I used AI to come up with a structure for this blog post and I am not sorry.
My brain is fried from the overwhelming pressure that we are all under at the moment. Rent is at an unprecedented high, the hope of getting a mortgage is fading quickly, the cost of everything is increasing, I’m working more than I want to and I’m tired. So yeah, if I can get a little support from Chat GPT think that’s OK.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how hard it is to rest within the clutches of capitalism. The profit-driven nature of privatised consumerism means that prices are increasing which means I need to earn more money to live. As someone with mental and chronic illness, trying to address trauma and function as a single person going through divorce… I’m just tired.
Why Capitalism is Making Your Tired
When your employer doesn’t offer sick pay, you go to work when you know should be in bed getting better. And if you do take time off, you go back to work before you’re well to avoid a slim paycheck and disciplinary action.
When you’re self-employed and the cost of living has increased for your clients, you fear losing them so you don’t increase your rates and are forced to take on more clients to pay your mortgage on time, which can lead to elevated stress levels, substance abuse, insomnia and depression.
When you do feel healthy (whatever that means) you work long hours because you know it will lead to some sort of success in the form of a pay rise, promotion, increased sales, or a general ‘atta boy’ pat on the back from society in general.
You wear clothes that look professional. You mask any parts of yourself that don’t fit the image of what a productive, well-paid, respectable member of society looks like, a practice that people with ADHD are painfully well-versed in.
And when you do have pockets of time outside of work, you feel this undeniable pressure to develop yourself into a better person, reading self-help books and taking courses and listening to podcasts on productivity.
The worst part about all of this is that you don’t feel as though you have any right to complain.
Capitalism works you like a machine and brandishes you as lazy when you perform like a human who needs, rest, play and social time.
This isn’t a new realisation for me. I worked in hospitality for over a decade, pulling 16 hours shifts on my feet, locking up at midnight only to put the key in the door at 6am the following day.
I took naps in the cupboard, compartmentalised my tears to the staff bathroom, sustained a back injury and worked anyway, ignored panic attacks and did all this while earning a wage that was so laughable I stole food from my employers in order to eat.
Now as a self-employed writer, I’ve experienced the capitalist pressure from the publishing industry, spending literally years writing books for well below minimum wage and feeling as though I should be grateful for the opportunity.
I’ve lost weekends with family, nights out with pals, worked on Christmas Day and lost my temper with partners due to the physical and mental burden of trying to make money doing a job that I actually enjoy.
My experience is not the worst, but it’s certainly not unique.
- Work-related burnout is up to 40%, higher than during the pandemic.
- The number of people not working in the UK due to illness has risen to a new record, in part triggered by a rise in employee mental health issues.
- Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 438,000 more people were not looking for work from January to March 2023 because they were on long-term sick leave. In total, 2.5m people are not currently working due to health problems.
Resting is not an option
Even when the body does force you to slow down and rest, capitalism tells you that this should be in the ‘right’ way, by paying for therapy, getting in your silly little walk, and buying SAD lamps and vitamins all with the underlying message that you must get well enough to be productive again.
Even our default relaxation mode of scrolling on social media is permeated by consumerism, littered with adverts for things we didn’t know we needed as well as examples of others being more productive or successful than us.
Perhaps the biggest lie we’ve been sold is that constantly pushing forward is the only option. And when you feel deflated, unfulfilled and empty, you assume that the answer is to strive more instead of less.
The blame always lands on us, for not doing enough, being quick/smart/committed enough, and never with the system which is intent on working us like machines.
“Internalized capitalism is this idea that our self-worth is directly linked to our productivity,” said Anders Hayden, a political science professor at Dalhousie University.
“You can’t feel value in yourself just for being alive – just for being a human being. You have to be a ‘human doing’ to have any value.”
Identifying with your achievements is one of the things I’ve been personally working hard to unlearn.
I am proud that I have written and published two books, but identifying with those achievements and their success has been painful.
Instead of focusing on the fact that I poured my life lessons into hundreds of pages and help my readers feel seen, I have had a tendency to focus on which magazines have featured the book, how many speaking opportunities they have led to, and of course how many sales and how much (little) money they have earned me.
This time last year, I was throwing around book ideas with my agent. Flirting with another memoir, researching industry trends, trying to write ‘for the market’ and amongst all of that I became so disillusioned with the commodification of my creativity (and my trauma) that I simply gave up.
There is no external achievement that is ever going to feel like enough.
Soothing the Pain
So where do we go from here? I can’t think of any way to live outside of the system.
I am perpetuating the system as we speak, this blog post is part of it, it’s a way for me to communicate to you as part of my business. I rely on an audience of writers paying for my time so that I can afford to pay rent and bills.
1. Create more than you consume
Maintaining autonomy is so much harder when you are bombarded with messages from the media. Instead of endlessly consuming, get into the habit of creating what you want to see in the world. Start a book club, write a poem, and cook dinner from scratch. The experience of creation is soothing and gives you back time that would otherwise be sucked up by corporations who want your money.
2. Redefine wealth
I don’t think that you should be ‘satisfied’ with what you earn, and I certainly don’t think that you should be struggling to afford to heat your home and feed yourself.
But I do think those of us with a relatively steady income could benefit from taking a closer look at how we define wealth.
Wealth doesn’t have to be the capitalist definition of money in the bank and property in your name. Wealth can be the experiences you have with friends, a morning spent in the park enjoying nature, or you writing stories and poems that only you will read.
3. Examine emotional spending
This isn’t about saving money, but instead recognising when you are consuming products and services because you’ve been psychologically manipulated into thinking you need them.
For me, this means making do with a minimal skincare routine, three pairs of trousers, one pair of trainers and trying hard not to buy trendy items just because I’m going out somewhere on the weekend.
Buying on Vinted has been helpful in this transitional period as I still want to spend but not in a way that forces me into debt or needing to work harder to pay off my Klarna account.
4. Play and rest as a form of resistance
There is no denying the pressure on modern workers to make every moment of life productive.
They say rest is productive (because it allows you to work harder the next day) but I say rest is just nice. Rest is what we were born to do.
Being playful is a big middle finger to the system that wants you to spend your time working, earning, chasing, and bettering yourself so that you are more valuable.
Playing, whether that’s doodling in your notebook during a meeting, joking around with your friends or writing limericks and sending them to your partner, IS within your grasp. It’s something that you can hold onto and prioritise if you choose to.
Reclaim your energy
So here we are. Trapped in a system we did not choose to be a part of, striving for more and never feeling as though we are enough.
Punished for being human, praised when we push through and perform like robots. Is it any wonder you are tired AF? No.
You are tired because you deserve better, you deserve playfulness, you deserve to create, to have mindful wandering, and contentment in your simple existence.
And while that may not seem easy to achieve, it is possible, and potentially life-changing.