Deep down I knew I would be writing this post at some point this year. I’m quite surprised I’ve made it all the way to September, and as tempting as it was to delay this decision for another year, I can’t put it off any longer.
You see I’ve finally made the decision that I’m not well enough to work full time at the moment. Last week was my first week of working four days a week. It’s starting off initially as a four week trial and then we’re going to see where we go from there.
This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal, just a small change, some of you have been suggesting it for years. But for me it has been a painful decision to reach.
For nearly two years now I have fought tooth and nail to stay full time at work. My sole focus has been on getting through each week, fighting to make it through to Friday, without having time off. I have put so much effort into proving that I can do it, that I can manage my illness alongside my job. I have hoped that if I kept pushing forward, battling through each week, then maybe it would get easier.
And it’s all come undone a few times. I remember a week in May especially vividly. Our department was under pressure and we were behind. So for a week my normal rota was going out the window and I was going to do my most exhausting task all day every day. It was more than I was physically capable of and by the Thursday I had given every ounce of energy I had and could barely string a sentence together. I had to take the Friday off sick.
I remember the crushing failure I felt that week. It didn’t matter that I’d raised a red flag before the week began that this would make my fatigue unmanageable, trying to find a solution. The feeling didn’t take into account that the sacrifice that was being asked of me was much higher than my healthy team mates. I had failed. It was then that I learnt that when you put all your energy into work, you give it the power to break you into pieces. I have to be more than just a job, no matter how rewarding the work.
On the Saturday of that infamous week God spoke to me. I was sat in the park next to my flat enjoying the sunshine and watching people pass by. I saw this toddler enjoying her new found walking ability. She was going up and down this set of stairs, each time her dad tried to redirect her she would go back to the stairs. And each time she climbed the steps her dad was right there ready to catch her if she wobbled. I felt God say you are going up and down this same set of stairs, stuck in this cycle. Sooner or later you will tire of this and let me lead you down a new path.
I have realised that as I have been desperately pushing forward, fighting each new battle I have missed the fact that the ground I have left is falling into ruin behind me.I have been so focused on the goal of staying full time that I haven’t noticed the kind of life I am giving myself. I haven’t noticed that the cost has been too high. I have sacrificed my social life, my happiness and even some of my health for this goal. And it’s all been driven by fear. The fear that if I work less it will be like admitting defeat, the fear of loosing some of my financial security and fear that I will come to regret the decision. But the more I think about it the more I’m aware that my biggest fear is that, if I don’t do this, I will wake up in 5 or 10 years time and realise that I have sleep-walked through my life. That I have been too tired and too beaten down to enjoy what life has to offer.
I am incredibly determined, if something isn’t working then my instinct is to try harder. But trying harder hasn’t been working. I’ve always told myself that I would never push myself so hard as to put my mental and physical health on the line. But who was I kidding? My perfectionism and drive to succeed has always been higher than that for self preservation. I have pushed myself harder and longer than was ever really sensible.
So this is me trying to take some of my life back. My attempt to retake some of the ground I have lost to this illness. I am hoping to find a way to enjoy life again, to pick up some of the hobbies that I have let fall by the wayside. I am not expecting to feel better overnight, Chronic Fatigue doesn’t behave the same way as normal tiredness. Working less is unlikely to heal me. But I think this is an important step in getting some balance back in my life. It’s time to stop waiting for this to pass and to learn to embrace life in the midst of it.