Tag Archives: mental health

On Sabbatical

19 Nov

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve sat down to write. I honestly don’t know if I ever even wrote about the next major change in my life. But here we are and its time to put metaphorical pen to paper. Consider this another type of healing.

Moving home was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make for myself. Even now, almost 2 years after deciding to do so, and just over a year of living with my decision, I struggle with if this was the right decision to make. Some days I feel regretful. Some days I feel like it was the right (and obvious) choice. Most days, if I’m being honest with myself, it’s coming to terms with the fact that this was my choice and it’ll shake itself out eventually. I’m not one to feel regret, so I know deep down that it’s all part of the grand adventure (even though sometimes I question this whole “adventure” to begin with).

At first, I was jokingly calling my time during the move as a sabbatical of sorts. As I approached this so-called sabbatical and as I’ve lived through it for the past year and a half, I’ve realized that its more of a sabbatical than anything else. The growth I’ve experienced and the things I’ve had to address taking a step back from my career has been mind-boggling. Because really, that is what its all come down to. Yes, I need to pay off debt. Yes, in order to do that effectively, I needed to move to somewhere I could afford to live. But what I really needed, and this is affirmed pretty much every day of my life, is that I needed a step back from animal welfare.

I worked in animal welfare for just about 7 years (which, I didn’t learn this until about 5 minutes ago, is the length of time at which one may take a sabbatical in a traditional sense) and it is hard, exceptionally stressful work. Looking back, I may have very well had more bad days than good. I’m working on it, but I still can’t talk candidly in mixed company about what I did for a living. It is just such a loaded topic that I can’t begin to address it all.

I’ve learned some things about myself in this past year and a half that I hadn’t even expected to address. The most prominent is that I rediscovered a long-lost sensitivity about myself. Its been 2 or 3 years now since I set out to allow myself to feel feelings. A person close to my once told me I was “cold” and “unfeeling” and “robotic”. It was a comment I kind of just locked up and never really referred to unless I was in a bad mood, but about that time – 2 to 3 years ago – I found myself dating a gentleman who seemed really awesome. It was this time in my life when I realized I really needed to allow myself to feel and express feelings and that it was okay to be the sensitive person I hid and smothered for so long. But…nothing really changed. I think I realize now (as I’m addressing these feelings popping up here and there) that my job in animal welfare required me to squash these feelings as much as possible to protect what was actually very fragile. That feeling all my feelings and sensitivities fully would make me horrible to deal with while doing my job. I’m still trying to find the balance and I’m grateful for the people in my life who must put up with my sensitivity, but until quite recently, I didn’t even realize why I had all of these feelings pushed back into the dark recesses of my mind.

I also find myself more and more regularly exposing myself back to things I once loved. For quite some time now (I can’t quite peg which year, but possibly around 2013) I lost the ability to watch animal documentaries. This I knew was directly caused by my line of work. No one wants to do something all day every day and then go home and do it more and then sit down to relax and keep doing it. So while I had to still scoop the litterbox and feed my pets, animal documentaries were out. As the years ticked by, I began to realize that it wasn’t just something I chose to do. I could no longer sit down on the couch and put on an episode of “My Cat from Hell” and just enjoy Jackson Galaxy’s presence. I found that even thinking about the action of turning on the TV and seeking these shows out, as much as I loved them, stirred up so much anxiety I couldn’t keep going. I had to stop. I hope that within the next few months I can sit down and watch a full-length, David-Attenborough-in-all-his-narrative-glory animal documentary. I’m able to put clips up on the TV, and through the unexpected help of a friend, watch extended clips via Snapchat but I’m not quite able to actively seek out full-length shows.

Moving back home and living in a small town again has definitely had its challenges. It’s been difficult some days and quite peaceful others. I absolutely miss many of the pleasures and conveniences of big town/small city living but its given me a different perspective that I know I should be thankful for. I know I have a long way to go, and perhaps the scariest part of this journey I’m on is that I’ve reached a point in which I have no clear path ahead. For the first time in my life I have no 5 year plan. No 3 year plan. I don’t even know what I’ll be doing a year from now. I abandoned my career to take time to heal and I’ve found myself at a crossroads at the mercy of the universe. I think the next part of my journey is not “I’ve paid off a chunk of my debt and now its time to save to move back to where I was” like I thought it would be. Right now it is looking very much like I am finding my way back to independence to continue the healing process on my own, in my own space, and in my own home. I have an idea of where I’d like to be in 1, 3, 5 years but the universe is still making up its mind on how (and if) we’ll arrive as intended. But until then, I suppose I’m just “on sabbatical”.