…makes Sarah a sick girl.
Today I wanted to talk a bit about identity, and what it has meant for me to have so much of mine questioned and stripped away.
But before I do that, I have to acknowledge the incredible response to yesterday’s post. I am utterly humbled by the support offered, and kindness shown, by so many people, especially in the Twitter community. You’re all just utterly amazing.
I want to reiterate that I’m not writing this stuff because I want pity, and I’m definitely not writing it expecting the offers of help that have been extended, which is why they have floored me so much. I’m writing because it’s helping me deal with what I’m going through, and because I feel that sharing is important. I’m hoping it can go a little way to giving an insight into the challenges I, and so many others, face.
So thank you, to those of you who have taken the time to read, and respond, and support me. I’m incredibly grateful.
Here’s today’s post.
I talked a bit before about my job in public relations. It’s a marvelous job and I love it, even though we PR people get a bad rap (and some of us deserve that).
A lot of my identity was wrapped up in my job. I was never one of those people who didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school. I knew I wanted to write, and I knew it was unlikely I’d make any money being a poet in New Zealand. So I decided to be a journalist
(because that’s well-paid – haha!) While I was at Massey University studying a Bachelor of Communications, journalism major, I met Robert Fisk, writer and Middle East foreign correspondent for the Independent. I was utterly in love with him – and what’s more, I wanted to be him. I wanted to write things that would make a difference.
Unfortunately, it turned out I hated being a reporter, partially due to my massive phone phobia (who knew journos had to make so many phone calls?), and partly because I just didn’t feel I had the guts for it. (Journos, like PR people, sometimes get a bad rap. But find me another bunch of people that puts up with wackos, daily abuse, public shaming, sometimes death threats, sometimes putting their own lives at risk, all while on ridiculous deadlines for a pittance, and I’ll show you bravery).So I went “to the dark side,” as my Journalism tutor Alan Sampson still laments. And I love it. I love strategy and publicity and media and advertising and clients and customers and creativity and all those things that work together to make the PR world turn around. I get to write creatively, and I do feel like what I write makes some small difference.
So when that got taken away from me, I fell apart. I was vaguely aware I’d been working too much, til 10pm most nights, but I wasn’t aware what that had done to my insides. No wonder my stomach was unhappy when it was constantly stressed, running on adrenaline, caffeine, chips and the occasional neurotic cigarette. No wonder it said enough was enough.
But when I had to admit to myself that I couldn’t work, I felt like I didn’t know who I was. Without getting up and putting on a pretty dress and makeup and heels and running from one meeting to the next, (I couldn’t even do the first part of that today, I’m sitting here in thermals and I haven’t brushed my hair, what a fright), I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had no structure. I had no goals. No To Do lists to tick.
For the first time in a long time, I was alone with my thoughts. And they weren’t particularly nice.
Anyway, I’m rambling. What I’m trying to say is, point blank, I was a workaholic, who was using work as an excuse to never actually look at myself, and I needed to see that there needed to be more in my life to create my sense of self-worth, than getting 1000 opens on an email newsletter.
I still battle with this. Even right now, I want nothing more than to go back to work. A friend asked me the other day what I would do if I was well, and immediately I said: “Work!” (She gave me a very pointed look, and I hung my head). I miss the buzz of the office, I miss the deadlines, I miss people. But I need to pace myself, and I need to prioritise, because otherwise, I’ll get very very sick again.
And then climbing this figurative mountain would have been for nothing.
(On a final note: here’s a mountain I did actually climb, before I got ill. This is the view from Mt Robert, Nelson Lakes National Park).