Being mentally ill makes it very difficult to get any of life’s balances right. During my eating disorder, I was very much all or nothing with food. When I’m being self destructive, it’s either death or doing everything I can to feel alive. With alcohol, I am the person who is either stone cold sober or passing out. I do extremes very well. These are clearly not healthy behaviours.
However, it starts to get a little more fuzzy when we think about how busy people are. It is often seen that if someone is busy then they are more successful, more well rounded as an individual. In fact, it has become common for people who are not constantly being productive in some way to be seen as lazy.
I remember at times during university when I was just about getting work done. I would see lots of people managing work, social lives and lots of extra activities. I did not understand how they managed it and yes, it made me feel like a failure. I would read blogs of 17/18 year olds and they would be talking about setting up clubs and attending conferences and reading all the books ever. How did they ever have the time or energy to do all of this?
Well, a lot of them did not have a mental illness to contend with.
Since I can remember, I have used academic work as a distraction from my head. In my final year of university, I found work to do all the time because if I was working, I was not having to deal with the thoughts in my head. I did not realise how unhealthy this was until I was unemployed for 6 weeks. I had a complete breakdown. Without being busy and productive, I had nothing to distract me. I had to face how I was really feeling, what was going on in my head. It was terrifying.
Recently, my mental health has been pretty bad. I currently have no access to therapy. Instead of dealing with things, I am currently working 3 jobs (2 of which are voluntary.) I do not have time to get depressed or be self destructive.
In some ways, keeping busy can be good. It makes me feel like I have a purpose and keeps me going when I feel like shit. It provides an escape when I desperately need it.
However, the reason I keep so busy is the reason that I should not. Avoiding issues and distracting yourself does not fix anything. In the long run, it is worse for your well being. One day you will have to face up to whatever is going on. Rather than doing this gradually, it will get to a point of explosion.
Being busy has its benefits but only if you remember to take time off. Real time off. Not just doing an hour or two of work and then spending the day cleaning the house. You need time to relax and do nothing or something you really enjoy. Without taking this time, things will eventually get too much, to the point where not even keeping busy can distract you.