Stream of consciousness post while having an anxiety-filled work day.

Today I was going to write a post about imposter syndrome. I even went so far as to vaguely plan the structure. But things don’t always (read: basically never) go to plan, and I’m in such a foul mood today that I thought it would be more honest and potentially helpful to just go with that, tell you all about it, and see if we can both find a way to move forward from all this.

I’m having trouble staying focussed (by which I mean my eyes are blurring out if I don’t maintain the facial expression of a toddler having a temper tantrum) and I just want to curl up and cry for a few hours. My brain feels dizzy and occasionally my reactions to things I’m reading online/conversations I’m having/technology being slightly slow are coming out of my face instead of remaining within the unsafe confines of my brain. And considering I work in a library that’s a pretty unhelpful and moderately unprofessional habit to be falling into. Ah, I’ve just remembered that when I started this paragraph the point was that this post will not be the most well written, but learning to be okay with that is going to be pretty important for me, and maybe me pushing through that will help you push through some stuff too.

Talking to yourself in public is going to be the topic of another upcoming post too, because there is a lot to be said about that. For now though, we’re having a stream of consciousness style ‘I hate myself and everything else but hopefully writing this down while I’m experiencing it will help someone else feel less alone about having these kinds of feelings’ post.

I don’t usually work Sundays or mornings. It is quiet. It is calm. It would be a wonderful environment to get some things done if my brain hadn’t decided to go off on one today, and subsequently effect my body with a similarly foggy uselessness. First thing this morning, having a quick tidy round, I managed to bash the half empty remains of some kind of chocolate-y drink across one of the study pods, in an attempt to simply pick it up and deposit it in the bin two feet away. Instead I appear to have been briefly possessed by a deranged cat and so the ‘picking up and rotating towards the bin’ motion became a ‘squeezy grabby swiping’ motion which meant the top popped off and everything just exploded at the wall. It might have been funny if I was watching a gif of someone else doing it.

I spent the next three hours doing precisely nothing, hoping the chest pains would go away and thinking about tomorrow’s doctor’s appointment and how hopeless everything seems. The best/worst part is that I am used to this now, I know it isn’t real, so I just sit here, sulking, waiting for it to pass. The fact that I am even writing this is miraculous to be perfectly honest, so I’m pretty proud of myself whilst simultaneously detesting everything about me and the world I inhabit. All of my impulses are telling me to just wallow in it because we know it won’t get better today. It might be better tomorrow. What a rollercoaster. What a terribly not fun, dizzying, sickening, rollercoaster, which occasionally comes grinding to a halt, leaving you dangling upside down in mid-air with nowhere to go to get away from your brain telling you how terrible you are. Is this relatable? Is this helpful? I hope it is a bit, somehow.

We need to talk about the bad things, and not just in a ‘but then I did some yoga and ate some raw vegetables and everything was fine you should try it’* kind of way. I am at work right now and I want to yell and scream and cry and just do bad things generally. Because that is something which happens to me sometimes. I grin and bear it, or I sulk and bear it, or I go to the toilet periodically for a bit of a cry, or I freak out completely and have to go home. It’s a sulk and bear it kind of day, so really I should be grateful for that. I mean I definitely won’t be, but I can wryly twitch my eyebrow and sarcastically think ‘oh wow, well done for not being quite as useless as you could be being’ to myself.

There is a chance this post will be getting deleted in a fit of shame in an hour or so, but I will try to not do that. The point of all this heart-on-sleeve nonsense is to help you feel more normal. Is it working?

 

*YES I AM AWARE THESE CAN BOTH BE HELPFUL THINGS IN ACTUALITY BUT THAT IS NOT THE POINT.

An anxious librarian (in training)

I am going to really struggle to write this post. I am going to really struggle to continue to write posts for this blog. I am going to try really hard to produce regular content for this blog, and not let it fizzle out like every other blog I have created since blogs became a thing and I thought to myself, “If I’m going to continue thinking of myself as a writer, I’m going to have to maintain a blog, as that seems to be what’s happening now.” That was about eight years ago and the only blog I have maintained since is the one I use as a mental health outlet on Tumblr (and no, you cannot have the URL).

