Hands up if you had a rough go during 2017?
*Every hand in the room raises*
And there are lots of us still shaking off the bleagh that got left behind, right?
*About half the hands stay up*
And it’s already June 2018… Numerology says that 2016 was a base 9 year which means a time of endings, and 2017 was a base 1 year which means a time of new beginnings. At least we’ve got a solid seven years before we start cycling back into the endings / beginnings shit storm. I don’t know if that’s meant to be encouraging or not considering the current state of the world. For me personally, I’ll take it as a positive.
Let’s jump around to more mythos and borrow that ‘Phoenix rising from its own ashes’ idea. I definitely burned down last year. Full on burn-out. Again. How bad is it to have a familiar recovery cycle for stress breaks? On a positive note, I have WAY better recovery tools and a WAY better support network for this recovery, so I can already see improvements of self beyond where my previous ‘this is the best I’ve ever been’ line in the sand was (hence my positive outlook). I know I still have self-work to do, but lately I’ve noticed that I can get excited about the whole scenario of actually getting well.
My Phoenix fire? Late 2016, my best friend’s husband was killed at work. He just didn’t come home one morning. This ripped open her existing childhood PTSS – diagnosed only a couple years before, after an entire adult life of barest symptom treating – and compounded it severely. She suicided in the Spring of 2017.
I can’t even be mad at her. I’m infuriated at the waiting list for proper psychological therapy she was put on for six months – she still had one month to go in her wait for her initial consultation to even see about getting in to talk to a qualified doctor when she killed herself. I’m disappointed at the hospital’s forced detainment of her when forced detainment was one of the causes of her childhood PTSS, which did nothing except regress her recovery from the traumatic loss of her husband and left her paranoid and feeling persecuted. I’ll likely always be angry at the doctor who told her that ‘it’s been four months since your husband died, you can’t use that as an excuse after this length of time’ when I was there for her discharge appointment. The world of Western Medicine may help a lot of people – millions of us every year – but the failures are horribly spectacular.
In the middle of all this, my dad lost his fight with cancer and passed away in February. This ended a hell of a fight – nine months of stage 4 – and my mom was an amazing anchor for him throughout. It was a strange loss: too expected to mourn hard, and I’m too separated from my parents to say that it wasn’t a lost relationship that I’d mourned already. (That was all gushed out before, I won’t bore you.)
The combination, however, meant commuting from Edmonton to the Vancouver area the last weekend of April to collect the pets whom had been left behind by my friend so they could be adopted out to the people who she had named (10 hours of driving time one way, too many belongings for the animals to pack up onto a flight), and then commuting from Edmonton to Kitimat (15 hours of driving time one way, flights are too expensive) for the first weekend in May. A good friend went with me to Vancouver, and we helped to start packing up the house so the brother of our friend who passed didn’t have to do all of it alone. I went alone to Terrace and stayed with my aunt, visiting with the rest of my side of the family across three days of functions for my dad, feeling like an impostor for even standing with the family.
Throughout all this, I wasn’t provided paid time off from work. I got three days of compassionate leave from my dad dying, and two weeks from a doctor ordered four-week stress leave. Why only two of the four weeks? Because I could grocery shop with my husband without having a panic attack after two weeks at home, so there was no reason for me not to be able to go back to work full time; I was welcome to stay home on unpaid leave, though. Great company benefits provider, there (I say with extreme sarcasm). Two kids, a mortgage, no other jobs in the market for my hubby, and I’m the single income of our family… yeah, like I can take unpaid leave. That’ll pay the electric bill and buy groceries.
I burned all my accrued vacation (all eight days that I had to date that year), used all my sick leave (we got three days for the year), and then just did days of unpaid leave around weekends to fill in the gaps for commuting to and from Vancouver as needed. My husband tightened up the budget until it screamed, he took on EVERYTHING at home, and we held on. As a bonus, I got continual snotty comments from coworkers outside my department about how nice it must be to have so much time off, and zero relief from deadlines (which meant starting to ruin my own career and carrying the guilt that I was forcing colleagues to constantly cover for me).
In November, I talked to my department boss about options – I was failing emotionally, mentally, and at that time had been physically sick continuously for three months. Early December my grandfather passed away (as in, the grandparents who I’d basically lived with for a year as a kid when at-home was bad). In late December, my boss gave me a Christmas layoff. Not going to lie, I cried from relief, hugged him, and will likely always feel exceptionally grateful. It was a bad place to work, but some of the people there are the best.
2018 dawned with the New Year realization that I didn’t have to go back to a negative workplace. I could stay home and get better. So what did I do? I burned that old Phoenix made up of ‘coping’ and ‘I’ll be okay’ to the ground. Sleeping the needed amount of hours? Check! Taking care of my physical self and getting rid of that four-month long lingering virus? Check! Honoring emotions? Check! Dissecting anxiety into bite-sized crazy? Check! Days of grief-fueled raging emotions and utter melt-downs of tearful release? Check! Months of pent up emotions and frustrations and anger and grief all allowed to run free in the safety of my own home without anyone being judgmental or condescending? Check! A support network that actually provides support and not just lip service? Check!
Turning me around until I started having good days again? Check! Getting to a point where I don’t wake up crying over dealing with another day? Check!
Ripping apart my life’s savings and maxing out my credit and hoping we hit a financial miracle at the right time because kids, mortgage, bills…? Damn straight. Me being sane and healthy for my family is worth it, and (include a grin and wink here for the at-home parents) my hubby is enjoying the time off at a regular job after over six years being home with the kids. There are jobs out there for him again, too, so our start over is looking up with every passing day (and each new book I finish and get out into the market). Of course his job isn’t a financial miracle, and my writing is more pot-luck than lottery, but we agree with each other that the daily fight of sticking to a budget and working with what we have is a proven method for creating our own miracle later. Things will stay hard for a while yet, I’m sure, but every day is looking up.
Fledgling 2018 Phoenix me isn’t just ‘coping’ anymore, I’m taking the opportunity my hubby and I made together to address all the crap that left me ‘coping’ for so long. This recovery is not a fun process, I can’t even pretend that it is, but it sure feels good when the steps move forward. Numerology says that 2018 as a base 2 year means a time of taking charge and ‘you can do you’ changes. I’m ready for that. (Mostly… still recovering over here).
Hands up if you’re making the second half of 2018 your rise out of the ashes, too.
A weekly blog updating on Saturdays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!