On being stuck between two worlds

Gosh darn, I haven’t posted in a while.

I always say that.

So last time I posted I was working at a lovely charity, but only on a temporary basis. My contract ran out at the beginning of May and so I spent a little while unemployed and looking for work, which was deeply unfun and demoralising.

Eventually, I got offered an administration job at an energy company. Not the most exciting of prospects, but when you’re offered a permanent position at a company that seems fairly nice to work for, it’s probably not very clever to turn it down. It’s been a pretty intense couple of months. I started on June 15th, and I’m contracted to work 40 hours a week – 9am-6pm Monday to Friday. I leave the house at 8am and get back in at about 6.30pm. In the evenings I do a bit of housework, eat dinner, maybe watch a bit of TV and go to bed. At weekends, myself and the boyhalf tend to do a lot of stuff around the house – redecorating and shit. There’s a lot to do.

I’m almost two months in, and the most acute feeling I have is that I’m stuck between two worlds: the world of chronically ill people and the world of “healthy” people. When I started I had a couple of weeks of training along with 7 other new starters, all of whom are fresh graduates and a few years younger than me. None of them have had similar experiences to me vis-à-vis long-term illness. This makes it interesting when it comes to me fitting in. It’s made me very conscious of how I come across to people and how I relate my experiences. Having experienced long-term and debilitating health problems makes you uber conscious of the… fragility of life, I guess. How you never know what’s around the corner. I don’t want to come across as the ‘downer’ so I’ve tried to be very enthusiastic and make the effort to frame things I’ve been through in a positive light, but it’s quite draining and I don’t feel like anyone really gets me. Not that that’s anyone’s fault, and not that they should go out of their way to try and understand me – there are some things that you can’t understand or empathise with until you’ve been through them. But it makes me very aware of my ‘otherness’ when it comes to my ability to cope with work and how I feel like there is a big gaping chasm between myself and my colleagues.

A lot of people at my company are very ambitious, as are the people I started with. I’m ambitious too in my own way, but I’m also not as much of a perfectionist as some about this job, because ehhh… I only have so much energy. Ironic that I work for an energy company and suffer from a lack of it. That said, I’ve been exceeding my target for the number of cases I should be getting through on a daily basis. Maybe I’m feeling like I have a lot to prove to myself and everyone else so I’m working super hard. It’s taking it’s toll though – I’m exhausted and run down and fed up.

I think something else that has become obvious to me is my impatience when it comes to progressing. A year or so ago, I would have felt like any kind of job is amazing even if it’s a part-time cafe job because hey, it would mean I would feel like more of a person and I would have a reason to wake up in the morning. Now? I’m working a 40-hour problem-solving job and I’m not feeling as fulfilled as I could be. I want to do better already. I think I need to give myself a break.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some positives to this job. A lot of the people I work with are great, truly interesting people. The problem-solving nature of the work I do is helping to wake my brain up, too. In many ways, I’m “succeeding” at this, depending on which metric you use to define success. In my eyes I’m kind of succeeding, and that’s the important thing. I guess I’m just struggling to forge a new identity for myself as a normal working person as opposed to a sick person on benefits. After a while of living that life, you do become a little institutionalised and stop believing in better for yourself. All of this feels like a mirage.

At the same time, I feel like I’ve stopped fitting in with the friends who I have met through illness. The network of people with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, EDS and similar is very very strong and I have met a lot of people through support groups, friends of friends and so forth. I have a few close friends from it who mean a lot to me, but in a way I feel it’s hard for us to relate to each other any more. Sure, we suffer from the same illness but we’re in different places with it and we’re living very different lives now that I’m working a 40 hour week and they’re not working at all. I’m finding it difficult to find the energy or time to keep in touch with ANY of my friends outside work, actually. I really don’t know how people do it.

I feel like my inner monologue with my work friends/ colleagues is this: “hey, I can be normal. Honestly I’m normal. I can work like you, I can manage this 40 hour week and cope with intense concentration and problem-solving for 8 hours a day and totally be social on top of that and not like, die. Oh. Maybe I can’t. Actually, this feels impossible. I guess I’m only ever going to be an ill person who can’t manage this shit. Fuck. I don’t want to work here any more. I can’t cope.”

My inner monologue when it comes to my illness friends, on the other hand: “hey guys. I’m still ill. I still know what your life is like. I’m amazed I’m not still in the same position. I don’t know how I ended up coping with work. In fact I’m probably not really coping, I’m finding it really hard. But I don’t want to be ill any more. I don’t want to keep seeing myself in that way, and for that to be my life. I may be in denial but I need to be for my own sanity. I want to pretend I can have a job and be like everyone else. Please let me try. I can’t be ill any more. I don’t want any more to do with this.”

As such, I end up isolating myself from both parties and feeling totally distant from anything am associated with. It’s weird. I think I’m over-thinking it and giving myself too hard a time. It’s a gradual process. And I know that I can feel the way I feel around my colleagues and illness friends and for the two to not be contradictory, but it still feels a little bit jarring and strange. This is an odd journey.

This feels like a bit of a depressing post. Please watch this video of a dog with an epic sneeze to make up for it.

In other news, I’m getting a brother or sister in January. My dad’s girlfriend is pregnant. My dad is 53. By the time the baby is born I will be 27. My first sibling will be 27 years my junior. Life is really fucking weird.