This weekend, I had a very busy weekend, which I was looking forward to enjoying. On Friday afternoon, I conquered one of my fears, going out alone to do errands, and took a trip to the waxing salon, did some shopping, and enjoyed lunch at a Mexican restaurant. Friday evening, I planned a little dinner for friends at a place called Aqua Blue. Ironically, it’s a sushi and seafood restaurant, where I can eat virtually nothing on the menu, but they have some of the best martinis in town, as well as delicious desserts.

It was a fun night, despite a few mishaps. The staff put us at a large table in the loud, brightly lit “group dining area”, right next to the kitchen. The other spaces in the restaurant, decorated in a swanky urban blue atmosphere and featuring a live musician, were much more dimly lit and 15 degrees cooler. 15 minutes after our arrival, I started to feel dizzy and ready to pass out. 30 minutes later, I wasn’t the only one complaining. Fortunately, The Guy I Am Currently Dating managed to get our table moved to a more suitable location, and the evening was an enjoyable one. Unfortunately, the laid-back and enjoyable tenor of the night was marred with a misunderstanding between myself and a friend I regard very highly. He made a comment I took the wrong way, and when I pointed out that the comment was insulting, it was repeated with the insulting interpretation becoming even more obvious. Needless to say, this hurt my feelings a great deal, coming from someone I considered a friend…but to add insult to injury, was followed up by a snarky remark from someone I’ve known for years. It’s a good thing I don’t drive, or I likely would have left the event altogether rather than subject others to the evidence of my hurt feelings. Later, apologies and conversation about the misunderstanding ensued, but it cast a black mark upon what I’d hoped would be an enjoyable evening, and rather kept me from wanting to bond with my other friends. It was a special and considerate gesture, though, that one of my oldest friends in Atlanta, knowing about my recent struggles with my illness and dietary considerations and hating to cook, made me a batch of turkey chili to take home with me. It is those type of thoughtful gestures that remind me I am cared about.

Saturday was trivia day, and that required us waking up early to go play in the Team Trivia tournament, the first we’ve ever attended. A team we normally compete against at Outspoken Entertainment had an extra space they weren’t using, and so we competed on their behalf. Again, it was a fun experience, until my body decided to rebel. I didn’t sleep enough, took my pills at a different time than usual, did not have my typical morning organic cookie, started the day off with plenty of caffeine, and waited quite a while for lunch, which was salad. All of the sudden, I felt extremely dizzy, and then overwhelmed by anger and adrenaline, the feeling that makes me want to stab myself and other people with pencils, knives, toothpicks, and the like. My doctor has told me this behaviour is not crazy, but happens because I’m hypoglycemic, and the meds I take cause sudden spikes and crashes in blood sugar, but largely masque the effects. I ate an emergency candy bar, and tried to get back to normal, but again, I kind of felt the damage had been done. Also, we didn’t do well on the Team Trivia bonus, leading us to a less than stellar performance.

On the way home, we got some chicken nuggets from Chick-Fil-A, which seemed to make me feel better (they have become my go-to food when my body feels weird and like it’s freaking out, because they stop it from happening.), and I had time to take an hour nap before going to play trivia at Dagwood’s. I love trivia at Dagwood’s. It’s the closest thing I have to a neighbourhood bar, and I enjoy seeing people who have somehow become friends over the years, and talking about random stuff until the pizzeria closes and kicks us out. We also won second place, which is good for us at that location, but by the time the pizza sign was switched off and it was time to go home, I was exhausted. My head hit the pillow at about 2:30 AM, and the next thing I knew, it was 11 AM.

Unfortunately, I woke up in a very stressed out mood about all the outstanding work I have to do. I had two weeks to complete 30 articles for a client, and I didn’t. Not because I didn’t want to, but because often, the strain of completing 12 articles within a 4-5 hour window each day is exhausting. That is my normal workload, and it doesn’t really allow me breaks, unless I choose to work at night, or get up earlier in the morning, which my pills seem to leave me unable to handle. Today I expressed my feeling of being stuck in a hamster wheel, a machine of article creation, where any mistakes or missed deadlines can end up in me losing an important job. Yet, the stress of working more than most people (how many people spend much of their 8-hour work day ACTUALLY working the entire time?), while getting paid less, having a social life/obligations, and trying to lose weight, look healthy, and hide symptoms of my illness from the world as much as possible…well, it’s wearing me down. I used to have the energy for it, but in reality, maybe I never did.

