“Work needs rest and rest requires work”: Vincent Deary, fatigue specialist, talks about life | Life and style

VPsychologist, fatigue specialist and author Incent Deary told me what an “anxious creature” he was. He barely slept last night. The hotel room was unfamiliar and noisy. Worse still, the prospect of an interview and meeting someone new made his heart beat arrhythmically.

It’s racing now as we sit together in a London hotel. We are here to discuss his new book, How We Break Up: Navigating the Wear and Tears of Life, an exploration of our various responses to the corrosive pressures of daily life, especially work, and an affirmation of the vital necessity of rest, recovery, and the lost art of convalescence. The book is the second in a trilogy by Deary, professor of psychology at Northumbria University and a clinical specialist in fatigue at Northumbria University. Cresta Fatigue Clinic, a role he recently retired from. The NHS clinic, which will close later this year, is the only one in the UK to take a multidisciplinary approach to disabling fatigue. Deary goes on to share something else with me: he dreads the intimacy of dinner parties and hates surprises, before adding that his partner of 10 years recently threw a surprise party for his 60th birthday – and he loved it. Proof, it seems, that people can change.

Well yes and no. Deary believes that we can make changes, circumstances permitting, and that we can adapt, but we cannot fundamentally change the self we were born with. First, there is our genetic makeup. Then, he says, there is our constitution, which is coded by the memories of previous generations and sometimes by intergenerational trauma; the body remembers, it counts the points. Deary stands out as a good example of this, and there are three other case histories in the book, including that of his late mother.

At the age of 40, having long since amicably divorced, Deary left his job as an NHS therapist, sold his books in London, returned to Scotland and collected material for the first book. Five years later, he became a single parent when his 16-year-old daughter came to live with him. The finished book was left cowering in a drawer, Deary not having the confidence to seek publication. How to live, the first book in the trilogy, was finally published when he was 50 years old. He was now also an acclaimed author. Lots of changes there.

But who he is, fundamentally, hasn’t changed, he says. “I still suffer from social anxiety.” What he managed to change was his relationship to this anxiety: “I recognize that it is part of me, that it will manifest itself, so I now literally carry it with me as a companion. And that’s OK. This may mean I’m hyperactive and talk a lot, but it can be very helpful.

For Deary, getting to this place of self-acceptance and self-love has been a project, it’s work and that’s also good, because we each have to work on the self we were born with in order to survive or prosper. Some, like Deary, will not be adapted to their environment, meaning “some of us work harder than others.” We “shake” when we encounter the turbulence of life, including the changes we must face, but, again, some of us shake more than others. In turn, remaining stable in the face of change, the so-called allostatic load, becomes too much: “There’s no wiggle room and we break,” as Deary himself did in writing his new book.

As part of his work on himself, Deary has traced the scope and roots of his anxiety, as he does for his patients at the fatigue clinic. Early on, he “meets” an effeminate child growing up in a working-class culture on the west coast of Scotland and sees how “misfit” he was. He ran with the “rejects and the freaks.”

“I was visibly different from my peers,” he told me, very gentle, soft-spoken. I was small and timid by nature. This is not necessarily great in an overall working class 70s Scotland. There was harassment. I’ve been called a snob or a poofy. I was neither. He had a big nose and his name was Concorde. “My body remembers the first threats; I still get scared easily.

His mother too. Gentle and open-minded, she had a punitive upbringing and, like her son, an “anxious constitution”. Deary was an “unexpected pregnancy,” he wrote, his mother already struggling with a large family, the wear and tear of poverty, and a difficult marriage. “I was born alarmed,” he wrote. But the house was good. “I had a truly exceptional mother,” he says, “and an exceptional family life. We were inculturated very early in art, literature, theater and this therefore marked us as different. I don’t come from a typical west coast Scottish family.

He shares his story in the book, not “to say that I went through a really difficult time, but because I wanted people to resonate – I wanted them to see that when you don’t feel like you Instead, you are left to yourself like work because you have to learn to deal with what doesn’t suit you. You must learn to deal with the difficult feelings that come with it, and you must learn to manage yourself.

The key to this self-management is not only self-understanding and self-love, but also rest. Deary has a mantra: work needs rest and rest takes work. We need to take time to rest in order to heal from extreme exhaustion, chronic illness, or unexpected life events, what Deary calls a “biographical disturbance.” We also need to take a break from work and free ourselves from an “audit culture” that pushes us, sometimes to the breaking point. But first we must learn to rest. “It’s a skill,” he says, that we must acquire today.

“One of the things I noticed at the fatigue clinic is that people who are tired can often do the things they need to do, but many of them have a really hard time switching off. We often associate our worth and value in terms of productivity and output. Within academia and the NHS there are entire mini-industries dedicated to assessing your productivity and output, often telling you could you do better and, in fact, could you do better with less, Please. It’s very easy to buy into the idea that your work equals your productivity. So for people who are exhausted and can’t be productive, it’s very easy to go, I don’t deserve to rest, I’m worthless, I didn’t do anything to earn this.

“But we need to allow ourselves to rest, to nap, to enjoy, to deliberately move toward joy, food, and whatever else actually fills the tank. I wrote this book to understand myself, but also because, in recent years, I have seen my friends, my family, my colleagues, society, to some extent, become overwhelmed, or exhausted, or hopeless or helpless. joy. Ordinary people going through ordinary suffering. Some of them crossed the clinical line into physical or mental health systems, but most were simply struggling to live. Often, the first casualty of stress is joy. Deliberately leaning into that joy and discovering what restores you is truly the key to recovery.

Some GPs have started to present joy as a “social prescription”. But how do we identify what brings us joy? “The clue is in our everyday language: ‘It really lifted my spirits’ or ‘I got a lot out of it.’ These are things that lift our spirits or energize us. A meal with loved ones is often at the top of the list. Deary’s academic research focuses on the challenges faced by head and neck cancer survivors. “It’s not the food that they lack,” he said, “it’s the sharing. They mourned the connection. This is what we call commensality: the social magic that happens when we share food. Our research into diet, head and neck cancer and other conditions has highlighted that pleasure is a necessity; Being deprived of it is literally depressing and demoralizing.

One day, halfway through writing How we break, Deary discovered it for himself. He woke up “in a state of exhaustion.” I had no real ability to get out of bed. When I finally went for a walk, I was devastated the next day. I was in a state of desperate exhaustion. My mood also deteriorated. I was completely disconnected from life. It was a very difficult time.

To recover, he did “what I help people at the fatigue clinic do, which is gradually get back to things at my own pace and do a combination of physical and emotional rehab.” Progressive commitment to life. I think that’s true recovery. It’s not just about rest and activity, it’s that mixture of the two: it’s about recognizing that there is a deep need for rest and recovery. It’s like Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain where they’re all sitting in the sanitarium: there’s beauty, there’s connection, there’s food. There is joy” – even in an interview. “A joyful encounter! » » was Deary’s verdict, happy to have come, proud of himself and proof that a little self-esteem goes a long way to relieving the wear and tear of life.

How We Break: Navigating the Wear and Tear of Living by Vincent Deary is published by Allen Lane on January 25, priced £25. Purchase a copy from guardianbookshop.com for £21.25

Bir yanıt yazın

E-posta adresiniz yayınlanmayacak. Gerekli alanlar * ile işaretlenmişlerdir