Productivity Culture

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Another day, another blog post – I definitely have a creative muse right now. Today, I am going to write about something I would like to call productivity culture.

I feel as though in todays day and age productivity is so much more important than it was in previous generations. Maybe this is because of the internet, specifically social media which gives us access to so many people who previously we would have seldom come across.

Social media is full of those who build their platform from their business, their studying, their bullet journals, it is also full of a range of other stories, which when taken the wrong way or read in the wrong mindset can put the rest of us to shame. These ultra-productive people have upped the anti for what it means to be successful, to be productive, to be trying your best.

And obviously that’s not true, success is relative and the rational part of me knows that success is relative, and that everything happens for a reason. I also believe that a lot of the time these online personality’s are just inspirational and nothing more – they certainty don’t intend for harm to come from it. I was studytubers, follow studygrammers myself. I hold nothing against the concept or them as people.

But, I do know that I sometimes have to step back, and there have certainly been times when I have been left feeling like I’m somehow not good enough because I’m not ultra-productice or ultra-successful in life. This brings us to a deeper problem. For some teenagers and young adults, just desperate to be successful, for anxious minds this can cause harm. It can lead to the belief that you have to be doing something worthwhile at every waking second of every day. That you have to sacrifice your sleep, your downtime to being constantly busy.

Busy is the word that brings me to belief that this culture is also heavily represented outside of social media, in certain industries. In law, medicine and academia to name a few. And it can certainly be represented by that family friend everyone has who is doing all the things and puts you to shame. Makes you feel like your not doing enough to be successful in life.

Your not doing enough worthwhile activity. You feel bad for spending maybe a little too much time on social media, watching TV or watching YouTube. For not being successful enough. Currently, I’m unemployed. I’m waiting to hear back about a provisional job offer, and have one assessment centre and an interview lined up next week so it’s not like I’m not trying and I’m really trying to be okay with not being ultra-productive during my time off. And not being ultra successful.

Yes I’m being relatively productive (depending on your definition of the word) because the second I’m not distracted I realise just how bad my chronic pain is. Which is not good. I’m really trying to learn that comparison is the thief of joy and we do not all have to be ultra-productive and ultra-successful.

We are all unique and we all have different roles in this world, we are not all meant to be ultra-productive or successful and nor do we have to be.

It’s all relative. Everything is relative. And self care is so so soo important! Some need more of it than others.

It’s okay to let your body rest after running off adrenaline to get through exams. It’s okay. It’s okay if your barely managing your academic commitments, let alone anything else. And so long as your trying, it’s okay if your presently unemployed be it due to fate or otherwise.

We don’t all have to be ultra-productive all the time.

Be you, be unique and that’s enough.

If you just want to binge TV and do nothing else, that’s okay! If due to illness your unable to do much else that’s also okay!

Listen to your body, your heart and your sole and don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to someone on the internet. If you feel your family or teachers expect to much of you, please don’t let it get to you too much.

And a final reminder – it is okay to rest! We do not have to have every second of our schedules filled out at all times!

Post-Exam Depression

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I’m not really sure what led me to start writing this, other than I think that this affects more people than those who let on about it. It makes sense really, putting everything into these exams, especially if your not good at self care and spend far too long working each day at the expense of everything else. Coming out of it and suddenly feeling low, hopeless or even scared makes sense, especially if your a person who already has a background of poor mental health. This is even more likely if you’ve just finished your final year exams and your suddenly compounded into uncertainty. We’re bound to find ourselves feeling this way.

And it’s so difficult to deal with. You have this desperate urge to be productive and get things done and you are – you do more than lay around watching TV all day, but it feels worthless. It feels useless. You see everyone on social media around you, living their best life, having a job, having an income, having a purpose…

And you, you have to try and keep the money you have and make it last so lets say goodbye to living that best life. Desperate for a long weekend abroad, at the very least, but can’t justify it financially because you have no job.

Admittedly, at this juncture I may have a full time job, which would allow me to apply for the LPC (Solicitor qualification in the UK), and take that alongside. Pending security checks, which I am currently stressing about. Maybe post exam anxiety is also a thing to.

I know they could take months. But here I am stressing about people finding my YouTube channel, which although no one watches at the moment other than me, myself and I – I’ve had my mum frequently hate on me for doing YouTube (back in the day where I had more than me, myself and I watching). I had her scaremongering, saying I wouldn’t get a job if I posted things on YouTube or any social media for that matter.

