I’ve been sort of broken for a long while now. It is one thing to be completely broken, but sort of broken is an entire different beast on its own. Sort of broken doesn’t seem terrible enough to warrant a cold hard evaluation of one’s trajectory.
On the surface I seem fine. I’m still able, still capable of expressing complex ideas. At the core, my spirit is completely exhausted, I’ve not slept well for months, my eyes are red and painful all the time, I’m always anxious. I just want to crawl into a hole and hide.
Because I was still functional (see, sometimes it is just better to be completely broken), I ignored these symptoms for a long, long while. In fact, utter exhaustion is so tied to my sense of accomplishment and validation, that I often drive myself to that point to feel like I deserve to take a break, or anything.
I only took my body’s distress signals seriously when I started having anxiety attacks for the first time in my life. Even then, I sought all ways possible to recover quickly, thinking they’ll go away if I spend a weekend resting. They say it isn’t weakness that makes people break down, but strength, because it takes strength to even endure to that breaking point.
In this society, we are constantly told pursuing work-life balance shows that we do not love our work enough. I stopped believing that a while ago, but subconsciously I overstretched myself anyway. It is difficult to eradicate a deeply rooted belief, even if it is consciously known to be wrong.
A slight variation of the same narrative exists too, that burnout only happens if you don’t love your work. I have learned that making absolutist statements like this is pointless and exclusionary. Are we less of a person because we’re burning out? Does it mean we deserve burnout? How much more do we have to do to show that we care enough?
Burnout happens for a multitude of possible reasons, a combination of them. Part of the reason why I even got to this stage was because I cared too much.
Caring too much makes it harder to discern what is truly rationally necessary versus irrationally driving ourselves to the ground. Working tirelessly seems to be an easy way of showing that we care enough, forgetting that perhaps the more effective and sustainable way of caring for something, is to keep ourselves at an optimum state instead. Keeping ourselves at an optimum state requires knowing when to stop.
It has never been about choosing what I love over what I don’t. It has always been about having to make a choice out of everything I love, what can I bear to let go? For the first time in my life, I have become a choice to consider, among everything I love.
I choose me. Perhaps there is a tinge of cynicism, that I choose me not because out of unconditional love, but simply by virtue of logic: how can I love the world, when I’m empty?
I’m letting go of many things I love in order to heal, because I recognize that I really do need as much time and space as possible. I am not only attempting to heal from this phase, but to address my issues at the root: why do I keep feeling that I’m not enough? Why do I give so much of myself to everyone and everything else but I am just such a miser to myself?
I want to believe that I deserve to take a break. All my life I have been always trying to accomplish something – to meet expectations, to validate myself, to prove I was enough, to survive. I am tired of feeling the need to do in order to be. I just want to be.
Just for once.
I still don’t know what is really ahead of me. I only know that I need to heal myself in order to even think of contributing anything to the world. It is not only healing physically and mentally, it is about becoming a person who truly believes she is capable of contributing something valuable. Truly. I don’t think that is possible without a sense of love for myself. What value can we really give, when we perceive no value on ourselves?
I can only hold on to the hope that even though I’ve been struggling with esteem issues my entire life, I must love myself enough, subconsciously or unconsciously, to have consistently chosen to leave my comfort zones, in some ambiguous search for a better version of myself.
That must mean something.