Since my surgery I’ve not had a lot of time to feel stressed about the aspects of my life that usually stress me. I’ve struggled with the pain, especially when I got frozen shoulder, and with the nausea that comes with all the pain medication I’m taking. Eating has been difficult because of the nausea and sleeping has pretty much only been possible with a bit of morphine.
I can only lie on my back and whenever seated, I never find any rest or comfort.
Obviously, it’s been difficult – not just for me, but also for the people in my life. I’ve been sad a lot and people telling me that things will improve only made me feel worse. Why does the knowledge that things will change make people feel like they’ve done their part and now I just need to get through it?
I’m not a fool. I know that things change. I know that the pain will most likely lesson over time. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m tired because I can’t sleep at night or that I’m sad because I’m not able to do the things I love. When it’s not my arm and shoulder that hurts, it’s that my head is either running too fast or slow to focus on anything – it doesn’t matter how much I like it or dislike it.
I am okay, though. I am getting used to life this way. It’s incredible what people can get used to.
It’s not like I’m not learning anything from all of this, though. In a way, I’m grateful.
All my life I’ve called myself a workaholic and in a way, it’s still how I imagine myself. I was never happy being idle and always preferred to keep busy one way or another. There was never an excuse not to work and I can’t help but wonder if my constant attempts at keeping busy was simply the only way my overactive brain could relax – the only way to make that stupid voice in my head shut up.
It’s probably not very healthy to live life like that. It’s good to be able to relax, right?
It has been more difficult for me than you can imagine to go the last two months without really working at all. I know I’ve been unemployed for a long time, so technically I’ve not worked for years, but I always worked on one thing or another in my free time. This blog is a great example of that.
Since I had surgery I’ve not been able to type, not been able to cook, I’ve been unable to paint and draw – I have not even been able to read books! I’ve listened to audiobooks, planned things out in my head and wondered about what I want with my blog and what I still need to learn. Unfortunately, there’s only so much I can do in my head before I feel a strong pull in me to create it in real life – only so many times I can think about what I want to write before I need to actually write it down.
I miss all the things I used to do to keep busy, but I’ve learned something quite interesting from almost going mad from idleness. I’ve learned about me and I’m no longer as afraid of my own mind as I think I might have been in the past.
I’m learning to relax and be okay with it. In fact, I might end up liking it.
I will give you an example.
There are some things I want to do, things I want to learn and a few of those are: I want to improve my Japanese language skills and do the JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test), I want to learn a bit more Korean, I want to continue to keep up on research in my field and there are several non-fiction books resting on my shelves waiting to be read on these subjects, and finally I have always wanted to attempt writing a few articles and see if any academic journals could possibly be interested in publishing them.
I graduated with a master’s degree a few years back, but since then I’ve hardly ever done any of those things – some of it not at all.
I’ve not kept myself updated on research in my field and definitely not even considered topics for articles. I’ve studied very little, but you have to understand that it is not for lack of a desire to do so or because I’ve become bored with research. No, it is because I gave up hope and it felt stupid to work on a career that I knew to be impossible.
Then, I decided to just do all this in my free time and what happened was this – I started procrastinating and just never stopped. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been procrastinating all my life.
Whenever I didn’t do something I wanted to do, learn what I wanted to learn and improve my skills I started feeling guilty. At some point I forgot only to feel guilty when I didn’t do what I wanted and started feeling guilty even when I did. In the end, I had to keep busy, because if I didn’t I would be confronted with that feeling of guilt and I hated it. I had to keep busy not to hear the voice in the back of my mind complaining.
Every moment I didn’t work, that little voice in the back of my head kept telling me all the things I ought to do, but didn’t. At some point it started just telling me how stupid and useless I was, how I wasted my life and that there was barely any point to it. It was easy for it to make that jump, because it is not the first time for it to do it.
All my life the voice has been telling me I’m not like everyone else. I’m not good enough as I am. I’m worse than worthless, because I’m broken.
When I got my autism diagnosis it explained a lot and I was able to tell that voice in the back of my head that it is wrong. “I’m not broken,” I would tell it, “I am just not like everyone else. I like it better this way. I don’t want to be like them.”
It’s true, you know. I prefer to be me the way I am, I like have autism spectrum disorder. I don’t want to be neurotypical.
I thought this would help, but in the end the result is just that I’m constantly arguing with the silly voice in the back of my head. I’m not really better off at all, in a way, I feel worse than before.
Every time I want to do something or want to learn something, I have to argue with myself. I have to convince the voice in my head that I can do it or that I’m worth the effort, but the voice in the back of my head has a life time of experience in putting me and everyone else down. It’s strong and fighting it, well, it just makes me tired.
It’s almost like fighting it makes it even more powerful.
These past weeks, however, I’ve simply been too tired – too exhausted really – to fight back. I’ve been in too much pain. I didn’t eat properly or sleep as much as I ought, I simply ate and slept whenever I could. Nausea from the pain medication made eating difficult and pain made sleep all but impossible.
I couldn’t work and keep busy and for a long time that voice in my head simply kept going, kept making me feel even worse and every moment I felt hope slipping away until I could hardly remember what it felt like.
Then, something amazing happened.
I stopped caring about the voice in the back of my head. I started to ignore it.
Now, I’ve considered many careers in my life. My imagination is always ready with a million different paths in life I might enjoy. Some careers paths were more appealing to me than others and this particular one I was quite serious about. Had my life been different, had I dedicated my life to the pursuit of knowledge, I might have been happy. The person I am now, however, is not that person.
I don’t know what I want to do with my life, because all the Hope’s and dreams I ever had never came to fruition.
The feeling of guilt from not finding a new path was added to all the other guilt I was feeling and I struggled in vain to find something I could make my passion and career.
We cannot force such things, though. I cannot make myself enjoy what I do not enjoy, nor can I make myself dislike the things I enjoy to do.
When I stopped listening or arguing with the voice in my head I was able to sit down and just enjoy my hobbies in ways I wasn’t able to before.
I am great admirer of the work of Jane Austen. I listened to her work in the form of audiobooks and I am now halfway through her 6 completed novels. I love her work for many reasons that I shall not describe here, but my favourite is by far Persuasion.
I have read her books too many times to count, heard them often on repeat and seen as many different adaptations as I have been able to – from zombies to old classics.
It has been what feels like an eternity since I enjoyed her work simply for what it is and not as a way of distracting me from my life and the voice in my head.
I can now get up in the morning, turn on the audiobook and start to make my morning coffee. When I do this now I can look out my window and watch people walk by outside and smile. That’s right. I smile.
I don’t have a voice in my head saying all kinds of crazy things, and on the days I do, it’s not as loud as it used to be and I can just ignore it and look out the window.
I still get overwhelmed by anxiety and fear sometimes, but not as often as I used to.
The most important thing is that I can ignore the voice and focus on enjoying the things I like. Things like listening to Jane Austen while preparing coffee. I might not know what to do with my life, but right now I don’t have to. All I have to do is survive. Survive the pain and the nausea and all the things that comes with it.
It was a lot all at once, you know. My surgery and then my grandmother passing right after. I was at home all day in bed with hardly anything to do but think. Always in pain and constantly belittled by my inner voice. It was unbearable and yet I made it. I made it because I learned to let go a little. To relax and enjoy without feeling guilty about all the things I cannot control.
I still miss my grandmother terribly. I still want to cry when I think about her and how she’s not here anymore.
My pain is here every day, however. Not always very bad, but never without end. I take my medication most diligently and that is all I can do for now. Well, that, and relax.
Time is a great healer, they say, and occasionally I am
tempted to believe them.