The last few days I’ve had two conversations with different women about how to deal with feeling bad when life is good.
Life is good, particularly this year, but it’s made it easier to ignore a few warning signs.
The first is that last year I smoked my first cigarette in eight years. It was a once off, I thought, in a gutter with a colleague, as a way of escaping what was a drunken conversation I wished I hadn’t initiated.
If it had stopped there, I wouldn’t even mention it, but it didn’t. A few months later I ended up buying a packet so I could stop feeling bad about smoking other people’s and since then, it’s been pretty much a daily habit.
Again, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. It’s a vice, right? I don’t drink often, I don’t indulge in The Drugs, it’s a socially reprehensible, but accepted vice.
Except that I know why I do it. I do it because I was, until recently, taking the highest dose of the particular brand of anti-anxiety medication I am prescribed. And I know it was the highest dose, because I went to my doctor and asked for it to be increased and it couldn’t be.
I do it because it’s cheaper than proper mental health care. When I can’t afford mental health care, because I should be able to, I tick a lot of boxes as far privilege goes, it indicates both how expensive and out of reach it can be.
So I smoke. And I have to stop, because I also tick a lot of boxes that flag a lot of high-risk health issues.
So that’s one, the other is that I’m spinning my wheels and it’s easy to hide, because I have a full-time job. I pay my rent. I am studying at uni and doing well.
But I also get out of bed at the last possible moment possible every morning. I can’t get my shit together to pack my lunch. I’ve stopped reading books and spend a lot of time watching my phone refresh.
At the beginning of the year I couldn’t get out of bed on my days off, I put a TV next to my bed and watched seasons and seasons of television and justified it as having free time for the first time in years.
B asked me to remove the TV from our room and I did and it made a difference.
I started writing in a paper journal and every day was the same: I need structure, I need habits. I need a timetable for my life, because if I don’t have one, days and days can go by without me doing anything but feel guilty about doing nothing.
I need good habits because all of the things I do that made me feel bad are habits lingering from years of feeling completely on edge at work, in my personal life, with my family.
All of those factors have gotten better, are pretty much exactly how I would chose them to be now, but the habits I created to deal with life when it wasn’t so great are still there, I’m still doing them despite not needing to and it’s throwing everything out of whack.
About two weeks ago, I decided to taper down my meds. I know enough that I bought a pill cutter and tapered very slowly, down to half, where I’m going to sit for a while now to make sure it wasn’t a mistake and to make sure that I have a safety net for when I stop smoking, when I stop avoiding things like I’m doing now. If that goes well, I’ll keep going until I’m off them.
It was a good first step, it was easy, so far I feel fine.
I have a week and a half off work now, time enough to look at a few other things, decide how I want to change those, including smoking, and have enough days in my pocket to see how it makes me feel when I do.
There’s no point in spinning my wheels until this all sorts itself out.