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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I could be working right now. Instead I'm just sitting here thinking.

When I began blogging about six years ago, I worked about 20 hours weekly. This was by choice. Darrin had a well-paying job, my kids were younger and I wanted to spend time with them, and I had finally decided to seek out therapy to help me with some past trauma. I needed time for me.

A few months later, Darrin lost his job. I got another part-time job to help with bills, and for six months we lived on that and our savings account until Darrin found another job. The new job paid less and had expensive benefits. I kept my new part-time job.

Two years passed and found Darrin once again unemployed--this time he was a victim of an overzealous supervisor and a failing economy. I found two more part-time jobs. At this point my weekly hours were edging toward fifty per week, and Sunday was my only day off. This time it was nearly a year before Darrin was able to find another job. He took a couple of classes during that time, which was good for his resume and self-esteem, but bad for my budding addiction to work...I took another part-time job. I was now beginning work at 5:00 a.m. and finishing at midnight.

Darrin's new job came with a nice salary and benefits, but the the year of no income from him had hurt us. I convinced myself that we needed my new jobs to play catch-up and I continued working 50-60 hours weekly. Tabitha and Adam began to complain that I wasn't present even when I was home. I was either working one of my online jobs, too stressed to communicate with them, or too tired to do anything. I dubbed them ungrateful and continued working like a crazy person.

Finally, in February of last year, I recognized that I was in trouble. The real reason I had not stopped working so many hours was because work was the only thing I wished to do. I'd stopped all other activities. I didn't read anymore. I chatted with people, but rarely enjoyed it. I was cranky much of the time. I played games with Darrin and my kids occasionally, but I always longed for them to be over so I could go back to work.

I'm certain the work addiction helped fill some of the void created by my injury-induced inability to run or be active. I also believe it was used to help me avoid dealing with a number of PTSD related symptoms which were overwhelming and frustrating. By August I was feeling disconnected from nearly every person in my life. I took a few days and went to visit with Therapist, spent time with a number of friends, met Tolkien Boy at the airport and took him home with me for a couple of days.

The morning after TB and I got home, we slept in. We'd ended up driving until about 3:00 a.m. because we left Utah too late in the evening. We'd been visiting friends, some of whom TB hadn't seen for at least a year and lingered way too long.

I awoke at 7:30, but opted out of going to church. I was tired and I had too much on my mind. Darrin and the kids left without me at 8:45. Tolkien Boy woke around 10:30. At that point I was an emotional mess. I'd had a late night and just enough alone time to stir up all sorts of PTSD symptoms, and I couldn't stop thinking about my conversation with Therapist. We'd talked about a number of things, but the bottom line--I was addicted to work and I wasn't going to feel better until I addressed that issue. Therapist said the first step was to quit one of my jobs. I didn't want to.

It seems like such a small thing...just stop working so much. I list this with all the other small things that bother me and seem impossible to overcome:
--just stop feeling miserable about things that happened a million years ago
--just stop agonizing over personal relationships and interactions
--just stop having nightmares
--just eat

So I decided to enjoy the one day of visiting with Tolkien Boy (since he was leaving the next day) and then I would work on that impossible list. And that's what I did.

I quit one of my jobs in September. Then I spent October and November trying to manage all the new symptoms that cropped up in response to not working. They were aggravated by the new revelations about Jeff's abuse by our mutual rapist cousin and the news that my hip injury would not be getting better with physical therapy but would have to have surgery.

In spite of all this, I've been working on the work addiction thing. I haven't talked about it very much because doing so gives me panic attacks. But I think I'm making progress in spite of that.

I won't be teaching at the university for the next three semesters. I've turned away all prospective private students and will continue to do so, keeping my private studio at ten students. Last spring I cut the hours for one of my jobs in half (which also involved a pay cut--a worthy sacrifice). I'm now contemplating finishing this year's tax season and retiring that particular shingle. I haven't yet decided if I'll do that, but it's a definite possibility.

For the first time in three years, I opted not to work on Thanksgiving and I took time off for Christmas, as well. I put off beginning the semester for my private studio until next week (it was scheduled to begin yesterday) because I felt I needed one more week to rest (this was actually based on the fact that I slipped while getting out of the pool last week and am now working with inflammation at the surgery site--that's another story altogether). And for the past hour I've been sitting in front of my computer...not working. Instead, I've been recognizing that many of the emotional difficulties I've encountered are linked to my addiction to work. There are other elements which influence the relationship insecurity, loss of personal self-worth, touch phobia, desire to isolate, and stress/panic attacks, but I believe if I can keep my resolve to pare back my work hours to forty or fewer per week, some of those symptoms will wane or even disappear.

So I'm not going to work anymore tonight. I'm going to bed early. I'm going to spend some time chatting and cuddling with Darrin. I'm going to read for half an hour, and I might even write a letter to a friend. And I'm going to do the same thing tomorrow night.

As soon as my hip is back on track and the inflammation is gone, I'll schedule another visit with Therapist. We're going to talk about all the things I've been processing since my visit with Jeff last month; and we're going to make a plan so that I can continue my work detox program without exacerbating my eating or panic disorder, and without an increase in nightmares or threat of flashbacks; and I'm going to beat this. I'm going to make money efficiently, with fewer distractions and greater return. And I'm going to schedule in rest time and time to remember how to do all the things I used to love--including playing games with my family and chatting with people I adore.

By the time I run my first mile I will no longer be dependent on work to help me manage stress. It's going to happen...because I said so...and I'm magic.


  1. Just wanted to say i love you.

  2. Sandy--that is always a lovely and welcome thing to hear. And I love you back. :-)