I’ve made an interesting discovery. Well actually, it’s not that interesting at all, it’s not even much of a discovery either, but something I’ve always known about myself is really being highlighted for me at the moment. Too much time with nothing to do = waaaaay too much time in my head. And too much time in my head is definitely not conducive to good mental health.
You may recall the great debacle that has been my return to work. Thankfully, that has all settled down now and I find myself in a sane (so far at least) department with decent colleagues. There’s just one small problem. I have nothing to do. I’m really not exaggerating in saying this. I’ve done what’s been asked of me, and am now at such a loose end I’ve resorted to pleading for photocopying, stapling, filing – anything to keep me from staring at the computer screen and listening to myself.
But why is it that this is a problem for me? I’m sure some of you reading this are finding it hard to grasp why having nothing to do at work is a difficulty. I still get paid, right? But it is. You see, I like to feel like I’m doing something with my time. I like to be productive. Ideally, I like to be moving around, actively doing something, which is probably why things like gardening, painting and walking work so well for me when I’m low. But enforced time in a chair with nothing to distract me – not good. I think it could be tied in with my sense of self worth. I’m something of a perfectionist, although I’ve been working really hard to let standards drop to a more manageable level. However, I still like to have a sense that I’ve achieved something with my day, however small, and if I’m at work, I want to have something to show for it. Part of the danger for me is that I know I would rather be home with the kids and feel guilty for working full time, and if it seems like I’m not even doing anything useful at work, then it’s more frustrating. And that’s the biggest danger of having too much time in my head. I can very quickly come up with a huge list of reasons as to why this is a waste of time, I’m not doing anything worthwhile etc etc, and it’s a short hop from here (on a bad day at least) to translating this into ‘I’m worthless’. Even on a good day it can very quickly affect my mood, because this sense of frustration and lack of achievement is what Bitchface thrives on, and we all know how shouty she can get.
So what can I do? I need to remember why I’m working. Mostly, because I have to, for financial reasons. I’m very recently returned to work from a long spell of sick leave and a severe depressive episode, so diving headlong into a demanding job would probably have seen me out on sick leave again in no time, so I could try being grateful for the novelty of a quiet post. Instead of wrestling with my conscience and feeling guilty about being on the interweb, I can reassure myself that I’ve done what’s needed, I’ve offered help, and there’s nothing more I can do. I’m only going to be here for another two months max, so instead of tormenting myself with feeling of inadequacy, doesn’t it make more sense to thank whatever power led me to this nice quiet office as karmic reward for the stress of my first few weeks? I’m going to try and remember that.