Until now, the blogs I have created, neglected, and deleted over the years have never really had a clear purpose, beyond ‘proving my credentials as a 21st century writer’. Until now, my dreams and ambitions have been vague, passionate yet insubstantial, idealistic to the point of naivety, with brief flashes of pragmatism which have fallen by the wayside as, time after time, my plans are proven to be unsustainable.

I once thought that maybe I could change the world with my writing, and I have spent years searching for the path which could make that possible. In the corner of the school library, within the stacks of folders and papers dedicated to careers information, I discovered how competitive the fields of journalism, editing and publishing are. I knew right away that I wouldn’t be able to make progress in a career like that (at the time I was still getting my best friend to buy my bus tickets, or order for me in restaurants). I thought that maybe I could be an author, and write a book, the book, the one which would fix the world (so ambitious, so vague)! I was told that that was all very well, but that I would still need a day job. I despaired.

A little later, I discovered a love of academic writing, and I thought, great, I can enter the world of academia, a sphere of wonderfully intelligent people making the world better with their research and with their writing. I began a degree in English Literature, and I planned to continue without stopping until I had received my PhD at the age of 24. At the end of my MA, aged 22, I stopped, exhausted, and crawled back to my hometown for 6 months. Academia no longer seemed to offer me a path towards changing the world for the better. Harbouring such a magnificent, impossible dream for so long had probably contributed to my sky-high anxiety levels, but the world of academia had begun to represent for me something closed, inaccessible, and self-congratulatory.* I was unable to present at the MA conference due to my mental health, I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to focus on for my PhD, and I didn’t think myself worthy of the fight for funding. So I ran away from it all, to recover, and to try to find a new path towards changing the world for the better.

The three years which followed (to bring us up to now) were an unstructured tangle of half-baked ideas and schemes, financial and mental health problems, coupled with a hefty dose of reality. I learnt about some of the people and groups all over the world who are working hard to improve the state of things, and I came to realise that it was not down to me to ‘fix’ everything (yes, I am aware that this is obvious to most people). I was forced to reassess my assumptions and my priorities, and I learnt that I must continue to do this on an almost daily basis in order to keep everything in perspective. I worked in a pub, and in a shop, and learnt that I am a hard worker, who operates under the primary impulse of wanting to help people. I struggled with severe anxiety symptoms during all of my interviews, and after two and a half years of sweating and stumbling my way through windowless interview rooms, plagued by brain fog and panic, I secured a Library Aide job at the same university which had provided me with my degrees.

I have now worked here for a little over two months, and I am convinced that this is where I need to be, that this is, at least for now, the continuation of the path towards helping as many people as possible. While this may still be an ambitious and naïve goal, it is a marked improvement from the pressure I was putting on myself to ‘save the world’. I am painfully aware that issues of accessibility are as present and ingrained in this institution as they are in others however, for the first time in a while, I feel hopeful and excited because I can see a path towards change, and I can see a network of passionate people around me working towards the same goal.

This blog is for those people, because I am no longer operating under the mistaken assumption that I am the only one who feels these things so deeply, who despairs, who has mental health problems and who wants to change the world, and who is so overwhelmed and terrified by everything. I have found these people in academia, in pubs, in shops, in libraries. We are isolated, because we isolate ourselves, out of fear, out of shame, and out of guilt. I am here to be honest about these feelings, and to help foster an environment of intersectional progress amongst us. I can only try.

 

* After a while, academia stopped making sense to me, but I know many people for whom it does make sense, at least enough for them to continue struggling through it, often at the direct expense of their mental health. My personal views of academia as an institution are in no way a reflection on the individuals within it. Academia is intrinsically linked to librarianship and the mental health support that I hope this blog will provide is relevant to people within the entirety of this broad sector, and far beyond it.