This morning I woke up tired, as per usual. It wasn’t always like this. Up until a few months ago, I was a morning person: one of those people most of you hate for how much we accomplish before 9AM. I would wake up at 6:30, write, meditate, run, and still have time to not only make myself a healthy breakfast but to eat it sitting down quietly and then tackle a small project before heading out to work. But something has changed.
I took on a full-time job almost a year ago. Six months later, I was asked/moved into Sales. (That’s a whole other story.) It wasn’t going so well. I’d had crying spells–sometimes at work–since I started working at the company, but after starting the Sales position, I thought they were getting more frequent. At the suggestion of my mother and doctor-friends, I started tracking these spells and found they were actually occurring nearly every day. I stopped tracking. An appointment with a doctor was scheduled, and my search for a therapist began. But I knew what it was. My job.
Some time ago I learned that working full-time is not for me. Say whatever you’d like, but we all have our variations. It’s not that I don’t want to work forty hours. It’s that I don’t want to work all those hours in one job, in one place. I thought, for a while, that maybe if I found work I loved, I’d be able to do it for forty hours a week. But I’ve come to realize it doesn’t matter what I’m doing. I like the freedom of doing a variety of things during my day–not just on my lunch hour.
I knew in my heart it was my work life, but I still went for traditional medicine. It took months to find a therapist that 1) had availability and 2) accepted my insurance. I wondered if that was some sort of sign. I plugged ahead. I’ve tried two different anti-depressive medications. The side effect I’m trying to remedy? Tiredness. I wake up every morning feeling like I was hit by a truck. And I think, “This must be what those people that must have coffee in the morning feel like.” I have a new-found sympathy for those people.
There is one difference: sometimes my tiredness is accompanied by a fluttering or anxious feeling in my chest. I lay in bed checking my pulse, frustrated that my life has come to this. Then I snooze my alarm and try to go back to sleep, hoping I don’t die due to whatever my heart is going through. Five more minutes, I just need five more minutes. Or I reset my alarm entirely giving myself another half hour.
When I started my new Sales position, one of the higher-ups said, “I sleep better knowing you’re in Sales.”
“That’s funny,” I said, “I’m having a lot of trouble sleeping.” Because it wasn’t just tiredness in the morning, but I had also lost the ability to shut my mind off at night as well.
The tiredness hit me such that my morning routine started to slip away. First the running. Then the meditating. The writing is now gone, as are hopes of sitting down to a healthy breakfast. All the things that naturally help depression, I was doing every morning. And now, they are gone. So are the crying spells, but I wonder if I’d rather have them back in exchange for my relaxing mornings.
The only reason this post is getting written is because I woke up today and decided to take the day off. I didn’t get out of bed til nearly 11 am. Some of you might find this glorious, and I’ve wondered if maybe this is my body again trying to tell me something: that I need rest, that I need to stop something.
I’ve tried resting more. Whether sleeping or just sitting in my recliner to read. “The rest your body is asking you for is not just sleep,” one therapist told me. “It’s also in slowing down.”
I’ve even thought to just accept that bodies change, and maybe my days of being a morning person are over. But inside I know that’s not true. This is more that just “I can’t get up in the morning.” There’s something more. Something deeper.
The week before Christmas I saw my doctor again. I knew it had taken some people a full year to find the “right” medication for them. But I hadn’t planned on being on these medications that long to begin with. “We can try another one,” she said, “but I have another suggestion. I don’t know how you’ll feel about it, or if it’s even possible for you.”
“Eh, tell me anyway. I’m up for anything.”
“I think you should cut your hours at your job. Work part-time.”
I laughed. “Yeah, I kind of knew that. It’s been on my mind a lot lately.” In fact one of my two therapists (yes, two, that’s a whole other story) also suggested I go part-time. And I planned to inquire, but hadn’t yet.
“I work four days a week,” my doctor said. “I feel the same way you do about it.”
The difference between me and you, though, is that you love your job, I thought.
“I can give you a note if that would help,” she told me.
“Nah. I don’t think I’ll need it.”
This has all happened to me before: “situational depression” has been used to describe my symptoms more than once. Indeed, the last time this happened I was miraculously healed when I quit my job. But I’d like to think I have a little more wisdom and can approach this whole thing a little less drastically. (Though a friend asked the other day, “How would you feel if they fired you?” and I said, without hesitation, “Oh, I’d be so relived!”)
So my plan is not to quit entirely (yet), but to at least quit Sales.
Upon arriving at work after the appointment, I told my boss that, at my physicians suggestion, I needed to work part-time. He was surprised, but seemed open to the idea. It shouldn’t have been too unusual. When I was first offered a position with the company I asked to work 35 instead of 40 hours and was turned down. I considered not taking the job thinking that a company who couldn’t cut a measly five hours was not one I would want to work for. But instead, I told my long-time friends (who were unanimously mystified as to why I would ever take a corporate 9-5 job again) that my goal was this: to make myself so indispensable that the next time I asked to go part-time, they’d definitely say yes. And that’s exactly where I stand at this very moment.
The timing was right on track as well. I’ve never lasted in a full-time job more than 16 months. Part-time jobs? I’ve lasted for years. But full-time? I average about a year, and the end of this month will mark my one-year anniversary with this company.
And Sales? Really, Rebecca, what were you thinking? Well, I like trying new things. Note to self: that is not reason enough to commit to a forty-hour week doing something you never in your life have ever wanted to do.
I was finding all this hard to explain to those at work: why was all this change so necessary for me? Then Barbara Winter posted an article on Facebook by Martha Beck called “Knowing When to Quit”. I’m an expert at quitting. I wasn’t always. Mom wouldn’t allow us to quit lessons or sports til the school year or season was over. But once I wasn’t under Mom’s roof, I finely tuned the art of resigning. And frankly I love the whole topic. When a friend calls to tell me she resigned from a job, I’m the one that says, “Congratulations! Enjoy it!”
I laughed out loud when Martha’s article quoted W.C. Fields: “If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.” But even better was the next line where Martha told me that science actually supports Mr. Fields. “Contrary to conventional wisdom, the ability to quit easily makes us healthier—and wealthier—than does leechlike tenacity.” Hell, if that’s true, I should be the a billionaire Olympian by now.
So here’s to hoping that quitting Sales brings me that health and wealth. And if that doesn’t work, well, my long-time friends know what comes next. Though any other suggestions are certainly welcome.