A Prisoner of Work
I stand in-front of my second hand mirror, a hand me down from a friend. I’d spent ages polishing the worn walnut frame and once misty glass. I step back to admire it’s transformation. A relict from the past which now helped set off my modern living room with it’s comfy cotton couches and the units that housed all the little mementos of my life so far. Photographs that captured nostalgic moments with friends and family, birthday keepsakes and books that catalogued my travels and time spent studying.
But as I take this moment to reflect, the mirror becomes misty again. I must have missed a spot. No wait, I’m being shrouded and my mind seems to drift. I feel weightless for a short time whilst the tethers to the present unleash their tight hold. Such a strange sensation, for a second I question why I’m not scared. Why are the hairs on my arms not standing to attention at the horror of the unknown or my eyes widening as I try to engulf images that might alert me to where I am headed? But I feel safe. The path I am travelling on seems familiar and well worn. I feel calm and at peace but with a sense of disbelief and accomplishment.
I realise I need to give myself a chance to acclimatise. As I come to, I gaze on someone who is feverishly typing on a dusty keyboard. The keys are being hurriedly struck but in the haste there are muffled curses coming from the corner of this dark, damp, dungeon office on realising the errors. I recognise that this was me a year ago. I took the job naively believing it would lead me to a fresh career path in the conservation field, helping others heal themselves and the greenery around them but instead my job led me to isolation, fighting ill feelings and a corrupt political system. My battles have left many wounds. I look exhausted. The dark patches and bags under my deflated eyes testament to the fights I had with sleep, insomnia always won. My body now weakened and frail with my enduring attempts to keep the peace and people please. My muscles so tender with all my shoulders were braced to carry, my own expectations and the overbearing and unrealistic ones of others. And worst of all were the injuries to my mind after all the thoughts of turmoil forever tumbling across my consciousness. This is not the person I wanted to become, nor the prison sentence I deserved. I was a prisoner of work.
It was at this point last year I remembered I’d made the decision to break free from my job. This was an uneven fight. I needed to find my freedom in order to win the war.
So what had been the battle plan? First to get some military intel on my mental ill health. Who best to contact? The GP was my first port of call followed by counsellors, family and friends. My army was growing along with my confidence and belief in self-care. In order to become more resilient I enlisted in courses that would help me avoid battles that were futile, and heal from those I still had to endure. My mind became sharper, my interests widened and my humour returned (my greatest weapon). I was beginning to live a life again rather than survive in a war.
As I watched myself continue on last years’ journey I could see the physical changes in myself. I now stood tall rather than hunched with the weight of the world on my shoulders. My eyes gleamed ahead rather than looming at the ground. And best of all, I wore a smile as I enlisted in support groups, Meetups, writing classes and the gym.
A year may not seem a long time but the journey I have been on is, and always will be. That is, unless I can stop looking back at an unfortunate past and catastrophising about my future. I am learning to live in the now and at this precise moment I am surveying my cosy living room with my old mirror reflecting the warmth of the sun outside and the vivid blooms of springtime buds in my wee strip of greenery.
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