This is what I do: I feel centered, stable and capable for a while. And then something small happens, and I don’t. And then I flounder around in my unstable state for a while. After a while, I crawl back to where I started, more or less.
Then I repeat that, in a similar but not-quite-the-same way. Over and over.
When I last posted, I wrote (complained) about how a small drop in my bupropion dosage threw me off. It made me feel physically and emotionally terrible, and I raged against being in that unstable, unhappy place again, after weeks of feeling pretty well.
A week or so later, with some help from my friendly pharmacist, I’m well on my way back to stable and centered. My brain can focus, and I’m able to work again, thankfully. I sleep more soundly. I have the focus and energy to prepare meals.
What I don’t have is the lightness I had before this last episode, the giddy gratitude, the sense that, “I am lucky, this is amazing, I feel so good!” Maybe that will come back. I would like it to. It was sweet. Maybe I just need some more time and an opportunity for the muscle spasms and exhaustion to fade away.
But these days, what I am thinking about is this: That probably wasn’t my last “episode.” I’m going to have more of these drops, whether because I mess up my medication or something else disrupts my delicate chemical balance, or for some other reason I can’t anticipate at the moment. The best thing I can do is prepare myself for that and continue to construct my life so there is room for me to collapse into bed for some days without everything being ruined.
It’s hard to know how to do that. I have clients who expect things from me. Should I be fully honest with them? Should I explain in general terms that I have an illness with flare-ups that sometimes disrupt my plans? Or should I continue as I have been, not explaining why some emails go unanswered for long stretches, just delivering things the best I can?
Should I try to do more, to push myself a little harder, so I get stronger? Or is that just inviting stress into my life, stress that will ultimately undermine my healing?
I’ve been unpleasantly surprised to find out how hard the January and February venlafaxine withdrawal impacted my stamina and strength. I go for a half hour swim or a somewhat faster walk, and it feels good, but phew! It tires me right out, and I end up needing a nap; I literally can’t stay awake until dinner. I restart my yoga practice and observe that it’s harder to hold poses. Also, I’ve tweaked my back and clearly need to develop a stronger core to support it. How hard do I work on that?
What goals do I set for myself? Or do I abandon goals altogether and just take the days as they come? Am I setting myself up for disappointment and a series of unfinished projects/
I’m crawling back to stable, yes, and that’s a good thing. I just have some work to do to figure out what’s possible and appropriate when stable is only a part-time home.
CREDIT: Photo by Picsea on Unsplash (photo modified by Q)
All of those things you’re asking yourself are really difficult questions – sometimes the exact same thing can feel like “acceptance” and at other times like “giving up” and it can be really hard to tell how much pushing yourself is healthy as opposed to stressing yourself out unnecessarily – so you have my sympathy on trying to work out the right balance.
With the question of what to tell freelance clients, I follow a workplace advice site called “Ask a Manager” – it’s mostly centred around employees within a defined management structure but occasionally talks about freelancing and her advice when your timeline or quality of work is affected by health problems or other life circumstances usually boils down to “don’t just go silent – keep clients in the loop by offering a limited explanation + apology + realistic revised timelines”. The website does have a search function if you wanted to look for more info, but the site is so big that it can be rather difficult to find specific information. I found one post/comments which might be helpful (even though it might not match your situation exactly): https://www.askamanager.org/2019/01/i-ghosted-a-client-and-now-i-need-to-finish-my-work-for-her.html.
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I read the link, as well as a few other thing on that website, which is quite good–thanks for bringing that to my attention.
I actually did do what she suggests. I had a project I had neglected for about six weeks when I felt so bad at the beginning of the year. I finally made an appointment with the client, and then I said, effectively, I’m so sorry I’ve been so quiet and especially that I didn’t get you x mini report at the end of January. I’ve been really sick and not able to work, but I should have kept you updated. I can still get a,b and c to you on the timeline we agreed, and I can get the missing report to you in a couple of weeks. I’d like to continue working on this with you, but I also understand if you feel like you’d rather move the work to someone else.
Maybe I didn’t need to say that last part, but I was feeling very guilty and wanted to give her the chance to leave if she felt she needed to. Instead, she was very nice about it, concerned about my health (I left it vague) and just asked me to create a new timeline for her to review. It was much easier than I thought it would be.
That said, I struggled some in creating the new timeline because… will I feel well? If I won’t feel well all the time, how much cushion should I allow myself? And I can only allow so much, because part of my work involves interviewing teachers and school administrators, and the school year here ends in early June. I really need to get all the data collected by late May, or it becomes very hard to schedule interviews.
And looking ahead, I am torn between wanting to set up contracts for the 2019-2020 school year (to keep the bank account reasonably healthy) and wanting to leave myself a lot of flexibility. It would be so nice if I had a little crystal ball to tell me how much I’ll really be up to working.
Anyway, thanks for your validating comments. I appreciate that you get it how hard it can be to figure this out.
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