The thing about not working due to illness is that “free time” is hard to measure. Back when I worked, “free time” meant non-work hours that weren’t dedicated to chores, like cooking or cleaning. It was simple then: either I was working (paid or otherwise) or I wasn’t.
But now I’m always working, in a way. Taking care of my health is more than a full time job. And on top of that, many hours that are “free” are spent feeling too lousy to do anything. I might spend an entire day at home, but I’m in too much pain to sort through these papers or answer those emails or call a friend. I left my job 3 years ago and I’m finally used to not going to a job, but for the first time, I seem to have so-called “free time” and it’s a bit of a shock.
After I left my job I was busy dealing with huge amounts of health research. I read, read more, and reread it all. I joined Facebook groups and Twitter chats. I took books out the library. I found new doctors. On top of that, I was dealing with long term disability, social security, and losing, regaining, relosing, changing, and once more losing my health insurance. There were doctors, lawyers, and more doctors. I changed my diet and tried new medications. It was exhausting. And of course, through it all, I felt like crap.
Finally, the long term disability insurance battle was over, I received social security disability, I got Medicare and Medicaid for health insurance, and I applied for a disabled subway pass, food stamps, section 8 housing, and fuel assistance. Last month, I had finally finished with the paperwork! At the same time, I was temporarily done with my medical research. There was one more avenue to pursue, but first I needed to deal with a few old issues. I had the right practitioners and I was pursing treatments, but only time would tell. Just as I reached this new plateau, I started dating someone and we spent a lot of time together. Then, my grandfather died.
And so now, at the end of October 2014, 3 years after I left my job, for the first time I’m finding myself with free time. The family issues have passed and things are settling at a new normal. The relationship is over, unfortunately. The health research is still on hold. The paperwork is still complete. At the same time, surprisingly (or maybe not?), I’m feeling a bit better these days. And suddenly, I’m able to do more!
The stress has been lifted. The anxiety is gone. I’m making plans for 5 or even 6 days each week! Some days the plans are small: a friend coming over to chat, a doctor appointment. Other days they’re big: going to a party, doing volunteer work for an entire afternoon. Still other days, I stay home and rest. I don’t do too many big things in a week, but the point is, I’m doing them!
Of course, that’s also why my “free” time doesn’t feel so free. I look around my apartment and see a lot of clutter. I have big projects that I’m not working on. I have errands that aren’t being run. I’m so glad to have the time and ability to go out, that I go out whenever I can. And that means that when I’m at home, I’m lucky if I have the energy to write a blog post. (On a side note, I hope to get back into a good writing groove now!) The projects aren’t happening.
It will take some time to find my balance. Things like my social security application were so important, putting them off wasn’t an option. Now I need to find a way to prioritize the things that aren’t so clearly ranked. I know I’ll figure it out. It will just take some time. And in the meantime, I’m so grateful to be having this problem at last!