Wednesday was 7 years to the day that I had to stop working. I was really surprised when I found that out (thank you Facebook memories).
Seven years that I’ve been unemployed. Seven years of disability. Seven years of feeling “less then” because I can’t work. Seven years is a long time to feel like I’m not living my best life. Seven years is a long time to mourn what was. Seven years is too long to do anything that doesn’t make you happy.
I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. It’s too formal and there are too many expectations with “resolving” to do something. I used to resolve to lose weight, but I would go at it like crazy and burn myself out by February. So I just don’t do it anymore. But, I do usually try to find one thing that I’m not happy about and deal with it in some way. Slowly, carefully and with help. That’s what I’m doing this year with this damn work thing.
I’ve been working on Radical Acceptance for a very long time. If you’re not familiar, Radical Acceptance is (in a nutshell) accepting that something is what it is, even if you don’t like it. To be honest, I thought I had it nailed. It doesn’t really sound that hard. I accept that I can’t work and I don’t like it and that’s ok. And, by saying this, I really thought that I had done the Radical Acceptance thing with this particular problem.
But, the fact that it still bothers me as much as it does, tells me that I’ve accepted nothing about this particular situation. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I do accept that I’m too damn tired to work. But I don’t attribute that to bipolar, I attribute that to laziness. But something in the back of my brain tells me that laziness isn’t really the problem. The bipolar is the problem. The inability to hold onto a mood for lengths of time isn’t laziness. The exhaustion isn’t laziness. That’s all owned by the bipolar.
I talked with my therapist about this again yesterday. We’ve been discussing my (lack of) work situation on and off for 7 years, but a little more often lately. Same with Radical Acceptance. I’ve been doing somewhat better with this struggle this year because, well, COVID. The lockdowns and the endless pleas for us to go nowhere we don’t have to and see no one we don’t have to are a homebody’s dream. Don’t get me wrong. I hate COVID so much. But, not being allowed to go anywhere was no big deal for me. And if I had a job, I would have been forced to go and that would have pissed me off.
Before COVID, I was working as a volunteer at a Resource Center. I was providing food, clothing, diapers and other necessary stuff to the homeless and the poor. But I had a falling out with the owner of the place over how to treat clients. I thought he should be nicer. He was getting very political with the place which I hated and he was starting to act like people shouldn’t complain because it was free. But, I’m sorry, if I go through a food line and the bananas are bad, I’m going to let you know. So I left there. My goal was to chill until the new year and then find another opportunity. So, it’s the new year and I have no idea what to do with myself. And, because I have nothing to do outside of the house I’m starting to attribute that to the aforementioned laziness.
But, that’s not it. My therapist was very clear about that. She does not believe that I should be working and quite frankly, neither does my psychiatrist. But, I’m having a terrible time reversing my beliefs about myself. Beliefs I have held since I was a child. Work hard, make money, have fun, rinse and repeat. I wrapped my work ethic around me like a safety blanket and never considered a point in time when working wouldn’t be part of my life. And, if I did consider what could happen if I suddenly found myself rich, I was always working 60 hours a week for a charity. Now, that security blanket is gone and I have nothing to replace it with.
I have a possible lead on a new charity job very similar to the one I was doing. But, I know in my heart that I can’t be gung ho with this new opportunity. It can only be a few hours a day for a few days a week. I have to suppress my natural urges to become invaluable and know everything that is going on at all times. I have to remember not to volunteer to run large events (or small events for that matter). I have to be a background player. And I don’t like to be a background player. The work is still fulfilling for what we are doing to help people, but at the same time, not fulfilling, because I won’t be living up to my full potential.
But, isn’t this all about how my full potential looks significantly different then it used to? That is the whole problem. The thing I’m unwilling to give up is the thing I have to give up if I want a chance at living my best happiest life.
It’s time to start working on Radical Acceptance again. To find out how I accept, in any way, that my full potential no longer looks like what it used to. I’m sure this is going to entail me somehow figuring out how to accept myself at less then full potential and be generally ok with it.
This is going to be a very challenging year.