwhelming pull to get in bed, I was still doing those tasks just because I needed or wanted to. It was purely just to get them done because I knew I would feel worse later if I didn’t. It really took until this weekend to snap back into it and reflect on where I am mentally with the current climate. Two weeks ago, I posted a video about the ways I am protecting my mental space during this time. I continue to do these things, but I still feel at a standstill. Maybe it’s the fact that I am naturally a planned person, or that each day we are getting closer and closer to the trip I had to cancel that I’d been planning for nearly six months, but the ability to not be able to plan for the immediate future was weighing on me. I know, I know…this is everyone’s current reality, but I have to remind myself that that does not make my feelings any less valid.
The September issue is the magazine world’s equivalent of January, its very own new year… it’s the magazine edition that is the biggest, the most influential and the one with the strongest fashion pull. The autumn/winter season always has more influence than spring/summer – September spells the end of summer. – Ella Alexander, Glamour UK Magazine, 2016
As fashion month comes to close and I mourn all the fashion weeks I have yet to be a guest at, I revel in the fact that it is finally fall. To start, I guess I should say I have never really been a summer girl to begin with: it’s hot, everywhere is crowded, and travel is expensive. I also feel at my absolute worst in summer as I detailed in a very personal post around this time last year. Unfortunately, it was no different this year where I found myself experiencing those all too familiar feelings and, more intensely, asking myself, “What am I doing with my life?”
This isn’t completely travel-related, but for some, it might be.
Like many other Americans, I am a hoarder of my accrued time off. It is a combination of a million “just in case” mental scenarios as well as a general environment that we cultivate here in the States that taking time off for anything that isn’t an emergency or family-related is equivalent to laziness. The only time you get a ‘social’ pass is for that one-week, all-inclusive beach trip you planned eight to 10 months in advance where you will likely still find yourself working remotely.
Why do we restrict ourselves from utilizing our time off? Correction: why do we restrict ourselves from utilizing time off that we worked for and is paid? And when we do use time off, why don’t we fully enjoy it? I understand I am in an ideal position where my only responsibility at the moment is myself; I don’t have to worry about having a safety stash based on kids’ schedules, an elderly member of my family that depends on me for care, or even getting sick (*knock on wood*). But it is also no secret that I struggle with a mental illness and I have to face the fact that I might need a day here and there to just re-stabilize.
The idea for this post came to me because I am currently saving my time off for a long birthday trip I am taking to Europe at the end of May. With the exception of two pre-planned days, I have not taken time off, or been on a plane, since this past October. Working in operations, I didn’t get the holidays off so it has been nonstop for me for the last six months. I finally took a trip this weekend to break the fly-atus for which I did not have to use any time off, but even waiting for this weekend to arrive has shown me that maybe it is time to start investing in time off at home.
Like many other people, I feel not only lazy, but also guilty to be sitting at home while others are working. I also get that feeling around mid-afternoon where I think to myself, “You’re wasting a whole day.” How can that be if my intention for that day was to relax and reset my mind? Naturally, I then take myself into a downward spiral of how I could have saved this time for a trip I have always wanted to go on, but this is why I used the term ‘invest’ in time off. It is going to take more than putting my physical self in a different space–I have to remind myself that I worked for these days, I am entitled to these days, and understand that I will ultimately be a better person to others in my social and professional settings because of it. No matter how much sleep you get or what you do when you get home from work, everyone experiences burnout from the rotating demands of everyday life.
Think about it: what benefit do you get from hoarding your time for one week (or a little more) of vacation when you have to work the other 51 weeks of the year? That’s a long time to go without a break! I have explained many times on this blog that my work schedule is not a traditional schedule. So while I would love to just take a day every month to tack onto my weekend to go on a trip, the people I like to travel with have to bend to their own struggle with time off to coordinate with me. This is partly why I have been trying to find new things to do here in Dallas, but also why I need to find solace in the silence of not having anywhere to be or anyone to talk to.
Travel will always be my preferred way to regroup, so I understand more than anyone that saving up your time to go on a vacation is a higher priority than one day’s rest on the couch. But the point is that if you ever feel you do need that one day’s rest or just a mental escape from the monotony of the daily routine, you should indulge and not feel guilty for it. Hopefully nobody reading this is as close to the edge of burnout as I am currently and can instead pick and plan a day to take care of themselves in whatever way they see fit. Remember: you worked for it, you are entitled to it, and you will ultimately be a better person to others when you take a break every now and then for yourself.
On December 3rd, I made a decision to quiet my mind for the last month of 2018. This meant less of anything that caused my thoughts–specifically negative thoughts–to run rampant in order to give myself a mental break. There are things I cannot avoid like having to interact and be ‘on’ at work, but when I get home, I try to do whatever I can that allows me to be productive without making my mind spiral. As recently written, I am finally delving into the causes for my depression and seemingly increasing levels of anxiety. But in order to do this, I needed to almost fully break down. I intentionally retreated for most of December and part of my retreat was disabling my social media.
I did not deactivate my Facebook or Snapchat because they do not give you an option to temporarily deactivate, so I just deleted the apps from my phone. Instagram, however, does give you an option to temporarily disable so I did that as well as deleting the app from my phone. It’s funny because despite the content I create and how much I enjoy sharing it, I barely spent any time on social media in terms of engagement. I only view what my closest friends are posting and then I close the apps. But that’s kind of weird, isn’t it? I don’t scroll or engage with other people because I don’t want to see what people are doing. I already know that it will cause me to start comparing my life to others’, despite my logical side completely refuting it. So, I avoid it altogether. That’s just…not good.
I am a product of my generation, so I ended up signing back in on December 30th to share my most recent project. I wrote part of this post ahead of time in anticipation of having a list of new revelations from the break; however, I found myself re-reading what I wrote on my first post of 2018 and realizing I am in the exact same position, if not worse. I am not going to sit here and talk about how disappointed I am that I did not commit to making things better for myself this past year. I wish I had a list of things that I concretely learned this past month from being ‘disconnected.’ Instead, I am making a decision that I no longer want or need to do better–I have to. I will say, if I learned anything from this break it is that my journey to love and acceptance (in all forms) is going to be a long, strenuous but necessary process. No matter how I write it, there will be people who do not understand or cannot relate to what I am talking about, but what others think is slowly becoming less of a priority.
If 2018 was the year of letting go, 2019 is the year of closure. I pride myself in recognizing my shortcomings and I hope plan to look back this time next year and say, “Look how far I’ve come.”