Being sick or getting better? There are some decisions that just have to be made. Here’s how I made one of my biggest ones.
If there’s any word that honestly makes me feel like an adult (despite the fact that I really don’t feel like an adult most days) it’s the word decision.
I have a love-hate relationship with that word: hate because sometimes the right thing is the hardest thing to choose to do; love because it’s allowed me to grow and learn about not only myself, but some of the people who are/were around me.
Some decisions are so simple. What do I wear today? As I write this, it’s looking a little bright, but cloudy outside. I’ll probably throw on a sweater before we go out, my decision also informed by the fact that I have been tracking the seven-day forecast and know there’s a solid chance of rain. My habit of tracking the weather is something I’ve done for the past five years because when I made the decision to go to journalism school, it was a habit engrained in me.
Not all decisions are as easy as peeking through your curtains: I chose to go to journalism school because I felt journalism was a noble tool meant to help people. I made that choice knowing I was probably going to have to fund this round of schooling with student loans, and that I’d have to work my ass off if I wanted to do well and find a job. It also probably meant not having as much of a life because I knew what I was getting into: a shit ton of work, with almost no downtime. I made these decisions knowing that there would be give and take…as is the case with any decision made.
When I began to look at leaving radio almost a year ago, I went into a bit of a tailspin. I loved the job a lot, but I also knew that the job I loved came at a cost of not being physically, emotionally and mentally healthy. I won’t go into too much detail (as I’m probably going to write about that in another post once I’m ready) but I’d been having seizures and I did not know what was causing them. They became scarier when they’d pop up at work — sometimes before a major cast. Knowing what I know now about them, I know the decision I made to leave was the right one. I knew if I didn’t stop, I was probably going to make myself incredibly sick.
That being said, here’s how I’ve tried to stay afloat while making some tough decisions.
You know I’m going to say make a list…duh…
Last November, about once a week or so, I started to sit down and make lists of the pros and cons of leaving journalism. I’d do this everywhere: in coffee shops, while Jon drove me to work at 3:30 a.m., or even on weekend mornings when I was feeling desperate for a resolution. My answers were rarely ever the exact same, but they often had overlapping themes. “I’m sick and I need to understand what’s wrong with me.” Or, “I need to put my health first and this is putting my health last.” Don’t get me wrong: I also loved being on air. I’d come up with answers like, “organizing our day at work gives me purpose,” and “I have too much fun being on air.” Making a list was a great way to exclude other voices from chiming in and swaying me. That being said…
Talk to other people (but choose who you confide in carefully)
I talked to my husband, Jon about this often, and I am lucky that he was always open to listening. He’d occasionally ask interrogating questions to help me figure out what was good and what was bad about leaving, which helped advance the pros and cons lists I’d make once a week.
I did talk to other people to get varying perspectives and it helped. While they didn’t say outright that I should leave, the majority always said nothing is more important that taking care of yourself and your health, and I could tell they were doing it out of a genuine place of concern. I remember having one conversation with a co-worker who said I was nuts for working through my illness and, after describing my symptoms to him, he strongly recommended I take the time to look for a good neurologist. I’m glad I made the decision to listen to him, because he ended up being kind of right.
However, when you’re picking up on negative energy, you need to dismiss that hella bad juju right away. One person would take the opportunity to try and “offer me advice,” but what they were really doing was trying to get under my skin and tell me in their own obvious way I was weak. Yes, there are actually people who love to prey on those who appear to be falling, and they do it for a myriad of reasons.
Don’t even try to engage them. You are going through your own struggles and learning processes, and it is up to you to decide what you can or can’t handle. It is not up to them. Fortunately I saw the red flags immediately, and I removed them from the equation right away. It can be as simple as saying something like, “thanks, but I think I’ve got a handle on the issue, and I’m not looking for any more advice.”
Revel in personal space
Letting the wheels in your head turn can be very clarifying, whether that’s going for a walk or sitting on your bed. Some of what you might hear in your head can be scary, but it’s also insane how much listening to yourself can shed light on your needs. One of my favourite things in my decision-making struggle to do was (and still is) go for walks near our home: I love being near the water, leaving my cellphone at home and just taking the time to think. It is refreshing and can be enlightening to listen to your own thought processes play out.
It took me almost five months to make a decision, and then two months after that to act on it. By this time I’d let everything become such a mess that I felt quite lost having not made a choice. The good news is I made a decision and I moved forward with it. Again, this is something you are doing for your own good, and at the end of the day you need to do what’s best for you.
Take responsibility for your decisions
If you made the right decision, congrats! If you’ve made the wrong decision, congrats! Either way, you’ve taken the time to learn a little more about yourself. By taking responsibility for your choices, you are reflecting on what you did (or didn’t) do, which can be very powerful if you’re trying to improve yourself.
I’m not saying everything is now perfect (my health will always be a work-in-progress) but I took the time to focus on me, tried something new — and ended up loving what I do now as much as I believed I would. Sure, there were other factors I couldn’t control, like whether or not I would actually secure the job (trust me, the interview process was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever gone through), and whether or not I would actually learn what exactly is wrong with me. (I thankfully have.) But if one way hasn’t been working for so long, maybe making the decision to try another option isn’t really so bad after all.