I find it funny that I’m writing this after only disclosing how I stay motivated a little while ago. But that’s the thing with dark times. You never know when they’ll occur. This is my first time writing in over a month. I feel a mixture of delight and apprehension about this.
I began a new hormone therapy in January. Being the stubborn bitch that I am, I was determined that my hormones wouldn’t affect anything that I was doing (I was naïve enough to believe that I had a choice). One of the symptoms of these new hormones was chronic fatigue. Believe it or not, that was not a helpful side effect for someone as restless and as busy as I am.
Suddenly, instead of staying up all night typing away on my laptop, I found myself sleeping for sixteen hours at a time. My to-do lists grew bigger and bigger and I began to feel an intense sadness whenever I looked at them. I’m a control freak. I always have been and I probably always will be. This is a really helpful trait when it comes to the work that I do, but it’s torture when I’m struggling to find motivation or inspiration.
Instead of listening to my body and sleeping, I tried to work around my exhaustion. I forced myself to get out of bed and sit at my desk, only to (unsurprisingly) find it impossible to write anything of quality. My room filled up with dishes and food containers, because I’d pass out the minute I finished eating.
I stopped responding to my friends messages and to important emails (something I’ve never done) simply because I didn’t have the time.
My days were short and it was simply unrealistic to try and get anything done in the window that I found myself awake. Nevertheless I tried so hard.
It’s funny, because I regularly talk about how important both self-awareness and self-care are to me, but that doesn’t always stop me from doing stupid things when it comes to my health. My body was telling me that I had to slow down, but my stubborn mind refused to do so.
That is the torturous affliction I’ve been suffering for the past few weeks. The main red flags for me were the following:
My room (which is normally messy) became dirty.
There were dirty cups, plates, pots and cartons strewn amongst my clothes and my other belongings. I have never been a dirty person, so this was a major warning sign.
I could not work.
I can usually write an essay in my notebook about traumatic experiences that I had as a child while I’m cramped on a bus beside an angry man on the phone with six babies wailing around me and people pushing and shoving me to exit the bus. The fact that I couldn’t write at all (and I tried countless times) was quite worrying.
I became quite indifferent to spending time around people.
I’m an extremely social person and rarely ever turn down an opportunity to spend time with the people I love. When I felt as excited about staying in bed as I did about hanging out with my friends, I knew that something was wrong.
I wasn’t reading.
My main source of inspiration and solace is books. Reading helps me with everything. From distracting me from overthinking to helping me wake up on a lazy Sunday morning. But the only thing I could do was to mindlessly watch TV in my bed to distract myself. As much as I love TV, it never really motivates me to do anything. That’s why it’s so important for me to always read.
I was constantly missing deadlines.
Whether they were self-made or otherwise, my deadlines began to become a source of stress rather than of reassurance. 99% of the time, I’m ahead of schedule if not right on time for my deadlines, but I could no longer be that organised.
Social media was upsetting me.
I’ve never been one to log off social media feeling resentful of other people’s fun experiences or feeling like I’m missing out on a night out. I’m usually very good at focusing on my own social media and realising that it is a highlight reel for most other people. But I found myself feeling negative emotions as a result of other people’s posts. In hindsight, I think it was seeing people get stuff done when all I could do was sleep that was affecting me but it became a real concern for me that I was becoming a spiteful, jealous person.
Recognising these red flags, I realised that I would have to take a proactive approach to overcome the biggest threat to my work since I started all of this. I realised that my mental health has been heavily tied in with my productivity. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, in fact I think it’s quite a good coping mechanism. But my mental health was at stake, and I’ve always taken that very seriously.
The first step was listening to my body. I began to sleep when I wanted to. I took time off from doing almost everything in favour of sleeping. I stopped beating myself up for needing rest and needing to avoid my responsibilities for a while. I actually came to enjoy taking frequent naps and lie downs.
