Those close to me will know that the last few years have been rather choppy for me. I’ve done a lot of finding myself, and realising things I hid inside me, understanding that things that happened to me have shaped me in more ways than I realised. My mental health has declined and improved and settled into a steady sort of motion with the help of modern medicine – thanks NHS!
In the last few months I felt a rumbling, that bubbling feeling inside yourself when you know change is coming. Your inner air pressure changes, you can feel it in your waters.
It started really with trying to kiss the pavement. Not in a literal sense, mind you. I was leaving my flat to go speak at a conference in Grimsby and instead my brain decided enough was enough, and cut out suddenly. I woke up in my partners’ arms on the pavement, with our Nepalese security guards crowding around me, and a man in a fedora slowly backing up his car to ask if we were okay. Some Jack Russell dogs came to investigate the situation further. We got up, realised I’d hit my head, and took an exciting trip in the ambulance to A&E, to be signed off from working life for a few weeks – again, thanks NHS, really.
I spent a couple of weeks in hazy (if a little frustrated) bliss. I was unable to do most of the things that life requires of me, namely work. I couldn’t really look at a computer screen, which meant little writing as well, other than some half thoughts scribbled down in a notebook. My mental health suddenly felt so good. Darling friends were worried about me, and I was too of course, but I assured them that I was feeling really well.
That’s when I realised that, yes, something needed to stop. And it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t my precious minimal social life. It was my job.
For a little context, I was a research diver a few years ago, travelling the Philippines and measuring sea snails to work out if marine protected areas influenced them at all. I was planning to do a PhD on a local lobster fishery. Then my seizures, which I thought I’d nailed a few years ago, came back in full force and so that life-plan went out the window – turns out brains prone to short circuiting and being 30m underwater tends not to be a match made in heaven. So as I got better I decided to give science another shot, having just studied for a BSc and a masters and feeling some element of postgraduate guilt. I moved to London and took a number of jobs over the last 3 years in the realm of digital communications, and I was beginning to realise that maybe this wasn’t a career that worked for me.
A few months ago, after conversations with a dear friend of mine, I realised that I have a lot of autistic traits and a lovely psychologist is currently deciding if I have Asperger’s or not (my money is on yes, but we will see in the next month, place your bets). Realising that you’ve potentially been trying to live your life in a neurotypical world when you are anything but is a biggie. I’ve been trying to force myself into this mould of what I think I need to do and the right way of doing things for the last 27 years, though I suppose you could arguably discount the first one when I was mostly just pooping.
On a Saturday morning in late September, swirling my teaspoon in my coffee, I told Tim I was going to leave my job. There were some tears from me, but he understood and has wholeheartedly supported me in this endeavour. Our sets of parents and siblings have also taken to the news well. I told my boss and she was sad but also pleased for me. In fact, everyone I told has thought it was a good idea, which assured me that yes, it probably was.
And here we are. I have a few days left in my job. I have picked up a bookseller job on weekends at Waterstones – my childhood dream job. I have signed up for NaNoWriMo because a story has been drifting around in my head for months, and at midnight a few days ago the plot and the characters suddenly burst into being and I had to write everything down as quick as I could. I’m going to go volunteer at a community gardens, and feel soil between my fingers. I’m hoping that I will be able to write more on here, as well as on NaNoWriMo and in notebooks.
The point is I chose this. I chose this future of uncertainty for myself, rather than continuing to battle through another. It is very empowering to stand up for yourself, and I think this is the first time I’ve ever done that. I’m impulsive and have picked up and moved across the country and the world for adventure, but my new adventure – without being too fucking trite – is here, its me.