It has been a long time since I felt like I had something to say, much less something worth saying. This post is really a preamble, to help me find my voice again. It is also the story of why I lost my voice in the first place.
I quit my job in October.
Four months later, I still have regular nightmares about being called back in to the office to pick up where I left off.
Every Tuesday afternoon, I meet with a counselor who specializes in PTSD and anxiety. She describes my former work environment as "toxic" and "dysfunctional" and my former bosses as a mix of "wildly inappropriate" and "abusive." We are using a combination of talk therapy and EMDR to help with processing and healing.
I have been without employment this entire time and never made enough money in my eight years as a church employee to build a savings account, but I made my last paycheck stretch through the beginning of February (through a miracle of biblical proporations and also with a little help from YNAB). My tax refund should carry me for another few months.
In the meantime, I have launched a freelance proofreading and copy editing business, Second Breakfast Media. It's the kind of thing that people hate to hear at a party because it's about as sexy as accounting: "Hello, I rearrange semicolons for a living." But fuck the haters. I am in a really weird place emotionally, and the rules and structure of language and grammar are just debatable enough to be interesting but just solid enough to be comforting.
Before I resigned, someone at the church accused me of neglecting my parents because I voiced a desire to move to Tennessee to look after my grandparents.
My grandmother is going blind from macular degeneration, and my grandfather is losing his sanity to vascular dementia. Neither one of them should be driving, but they would both benefit from staying in the home they've owned for decades and being in a familiar environment with friends nearby. If I get a remote job with flexible hours, I can move nearby and get the independence I desperately need while also being available as a driver for my grandparents.
Meanwhile, my mother has lost a significant amount of her vision because a simple cataract surgery aggravated a previously dormant auto-immune disease in her eyes. The diagnosis was relatively quick, but her body resisted the initial forms of treatment. She has been on improbably high doses of steroids and other drugs for months (all with their own intolerable side effects). She is only just now beginning to see improvement, although one eye still needs cataract surgery and gets worse with each new delay in calming the auto-immune disease.
Not to be left out, my dad was diagnosed with high blood pressure after a blood vessel burst behind his eye, severely limiting half of his vision. He is still in recovery and often wears a patch over one eye. He and my mother still feel comfortable driving one another to their respective doctor appointments, but in rain or snow, my brother and I will often volunteer to help.
The tl;dr version is that we have made a lot of "three blind mice" jokes over the past year. Also, value your vision. Also also, you are an asshole if you guilt-trip a person for wanting to take care of her grandparents.
I think I am on the verge of being happier than I've ever been before.
But not yet.
I go to bed afraid, and I wake up angry. I don't like my dreams reminding me of how miserable I was for much of the last decade, but I do like that it makes me mad—I'm already so much stronger now than I was just a few weeks ago. As I learn more about how my self-worth and my confidence were devestated by years of cyclical abuse, I also look back fondly on the years before that when I flaunted my self-love enthusiastically. I used to love being me, all the time. Now, I will fight to get that back, and I will fight to protect it.
Little things trigger me throughout the day, but I also have little weapons of my own for self-defense. Meditation. Yoga. Self-compassion. I don't have to be trapped by my anxiety anymore, and I don't have to give in to panic.
To be safe, I avoid new media unless it has been pre-screened and approved by a trusted friend. My Netflix queue has been a nauseating smorgasbord of food-related shows, most of them about cupcakes. I listen to podcasts about productivity and read books about self-compassion. I thought it would be safe to read the first Game of Thrones book (since I'd watched five seasons of the show), but I was rewarded for that decision with a week's worth of gory, bloody nightmares, all featuring characters—and dragons—from the series.
The friends who pre-screen my media are just a few of the wonderful people who are helping me move forward. Together with my family and my loving boyfriend, they talked me through the last two weeks of my job, spoke words of encouragement to me as the bad dreams set in, supported me through a month of rest, gently nudged me when I hesitated to launch Second Breakfast, hugged me when I decided to seek professional counseling, and have stood firm through countless tidal waves of emotion. I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
This is not where I thought I'd be as a 30-year-old, but gosh damn, there is more potential in my future than I could have imagined. I care a lot less about what I do "for a living" and a lot more about the actual living. For me and for now, that means reuniting with who I am, with what I'm meant to bring to this world, and with the friends and family I get to enjoy life with.