A few years ago, I hit a wall. It occurred to me that I had been bouncing from project to project, adding jobs on top of jobs, without ever stopping to let myself breathe. It was hard to see from the outside, but in my head, it felt like my brain was constantly yelling, “STOP!” at every turn I made. Though instead of ever actually stopping, I would start down a new path instantly, almost without hesitation, until whatever I had initially thought to stop simply died off due to neglect from my newest preoccupation.
I know now how awful I am at everything when doing too much. It was a hard lesson to learn, mainly because I refused for so long to believe I couldn’t just juggle everything I possibly wanted. My head is a clusterf*** of 500 things I want to do at all times. And it’s a real challenge to reign it in, and the first time I really tried to do so, I literally went from 100MPH to zero. It felt like by letting off the gas a little, I couldn’t for the life of me manage to drop the speed to something more comfortable, but rather it felt like running a wall. An instant, yet slow motion full stop.
I let all parts of my life go dark. I would later learn what the term “ghosting” meant, and by that time, I was already a professional. I quit one job, thinking it would free up all this time to re-focus on other projects, but then I’d immediately find myself just craving this need to be alone and hanging out in bed. It felt like being in this weird recovery mode. The ability to keep downshifting just flourished.
I don’t think that what I was going through was necessarily a new thing for me, but this was the first time I had gathered an abundance of people around me who actually were counting on me for one thing or another. So that led to the never ending messages, phone calls, emails… so much that I couldn’t deal. I couldn’t breathe. I would start having panic attacks the second I would turn on my phone, which would lead me quickly to discovering the beauty of airplane mode. Every other project I had maintained just died. Anyone who once thought that I was a person they could count on, definitely did not anymore.
Avoiding people is the worst. If there is anything I’d wish to never want to feel again, it’s the need to shut anyone out. But it’s a weird cycle, where one day you’re thinking, “I just need a day,” to the next person hitting you up an hour later, so you’ll need to wait a day on them too because you feel too guilty responding to one and not the other. The next day will roll around, and you’re staring at ten people expecting responses and all you’ve got is, “AHHH!” running through your mind. So, you airplane mode the fuck out of your phone again, and let it all get worse.
That kind of cycle ripples out more, and months later you’re alone in room, hanging out in bed without even needing the airplane mode on. By this point, you’ve alienated all your friends, family, co-workers, nearly any and all relationships that you can actively avoid.
I had spent many months just thinking about how bad I wanted a clean slate. To be able to start from the very beginning with whatever I wanted to do, and with whomever I wanted to befriend. And the weird thing is, I actually got it. For sure, in the worst way possible, but there it is nonetheless. No projects, no gaggle of people wanting my attention, no extra responsibilities.
That new cleaned slate remained clean for another two years. Extreme hibernation. A loss of identity. It’s a challenge to make something out of nothing. It’s hard to be sure of your footing, and there’s just no general momentum pushing you forward.
You spend the majority of that time simply thinking, “Wake up!”