You might be reading this title and thinking – but Rebecca, a holiday isn’t a scary thing to do at all! Especially not as you didn’t go anywhere.
If you’re thinking that, I’m going to bet money that you’re not self-employed, or at least that your income is not based wholly in ‘how much you can produce’.
Now my income might not be very much, but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about losing it. Because there is a force at work here that is more powerful than can be truly articulated just in words.
That force, of course, is guilt.
It’s even more powerful than the fear that I will lose my income. For many people, it intermingles with that fear. I can honestly tell you, with no shadow of a doubt, that the thing that has been driving me most to continue with everything I do on the internet is guilt.
And that? That is a REALLY SHITTY THING.
It’s a horrible thing to get up and think: oh god, I have not produced, people will notice that I am absent, they will cease to support me and I will be a failure, I am such a terrible person.
The reason I drove myself to producing more and more is that I felt like if I went more than 24 hours without being present, I’d committed some terrible failure and let everyone down. Fun fact! This is bullshit.
So I planned to take time off before going to university.
But being me, I only planned to take a week of holiday.
Then I had something of a stress meltdown and realised that I needed to take more time off – but this, of course, was risky. Not because I would be screwed without that income. I’ve mentioned before that I’m incredibly privileged that my income isn’t necessary for us to survive – this isn’t the case for most people.
No, the risk for me is that I would take that time off and then all that would happen is that I’d spend three weeks wallowing in guilt.
So did I?
Well, honestly, the first week of the holiday was pretty awful.
I was exhausted, and I couldn’t relax because I didn’t feel I’d earned the right to relax. It was directly after How to Forgive Yourself came out, so I felt like utter trash that I’d thrown that into the world and then run off for three weeks.
I saw regular tasks come up on my calendar and Todoist and every time they did I felt so terribly guilty. I found myself apologising for it to everyone who supports me in some manner.
As a result, I didn’t really enjoy this first week. I was just tired and slightly out of it and dealing with too many emotions that I didn’t know how to process fairly.
Then something magical happened: I stopped feeling bad. I started relaxing.
After a certain point it all just kind of clicked. I credit this to something unexpected: I started writing again.
I spent hours and hours on a fanfic I’ve been working on for the past few months. It’s full on novel length, and honestly, deciding to write that ridiculous thing is one of the best things I’ve done for my writing motivation in a long time. The feedback’s been amazing and inspiring.
I genuinely believe that writing for my enjoyment, for my completely guilt-free self-expression and self-entertainment, glorious and gratuitous and mine, completely saved my holiday.
And wow, did I need that holiday.
It reminded me how to work out what I want to do with myself. How to enjoy things. How to rest.
During that time I saw family, got things prepared for university, spent time with friends online, stayed up until the silly hours of the morning gaming, ate whatever the hell I wanted and slept as long as I wanted to.
I can’t tell you how strange it is to have these things separated from my mental health. I used to do many of those things because I couldn’t do anything else; in these three weeks I did them voluntarily, because I enjoyed them, because they are a part of my identity that my mental illness can’t steal from me.
Honestly, I think taking that time off is the reason that I have dealt so well with my first week at university.
…which you’ll hear about next week, because it’s going to be my scary thing for September! I couldn’t really have it be anything else, after all. It’s the scariest thing I’ve done all year.
Oh, and for the record: I lost no Patreon supporters. I didn’t lose large numbers of social media followers. Everyone 100% supported my time off, and encouraged me to keep going when it was hard.
So if you’re scared of doing this – from my point of view, at least, I can’t recommend it more.
Post-post reminder that I PUBLISHED A POETRY COLLECTION last month too! It’s called How to Forgive Yourself in Fifteen Years, and you can buy it right now in ebook or print.