The other night, I was at home reflecting on a conversation I’d had earlier that day with a friend. She is also on medical leave (for vastly different reasons), but what we do have in common is the fact that we both feel guilty when we are enjoying ourselves during this break.
I mean, if someone is off work because they’re laid up in the hospital with some kind of illness, they’re supposed to be miserable, right? They look miserable. Maybe they’ve got a physical injury like a broken bone – that’s easy enough to see and immediately sympathize with. Or if someone has cancer and has just gone through chemotherapy, it’s possible that they do not look like there is anything physically wrong with them, but we sure as hell wouldn’t blame them for staying in bed all day. And if that someone is on a leave of absence, no one will ask questions. It’s obvious and universally agreed to.
But when you’re dealing with an invisible illness, it’s just not the same. I feel like I have to constantly convince everyone that I’m “sick” enough to be away from work. And honestly? Sometimes I feel like I have to convince myself of that, too. It’s a really sucky double whammy of frustration.
Other people’s thoughts are entirely out of our control. I struggle with letting go of what other people think all of the time, but this time it’s more personal than ever. I worry constantly about when I return to work. What will people think? I’m sure they all know that I have not lost a family member, I haven’t been in an accident, and I haven’t fallen gravely ill. I once told someone that I hoped everyone was assuming that I had a miscarriage (please, please forgive me for saying that. I do not wish to say that in a way that offends anyone. I said it only because it’s the only ‘invisible’ thing that came to mind that would happen to a young woman who doesn’t have kids yet, that does not linger nor show any visible symptoms, and likely would not be talked about openly in the workplace). How sad is it that I’d rather they assume it was something physical because it would guarantee sympathy?
And battling these feelings with myself? That’s another story. It almost causes me to do things like wallow in bed, not shower, and indulge in endless Netflix streaming. I feel like I should not be outside, smiling, or enjoying myself. I shouldn’t have any reason to put on makeup, so I don’t. I shouldn’t have anywhere to go and no one to impress, so I have no excuse to be showering and choosing a nice outfit.
I’ve basically sentenced myself to becoming a sweats-wearing hermit who prefers sleep to showers.
I’m terrified of the unknown. What people are thinking, and what my actions may or may not cause them to conclude.
I know my Ego is the one who comes to these harsh conclusions. The Ego is who makes uncertainty scary.
I am learning more and more that I need to cultivate a friendly relationship with the unknown and uncertainty. Because when you think about it, there is no certainty.
The sun could explode tomorrow, and none of this would exist anymore – that possibility in and of itself, though very slim, proves that nothing is certain. In order to truly be comfortable in life, we need to be comfortable with uncertainty.
So if I try to think about all of this from this place, the place of being comfortable with the unknown, what would I be thinking?
I’d be thinking that Fear is here, and that’s not me. Fear is just fear, it’s just an emotion. A bunch of feelings that I am experiencing. Fear is a pretty mouthy guy, but he’s not here forever and he doesn’t know the truth about anything any more than I do.
This makes me feel relaxed, and my safety and wellbeing are not affected by Fear, by the illusion of control in life.
Things change, people think thoughts, and life goes on. My life will go on, too.
Right now, being at home feels more comfortable for me. And when I can laugh, I feel good. When I go out in the sun, I feel good. When I shower, do my hair, and put on makeup, I feel like I’m part of society and I belong. When I’m in that state, I am better at seeing all of the feelings I experience as clouds that pass by. I don’t feel like I’m stewing in my feelings the way I do when I’m closed off from the world.
I need to keep my heart open and just… chill.