Last week I wrote a parody playing on the concept of an addiction. I wrote it with the intention of making it humorous. Skip forward only a couple of days and I’ve had a bit of a wakeup call, which makes it less funny…
Let me start off by saying I have an addictive personality, ie. I am predisposed to addiction. Sometimes this can be a good thing. For example, I was great at getting to the gym regularly pre-baby – twice a week I went spinning before work. (Yeah, I can’t believe it either…) And it can also manifest as perfectionism (I talked a bit about this here if you’re interested).
More often, though, it’s bad; I don’t think examples are necessary.
We all know that the key to any addiction is abstention – absolute abstention. Because, of course, limited exposure to said addiction is a slippery slope. The temptation is too great, and old habits die hard.
So the obvious solution is to go cold turkey; and for someone like me with an addictive personality, once a new routine has been established, it’s usually not too difficult to maintain. I did it when I quit smoking; I did it when I drank too much in my early twenties; I’ve done it on diets. I could do it again.
But what happens when that addiction is necessary for your job?
I am a bit embarrassed to admit this, but my ‘problem’, one that (in true addict behaviour) I have only just acknowledged, is my phone. Or social media. Or my blog. Attempting to classify the precise issue is confounding and futile, because they’re all bound up together. Suffice to say, I know there’s something not quite right and I know I have to address it.
I also know this particular addiction is a symptom of the times, and it’s becoming more prevalent. I wonder whether you are affected without even realising it?
I’ve compiled a list of the prompts which brought my attention to my predicament, and which may be used as identifying markers in yourself:
What doesn’t much help is that as with all addictions, there’s a pay-off: I cannot deny that each notification provides a small thrill. Is this a retweet from someone influential? Have I hit a new milestone? Have I received a complimentary comment? Shamefully, there’s only one reason for these rather pitiful achievements creating a physical flush of excitement: ego.
The agitation invoked can feel ambiguous – sometimes incredible (the buzz); but just as likely bad (stress). Confusingly, the two often overlap, making it difficult to accurately identify the feeling. That’s because the chemical make-up is the same for both: adrenaline. But what’s fairly consistent is the addictive quality of the physical response.
Intrusive thoughts are defined as those which are unwanted. I regularly find myself collapsing into bed, unable to switch off. Even when exhausted, I sometimes find myself writing posts in my head when I’m supposed to be sleeping, which I’ll have inevitably forgotten by the following morning. And there’s nothing more frustrating than having the vague notion that you’ve written a masterpiece during the night, if you could only recall the words… Thus even this gives rise to more stress, because I find myself in the early hours of the morning, debating whether to quickly jot down my thoughts, or just try to switch off.
I loathe the control it has over me. I despise social media and all it stands for – and yet I find myself drawn deeper and deeper into its clutches. It is a necessary evil in order for my business to flourish; and so I persevere.
My daughter is too young to coherently articulate her thoughts on the matter. She does so instead with whining and pulling at me when my attention is momentarily diverted to my phone. My husband is arguably more eloquent, and while I cannot fault his support, I am aware that he would quite appreciate having his wife’s full attention from time to time.
I know and understand that for the good of my marriage and for the sake of my daughter I should have phone-free time. I accept the detrimental effects of succumbing to the pull of those notifications are real. They’re not going anywhere, I could resist until a more appropriate time later. And yet, as with any other addiction, I am compelled…
It’s easy to tell yourself being responsive is being professional, because of course that’s true. It’s easy to convince yourself that having little to no downtime means you’re simply working, albeit really really hard.
But under all the fluff, the uncomfortable truth is that it’s not healthy.
What doesn’t help us that it is social in more than just name. Some of the friends I speak to most are those I’ve met through blogging, and never actually in reality (yet). Essentially, I have a love/hate relationship with social media: l love the sociability; I hate the media.
The dilemma is made all the more difficult because this life is one of several possible lives, the alternatives being:
- Going out to work full-time, which would mean putting Pixie into nursery – and the associated guilt that would naturally come with that option.
- A SAHM (as opposed to work at home), which as already mentioned would very likely result in the loss of my sanity, as well as the loss of my income.
Ultimately, it’s about the lesser of several evils: you pays your money, and you takes your choices…
In the fleeting moments when I look at the situation with perspective, like this one right now – I find it intolerable. If I want my business to be successful, I have to continue making use of the very platforms which threaten my relationships.
So how do I strike that balance as a work at home mum, when there are too few hours in the day? I already put everyone else’s needs above my own. The only allowance I make for me is in writing this blog to retain some sanity. When there’s the briefest opportunity to unwind, I work. And still it’s not enough.
I acknowledge the paradox of the blog being the source both of my sanity and my insanity. But having come this far, and it also having become a source of friendships and finance, I can’t give it up.
Presumably then, I need to work smarter.
I’ll be writing about how I intend to do that when I figure it out. Probably around the same time that I change my mind about Justin Bieber and decide to give him a chance to grow on me…
In the meantime, this post is intended as a heartfelt apology and tribute to my family – for my inadequacies, and their unwavering patience and support.