Posted in Autistic Identity, Burnout, Career Change, Self-Care

Regret: Learning to Unmask

This is a bit rawer than I usually write, but it explores what I’m feeling and where I am now.

I am finally beginning to get back to the way I was before I ever entered that school.   I’m working around what used to be my home office and I am finally able to pick things up and am trying to figure out where they go. I have listed books for sale that represent my academic and professional life. I have thrown a lot of things away, and for a pack rat it’s very difficult to throw things away because I might need them in the future.  I think now that I see that my life will definitely be very different. I realize I no longer need to hold on to the clutter.

I had two months off of work, paid, when we “agreed” that I needed to leave, but that time was spent worrying about the next job and then I had to start the next job and it took 3 weeks to finally get to the point where I could fully admit my life is not going back to the way it was.  Around me, spring continues to happen.  We had unseasonably warm weather and then rain and now the yard is already a mess, overgrown and in desperate need of help.  Meanwhile the house is in shambles. The yard wouldn’t be so bad if we could have cleaned it up last fall the last fall, but I was working so much.  When I wasn’t working I was resting or planning for work. I never stopped working or recovering from work. And, looking back, no one seems to be grateful.  All my time going back to education did was completely derail our family finances and the state of order in our entire lives and everyone there goes on as before, as if I had never come.  The school would have closed this year and possibly even before this year whether I came or not.   It is very expensive to be overworked and Disabled; you have to pay for things like grocery delivery (for which we pay a premium in prices, let alone the delivery fee) and eat to-go orders more often just to survive.  This ate into our savings and drained my retirement from another job.  I would have been better off if I had truly never entered that school and let it die its own death without me.

I am fortunate because I was able to call my mother over to help us work on the yard situation.  We need to fix it before the city complains about how it looks in front. I had no idea how overgrown it had gotten nor did I pay much attention to it all fall and winter because I simply could not do it I did not have the energy to look. Now, when I look at all that is there, I just can’t even begin to get started.  It is too much to just use the weed wacker to destroy everything in sight which was my initial plan and I don’t even know where to begin. So what I did instead was move back inside to try to declutter my old office.  Here, I could make progress, at least, while I wait for help on the yard. 

I was socialized to believe that sacrifice for others was a noble thing. That all that I did, giving of myself as a teacher/administrator, was worth it. But now I know that none of it was worth it. It will probably take me all year to clean up nearly two years’ worth of neglect because I said yes to go back to teaching. I made the mistake to follow what I thought I was led to by a God I don’t know that I even believe in any longer. Instead I have to rebuild. There is so much to do!  But, you know the funny thing now that I’ve settled into work and I started to get moving, I do have a bit of energy in the evenings to try to do the things that neurotypicals do.  For the first time since September of 2016, I am starting to find my way back to having enough energy to do least some of the things that they do. I no longer go home and go straight to bed.

I have also figured out does that the last 30 years—or longer–have been spent masking who I am. I still don’t know who that is, but at least I know who I’m not. I think this is why I believed once that religion would bring me peace because somehow everything would all become clear. Instead it has been chaos as I tried to become a good Catholic woman and I am incapable of carrying out their stereotype. And, what’s more, I’m not sure that that’s something I want to do or that I need to do. Since focusing on my family and trying to tell myself that even the happiness of my three cats is more important than anybody around me who is not in my family, I am finally finding peace. I am finally starting to have enough spoons to get through my days. And I can see progress. My house is getting cleaner, and I’m having more energy.  I’m reading a lot more and I’m a lot calmer. We still can’t pay the bills, but we’re getting closer everyday and soon I believe we will be better off financially as well as physically. 

You see, it costs a lot more to be Disabled and drained, and we’re starting to spend less (well, we have less to spend), but I feel more positive we’ll be able to pay down the bills and move forward since I’m not stressed out all of the time.  I was so stressed that I didn’t know how it felt to not be stressed.  But we’re starting to turn a corner, finally.  It will get better because I have taken off my mask.  I may still feel a little like Scooby-Doo’s no-face zombie, but soon I will figure out who I really am.  In the meantime, though, I can clean out the old me and start fresh.  It will get better.

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