What if my past actions have destroyed an opportunity I was so, so close to getting. What if… I can’t bare to be moving back home long term. I function much better when I’m away from my family. And even if I didn’t – part of me feels like I’ve failed somehow.

I feel like people perceive me as lazy, unambitious, useless….

Because I’m neither doing my degree anymore, nor am I contributing to society.

And it hurts.

I’m not the sort of person who can just sit down and do nothing easily. I can no longer spend an entire day binging a TV show. And I guess that’s why I’m writing this now. My mental health needs me to be busy, but not self made busy, actually usefully busy.

Life’s difficult.

And I just want to send a message to anyone reading this who may be experiencing something similar, that you are not alone.

ME/CFS awareness month

32466089256_6c0a77e003_zIt’s coming to the end of ME/CFS awareness month and I haven’t been able to do much in the way of awareness since it has been a month of exams for me. Exams now over I thought I’d write this post by way of raising awareness.

I guess the best place to start is ME/CFS stands for Myalgic encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue syndrome, as it’s more commonly known. The first thought that comes to mind is how an illness of such gravity was came to be known as a fatigue illness. This illness causes 25% of it’s sufferers to be housebound or bedbound and has lower quality of life scores than heart disease and other illnesses which many perceive as more seriousness.

It is more than just being tired. It’s more than just fatigue.

It’s feeling as though your bodies shutting down on you, easy muscle fatigability, i.e just getting dressed or hair washing is almost impossible even though it’s a task you do every day so it’s not a result of deconditioning.

We’re not just lazy and we’re not just depressed although I understand that from the outside it looks that way. May of us are perfectionists, many of us have ignored the signals our body has given us to slow down until it just gives up.

We’re not lucky to not have to work or to have all this free time.  With an illness that makes even watching TV difficult all of this free time quickly becomes mind-numbingly boring and painfully exhausting. We have all of this time to rest, but the rest never feels particularly restful, it feels effortful and exhausting to do anything but sleep but hilariously enough many of us have difficulties falling asleep.

I find I often get myself too weak to do anything but not able to drop off to sleep. I find myself stuck in the in-between. And yes I will often have some form of background noise on to keep me company, but often it is just that. Background noise. Some ME/CFS warriors can’t even manage that.

This is an illness that is grossly misunderstood, underfunded, under-taught. It often takes years to get a diagnosis and then the medical profession fails to provide adequate management plans, with specialist centres also being grossly underfunded or completely misunderstanding the illness, seeming to think that if you exercise and think happy thoughts that’s it, problem solved.

If your lucky, you’ll get both.

This is an illness that causes a myriad of symptoms, from heart rate dysfunction and difficulty breathing to debilitating brain fog to visual disturbances. Migraines, muscle weakness, bladder and bowl dysfunction, nausea. There are over 60 different symptoms associated with this illness.

And all the medical community have to call it is fatigue.

Of course not all of these symptoms will affect everyone, and each person is affected differently. But I think that’s another misconception with the illness. Some with ME/CFS can work, run, dance, cook, clean, socialise. Some can study but can’t exercise, clean or have much of a social life. Some can work from home, some can work out of the house. Others can’t work atall yet are still able to retain some elements of what it means to have quality  of life, albeit minor. And then the very worst of us are stuck in dark rooms, reliant on feeding tubes, unable to tolerate any noise, human interaction or otherwise.

Quite literally forgotten about, missing from the world.

After 5 years of this illness I’ve ranged from being very mildly affected to being moderate/severe and everywhere in between. I can also say that this illness has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through in my life – purely because it takes so much away and makes everything so difficult. But it has also taught me a lot. A lot about myself, about the world we live in, about other people and how to perceive the world. In a weird way, I’m thankful for it, although if you were to pass me a cure I’d jump on it.

ME/CFS needs more awareness. In it’s very nature and severity many of us cannot do enough to raise such awareness. We need allies, we need people to understand. Although it’s impossible to understand until it’s you… So maybe understanding is not the right word- rather knowledge, care, enough to ask the right questions and provide the right support. Enough interest to increase funding, improve research efforts and improve ME/CFS clinics both within the NHS and around the world.

 

Final year complete

What, like it’s hard?

A few days ago I sat my final exams for my undergraduate law degree. Something terrifying, because now I’m unemployed, with no income and like an actual adult who’s maintenance loan will only last so long. Trying to navigate the work world with these illnesses is going to be terrifying and incredibly difficult. I’m scared of having to take too many sick days, scared of not taking the sick days and then producing work of a substandard quality.

