It will Be better

I’ve learned a lot in the last six months. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. This is somewhat ironic because I slowed my life down a lot. One of the main reasons I haven’t been writing much in the past year or so is because I feel like I’m not allowed to talk about the things I’m going through. I feel like I’m not allowed to talk about how damaging the pandemic was because I “chose” to isolate myself. I feel like I’m not allowed to talk about what I did this summer because it will make it seem like I haven’t been struggling. I’m tired though. I’m tired of not being able to show who I am because I’m afraid of how it will be perceived.

I’m quite an introvert and I tend to lack confidence, even more so in the last three years. Those two things together mean that I worry a lot about what others think and I have trouble speaking my mind. That is why I love writing so much. I can express myself and those who want to listen, can and those who aren’t interested, I’ll likely never even know about.

I had gotten to a pretty low point last winter. It was so low I actually told a doctor about it. I don’t tend to offer doctors information about myself unless I feel like I’m in serious trouble. I was right. I didn’t even realize how much I needed it until now. My doctor explained that “empathetic people tend to burn out more often”. My initial thought was ok, there’s a reason, a diagnosis, something I can work with here. Then I became annoyed. It didn’t seem fair, and I started to think of this supposed empathy I have as a weakness. Of course, I’m weak. Look at my life. I’m not terribly impressive and here I am burned out and depressed because once again I can’t handle something everyone else deals with all of the time.

I had been getting advice about this from the people around me almost from the day I started. I had quotes floating around my head and little daily mantras “It’s not you”, “just ignore it”, “don’t let it affect you”, “this isn’t built for people like you” etc. I had people letting me vent and taking my phone calls and helping me navigate it almost every day. I had support. I had encouragement. I even had people saying, “why are you struggling with this, it doesn’t make sense that you’re struggling with this”. When you have to manage your life this way every single day, there’s something wrong. That’s when I decided I needed a doctor’s advice. Maybe a therapist could help me toughen up.

The thing is, it wasn’t me. My doctor provided me with a note. I sent it to my work the next day and I started my leave. That was 6 months ago today. Everyone was worried for me. They were worried I was making a mistake. I couldn’t sleep, I was eating terribly, I was gaining weight, and I was having very bad chest pains every day. I knew I had no other choice but to take this new path and go on leave. I had become so afraid of what would happen if I didn’t. I had no idea how it would help. It felt like quitting. It felt like giving up. I felt like the biggest loser on the planet. I even kept calling myself unemployed and told the guy I’m seeing that he could leave since he didn’t sign up for an unemployed loser. Like yikes. I was not in good shape.

At one point my family was discussing summer plans. I obviously had none at this point. I commented, “I have no idea what my life will be like in August”. I was feeling lost. I felt like I had lost everything I worked for because of this stupid empathy disease I have. My sister immediately responded “Better”. She shrugged while saying it as if it was so obvious to her that no matter what, it was going to get better for me. I had completely forgotten better was even an option.

It was the first time in my life I no longer felt hopeful. That was something that was so much a part of me that I didn’t know I could lose it. But I did. I lost it. I didn’t think it would come back either. I sort of thought I was broken and wasn’t fixable this time. It feels oddly enlightening to lose hope or faith. You think you’re seeing the truth for the first time. All the wishy-washy invisible fake hope and faith things aren’t real, in that moment. You can’t go back to believing when you’ve seen the truth that life just sucks and then you die.

There was a lot that went into getting me to this point and I knew it would take a lot for me to get out of it, but I was gaining the strength I needed to do it without even knowing it. I didn’t believe I could get my hope back. I just wanted to feel better. Within a couple of weeks, I no longer had chest pains, I was getting all the sleep I’ve ever wanted, and I had all the benefits of it being summertime. I started to realize my environment sucked. Not only was I isolated, but I was isolated in this sterile little box of an apartment where I could see one tree from a certain angle if I really tried. It was also costing me way too much for me to not even like it. I started looking for something new. My must-have list included natural light and space. If I could get something cheaper, bonus!

I somehow managed to find all of those things and more. Not only that, but I also somehow managed to find this new place on a Friday and had the keys by the next Friday. It’s better than I could have asked for. Even my cat seems healthier!

Soon after I moved, I started getting into a routine. I started writing more, cooking healthier meals, spending time with friends, and going for walks outside where there are more trees than I could count. I went from an apartment with no direct sunlight to be able to watch the sunset from my couch or the sunrise from my bedroom. I started doing things that made me feel better and better, and before I knew it, that horrible cloud I was living under vanished. The enlightening truth I thought I had discovered was also gone. The truth is, there is so much to be hopeful for and there is so much to believe in. I learned I was in control after all and that my empathy isn’t useless because I’m learning to use it on myself. I chose to care about myself and it was the best decision I have ever made. My sister was right. It can get better. And I’ll make sure to never forget that better is always one of the options.

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