I haven’t posted since Joy’s death. I probably haven’t felt ‘right’ since then, either. I’m not going to lie – I’ve gone through phases of pain, pancreatitis, poo-pants and, in full disclosure, some pretty bad anxiety. Over the past few months (or maybe my whole life, I don’t know), I had been trying my best to live everyday as if it’s the last and grab life by the balls or ~enter other cliche here~, but I found myself putting pressure on everything and bitterly disappointed when things didn’t go to plan. Every interaction with friends had to be with the purpose of fulfilling some repressed selfish need to be someone’s best friend. Every conversation with a prospective boy-lover had to be with the purpose of starting a relationship with the one and only love of my life. Every interaction with clients had to be a life-changing psychological breakthrough to their inner turmoil. Every day had to full of structured, fulfilling, meaningful and awe-inspiring activities in vain attempts to become my best self that people would reflect upon at my funeral and cry a simple tear in mourning of the fact that I improved their life in some way.
However, the uninspired aren’t inspirational. And don’t misunderstand me – it’s not that I haven’t tried. I’ve searched for inspiration in every place a millennial in the 21st century searches for inspiration: ebooks on happiness, podcasts and meditation apps. I found myself trapped in extreme states of intense exercise to going to bed at 7pm, abiding by a plant-based diet to eating half a packet of Oreos, mindful barefoot walking to developing blisters from wearing ‘feel-sexy-and-powerful’ shoes. I went back to the drawing board and did something a logical psychologist would do – look at the research. Happiness is usually correlated with altruistic acts. That is, making others feel happier is meant to improve one’s own mood. So I tried that. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and tested myself to push past my exhaustion to meet other peoples’ needs. I felt exhausted, and not any more gratified than a resentful doormat. Perhaps I was doing it wrong?
Or maybe my problem was that I didn’t set boundaries.
Since diagnosed, I haven’t respected my new body and its new limits. I haven’t invested time in the self-care that I need, that isn’t full of buzzwords like ‘mindfulness.’ I haven’t invested in myself as much as I have in professional development, personal relationships, and reputation-building. My career is centred solely around facilitating others in their own struggles for meaning and connection; meanwhile, I have not been a good role model in setting boundaries and respecting my emotional and physical limits. As a perfectionist with a statistically likely short life trajectory, I feel immense pressure to ignore my boundaries. I so want to be the daughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend who has a jam-packed funeral with people crying about how she did everything for everyone. She was selfless, kind, generous and kind-hearted. Before I die, I want the approval from my parents, admiration from my brother, adoration from a lover, and respect from my peers; but I also need to learn to come to terms with my imperfections. It’s time to practise what I preach – take care of yourself first, or become comfortable with having others’ having to care for you later. While there might not be a ‘later,’ I refuse to become a burden.