For those familiar with The Big Bang Theory, there’s this episode where Raj takes Lucy on a date to the library. Except, because of both their social anxiety issues, it’s a texting date, where they actually spend the entire date not saying a word but communicating via text messages. It ends with Lucy’s battery nearly flat, and so she speaks out loud, and says to Raj, “Thanks for today. I’ve been trying to do more things that scare me. Coming here was definitely one of them.”
This morning I realised with a kind of shocked awareness that my entire week has been a texting date. I haven’t actually had a spoken conversation with anyone other than my family. I’ve only left the house once to grocery shop, and even then, I barely managed to utter a hello to the checkout chick and didn’t engage in conversation as I normally would. I have had many conversations, good conversations, meaningful conversations, funny conversations, helpful conversations. But they have all been two dimensional, over a screen, no human contact whatsoever. Kind of like a robot. Or a cyborg. Both of which I feel I could be mistaken for this week.
My initial reaction to my self-imposed reclusiveness was like, “Oh my god, could you BE any more of a loser who stays home all week and doesn’t get out the house and has no interaction with the outside world whatsoever?? Seriously woman, get some help, what the hell is wrong with you??”
And then I thought about it. And laughed. Because actually, I don’t have a problem with my week. In fact, I have loved my week.
My reaction was triggered by the way we have been conditioned and programmed to believe we must live a certain way to be perceived as normal. There must be something wrong with me to have stayed home all week. I should be busy and be scheduled and be social and have a full calendar to symbolise my full life. And if I don’t have these things then I mustn’t be functioning well. I need to get out more. I need to see more people. It’s not healthy for me to stay home all week.
Nope. I disagree.
What’s not healthy is the pressure we put on ourselves to act like we have it together, to pretend we’re coping just fine. When some weeks we’re not. Some weeks participation in life requires more than we have within us. And we need to able to recognise those times and give ourselves permission to rest and recover. Because if we were physically unwell, y’know, puking up our guts or coughing up a lung, we would do that. We would stay home for a week and let our bodies heal. And yet, when we are mentally, emotionally or spiritually unwell, we push on and try to hide it, as if we are weak, as if we have failed, as if feeling this way somehow makes us less than. Less than what? Normal? Human? Real?
What’s not healthy is the fallacy that we must be engaged with the world 24/7. That we must have our days so full that we need to schedule time for ourselves. That even when we aren’t present with others in the physical sense, we must be present in the virtual sense – switched on, plugged in, contactable, reachable, available at all times. When to live this way leaves us drained, sapped and robbed of peace, rest and much needed time to recharge and renew ourselves in mind, spirit and body.
What’s not healthy is our levels of exhaustion, our fatigue, our inability to slow down, our ineffective coping mechanisms and vices that do more harm than good. Something I discovered this week is the world didn’t stop turning just because I wasn’t an active participant in it. I’d like to think my presence in the world is more vital than it actually is. But I’m not so important that a week of staying at home and not getting dressed had any affect whatsoever on the outcome of the universe. The world won’t collapse without your input for a week. Trust me.
What’s not healthy is our attitude towards mental health and self-care. Toughen up, princess. Take a spoonful of cement and harden the f*#k up. Grow a set. Get over it. It has to change.
What is healthy is doing whatever the hell you need to do to look after yourself. However that looks for you, without care or concern of anyone else’s opinion.
For me this week, it’s been the permission I have given myself to not have to accomplish anything, to not have to interact with the world, to not have to get dressed, to not care about any of the afore-mentioned, and to make self-depreciating jokes at my own expense. It’s worked for me. And after an entire week of doing these things, I actually wanted to get dressed today. Not that I’m likely to leave the house or have an actual real life conversation just yet.
But there’s always next week.
And maybe next week I’ll try to do more things that scare me.
Although writing this was definitely one of them.