CW: Mental Health - ish
Every week for at least a month, I have sat down at my desktop computer to write. The blinking cursor surrounded by white space taunts me, “You have no words.”
But I do. Just not the right ones.
For a while now, I have felt guilty that the pandemic has not affected me much. I’m exceedingly lucky to have a job from which I work from home. I even have a separate room that allows me to switch on and switch off from work. I’m healthy and everyone I know is healthy. I live in a state and a country with far fewer cases than those of my friends and family in other countries. And all of this. Every single bit of it. Gives me such overwhelming guilt.
It has been that guilt that has stilled my hands, and so the blinking cursor’s rhythmic taunts continue.
After an impromptu chat with some of my best writer friends, I decided I need to ignore that guilt. Every story is different, and why shouldn’t I talk about some of my experience with this cursed year?
I have wanted to talk about how much harder it is to write in 2020, the year of COVID-19. At first, I thought my writer’s block was because I am feeling the inequality in the world all that much greater (it’s so bad!) . And then I thought it was because I’m addicted to video games again (over 665 hour on Animal Crossing). And then I thought it was because I’ve turned lazy and incapable of doing anything productive.
The truth is: While all of those things, and the layers of guilt that come with them, certainly have something to do with it, the primary reason is because of the loss of my writing space.
I mentioned before that I have a separate room from which I work 40 hours a week. That room, once upon a time, was my creation space. The place where I built worlds and spent hours fighting inner demons. But in March, all of that changed when I went from one-day-a-week working from home to five days a week.
When I first started working from home full-time, I started at 5:30am and finished around 6pm. I felt I owed it to my company to get the most out of my day as possible, since they were trusting me to do this abnormal working arrangement. I would forget to eat lunch or take breaks; I’d sometimes even forget I hadn’t gone to the bathroom in hours (yikes). (I should note that at no time did the business ever require this of me; it was completely self-imposed.)
In May, the company started sending out mental health communications. It seemed I was not alone in doing too much. At an online seminar, a psychologist told us tricks to stop this vicious cycle. They were simple:
- Set your start time and do not turn your computer on until it’s time.
- Set a lunch hour in your calendar. That way no one will schedule a meeting when you’re “switched off.”
- Set your end time. Turn off the computer and close the door to the room, if you have a separate office space.
While these tips didn’t help most people in the company, since finding a spare room is near impossible in most households, they helped me. I spoke with my manager and set my boundaries. 7am start time, 12pm lunch break, 4pm finish time. It was a great setup, which I have largely maintained since.
Only, I didn’t realize at the time that it had reprogrammed my brain to think my creative space is now a work space, and I continued to sabotage my desk by putting post-it notes around my monitors to remind me of color codes for Power BI and formulas I wrote “just in case,” spiral notebooks filled with minutes and ad hoc notes, and a calendar with meeting times and reminders (because I’m old and like to duplicate what’s already in my Outlook calendar).
Still, as I mourn the loss of my creative place, I’m also riddled with the guilt of having an office and work and health (sorta – I’m fat, ya’ll) and the privilege that comes with all of that. But I’m also incapable of knowing how I can help change my world, let alone this world.
Layers of guilt is healthy, right? Sure. Yep. Totally.