"When you are in the middle of a story it isn't a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage... It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all."
–Brené Brown, Rising Strong
It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. While I love writing, for the past six months I haven’t been in a place where I could do it. Now I’d like to share why, not to gain sympathy but because it’s part of my story and I’d like to be open about it. Writing helps me make sense of feelings and events, and I believe it’s important to share stories not only about good things but also about difficulties.
2017 kicked off with a lot of uncertainty, mostly due to my partner’s job but also because of my ambivalence about my own work. Winter has never been easy for me, and this year in Denmark, the dark season hit me particularly hard. Despite self-care and a daily dose of anti-depressants, I felt flat and constantly tired. I had mysterious, severe stomach pains that weren’t traceable to health issues or diet. I began to wonder why I’d ever moved away from San Francisco.
I tried to relax and get some sunshine, but trips away didn’t make my time back in Denmark feel any more fun or less stressful. The uncertainty about my partner’s job continued, I dealt with a scary personal health issue, and I moved apartments—all difficult things on their own. Good things happened too, of course, but I felt like I couldn't enjoy them. Finally, a dear uncle who was a huge part of my childhood passed away unexpectedly, which was heart-breaking and also made me feel the distance from my family more intensely.
I dealt with all of these things for months. It wasn’t until the end of April that I began to unravel.
I’d had a tough week at work, with an intense trip to London, big decisions to make, and a couple of disappointing setbacks. The day after I got back from London, I couldn’t get out of bed. I called in sick to work, crawled under the covers, and cried for hours. I called my mom. I remember telling her that I was afraid I would feel like this forever and nothing would ever get better.
While I think of this now as the breaking point, at the time I still (stupidly) thought I would be fine with a good night’s sleep. Next Monday at work, I noticed that my heart-rate was elevated, and that it lasted for hours.
I finally got up the courage to ask my manager for help. He was wonderful and empathetic. He told me to take the rest of the week off, took a lot of tasks off my plate, set me up with a stress psychologist, and helped me to reprioritize.
So, since then, I’ve been quiet, focusing on resting and getting better. Despite working part-time in May and the beginning of June, I still felt exhausted. My body was recovering from a long period of being tightly wound and running on adrenaline for several months. What was the strangest part (to me) is that this was partly my own doing. I was the one putting high expectations on myself at work and not accepting anything less than perfection, despite having so much to deal with at home. I was the one obsessing about the future and trying to make the “right” choices.
After a few months of resting, listening to my body, meditating, going to therapy, and visiting my parents, I finally feel rested and whole again. I’m also slowly coming to a few realizations, which I’ll share later. My partner, manager, and colleagues have been incredibly supportive, which I appreciate so much.
I wanted to write this story to capture what I’ve been through and where I am now. This isn’t the first tough period I’ve been through in my life, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. My hope is that going through this low will help me to appreciate not only the highs, but also the everyday normality when life is just “ok” and comfortable. For now, I’m working on being in the moment, saying no more often, and giving myself permission to feel happy. These practices are more difficult for me than I’d like to admit, but I’m hoping with time they will get easier.
Life goes on, and I’m also hoping to share more stories about travel and life in the second half of this year. Be kind to yourself today my friend... I’ll be back soon.