Posted by: rebeccajrobare | March 26, 2012

What Doesn’t Kill the Camel

The blows keep coming — my illness, illness of a loved one, financial worries. I have more responsibility at work now — a good thing, because it means they value what I do and aren’t planning on getting rid of me, but I’m not sure I’m ever going to catch up and get it under control. And every time I’m sick, it slips a little further away.

I only lost half a day this time. I guess that’s progress. But my own frailty infuriates me. I worry that I don’t work as hard as my colleagues, and then I work harder to catch up, and become more stressed, and become more reactive and sicker. I’m caught in a poisonous feedback cycle of stress, and I don’t know how to break it. Or rather, I do know how to break it, but the logistics of breaking it require the two luxuries I don’t have: time and money.

These are things that are earned, through time on the job. I have something like 20 hours of vacation time that have just been handed to me because I’m no longer on new-hire probation. That’s less than three days. I’m not sure that’s enough time to loosen the knots in my back, let alone get done the things in my home that I’ve been neglecting for the past five months.  And money — I’m making a good salary, but so much of it is going to pay off debt. I’m still paying for graduate school, physically, mentally, financially. And spending money on getting out of Philadelphia for a few days feels so frivolous when I owe money and am saving for our future.

The necessity that I’m weighing, though, is the other thing that haunts me. The other thing that happened two years ago is that I was hospitalized for depression. I never want to be in that mental and emotional place again. I don’t want to have to tell my employer that I’m that sick. I don’t want to put my loved ones through the fear that I might hurt myself. So I have to keep asking myself, how long until I break? At what point does something that seems like such a luxury become the inescapable necessity? And how do I stop punishing myself for it — for being weaker than I ought to be, for needing so much, for a physical being that lies somewhere between the two states acknowledged by our society, perfect health and severe disability.

It is said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What really happens is that what doesn’t kill you leaves you vulnerable, unless you can mend the vulnerability. To further speak in aphorisms, it’s the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. The exercise I’m engaged in now is judging which straw will be the last, to make sure that this time, I don’t get broken.



  1. One of the strangest parts of getting older was finding out that I wasn’t as brave as I thought I was.

    You’ve got a lot to worry about, B. Robare, but you’re worrying about them in the right order. Health and responsibility and family and work. You might feel like you’re sick, but that thing between your ears is working.

  2. Consider visiting friends for a day or two?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: