In the first week of February, I got very, very sick. It wasn't Covid. Since my last post, the dayjob work had become extremely challenging and my performance anxiety, as well as my impostor syndrome, skyrocketed.
I was on a crash course every single day. I felt that I was only winging my way through every task. I was not surprised given that it has been a decade since I was last immersed in an advertising agency and add to that the overturn of all defaults caused by the pandemic. But I was TERRIFIED that I would not be able to catch up.
The terror kept me awake at night and had me palpitating for many parts of the workday. I lost my appetite, almost always nauseous from anticipating things that could go wrong. At times I was even bracing myself to get fired. Until it came to the point that I was barely sleeping and eating and my body was starting to weaken. It did not help that I was also still not acclimatized to the full 40-hour workweek and had been severely fatigued at the end of every workday.
Hence on that first week of February, smack right into the Lunar New Year, I was in bed, on unpaid leave (because I was new and needed to do the mandatory probationary period before being made a regular employee), in constant pain. I could no longer eat, I could not sleep from all the aches and discomfort, I could barely drink. No fevers but my body felt like it was breaking down.
I sought medical help and was prescribed an anti-depressant, an appetite stimulant, and an anxiolitic. The effects were not instant, of course. At some point, I still had to be brought to the emergency room for dehydration, and later on, it was found out I was low on potassium. It was a slow recovery. I was unable to work for six working days, halving my paycheck for the period.
But the medications worked. For the first time in a very, very long time, I felt what it was like to just be steady. When I got back to work I was calm. It was so refreshing not to be constantly bogged down by the crowding thoughts in my head of fear, worry, and pessimistic what-ifs. I felt light and I could easily access the more logical side of me that could now face and solve problems without the weight of too much second-guessing and panic.
I am able to sleep better too. In the past few nights, the dreams came back, which meant I am sleeping deeply again. I only wake up in the middle of the night when I need to go to the bathroom but otherwise, I can sleep straight into the morning again.
I never thought I would ever need these kinds of medications. I had relied for all my life on my will and what useful things I have learned to nurture my spiritual life which fed my thoughts and my feelings. But sometimes I realized we do need other help, and there is no shame in that.
In the past couple of weeks at work with my daily medications, I felt that I am finally beginning to gain some kind of familiarity with how things work. It is still a crash course every day but I am beginning to develop my own strategies for getting things done well. Last week I had my first successful presentation.
What I also learned since I returned to work after my illness is that it's not so much about catching up but about creating a new way of working. Everyone is two years old into the new landscape of marketing, advertising, and media because of the pandemic. Everyone is also learning and adapting. I actually came in at a good time -- I skipped the super messy shift but got into the part of the transition period where everything is still flexible and open and ready for reshaping. I should not be worried about being a "has-been". Instead, I should be embracing a rare opportunity of "becoming".
I have never thought nor planned to ever return to employed work, much less into the same industry. But here I am. And I am beginning to think that this is something I need to do to resolve my own personal issues about my life decisions about my career and my ideals of self-growth. For a long time, I have been adamant about shedding that old part of myself. But now I am seeing that perhaps the way is to make peace and integrate with that old part of myself and use its strengths towards building the better life that is attuned with my deepest values.
My good luck is that I found an employer with a vision that I can work with and a company that as of this moment appears to be the right shape and size to grow with. It almost seemed like fate, how everything led to this.
Yet my years as an independent freelancer were as crucial to the story. I became something else in that precious decade of living with uncertainty. I needed to grow older too, and gain the gifts that only years of experience could give.
So this is my first time writing again since I got sick. What I have not been able to do since I started on the dayjob was to make art. I hope to remedy it this weekend. Since the dayjob seems to be settling into a certain pace and intensity then I can restart the art and integrate its own pace and intensity into my days. The thing is it should not be just a weekend thing. It should be as part of the weekdays as the dayjob.
I have a pending invitation to the Art Mart in March and I have not responded. I have to make art first before I commit myself or else there won't be anything to sell. So this weekend is when I challenge my artist self to break through the steadiness provided by the medications and create its waves through the flatline of the daily calm. Because the downside of a too steady calm is falling into a deep default that becomes resistant to change. My art is what will bring in the healthy chaos we all need in our lives. I'll keep most of the calm and order at work. But the art will be the source of any fuel I need to feed creativity into the dayjob.
So this is how and where I am at the moment. Finally breaking the too-steady days. Writing this and then later I'm bringing out the sketchbook and the paints and the pencils. I have been receiving the signs the past couple of nights, through dreams. The Mad Hatter came to visit and with him, the scent of the wildforest reminded me of fairy tales that I am supposed to tell.