Title lyrics: Tompkins Square Park by Mumford and Sons (listen to it, it’s amazing)
Do you remember that wonderful feeling when you’ve just finished your last exam? After having had your head buried (or at least, semi-buried) in revision for weeks or months, finally it’s over. For me it was most poignant when I finished my last exam in my final year of university, as it was the culmination of not just the previous couple of months of revision, but several years of my undergrad that preceded it. I remember pure elation, relief and excitement. The pressure, the restrictions…they were finally over. All the things I had wanted to do for those last couple of months but couldn’t (like have some fun again), were a possibility again.
For whatever reason, it’s exams that come to mind for me (around May/June every year I start dreaming about revision…still), but I’m essentially just giving one example of many situations in life when we come out the other side of a challenging phase – a busy period at work, the build-up to some big event etc etc,
I’d have expected, now that I’m just beginning to come out the other side of chronic fatigue, that it would feel like the example above – the relief, the excitement and so forth. If anything, with this having gone on for such a long time, those emotions would be accentuated. However it’s actually quite different.
Whilst I do feel some relief, and some drive to get my life running again…I also feel drained. Obviously I don’t mean that in the chronic fatigue sense – I don’t feel drained physically. It’s more psychological. It’s like I look at the things in my life I want to change – that I now can change – but the get up and go to take action often just isn’t there.
When I reflect, it does make sense. It takes something out of you emotionally when each and every day is a big physical challenge, when you’re in discomfort to varying extents near enough all the time, or when you have to explain to someone for the nth time why your life is so abnormal. Living with and recovering from a chronic illness is unrelenting. No matter how desperately you might crave a break, there’s no escaping the discomfort; it’s there each time you wake up and you just have to deal with it. It feels as though I’ve taken a series of body blows over the last two years. Now they’ve stopped coming, but it will take some time before I no longer feel their effects so vividly.
In the past I was one of those (probably quite annoying) people who very rarely lacked for motivation. Enthusiasm seemed to be an almost endless resource, and often the challenge was figuring out where to direct it out of the numerous appealing options. So it’s a little odd for me now that I do have the excess energy to turn towards things, that sometimes the motivation is nowhere to be found. I just feel shattered, and in my head I often hear, “what the fuck just happened?” Was that really how the last two years played out? Has it really sucked that much?
As I’m sure is evidenced by the rather confused tone of this blog, I’m still figuring this one out. How do I get that motivation back? Such that it’s more consistently present than it is at the moment? The answer probably lies in acknowledging one of the things that got me ill in the first place. Not all of that motivation was healthy. It was too extreme – it pushed me too far. I guess I wasn’t particularly comfortable with…well, with not feeling motivated and enthused about something. I didn’t like to drift – something I’ve had to do a lot of during the last two years. I was almost constantly in a state where I was chasing fervently after the future.
The lack of motivation isn’t even across all things. Come to think of it, I don’t lack enthusiasm for spending time with friends or family, or for doing music, getting out and about etc. It’s more for work-related things, which makes sense given how absurdly I overdid this area of my life prior to getting ill. And I’m much more motivated at the moment by spontaneity and flexibility than by commitment and discipline. Again this makes a lot of sense given the context, but it’s not at all what I’m accustomed to. I used to love having all manner of long-term plans in place, like building up to some absurd endurance challenge, and I’d thrive off of all the smaller, gradual steps which would get me there. A plan I’d stick to and work towards, which would provide me with a tangible measure of progress. Right now that seems about as appealing as an evening with Jeremy Hunt.
Perhaps I need to just enjoy feeling healthy and appreciate not feeling so uncomfortable or so held back by my physical situation for a time. To let things be easy for a while, or at least easier than they have been. I guess life has been challenging enough these past two years – without my having had much say in the matter. It would seem a little daft to then willingly start bringing in a raft of new challenges and restrictions almost as soon as I finally start feeling good again. What would I say if it were a friend telling me this? Probably to keep things simple for a while, and not to put pressure on themselves. The motivation will naturally come back when it’s time, and for now it’s ok not to feel driven all the time… I might even like it.
Happy New Year folks 😉