August 11, 2013

Want to Break out of Your Rut? Stop Sucking it Up. ~ Renée Picard

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

~ Buddha

I had a bit of a breakdown last week. I became so filled with anger that I wanted to hurt myself. Not the most extreme kind of hurting myself, but some kind of hurting myself. Not a good thing.

When I made an honest realization that my work life was exacerbating my ongoing experience with depression (and other health problems), my doctor granted me a week off to deal with this. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to have someone give me the permission to take this space, to actually hear me and respond to my (heart’s) needs.

So here I sit in a favourite coffee shop, halfway through the week, telling my story. I’m good this morning, but this has not been a vacation: there have been many rough moments. It’s going to take a lot more work to climb out of this in a healthy way.

I know what I need to do to be healthy and I refuse to be medicated. I refuse to be numbed.*

To help myself, I’m taking advantage of the many resources that I (very fortunately) have available, one of which is counselling provided by my company. I scheduled a session with a new counsellor and he seemed to be on my level: about my age, into the new-agey rhetoric, intelligent, kind eyes. Probably the most relatable-to person I’d encountered yet through that service.

During the session I explained in detail why work was a trigger for me right now: how it is a factor in me engaging in other unhealthy behaviours; how it is discouraging me from growing and being happy; how I’d tried everything I could to feel more empowered, to be ‘better’ at work, to problem-solve, to accept things, to reframe things, to ask for what I needed.

I left the session feeling worse than I had when I went in; I knew it was partly because he had discouraged me from taking time off work. Then it dawned on me: of course he did! The company is essentially paying him to tell me (how) to be a productive, happy employee! So, he had a bit of an agenda—I don’t hold that against him. After all, most of us have to follow some set of rules, especially when it comes to our work. I get it.

But he had also told me one other thing which hit me hard: he said that I should just ‘suck it up’ for a little while longer, until I moved forward into the next phase of my career—a reasonable part of a solution, no doubt.

Except that it made me feel like I was being shoved further into a box that is more about societal expectations than real life.

And I realized that sucking it up was what got me to this point in the first place. This very action is exactly what is blocking me.

If your best friend told you that they felt small in a relationship, that they’d done everything they could to try to feel different, and nothing was working, would you tell them to suck it up?

We spend so much time and energy at our jobs, why is it so acceptable—even encouraged, to tell ourselves to do this, and expect our friends, family, co-workers to do it too? Because we need the money? Because it’s counter-productive to ‘bitch’? Absolutely. There are many things that we can do to empower ourselves if our jobs are less-than-stellar. And we are not always in the best position to just up and quit.

But I’ve read it all, and I’ve tried it all (trust me: I am a new-agey-self-help-personal-growth junkie). And when someone tells you this, that it’s last straw, it’s the last straw. And we need to trust our hearts when we tell ourselves this, tell others this, and hear others say it. We need to learn to listen better.

I asked for some space because with each day, I was feeling smaller and smaller. And when we feel small, we (often) can’t see or feel clearly enough to leave the exact situation that is keeping us in that place.

Even though the ‘suck it up’ statement made me angry (well, numb/depressed first, then angry, because that’s how I process anger), I’m glad that he told me to suck it up because it made me realize that if I suck it up for one more minute, I may not be able to budge.

And I want movement. I want space. I want to feel like I’m growing, like I’m inspired. Like I’m living.

Now, that’s not to say I won’t go back to work and deal with things. I’m going to do that, like the reasonable and responsible person I am. I deal with my problems appropriately. I respect the institution and my colleagues. My workplace isn’t actually the problem. It’s just my particular situation that I need to change.

The anger that I was feeling has to be redirected towards change. I just can’t turn away from it any more.

I feel really strange right now. I’m scared (shaking, in fact, as I convince myself to publish this). I’m tired. And yes, I’m probably (at least a bit) crazy.

But I’m not broken. I will not be broken, because I’m not a horse: I’m a fucking unicorn.


*This statement and reference to the associated article is in no way meant to advocate for or against the use of medication to treat psychological illnesses. It is merely an expression of my own (current) personal choice.  

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Ed: Bryonie Wise




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Jamie Khoo Aug 25, 2013 11:12am

This is so timely! I've just had an article published right here on ele journal (so grateful!) that was born out of being in the very same situation you were/are in, so I've also been thinking about this aspect of self-empowerment a lot over the last few days again.

I think it's really interesting how you say you were "feeling smaller and smaller" because that is so similar to what my friend said to me, to wake me up to the fact that i was really in the wrong place. She said that I was become "less of who I am" and that "I was shrinking", which is so much like what you have said about becoming smaller. I think any situation that makes us smaller than the people we were or are meant to be is definitely not the right place for us. Every journey we travel should, surely, be making us grow, expand and become more, bigger versions of our truest, good selves, right?

Shine on, unicorn.

From a fellow small – but growing – sister xxxx

Aug 14, 2013 11:45am

You inspire me…I'm a Unicorn too MF!!

Sean. Aug 12, 2013 5:16pm

Good article, but I feel obligated to comment that I think the article on "psychiatric medication" that you link to at the beginning of this discussion is a very irresponsible piece of pseudo-journalism. As many of the comments below that article point out, the writer lumps all medications, conditions, and patients into a single group, failing to acknowledge that while medication isn't always the best treatment, it often IS an effective part of a holistic treatment strategy–one that literally saves people's lives (mine included). Advising readers against all medications in such a black-and-white fashion (especially when the writer has no medical certification whatsoever–she repeatedly confuses the terms psychology and psychiatry, for instance) can do more harm than good. I know that you didn't write that article, but in linking to it in this way you explicitly endorse its contents, which I think is irresponsible.

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Renée Picard

Renée Picard is a freelance writer and editor. She prefers real conversation over small talk, red over pink, ocean over mountains. She leads life with a soft-but-fierce heart. For her, writing has always been an instinct, a craft, a heart-thing.

For more, check out her personal blog or her Medium page. You can also follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.