Let’s start off with the big news; I got a whole THIRTEEN HOURS SLEEP last night. Waking up to a full sun at 8:30am. My body was clearly attempting to pay off some of the sleep debt I’ve recently accrued. I jumped out of bed, threw on 7 layers of clothes, and headed out the door. With the kids at their Dad’s house I was free to go on a longer walk than usual further along the river path. I walked so far that I actually found signs of life; a couple of dotted houses, and almost a road. This part of the county feels almost completely abandoned, this was confirmed by the snow tracks. Or should I say the lack of snow tracks. There were however signs that a fox had been about, and maybe a deer, or a hare. With a blanket of white snow the view seemed even more peaceful than usual.
In a space like that, you can’t help but reflect. I had been putting off ‘work stuff’ whilst I got moved and settled in. But now was the time to think about what I wanted. Now, by ‘work stuff’ I mean an amalgamation of things. They include, and are not limited to; poetry, performing poetry, freelance work (creative projects, marketing etc), and WITA (Women in the Arts). Looking back at the previous year I couldn’t believe how much had happened. Whilst the poetry had taken a back seat, the freelance and WITA work had taken off in a big way. With the freelance work keeping me financially afloat, enabling me to work on WITA voluntarily. I was working from the minute I woke up, to the minute I went to sleep. Whoever said ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ was wrong. Do what you love and you will work your arse into the ground doing it. And I did. Repeatedly. I knew burnout, I experienced it almost weekly before my workload increased. I have never been a balanced worker. I have huge influxes of energy and enthusiasm, and then I need to sleep for 2 days straight. But I started working through the burnout, barely even noticing it, convinced that I had somehow cheated my body into subsisting on coffee, no sleep, and the occasional junk food ‘meal’. I was, of course, wrong. What happened next was not burn out, it was the beginning of a mental breakdown.
I felt nothing. I couldn’t register my surroundings. I did not understand words. It was bad. It was scary. I was disassociating. My minds attempt at making me stop. It lasted a while, then went. Then came the panic attacks. The constant anxiety. I just needed to get past Christmas, I thought, then I could rest. I was annoyed at myself, frustrated at my limits. I LOVED my work so why won’t my mind and body just met me get on with it?! I knew getting angry with myself wouldn’t help. And I knew things needed to change. I just didn’t know how. Christmas came and went, with a community lunch on Christmas day being one of the best Christmas’ I’ve had in my life. Then nothing, the dead zone after Christmas provided me with a chance to slow down and eventually stop. New years eve came, I went out with friends, and as it hit midnight I began to cry. I didn’t know why. But looking back I think it was part relief, part exhaustion, and part knowing I needed to make some big changes but not knowing what they were.
The panic attacks returned and I struggled to leave the house. Everything was just too much. This happened to coincide with a run-in with my landlord. Due to a lack of paid work in November and December I was behind on my rent. I tried to re-assure him that I had paid work on the way and that I would be able to get on top of it in a couple of weeks. He wasn’t having it and gave me my notice. He attempted to intimidate me, with words I won’t repeat, but I have it recorded on my phone just in case I ever get any shit off him again! (this wasn’t my first run-in with a crappy landlord.) And that’s how I ended up here. Life sort of made the decision for me. Everything needed to change and with a couple of short emails via gumtree and a quick visit, it was decided; the caravan life was for me.
I have learnt my lesson. I will not let my workload rule my life. I will say no to projects. I will work only at certain times. And now that my outgoings are lower I don’t have to worry as much. My life right now looks alot different to just a few short weeks ago. Today I went for a walk, did some decorating, cleaned up, did some work, made myself a home-cooked tea, and wrote this blog. I feel calm. I feel balanced.