I was super proud of myself at the beginning of this year. I had just come off an amazing year of blogging in 2018. I think I only missed a few scheduled posting dates, and I’m pretty sure I had good reason.
I mapped out my entire year of blogging for 2019. The entire freaking year.
But I hit a roadblock in February. And I allowed myself to crumble. Now it’s been almost three months since I published a blog post.
Where have I been all that time? What have I been up to?
I haven’t been a very good friend. I haven’t been a very good anything, to be brutally honest. I’ve been absent for all my creative endeavors. Truth be told, to say I’ve been disinterested in everything would be an understatement.
To put it bluntly: I’ve been battling terrible anxiety for months with very little reprieve. My sleep patterns are still completely shot. I’ve been awake since 3:40 this morning.
But what on earth actually happened? What catalyst brought on such a debilitating stint of depression and anxiety?
Not the kind that lived under my bed or in my closet. Another kind.
Saturday, September 26th, 1992. The day of my 7th birthday party.
My mother and I were at the local Winn-Dixie picking up last minute favors for my party, to be held at a restaurant called Pizza Inn. I had invited my entire class. This was a time before my parents had cell phones. Before most people had cell phones.
I remember looking at these gaudy plastic necklaces with matching rings. I wanted the purple ones.
It was weird hearing my mom’s name across the store’s loudspeaker. Usually they announced sales or commanded an extra cashier to the front. They didn’t usually request my mom, or any other patron, to come to the front to take a phone call…and it was obvious it was weird for her, too. Anyway, we walked to the customer service desk where someone escorted my mother to an office in the back and I stayed with our shopping cart because back then I guess kidnapping was a scant rarer.
I remember my mom launching herself from the office. All 4’11” of her. In one swift move, she grabbed me and flung her purse over her shoulder and we were in the van before I could even ask what happened.
The hospital was essentially across the street. We arrived before the ambulance carrying my father.
See, my dad and brother had been on their way to get my grandmother for my birthday party. My brother was just shy of 12 years old. My dad had had a massive heart attack while driving and my brother, barely tall enough to reach the pedals, had to take over and get to my grandmother’s house. We were very fortunate my brother remembered where my mom and I were supposed to be and knew to call.
I’ll shorten this very long story because there was a lot that took place between the heart attack and ambulance ride which could’ve killed my dad. He was only 38 at the time.
But my dad nearly died that day, just two days before my birthday. He was not expected to live. The hospital allowed my brother and I to go into the ICU room despite their stringent rules and regulations because we were told to say goodbye.
He lived, though.
And then in December the same year, just before my brother’s birthday, Dad had his second heart attack.
Then in April the following year, right around my parents’ wedding anniversary, he had his third.
Cut to February 2019, after decades of one health crisis after another, and I got the phone call that my dad had had another heart attack while having a seizure.
He hadn’t had a heart attack since 2004. (Which was his 6th or 7th I believe, and just a year or so after having open heart surgery.) I thought we were done with them. I mean, he is far from healthy. He’s paralyzed on his left side, has frequent seizures, has had multiple strokes, vascular dementia, gastroparesis, and I could go on and on.
But now, with the clarity of hindsight, I know that as soon as I got that call, I regressed somewhat. Back to the little girl who just needed to do whatever it took to make sure her father was okay. To the little girl desperate to make her mother laugh so she wouldn’t cry. Who needed to fix the unfixable.
And I’ve been struggling with that part of myself ever since because I do live in another state, over an hour away. And while the adult version of myself knows that it’s perfectly okay that I can’t spend every waking hour with them (I am married, after all, and I do love my husband and my marriage), there is this little voice in the back of my head telling me it rests on my shoulders to make everything better. After all, a little part of me believed way back in 1992 that it was my birthday that caused his heart attack.
And I again feel like the little girl who is afraid to celebrate things like birthdays or anniversaries because little-me believed they caused his heart attacks.
Shutting up little-me so that adult-me can, well, adult has been difficult. More than I imagined.
I made a huge life decision today.
…I quit my job.
Holy shit. I quit my job.
— ᗩIᒪᗩ STEᑭᕼEᑎS 📚 (@AilaStephens) May 6, 2019
I quit my job, in case you missed that announcement on Twitter.
Now, technically, I put my notice in on this date. I cared enough about my job and my staff to not totally abandon them.
But I also gave them almost a full-month’s notice. Unheard of, I know. But I a.) don’t like to burn bridges unless I have to, b.)
have had a pretty complicated job and felt a duty to train a replacement, c.) am too freaking nice.
My official last day was yesterday. I turned in my keys, my ID badge, said my goodbyes, and I’m officially unemployed.
I knew I would only be compounding my anxiety for that entire month. I didn’t know until I woke up this morning just how much.
I did feel a sense of relief on May 6th. I actually slept pretty good that night. Every night since then? Not so much.
My salary was abysmal compared to the responsibility. But I loved the work.
In a lot of ways I will miss my job. But quitting will help me be there to help with Dad more than I’ve been capable in years. And hopefully, hopefully, I’ll resume a headspace conducive to creativity again.
I guess you could say that while I didn’t quit because I could afford to*, I quit because in many ways I couldn’t afford not to. I’m only five years younger than my dad was when he had his first heart attack. The level of anxiety I’ve been facing these last few months, if it had gone unchecked and had I not taken drastic measures to reduce the stress in my life…I fear I possibly could’ve had one at an even earlier age than him.
(*Although, to be perfectly honest, my husband’s salary is 4x what mine was, so I’m pretty sure we’ll be fine financially…even though I don’t yet know how I will feel by not contributing regularly.)
So, What About The Future?
Many times when I’ve told people I’ve quit my job, the next thing I’m asked is, “what’s next?”
It’s a valid question, I guess.
I alluded that my salary was paltry, and I wasn’t lying. It really won’t take much to replace it. So, for right now, my plan is to help with dad as much as I can without sacrificing the happy marriage I’ve enjoyed for going on fourteen years.
I’d like to really give writing a go, which a few people seem to find hilarious—but that’s not uncommon. Most people don’t take creative ambitions seriously. And if I had quit some six-figure job expecting to make up my salary with book sales, I might even give myself the stink eye…but again, my salary was pretty hilarious on its own. Hell, I don’t even expect to make up what little salary I had with book sales. Not yet anyway, not until I’ve written several more books and unravel the mystery of marketing. I am seeking out multiple revenue streams.
Lastly, I intend on learning how to be independently happy. Specifically with travel. Not to say I won’t always prefer to travel with my husband, because I feel that is true for me. I’ll always prefer my time with him than away from him, but he has his own hobbies and interests and they don’t always align with mine. That’s healthy.
I used to be so much more capable of enjoying day trips on my own. I think, in my heart of hearts, it’s my anxiety that prevents that now. I need to get back to that so I don’t waste away sitting in our apartment while he’s at work or off bowling or hanging out with his friends. I don’t want to shame him for having fun without me.
And if the day comes that I need to return to work, I’ll do that. That’s why I didn’t pour gasoline on the bridge and light a match.
But for now I need the break.
And maybe, just maybe, all of this sounds silly to you. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Gah, Aila, get over it. You were seven. Time to grow the hell up and stop using your childhood as an excuse to sidestep adulthood.”
Believe it or not, I say those things (and worse) to myself with more vehemence than you ever could. If you are unable to relate to any of this anxiety stuff, I say good. I am legitimately happy for people who have no idea what these sorts of things feel like.
I’d promise that the blog is back on schedule, but for now all I’m willing to promise is that I will try.
If you read all that, you deserve a medal. Thank you. ♥