I’m a week and a half into my three-month leave of absence from my job, which I took in order to rest, reflect and refresh, as I often explained to my colleagues at work. That was a more professional way of saying I can’t live like this anymore. I knew, but I generally didn’t say, that the leave is about more than an extended rest and change of pace. For me, it’s about changing my life.

So many things need changing. So many things are not okay. I’ve been so depressed this year. Although I tried to ignore the impact of childhood sexual abuse for a long, long time, it’s all bubbling up to the surface. My body hurts and has lost so much strength. I have a lot of postponed medical things to take care of. I’m very out of shape because I’ve been in hundreds of meetings and spent long hours at the computer. I get tired walking three miles, which didn’t use to be difficult. My house is a mess (beloved husband is oblivious), which makes me more anxious. But most of all, I stopped doing the things I love: gardening, drawing, walking with the dogs, yoga. I lost touch with all the parts of myself that weren’t part of the work machine.

So now I’ve been off 11 days. I can see some improvement. I have made some noticeable but not dramatic inroads with house and garden, so that’s good. I’ve gone on some walks by the river. But I still take afternoon naps most days and I haven’t interacted with anyone but my son and my husband in the whole time I’ve been off, haven’t seen friends, haven’t gone out much.

This approach is not enough. It’s all well and good to rest a bit, but I need big changes. I can’t just coast along at the surface these three months and then in January jump right back into the life I had. I need to construct a different way to live, and for that, I need to be brave.

I was thinking back to this past summer and my “believe the girl” campaign. I banished Doubt for a little over two months, so she couldn’t dismiss the stories and pain of the wounded little girl. I tried to give the girl a voice for a change. I built her a house where she could get care and support. It all helped.

I’ve been floundering a bit lately, however. There’s always a lot of reasons for that, but a big one is fear. Fear of finding my feelings in therapy and expressing them. Fear of asking for real changes in my job, things that might make a change in my status and income (I’d like to pretend I don’t care, but honestly, I do.) Fear of revealing more to my husband. Fear of going to my gynecological appointment tomorrow and finding out I need surgery. Fear even of walking into a new yoga class where I don’t know anyone. Of course some of these things are scarier than others, but I notice a tendency in myself to stay at home, read books, and hide a bit from the world.

brave 4Hence, my new campaign: “be brave.” I want to be brave enough to take advantage of these precious three months to build the kind of life I want to live, not the kind where I want to hurt myself to quiet internal turmoil just enough to be able to work harder. I want to be brave enough to create the life that expresses who I am. This is going to take work at so many levels that it should scare me, but oddly enough, it doesn’t (well, at least not tonight). It kind of motivates me.

Tomorrow, Day 1, I get to be brave both at the gynecologist and in therapy–might as well jump right in! I’ll remember to take care of myself along the way, to give myself rest and protection when I need it. I’ll need to find out what helps keep me motivated. I’ll write about how it’s going here in my blog. I’ll welcome your encouragement.

(And for a little musical inspiration, there is always Sara Bareilles – Brave.)