September 6, 2014

When “Just Relax” Isn’t the Answer.

sit sad stress depressed woman window

When I have a “relaxing” day off, I’m sometimes afraid that I’ll just fall into a pit of nothingness.

I’m afraid that this non-work day is actually some big, scary, unstructured black hole that wants nothing more than to eat me alive.

I’m pretty sure it also has squinty blood-red eyes and snarly, sharp teeth and is, in fact, chasing me right now.

Fuck, I’d better type this quickly…

It can feel so scary on a day off: nothing is printed neatly inside the lines of my omnipotent calendar. It can feel like there’s so much pressure placed on those hours to enjoy myself.

Don’t get me wrong, that promise of freedom can feel so sweet:

I love seeing that open day, with no plans scrawled inside. But, it also scares the crap out of me. I long desperately for that freedom—yet I swear there’s also some yucky, secret shadow side to it…

Today I had a day all to myself, a day where I could presumably have done anything I wanted.

I could have rested. I could have enjoyed the thick, balmy summer air. I could have seen friends. I could have embraced the freedom of the day.

But, relaxation did not seem like an option. It seemed sickening.

I couldn’t sit still. The nothingness of the day accumulated like a dark, thick, viscous liquid that settled in the pit of my stomach, leaving me dizzy, nauseated and completely scattered.

I felt dispersed into hundred different pieces and places. My feet couldn’t have felt further from the firm comfort of the ground. My mind wandered in about a million directions. Worrying about today, about tomorrow. Worrying about everything.

It’s no surprise I feel scattered: if I take one look around my home, it all makes sense.

I’m moving for the third fucking time this year.

Boxes and rubble are scattered in each room, piled high, almost tipping over: stupid bulky boxes that I’m almost always tripping over. My life is half packed up and half still settled here. Everything is just so that it’s impossible to find anything I need, making me irritable and tense, and downright disoriented. My body is half here and half at my new home.

This in-between, this unknown and unsettled space feels absolutely maddening to me.

I cannot find a sense of peace or ease, no matter how hard I look.

How can we possibly relax when everything feels so completely chaotic, unknown and unsettled?

I feel like I’m just waiting to rest, to feel sane, to feel functional until I’m completely moved.  I’m waiting to live until I’m completely moved.  I’m so exhausted and overwhelmed that it actually hurts to relax.

What the hell are we supposed to do with this in-between time?

People keep telling me to just relax, just calm down. And, I’m just like “fuck you.”

Part of me just wants to duck and cover and just hide away until everything is more settled. Surely, there must be a better way to make use of this hideous in-between, so undefined it’s sickening. Surely, there must be something healthier and more productive to do that to wander aimlessly around my apartment, just trying to find something I can organize, so I can feel a shred of control.

I always read things these new-agey articles that ask questions like: are we brave enough to relax when everything feels crazy and insane?

I’ll be honest:

I don’t know if I am. I don’t know if that question even resonates. It feels a little like bullshit to me right now because all I want to do is fight against the discomfort I’m feeling. Fight, fight, fight. And then fight some more.

Oh, resistance, thou art a cruel-hearted bitch.

I think there are times when relaxing and enjoying a day off just isn’t an option.

I think there are times when we need to just allow ourselves to be our most resistant, defiant selves.

I think there are times when being told to “just relax and breathe” is the worst and most disempowering advice ever.

So, for me, right now…fuck relaxation.

I’m just too far from being able to access that space. I need something else, something more intense and fiery and wild to tame this anxious beast living inside of me.

I need loud music, fast dancing. I need to twirl a paintbrush and make a mess of a canvas. I need to drive fast and sing loudly.

So no, I don’t need to “just relax.”

I need to be with myself in this ugly, scary in-between place.

I need to wrap my arms around myself and embrace the craziness.


Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!


Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Yan Yan Kow at Pixoto 

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Sarah Harvey  |  Contribution: 78,865