Once upon a time, I was a very laid-back person. I didn’t make much money, or have a lot of responsibilities, and my chief worries were about my electricity getting turned off or paying the cable that week. Yet, somehow, I had a better quality of life. If stuff didn’t get done, it didn’t get done. If I was late for something social, it wasn’t the end of the world. I didn’t always have to feel in charge of *everything*, and that if I dropped the ball or took time out, everything would fall apart.

I don’t remember what it’s like to be like that. I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. If my work is late, I *will* get fired. If I’m late for a social event or overlook a detail, my phone rings off the hook. Everyone constantly seems to want me to do things and take care of things, although I’m the one who’s chronically ill and could use some being taken care of. I don’t have time to slow down, to do many of the things I love, and I still feel like I don’t have as much money as I need to never be concerned about it.

A friend of mine recently related that he went through a similar experience at a point in life when he was around my age. A happy-go-lucky guy I adore, he admitted that as soon as work became his primary focus and there was no longer a daily struggle for food and electricity and cable, he began to suffer debilitating anxiety. Suddenly, he felt it was his responsibility to take care of others, since he’d learned to take care of himself, and felt the burden to be too much. Suddenly, there was time to think about how demanding it was to be an adult, instead of going out to the bar or a concert or to play poker after work every day.

That’s where I am in my life right now. I feel overwhelmed, stuck in a wheel I can’t afford to get off of. And when the wheel goes too fast, my health suffers. My relationships suffer. My perception of myself and of others suffer.

I want off the wheel. A world of constant deadlines and stress and expectations is something that drove me to be an overachiever throughout most of my life, until something happened, and I realised I just couldn’t keep trying to be perfect and make everyone happy all the freaking time. Then, I felt like I failed myself and the entire world, and engaged in behaviour that was ultimately self-destructive, and destructive to others. When that phase in my life passed, I realised I was happiest being a laid back, chilled out person who really enjoyed life…but I missed stability. I wasn’t achieving anything, I was stressed about paying my bills, I made bad decisions, took advantage of others…in short, I was the irresponsible teenager I never really allowed myself to be.

And now, here I am, back on the wheel, back in the world where any mistake or shortcoming is the end of everything. If I don’t finish work on time, I get fired. If I am too sick to do things, my roommate/boss/friends/boyfriend will yell at me for not trying hard enough, not being on top of things. If I don’t take care of stuff, it doesn’t get done. If I don’t look or behave my best in social situations, someone is there to write a nasty e-mail or end a friendship or make comments that destroy my self-esteem. The preoccupation with being *perfect* and my innate inability to focus on perfection long enough to attain it has returned, and causes all kinds of anxiety and fear and self-loathing.

Today, I turned on all the Christmas tree lights in the living room, lit the birthday cake and gingerbread candles, and made a cup of Alayna’s special detox tea. It felt like Christmas for a little while, and reminded me of how happy and peaceful I felt over the holidays. I think small comforts and a slower pace of life makes me the happiest right now. I don’t want to have to be perfect. I don’t want to live in fear of making a mistake or disappointing someone. I don’t want who I am to be measured in how much energy I have to accomplish everything, smile at everyone, and hide the fact that I’m sick from public view, lest it make people uncomfortable or not want to be my friend.

I have already learned my lesson. I can’t be this person, stuck on the wheel. I can’t be the one who always takes care of things, meets deadlines, makes everyone happy, is charming and entertaining, makes sure all the bills are paid and the dog is walked and nothing in life fell apart because I slept too long. I can’t handle being that person. The Guy I Am Currently Dating, he is that kind of person—he has more demands on his shoulders and works harder for less appreciation than anyone I know, and is still kind and generous and responsible and liked by all.

Trying to be that kind of person pushes me to a place I just can’t handle. It makes me anxious, emotionally imbalanced, physically exhausted, and unable to cope with life. I shut down.

I disappoint myself because I will never be as accomplished, as perfect, as responsible, as well-liked, as happy as I want to be. Especially since becoming ill, I lack the physical and mental stamina I need to write 12 articles a day, every day, and then do other projects on the side because that doesn’t pay enough…but I can’t quit, or slow down, or show weakness, or let people know I’m ill, or get behind, or I will be replaced by a faster, more efficient hamster. And I have too much debt to afford that.

Poor people literally do work themselves into the ground, because when there’s only you to depend on and you always need the money, the luxury of illness does not exist. If you want to keep your wheel, you have to keep on pushing, no matter what.

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