I’m a self-defined workaholic who’s been in recovery for a while now. My identity used to be wrapped up in whatever job I had at the time…and I’ve had a few cool jobs in my time. But since my mental illness currently precludes my holding down a steady job for any length of time, I’ve been forced to look elsewhere (thankfully) for my self-worth.
What does this mean? It means I don’t look to a job title anymore to define my identity. I’m not a “Such-and-Such Assistant” or a “This-and-That Specialist” anymore.
At first, this loss of external identity was devastating. If I couldn’t be working anywhere cool with an equally cool job title, then what did that mean about me?
As an example of the extremes to which I used to take my job responsibilities, take the time Liam was 7 weeks old and had a high fever. I took him to the ER and stayed with him while they did the spinal tap to make sure he didn’t have meningitis. But once it was over, once Jared had arrived at the hospital, about 1 in the morning I flaked out completely on my family. I went home in favor of sleep, saying that I had to be at work in the morning. I did, indeed, go to work in the morning, leaving Jared at home to take care of the sick Liam.
This episode was after I went back to work on Liam’s due date. That’s right, my first day back at work after giving birth was Liam’s due date. I was in such fear of losing my job that I returned to work when Liam was 4 weeks old. Since Liam had been born exactly 4 weeks to the day early, that meant that I returned on his due date. It was a move of pure insanity on my part and a disregard for the wellbeing of my family, not to mention myself.
What else did I miss? I really don’t know.
I felt empty for a long time after I left work. It took a good bit of therapy to remind me first that my self-worth comes from inside and then that I am good at a few things besides making money for my family.
Hobbies have helped me both fill my time and raise my self-esteem.
First, it was making beaded jewelry. That was fun for a while until I tried to make it into a business.
Then, there is my writing. I still enjoy it and thank God, I have not tried to make a living doing it. That would ruin all enjoyment, I think.
Next came lampworking. It’s a craft I desperately want to spend more time doing but it’s tricky doing it at home and studio time does not come cheap.
So now I’m dabbling in photography. I’ve even enrolled in an upcoming documentary photography class which will start later in the month! I’m uber-excited about this one. Photography seems to be sticking because I can put my camera in my purse and just go, taking a picture when I feel like it.
I still want to be this domestic diva that can get dinner on a spotless table in a spotless kitchen and cook it herself, but, well, that’s just not me. The boys stay home and play sometimes, but most of the time they go to daycare. Reality is that they enjoy their friends and the structure and, well, I enjoy the peace of an empty house to give me space to do what I feel like doing for self-care at the moment. No more torturing myself!
A good friend told me when I couldn’t continue breastfeeding, “Look, at the end of the day, you’ll still feed your child. That’s what matters.” I’ve taken that bit of wisdom everywhere since Porter weaned, applying the sentence whenever I couldn’t live up to the perfect picture I had of myself whether it was as mom, as employee, as wife, and now, I’m even applying it to those hobbies that I love so much. For Heaven’s sake, I’m posting pictures as art on this blog and I’ve never even had a class before!
I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, except that I think I’ve decided I don’t want to ever finish growing up. It’s the process that I’m growing to love. From that point of view, I’ll be constantly redefining myself for the rest of my life. I’m becoming okay with that fact.