Conan O’Brien once said: “They tell you what kills you only makes you stronger. What they forget to tell you is that it almost fucking kills you.”
So far as I can tell, this is the best sentence to summarize life in general that I have yet to come across, and particularly the last 18 months or so of my own, and particularly the last several weeks.
For the summer of 2013, I had a plan. I was going to finish the book (done), design the book cover and publication materials (not done), take the GRE again (not done), write a paper for publication in a philosophy journal (not done), and write a whole philosophy thesis (not even started). Instead, I finished the book in the nick of time, but was then beset by getting kicked out of my house by the landlord, being allowed back in, an nanticipated and grueling week-long conference, a friend who’s house burned down, unexpected challenges in my academic work, a shortened deadline on the book cover project, the loss of several friends and resources, and no time to breathe, let alone write blog posts.
So for that I apologize. I am hoping to pick up blogging speed — there are millions of things I want to write on — but it is going to take me a little while longer to get all of my ducks in a row. I hope to be back to a couple of times a week by the middle of September.
The kind of pressure and stress that I have dealt with as a result of my inability to complete the things on my plan has been the worst of it all. The consequences for failure feel so high. Without full dedication to the work on the book, I will produce an inferior product that will embarrass me and that will not be helpful to women. Without full completion of my philosophical tasks, I risk my ability to stay in my current program, the most important thing in my life, period. All of which is to say that while I have not dealt with tragedy or any real human suffering on a significant level, I have dealt with the limits of my functional work and my psychological wellbeing pushed far beyond they ever have before.
They tell you that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, but what they forget to tell you is that it almost fucking kills you.
When I have tasks hanging over my head, I cannot sleep. My body refuses. My heart races, and I get chest pain. This means that in the last eight months, I have only on two nights slept for more than four hours at a time. Usually I get four hours and then manage to pass out for another three later on in the evening or during the day, for a sum total of 6 or 7, but in times of stress I do not. I have not slept more than three hours a night for at least two weeks. Needless to say, perhaps, though perhaps not, living without sleep is a bit of a challenge.
Continually throughout this summer unforeseen circumstances have cropped up and I have had to handle them. Life dumps piles of bricks on your head. Sometimes it seems like it’ll never let up. Have I learned anything?
You bet your sweet ass I have.
1. Your limits are farther away than you think.
If you think you cannot operate without a given amount of sleep, a given amount of safety, a given amount of emotional support, or a given amount of self-love, you are wrong. You can. What you need is will and a steadfast refusal to give up. You are worthy of whatever it is you are attempting to achieve, whatever situations demand of you. Sometimes you cannot quit. You just put your head down and push. And you can do it. You really can.
2. Your limits are farther than you think, but that does not mean you need to run yourself into the ground to find out where they are.
As you move forward under stress, be aware that you will be fine. You will not hit a limit you cannot survive beyond. But that does not mean that you will not become more fragile over time. You should do everything possible to take care of yourself. You should keep your most important and beloved resources as close to you as possible, and to relax and to breathe as much as possible.
3. Priorities and self-awareness are key.
You need to know what you need. What supports you? What enlivens you? What gives you the will to push forward through hardship? To see the dawn of another day? Surround yourself with those resources as much as possible. And prioritize. Put your own self-care as high on the list as possible, and take care of what is necessary first and foremost. Those things that are not necessary can wait. They really can. The world is not going anywhere, at least so long as you tend to those things that are truly necessary first and foremost.
What do you need to do, and what do you need to accomplish that? Use your smarts to persevere the smartest and most intelligent way.
4. Support yourself with healthy food and nourishment.
Though your psychological and mental health may slide, and your physical health may slide as a result, nourishing your body is the best way to sustain yourself and your health through your trials, period.
5. Health and wellness and peace return.
The only thing constant about the world, they say, is change. Time continually moves forward, and time continually heals the balms of stress. Do not fear for your long-term health and wellness. You will regain health and balance over time. Focus on the short term and know that you will go back to the good stuff. I promise you. Hardship does not last forever. It may seem that way, but it does not. Your whole future is the light at the end of the tunnel.
6. Survival is inevitable.
“They say that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. What they don’t tell you is that it almost fucking kills you.”
This is true. But it does not kill you. Explicitly, it does not. And you do end up the stronger for it. Every single time. It sucks. And hard. No one wants to suffer. None of us want to be shit on. We don’t want piles of bricks tumbling down around us all the time. But life happens.And we persevere. We make it. No matter how much it hurts – no matter how much we ache – no matter how close we are to our limits – no matter if we surpass what we thought our limits were – we always make it out the other side. Survival is inevitable. Healing will happen. Ride the wave of your life and your trial, and life — glorious, joyful, peaceful life — will return to you in good time.
These are the notes from my own trenches. What are yours? I’ll check in as I persevere through my own journey, and be back to regular blogging as soon as possible.
Thank you so much for your love and support! This community means the absolute world to me.