One day. Twenty-four hours. It doesn’t seem like much. It’s just 1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds. Doing something for one more day shouldn’t change your entire life, but it does when you have a chronic illness.
Most of the year, I have the freedom to work a four-day work week. During the bulk of that time, I’m a bookkeeper. In January, however, I make the jump to a tax preparer and everything changes.
The four-day schedule works great for me because I work Monday and Tuesday and then have Wednesday off for volunteer work or to rest as needed. Then it’s back to work on Thursday and Friday, only to rest again on the weekend. I love that schedule, and it’s worked well for many years.
Now, however, it’s tax season. A few weeks ago, I transitioned from four to five days. I thought one more day would be no big deal.
I had plans for writing and publishing every single day. Since I was doing an adequate job working four days, I didn’t think five days would be a problem.
How wrong I was.
Two things happen when you increase the number of days you’re working. One, you no longer have that break midweek to help you refresh and regain your strength. Two, you now have only one chance during the week to do anything of a personal nature.
All shopping, errands, and social activities have to fit into the weekend along with doing laundry, cleaning the house, changing the oil in the car, and the nine million other things that are your responsibility.
Yep, I was more than a little optimistic when I thought one day wouldn’t change anything.
Chronic Illness Leaves Nothing
For most of the last two weeks, I’ve worked in our Chattanooga office. That means an hour commute and getting up two hours earlier because it’s also a different time zone. How I love the joys of living on the time line.
An earlier start to the day removes any hope of writing in the morning. It takes everything I have to get myself out of bed, showered, and out the door on time.
So, instead, I try to write at night. Except, chronic illness responds to fatigue by leaving you with nothing. My body is not getting the rest it needs, and it’s revolting by taking away my wants.
No words. No thoughts. Nothing. That’s what chronic illness leaves me.
I’m no stranger to writer’s block. Yes, I believe it’s a real thing. Sometimes your creative self gets stuck, and you have to find an alternative way to set things free.
The brain freeze you get from chronic illness is nothing like writer’s block. In addition to not wanting to write due to pure exhaustion, you can’t write if you tried. You may even struggle to do simple things such as tying your shoes or operating the microwave. I didn’t need that popcorn, anyway.
That’s where I’ve been for a few days. Despite my mental illness, my brain gets me through the day, to my job, and home again. It allows me to put all the right numbers is the correct boxes, but it quits before I do. There’s nothing left when I get home.
It Will Get Worse
In the coming weeks, my schedule will change even more. I’ll go from a five- to a six-day week. Undoubtedly, there will be some weeks in the heat of tax season where I’ll work seven days.
There’s a very real concern I might not survive tax season. I have to remind myself that I survived it last year, and it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Some of my fear is just mental illness talking.
The optimistic voice in my head reminds me that just because this year’s starting hard doesn’t mean it will continue to be so. It is the quieter of the voices I hear.
Maybe I’ll find my groove and be able to power through. Maybe as I do more, I’ll develop the ability to increase my activity level. I can dream, right?
I can’t help but be sad since most of my friends and family won’t see or hear from me much in the coming weeks. You, too, may notice the absence as there will be fewer stories and less activity on social media. I apologize in advance.
I’ve always believed I can do anything for 90 days. This tax season will put that belief to the test. I’ll try to keep you posted.
Scott Ninneman is a bookkeeper by day and a writer by night. He’s the voice of the blog, Speaking Bipolar, and writes about living with bipolar disorder and chronic illness. He also enjoys writing short stories, poetry, and inspiration for personal development. His interests include reading, cooking, and entirely too much TV.