When I first got sick and was unable to work, I really struggled with the difference between being worthless and useless. Work was all I’d ever know and all I’d ever thought about. I had no identity beyond what my job was. Take that away – what was left?
The sad thing was that as my success grew, I became tragically boring. I had nothing to talk to people about except work. Didn’t really care about my relationships out of work (especially and particularly my exhusband). Wasn’t interested in anything but work.
But then I got sick – too sick to work. I left on disability and was fired two weeks later. I lost my friends, my roommate, even my cats both died within six months of one another. Everything that mattered was just gone in a really shitty four-month period. I didn’t know whom to trust – and realized pretty quickly that mostly I couldn’t trust myself.
This is a period of time that I’m sure will come up again and again, but there’s a specific component that’s on my mind tonight.
So – I couldn’t work. What contribution to anything was I going to be able to make? I felt both useless and worthless and – feelings of insecurity and flat-out motion sickness aside – just didn’t know who I was anymore.
(blah blah blah – topic for another post. tomorrow?? dare to dream.)
I had a great shrink and a determined mindset that my life was getting a reboot and I’d better to a better job of it the second time around. While it sounds fairly dramatic and fatalistic, I realized (fairly quickly, in my defense) that worthlessness and uselessness were two separate things.
Yeah, I was kind of useless. I fucked around, tried on different hobbies, made attempts to find friends … whatever. So I wasn’t of much use personally, globally, to anyone on my block if you want to get really myopic. I was an emotional mess from all the loss and couldn’t work and make money. I couldn’t deal with relationships. So I was no one. A lump.
Then I started volunteering. I also noticed that now I had more to talk about. Buddhism gave me direction and compassion and a fair amount of quiet for an incredibly turbulent time. I volunteered. I realized how much the people around me asked for advice (usually of the I-ain’t-got-time-to-fuck-around variety, to mixed results. If anything, being needed like this became a crutch. I was/am usually the strong one, my head’s on my shoulders, I don’t suffer a lot of bullshit. But it makes me fight the feelings of only feeling special when I’m needed by someone in a way that others can’t provide. That part is something I still struggle with.
So I’m not worthless. I can’t make a living. I need more help from people around me than I will ever used to. But I have value.
This has gotten me through a long decade, and I always feel for people at this particular crossroad. It still motivates me when I get rutty (like now). I’m not sure I’ll ever as useful as I did when I could take care of myself.
Every so often, this wound reopens. Recently by one of the boys in the stable. I’m still trying to work out exactly why he makes me feel this way – and I’ll share when I do. It’s one of the things that cuts me off at the knees when I encounter it. I also get particularly sensitive to feeling used – maybe because all these feelings are so new to me. Maybe because I was always the go-to girl personally and professionally and I don’t really want to feel that way.
It’s too much of a crutch. And it’s a false sense of value and worth. It dances around manipulation and ego-stroking. It’s another place where balance is key and finding the middle way is the goal. I try to recognize when I’m being helpful and not just a little manipulative – because I like to be needed. I understand it, I’m good at it – if I could do any job I would be a fixer/cleaner. I’d be Olivia Pope. I’d be great at it, but I think at the sacrifice of finding quiet. It’s too easy to be the calm in the storm. Because what the fuck am I supposed to do or be between storms? I understand how to fix things and Shrink pointed out it keeps people at arms length. And it’s the reason I had no friends when my shit fell apart – I was a fixer who couldn’t fix. It took some time to recognize my part in losing friends when I got sick. They just didn’t need me if I couldn’t deal with their needs and they realized my needs at the time were all consuming. Barely skipped a beat when they had to find a new fixer.
And why is this boy setting it off? I will get to the heart of it.