Oh, hey! And Happy 2019 to you. As you might have noticed, it’s been pretty quiet on the blog/podcast/Instagram front lately. I’ve wanted to write and explain a little bit about why in case it helps anyone else in the same boat, and also (for less worthy sounding reasons) because most of the time I process things better when I’ve written about them. And, happily, because for the first time in a long time I’m feeling that pull to write again. So let’s try.
Looking back on 2018, I have so much to be happy about and proud of, but over the last few months I fell into a rut of feeling the absolute opposite was true. I’m not afraid to admit that things all went a bit wonky for me in the latter part of the year, and it began in the summer.
Summer itself was great: the weather was amazing; I hosted a Shetland Insta-meet and met some lovely human beings; Kris, Soren and I spent a beautiful time away in North Ronaldsay in Orkney. I found out I was pregnant again, which we’d been hoping for.
And after months of deliberation and work I’d finally launched the You Should Know Her podcast. This all coincided, however, with me upping my hours at work, and my husband Kris entering a really busy phase… resulting in me very quickly becoming super tired and just not being able to do any of the things I had been planning to. Like release any more podcast episodes, for one thing.
It sounds so simple, and in the grand scheme of things, it is – these are absolutely first world problems. But it’s also been incredibly frustrating, and began what manifested itself as a bit of a dip in my mental health. Setting yourself challenges is great; feeling like you’re failing them is less so.
I should say that I’m the type of person who says yes to pretty much everything. If I get an idea for something, I usually want to try it, regardless of how impractical it may be, or capable I actually am for it… which I used to see as a good thing, an attitude that would open up opportunities. (Past experiences have been a result of conversations like these: “Fancy trying open mic?” My brain: “Oh, my god no.” My mouth: Yes! “Fancy starting a Sling Library?” Brain: “um, I probably don’t have time…” My mouth: Um, YES! “You could start a podcast.” My brain: “Do I even want to do that…?” My mouth: YES! …You get the picture).
Last year was a lesson in realising that this mainly results in me taking on more than I can handle, doing none of it particularly well (or not enjoying the frantic scrabble to get the thing done) and having a bit of a burn out.
Some of it was down to practical reasons: the first trimester is a notoriously tricky time for many women. I was incredibly tired for the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and nauseous, and it was simply a case of getting through each day. I’d long for bed the moment I got up, but I still had four days of working 9-5 to get through, a 3-year-old to look after (and solo, for large chunks of it). I absolutely hate to moan about any of that, because they are beautiful problems to have, but it left absolutely no space for anything else.
At first I thought, fine, everyone needs a break. None of my creative projects are currently how I make a living, so I didn’t have that to worry about. And to begin with I did enjoy scaling back a bit, not pushing myself all the time. But the longer I didn’t do anything the harder it was to begin again.
I’ve felt so bad for not getting the other five podcast episodes I’ve recorded – which are mostly complete, save a bit of tinkering – out, and guilty for taking up the interviewees’ time and doing nothing with the content. I agonised over un-replied-to emails. (Sorry, if you’re still waiting for one). I let opportunities slide. I did what probably everyone does at one point or another: let the doubt in and slide into an existential crisis about why we bother doing anything at all. The thought of how to get started again felt too much, I felt like a fraud, like I’d failed.
All of which is pretty heavy and hugely unnecessary.
Thankfully, I don’t feel like that so much any more (though stopping listening to the negative voices in my head is an ongoing process.) Physically, the tiredness lifted and my hormones settled and I’ve found a bit of clarity.
I tried to focus on the amazing work going on inside of me – growing another tiny human, something that, although it’s brought it’s own specific issues, has been filling my heart with so much joy and wonder (and, let’s be honest – a fair amount of absolute terror. I mean, soon I’ll have two children. TWO!)
I’ve spent time reading, I’ve listened to things that have inspired me, I’ve journaled a lot of these feelings. I’ve worked through Susana Conway’s Unravel Your Year workbook, which I’d really recommend. I’ve realised that taking a step back from creative projects is fine. What’s not fine is mentally beating yourself up about any perceived failures, or telling yourself that you’ve failed and that you might as well not bother again, with anything. That’s definitely not fine.
The thing is, no-one really cares. People care and take interest when we put things out into the world, but no-one really cares if you don’t. The only person judging you is you. I wish I could have told myself all of this a few months ago, but it’s only now I really believe it.
A lot of procrastination is down to fear. Fear of failure, of sounding stupid, of just putting yourself out there. I thought I was handling those things in general, but I’m not so sure I was. It’s a work on progress though, right?
Do you suffer from any of these anxiety-laden patterns of thought? I’d love to know if you do and what helps. I’ve found that sleep, time, reading, and letting life take over a bit has actually helped give me perspective, but if you’ve found other things helpful, or have any words of advice, I’d love to hear them.
Remember if you’re in the middle of any of these feelings to give yourself a bit of grace. Our worth is not measured by our productivity, and neither are we defined by our mental health. (I’m sure I heard this nugget of advice from creative coach Lola Hoad, who I’ve definitely spoken about before, but if you haven’t checked out her podcast and content please do, it’s a wonderful resource.)
Also: love yourself. You’re the only you you have.