"You're a writer - you need to write!"
This writing business has me in its grip.
"Drop by for a cup of coffee, and see the changes that have occurred here." "Let's meet for lunch and get caught up." "Haven't heard from you in a long time - let's get together." "What are you doing now?" Invitations to events, conferences, seminars, fundraisers - they all keep trickling in. Emails, friend requests on Facebook, newsletters - they keep finding me!
Since I burnt out and stopped working four years ago I have tried to distance myself from all things mental health. People, places, events, and information - I needed a break from them all. My healing process was inversely related to the level of contact I had with my past work in mental health.
Newsletters kept appearing in our mailbox. Donation requests and phone calls persisted. Invitations to fundraisers trickled in. Unwanted emails arrive in my inbox. I tried to have my name removed from contact lists. That made little difference. I couldn't get away from these tethers to the past I was trying to leave behind. (The newsletters I had tried to cancel don't show up any more because I didn't provide a forwarding address when we sold our house and moved last year. Now they're the new homeowner's problem).
News reports of developments and setbacks in the mental health world never stopped hooking me emotionally and intellectually. Every once in a while a stigmatizing editorial comment or article would set me off. Heidi often asked, "Are you going to write a letter to the editor?" I never did - it required too much energy.
Every once in a while I crossed paths with a former colleague or participant of programs I had facilitated. It felt very awkward. They always had so many questions I didn't want to answer. Attempts were made to drag me back into the turmoil of system, service, and policy issues. What would it take for people to accept that I was done with that? I needed a complete break!
As I was sitting in the coffee shop, working on this post I heard my name called out. It was a former colleague who was on her way to work. She had been walking by when she saw me through the window. She came in, bought a coffee, came over and gave me a big smile, said hello, and asked how I was doing. Thankfully, there was no mention of mental health stuff! It was a very brief conversation, she asked that I pass on greetings to Heidi and then went on her way. I felt no discomfort. That may be because I was frantically trying to remember who she was. She looked familiar, but there was something different. It finally clicked - she had lost a lot of weight. Now I knew who I was talking to. It was a comfortable experience.
I am waiting for a former colleague, who is also a friend. We're getting together over a cup of coffee. We haven't been in touch for over a year. This time I was the one that reached out and initiated the contact. This man had been one of my biggest boosters, he never ceased to promote my work and credibility. He extended invitations to me to participate and contribute on committees for a few years after I stopped working. Whenever we met for lunch he enthusiastically reported on new developments and issues in the mental health industry. He persistently pointed out where I could employ my skills and knowledge. I calmly resisted being drawn back into that world.
Given the developments of the past week I decided it was time to provide him with a glimpse of what I was up to. He's a very passionate man and I'd guess he's getting a little wound up as the time for our meeting draws closer. He gets even more animated than I do when the passion reveals itself. In our email communication he mentioned he wants to tell me about the many changes that have occurred since I withdrew from our local mental health scene. I won't allow myself to get drawn back in. I know what my limits are and what I will and will not do.
I'm surprised how calm I am as I wait for the meeting to occur.
Something has changed!