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Bout of Books 16

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 9th and runs through Sunday, May 15th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 16 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

I really enjoyed Bout of Books when I took part in January 2015. Unfortunately owing to a bunch of issues I’d been unable to participate again… until now.  Fortunately for me, this Bout of Books falls on the week where I’m going on holiday with the specific priority of reading. I’m packing a suitcase, going to a small cottage on the Isle of Arran with my boyfriend, and all I plan on doing is reading, eating, and drinking wine.  It’s a much needed break after a really stressful year or so, and I’m really looking forward to visiting an island I’ve been to twice before – once when I was eight, and once when I was fourteen – with fresh eyes. Over the next fortnight I’ll be picking my books and packing, and I can’t wait to share all this with everyone and get back into doing what I do best – chatting about books.

 

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special topics in calamity physics or: how i learned to stop worrying and leave the law

I said in November I’d be back. I didn’t realise it was going to be quite this long.

I had planned a big long re-introductory post but I feel like I both have too much distance and not enough from what happened to give it the quality of insight that something like a nervous breakdown requires. The short version is this: from the age of sixteen I’ve suffered from panic attacks.  These increased in severity and frequency after my dad died.  They increased in severity and frequency again when I obtained my legal traineeship.  And from the beginning of last year, I was in a constant state of anxiety, having multiple panic attacks each week.  I began my legal traineeship and was having multiple panic attacks every day.  I was being sick at least once a day. I was sleeping perhaps three hours a night. I was crying all the time.  I was trembling and feeling like I was about to faint.  All the time.

On 14 September, a Monday, I left the office as I had booked 2.5 days off.  I didn’t sleep the whole time.  I read a lot during those three nights, because it was the only way I could stop myself from sobbing.  On the Thursday, I went straight to my doctor in the morning and cried for about ten minutes in her office.  She signed me off from work. I walked home, stopping for a break to cry on the way.  I got into bed.  I slept.

I didn’t go back.

At first, I was convinced it would just be a week.  Then two weeks. The Prozac would kick in and I would be fine.  The Prozac did kick in.  And I did feel better.  Better than I had in years.  Except when I thought about going back to work. And as the third week rolled round, I knew what I had to do. I had to leave.  I had to stop trying to be someone I wasn’t. I’m not knocking my workplace or my job at all – they made every effort to support me.  But when I thought about the 8, 9, 10 hours I’d be spending there every day, tracking my every second as billable or non-billable, staring at my computer screen, worrying about other people’s money, conducting myself with deference at all times – I felt smaller, and smaller, and less, and less. I don’t know how or why I convinced myself that I was the sort of person that could fit into that mould, into that role. My trouble is, and always has been, that I’ve never been anything other than exactly what I am. I’m not saying that I don’t know how to put a professional face on, but what I do find hard is to be constantly pushing the things that I feel in my heart and know in my head to be true aside. Money and prestige aren’t an incentive for me in that sense.  I know how to be poor.  I’ve hardly ever had much money. What I wish I didn’t know and what I’m trying to unlearn is how to make myself unhappy for something that simply isn’t worth it.

I am so much happier, so much more content at the moment. I am working in a job where I am not using my degree. My contract finishes at the end of the week and I do not have anything lined up for the future.  I am facing uncertainty for the first time in twenty years. This is exactly what I have always feared.

And yet I am happier, more content, and, most importantly, less worried, than I have been in longer than I can remember. Being truthful to what and who I am has been such an amazingly revelatory experience. I feel whole in a way that no career success, no academic success, no relationship has ever made me feel.  It’s not a straight upward progression.  The first few weeks after I made my decision I could barely leave the house, couldn’t be anywhere in public without my earphones in, and was sleeping only intermittently and mostly during the day. Once I was well enough to go back to work in an administrative role, I had good days and bad days. I still wake up trembling and nauseated sometimes feeling the heaviness of things on my heart. The guilt still floods me – how dare you leave a secure career; how dare you put down the yoke of being the most successful person in your family; how dare you how dare you how dare you. But these things happen less frequently. When this happens, I call to mind and concentrate on the advice that Cheryl Strayed gives: go, because you want to.  Because wanting to leave is enough.  What I want and need is a good enough reason and to hell with what anyone else thinks.

My head is clearer. My heart is lighter.