I also stopped my work completely. I told myself to stop thinking about writing, video-making etc. and I stopped looking at my enormous to-do lists. It was a very unnatural thing for me to do. My work takes up about 50% of my headspace so I found myself with a lot of idle space to think. But this wasn’t really a bad thing. Soon, I didn’t feel guilty when I sat with my roommates enjoying a cup of tea or when I lay in bed binge-watching a series. I began to immediately feel more calm and to embrace the lack of structure to my days.
The next step was spending time with the people I loved. I set up dinner and lunch dates with my friends. I visited family and had phone calls with my sisters (something I don’t do enough). The first time I really felt the benefit of this was when I went for lunch with my roommate. We chatted over a soup and a sandwich and she noted that I wasn’t in a very good mood. I agreed with her and confided some of my problems in her. Then we made a spontaneous decision to go a nearby arcade/bowling alley, where we competitively challenged one another for hours. It felt good to act stupid for a while as my life had gotten way too serious.
Because I found myself in my apartment way more than usual, I made an effort to stop staying in so much. I would go to my local coffee shop armed with a book and some earphones just to get out of the house. This didn’t feel particularly enjoyable. In fact, I found myself feeling somewhat lonely. I never usually feel lonely, even when I’m alone for a long time. One night I walked home from the coffee shop and had a few quiet tears on the way (frequently crying is something I’m also learning to adjust to).
What was probably the most important step was getting myself to read again. After I had been relaxing for a couple of weeks and had learned to switch my working brain off, it was time to open a book again. I would sit down (in my messy, dirty room) with a cup of tea and read. It was tough at first. My tired brain got distracted very easily and I’d often have to read paragraphs two or three times before they went in. But pretty quickly it stopped feeling like work and I found myself opening a book whenever I could find a spare second again. Reading really is a habit that I always wish to practice in my lifetime. Also, as someone who writes books I think it would be hypocritical to not read myself.
The next step I took was completely spontaneous. I was scrolling through Instagram, looking at all of the posts on my feed when I suddenly felt my heart drop once again. I’m still not sure why Instagram was suddenly giving me such intense negative emotions, but I decided that enough was enough. I informed my followers that I would be taking a short break and I deleted the app. I also decided to stop putting up Snapchat stories and to stay off my other social media accounts as much as possible. I hate when people proudly inform you that they’re not on social media as though it’s a reason to feel superior so I decided to be quite discreet about my break. I’ll return when I feel ready to and if I find myself getting upset again, I’ll adopt the same tactic.
My phone has always been a source of comfort for me. It’s been a way to stay in touch with the people around me and to interact with people that I admire. When I found myself feeling more lonely as a result of it, I had to work to change that. Like any relationship, my relationship with my phone needs to be monitored closely and if it’s bringing me a lot of unnecessary negativity, I need to make changes.
It was when I was in bed for what I thought was the night, reading a book that I looked around my room and decided that enough was enough. I got up again and began to thoroughly clean my room for the first time in ages. I started with my desk (which was unusable because it was covered in clutter) and worked my way around the rest of the room. My roommates watched me amusedly as I sprung to life, washing my clothes, washing dishes and clearing crap out with more energy than I’d had in weeks. That night, I got into my clean bed with a clean room and felt that I was finally getting somewhere in terms of my progress.
And here I sit, writing again with a huge cheesy smile on my face. I plan to schedule this post to go up on my website in the future because I’m not ready to begin a routine again, but this has been a serious step in my progress. I have no idea what this means. Tomorrow, I could return to my previous fatigued state and that would be okay. I hope I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is to listen to my body at times like these. After all, it’s easy for me to forget that I’m juggling an awful lot. But my number one priority has to be myself.
This is a time for selfishness and for relaxation. For self-indulgence and impulsiveness. For confusion and change. I’m proud to say that I finally feel like I’m mastering this new chapter of my life, just like I learned to master every other one that I’ve encountered. Part of me hopes that I’m never fortunate enough to be given an easy life. There’s way too much to learn from experiences of hardship.
Watch my Journey with my Gender Transition so Far:
Read my post about how I’m Transgender, Not Unreasonable.