I've made mention in my books blog that I'm off work for a year on medical leave. Part of the reason I'm off work is that my career is in a high energy, high stress field, and my doctor seems to think it's even higher energy and higher stress than it really is. I have one of those jobs about which people always say, "Oh, I could never do that!" And they're right. Most people couldn't. I think my doctor is one of those people, and since she feels it would kill her with stress to try, she thinks it's killing me with stress. She feels, probably correctly, that my job is playing a detrimental role in my "regression."
That word is bothering me ever since I saw my insurance forms, which my doctor finally finished filling out, and saw that she had written that I was regressing. It made me feel like I was flunking my illness or something. Ugh.
Another reason I'm off work is that I'm not really able to have time to heal from flare ups and surgeries and so forth. I had two surgeries last year, and I was supposed to have another at the end of this past May, but I postponed it. I should really call and reschedule that. Anyway, one of the times I had surgery, I went back to work at the time most people are healed enough, and ended up in the emergency room. And then off work for another week. So it's sort of hard to recover from the treatments deemed necessary, let alone just feel well enough day-to-day to go to work.
And finally, the main reason I could bring myself to agree to be off work for a year is that I wasn't doing my job as well as I normally would. I'm a perfectionist, I know, but I felt that I was not only not doing a perfect job, but I was actually floundering, and in some small ways, failing, though my boss claimed I was doing just great. But you know, you don't go into your boss' office and tell her about every time you fuck up.
I just didn't want to go off work because a) I love my job and b) everyone I've met who has my illness and is on disability is a sedentary obese person whose health is further impaired by a lack of activity. And I don't want that to be me. I've now convinced myself that they have a harder time managing their health because they were sedentary and obese in the first place, but I was afraid that they became sedentary and obese when they stopped working.
So here's what I'm supposed to do this year. I'm supposed to exercise daily, and not just one type of exercise, but various types, so I'm getting the benefits of different activities. I'm supposed to relax. I'm supposed to learn how to relax. I'm supposed to pursue quiet interests; my doctor actually ordered me to keep reading and working on my books blog. I think she hopes I'll find flexible online work. She's a huge believer in "feeling like an asset to your community" so I know she wants me to keep doing work of some sort. But I think she's also just happy that my blog makes me feel like an asset to my book blogging community. After this year, I think she's hoping I'll have found some sort of low-key part time work, online or not. She keeps talking about part time jobs at the library.
The exercise is going well. I've always hiked, and I love to swim. This past year, I've only hiked, because I was too busy to add swimming to my life. With hiking, I just put on hiking shoes, grab some water, and walk out my back gate into the canyon. For swimming, I have to go to the pool, change into my suit, swim, shower, and change again. But now, I've started taking a water aerobics class. A couple years ago, I used to swim with a U.S. Masters class, although I didn't compete. But I'm not in swimming shape. Hiking does nothing for the upper body. So I figure I'll do water aerobics for a while, and eventually I'll run into my old coach or his wife, who is a co-worker, and ask them about joining the class again. My husband agreed to sign up for a Tai Chi class with me, so that'll also be a different type of exercise. And probably great for this whole learning how to relax thing.
So here's how my week in exercise has looked:
Monday: water aerobics and a short, after-dinner walk
Wednesday: Water aerobics and hiking
Saturday: Went out dancing!
Today: Water aerobics and probably a walk
Tomorrow: Tai Chi class! And maybe a walk
So I think I'm doing well with that.
Learning to relax is a more gradual process. My first week off work, I was terrified I was going to become a useless blob who sat on the couch all day, so I spent a lot of time getting my house clean (it's been fairly neglected because of the whole working full time while sick thing) and I actually kept a list of everything I accomplished every day so that I would be reassured that I wasn't turning into a lazy blob. I saw that my list of daily accomplishments didn't look much like I was learning to relax, so I stopped keeping those lists.
After the first week, I started noticing that I was able to just enjoy activities, like cooking dinner, that I was used to rushing through because other things needed to be done. Time is a wonderful gift. When you have it, everything you do becomes more mindful and pleasurable. I'm not looking at piles of books to be reviewed and getting anxious because I don't know when I'll do them. Now I feel like, well, it doesn't matter, because I have plenty of reviews saved as drafts. I'll do reviews when I'm in the mood to do reviews.
So I've done a lot of things I've been meaning to do for a while. I set up my etsy shop. I made this blog. I finally set up an itunes library and have songs on there now. My house is clean! This is another way that time is a gift. I don't have a long list of stuff hanging over my head waiting for me to get a chance to do it.
And this morning, my son accused me of running around all energetically. He'd just gotten up and he has the same aversion to other people's perkiness that I have when I first wake up. The energy he noticed might have been over-caffeination, or it may be that I still have no clue how to relax, or it may just be that I'm doing a bit better already, that my energy levels are increasing. I can't hope that I'll get completely better, because my condition is for life. But I can hope that I learn how to manage it well enough that I'm as healthy as possible, considering.