It’s terrifying! Now as I’m writing this I may have a full time position to go to in the near  future, and I really hope so because this limbo – even only a few days in. That feeling that I should be working is awful.

Now as for third year. Wow. What a year. It has taken me a lot to stay mentally sane through it all. I new at the beginning I had to sacrifice everything outside of my degree to make it through with my chronic illnesses and I did. And even then, it was tough. The one thing I’ve learnt is sacrificing your entire life is absolutely not what you should do. I feel like I have no friends, I feel like I’ve missed out and that’s okay. It just hurts sometimes.

Academically it has been one of the most challenging of years, suddenly everyone in my classes actively cares and by caring they are so much more intelligent than me and my chronically ill body could ever be. And it’s been difficult to deal with but I have. It’s time to really learn that comparison is the thief of joy, and everyone is on their own journey and everyone has these feelings. I’m saying this about others when I know for a fact atleast some of those others think I’m so much better than them. And then there’s the academics teaching me who are both incredible in their field (for the uni I go to) and have written a million and one papers on the topics we’ve been studying. Fair to say seminars felt a little intimidating sometimes. I even had one who, just the way she spoke to me in class when I contributed made me feel stupid.

Just because I have a different opinion doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Just because I have a different opinion it doesn’t mean I haven’t considered the other arguments. Maybe it’s just the nature of law school, maybe she was just playing devils advocate. It probably wasn’t personal, and if it was then shame on her.

This year we had an increased workload due to that all important dissertation. I printed it the wrong way once so I still have a copy sitting above my desk. It’s very cringeworthy on reflection, I haven’t even bought myself to read it again since submission. I know it won’t get the grade I hope for it, but I also still hope it does. Because on effort alone it deserves it. Unfortunately we’re not marked for effort. We’re marked for content. My dissertation was my baby. It was also meant to be. It came to me, out of nowhere, having not even previously studied the subject area, but knowing some basic information in a session about choosing topics for our proposals. I put it as second choice because since A levels I always thought I was going to write a criminal law dissertation, so I put that proposal first. It came to me. And I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, there were tears, both stress tears and emotional overwhelm tears. But I can say that I enjoyed the process and I would happily do it again.

This year we had free choice over the modules we took and I can say I made the right choice. Yes evidence was hell. Evidence is a complicated module and all of the lectures were at the end of a long day of lectures so I can’t say that they went in very well.

Thank god for recordings,  right?

But it was still interesting and I absolutely fell in love with my other modules. Sentencing was a challenge because other than the actual sentencing part there wasn’t much actual law going on, but it lived up to it’s expectations in being the module I knew I had to study. I then took family law and children and the law, which in some universities is just one family law module. Yes they’re that similar. I fell in love with these two modules more than I ever thought I would. So good modules, good year. Grades may not say the same…. but I really hope they do because again effort.

But I’ve actually learnt things this year. Not just remember and regurgitate for an exam. I’ve learnt things non-academically too. I’ve learnt how important it is to take a break. Even if that just running some errands on campus for 10 minutes. I’ve learnt that I need to be more confident and in a way I have. But I’m still not there. As someone who previously had no self confidence it’s a very long learning curve to become confident – but I need to, because it is that confidence that shines through and makes others believe in you.

I’ve learnt I can be anything I want to be, and albeit late, if I want to apply for the LPC (with LLM) because it makes it cheaper – or SQE if that’s happening and I delay it for a couple of years in the location of new potential job or anywhere for that matter then I can do and I will do and providing I can get a place I can make it work. Just maybe somewhat unconventionally because there’s nothing conventional about working full time and studying part time with chronic fatigue syndrome and others. But if I want to be a lawyer, if I want to pursue law in the future, which I really really think I do. And It’s in my heart and the reason I didn’t want to before was because I didn’t have the confidence. Yes I’m behind, have no work experience (in law) etc and it’ll be hard but hopefully I’ll manage it. I didn’t think I could so I didn’t. But this year, I’ve had this increasing feeling that law is what I want to do.

And now I’ve finished. I miss it. I’ve realised just how much I loved it. So I will make it work.

So long as I get a place and a good enough degree…

But worry about grades aside. I’ve actually done it! I’ve finished my degree within three years despite all the set backs. I’m not saying that this is what anyone with my conditions should do and it’s absolutely okay to take a break! But I am incredibly stubborn and I am proud that I have done it, despite people not believing I can.

Now here’s to the next adventure! Whatever that may be….

Being true to yourself never goes out of style