Being Fragile

At this point, I think everyone knows that I have been off work for mental health reasons. I’ve been on a journey of healing for what feels like a long time now, yet it is still a challenge that I face every day. Like any illness, healing takes time. It won’t happen overnight and there will be ups and downs. Until a few months ago I was heavily entrenched in healing. Therapy was all-consuming, doing my daily chores was a push, and just generally trying to maintain normalcy was my main goal. But in the last couple of months, things have gotten easier. That is until I was challenged.

About a week ago, I had a few challenging days. Not just your average ‘depression days’ but actual external factors testing my resiliency and adaptability, two skills that hadn’t been tested in quite some time. At first, I handled them with grace. I strode into the challenges head-on, kept myself poised, and didn’t cry (which is a big win for me). But then the challenges kept pushing, kept edging toward me. Unfortunately, they came to a head at the worst possible time when I was trying to convince my insurance case manager that I was ready to go back to work. Jokes on them! I couldn’t stop crying long enough to get the words “I’m ready to go back” out of my mouth.

It’s not funny, of course, but it is ironic in a sad way. I really thought I was getting myself ready. The goal for me has always been to get back to work. A lot of my identity swirls around my ability to work (which is a topic that gets a lot of light in therapy), so when the poor lady on the other side of the phone told me I wasn’t ready, it only added insult to injury. But here is the kicker, she is both right and wrong.

I agree with her. I’m not ready. I can’t go back to work and cry whenever someone challenges me. That is not good for the company, and it certainly is not suitable for me. As Kyle always says, health comes first, and crying anytime I feel distressed does not equal a healthy and balanced life. But at the same time, I don’t think I can get ready until I truly go back.

Being tested by external factors is not something I come across often. When I was at work, I was tested daily. External things would always influence my day or my ability to get something done. The goal post was always changing, and a big part of me used to love that challenge. But now that I have been off for nearly a year and a half, I have become fragile.

It’s not a word I choose lightly. To be fragile means to break easily, and I’m not too fond of the idea of being someone that can’t stand up against the pressures of life. But it’s true. I have gotten soft. The real question now is, is that a bad thing? I think a big reason I got to the point where I suffered a major mental breakdown was that I was too hard. I never cried, I never took a deep breath, and I never, ever thought about my mental health. I did think about resiliency and ‘going with the flow,’ but I never considered how far that would push me from my true self or just how damaging it can be to never speak my mind or let my true thoughts be known. It’s not like I was simply hiding my thoughts from others or constantly battling with them in my head. It was more that I was burying them so deep that even I couldn’t tell what my genuine thoughts were compared to those I thought everyone else wanted to hear. I lost my voice.

I’m fragile. It’s a new term that I am assigning myself. Not a label, because I am not just fragile, I am a lot of things. Fragile just happens to be a part of the new me. Do I need to be tested? Yes, but in a controlled manner where I feel safe. Do I need to toughen up? Yes, but in a way that allows me to remain true to myself. Do I need to go back to work? No, not right away anyways. There are still things I need to learn. Skills that I have to hone before I can step back into a world where the challenges are daily and constant.

In my future, I am at work, and I am thriving, but it does not define me. I can walk into my job in the morning, do my duty and then walk out satisfied with the effort I gave while still leaving room in my tank for family time and still find space for me. A balance, but one that is not even. It is not about giving each part of my life an equal percentage of effort. It’s about giving what my soul needs to feel balanced.

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