It’s good to talk

As a person, I’ve always very much been an observer. I’m happier behind the scenes rather than in the spotlight. When it comes to making decisions, I’m very much someone who likes to have all of the information to take my time and make an informed decision. I’m a listener rather than a talker, definitely an introvert who prefers a quiet life rather than one full of noise.

I think that has been to my cost recently. I’ve never had any difficulty in asking for help until recently. I knew that I was struggling with my mental health but I did it in silence and on my own. My parents have always said that no matter what is happening, I can always tell them. No matter what, they want to know. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them about the work issue. I has no qualms or reservations telling them about the breakdown of my previous relationship or my ex contacting me seeking support after we split.

I was embarrassed and I actually believed what I was consistently being told. I believed that I was a failure. I was scared of making my manager aware of my mental health difficulties as it would have been used against me. I didn’t want them to have anymore ammunition to use against me. The harder I tried, the more “evidence” my manager found to use against me. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. I was constantly on a state of high alert. I was exhausted. I was so anxious and it was constant. I was spending time with my family at Christmas and was still in a heightened state of anxiety. I was even anxious about making dinner for them one evening. I know that’s ridiculous but that was my reality and still I didn’t tell them until months later.

I did eventually confide in one of my friends. I’m incredibly lucky to have the most amazing friends who support me and are there for me. Even when I was telling my friend what had been going on, I still felt that I was a f**k up. My friend instantly told me that what I was experiencing at work was wrong. She then gave out to me in a supportive way that I hadn’t told her before. I felt like a weight had been lifted. For the first time in a long time, I realised that I was trying my best and wasn’t a failure. I also recognised that supports that should have been in place at work, were not.

I then started to confide in my boyfriend. He just knows when I’m not myself or something is bothering me. We talk about everything and I can tell him exactly what is on my mind no matter how big or small. He has also experienced something similar in a previous job so knows exactly what I was going through. It was round about this time that my physical health started to suffer…I’m convinced that this is linked to me starting to open up and acknowledge to myself that I was struggling. I also told my boyfriend that I was taking medication for my mental health.

I had some annual leave and visited my family and caught up with another one of my friends who also had previous experience of my situation. I felt more comfortable talking about my work situation as I was realising that while my work had suffered, I no longer saw myself as a failure or f**k up. I didn’t tell my family or friends about my being on medication though. I guess that is something that I’m still a bit vexed about. I don’t feel ashamed about being on medication, I don’t see my anti-depressants as different to my asthma medication. I think I’m just more aware that there’s still a stigma around mental health and the prescribing of medication for it. Maybe there is still part of me that feels a bit embarrassed.

I also then started to seek support from work. I’ve found this to be both supportive and anxiety provoking. My employer has been very supportive, I’ve been open with the HR department about my situation and the background to it. It was a relief to get it all off my chest. A meeting has been arranged to discuss my return to work. I do have a feeling of trepidation about it but I also need to have my voice heard. I need this opportunity to say my piece. I want to draw a line under all this and move forward. I need closure. One way or another, I hope all will end well.

Reasons to be cheerful/ grateful/ positive

So my anxiety has sucker punched me in the gut today….its been a while. I know it will pass, so to distract myself I’m going to think about all the positive things in my life. Here goes:

1. My family. My family are the best. They know me better than I know myself and ALWAYS have my back. They are supportive and wise. I am so lucky to still have both of my parents. They are my go to people. They always give me wise counsel.

2. My boyfriend. I am so lucky and thankful that he is in my life. I’ve been happier these last eight months despite everything and that’s all down to him. He really understands me and knows how I’m feeling instinctively. He is also a huge support.

3. My friends. I have the most fantastic loyal and supportive friends. We may not live close to each other and we’re at different phases on our lives but I consider myself incredibly lucky that I can call, text or message my friends for a chat/ support/ honesty/ a good laugh and to take the piss out of me depending what I need at the time or they need from me.

4. My cat. He makes me laugh, is my shadow and looks at me sometimes like I’m bananas but I love him and would not be without him. Its been good for me to have him to look after and he takes care of me too. He’s my boy and I’m his human.

5. This blog. Blogging has really helped me. I’m still very new to it but I enjoy it. It’s a welcome distraction. I’ve always loved writing and have kept a journal for years. Sassy has given me an alter ego to express my thoughts without feeling exposed. It’s also been a great outlet for me to channel my thoughts on life, my mental health and anything else that comes to my mind.

6. Autumn. My favourite season of the year. Much as I love summer and the sunshine, by far and away my favourite time of year is autumn. Being able to wrap up in cosy jumpers, cuddle up under a blanket watching movies, light my autumnal candles (Yankee Candle scents Golden Chestnut, Spiced Orange and Soft Blanket are my current favourites.) I’m an Autumn baby so its in my nature. I just love being cosy!

7. Walking through crunchy leaves on a crisp day. Very much linked to my love of autumn. Pulling on a pair of boots, scarf and heading out for a walk is one of my favourite things to be able to do. I love the crunchy sound and all the colours of the season. All while getting fresh air, stretching my legs and clearing my head.

8. Cooking/ baking. I love getting into the kitchen and cooking or baking. I love making old favourites, batch cooking or baking scones, banana bread, muffins…whatever the mood takes me. I find it very therapeutic. This is definitely soup weather and I love it! Time to get my cook on!!

9. Being independent. I’m lucky that I’m very comfortable in my own company. I’m also well able to give new things a go. Whether that is building a flat pack bookcase, varnishing a pine blanket box or changing a light bulb. I’ll get on with it. I love the sense of satisfaction achieved when I succeed or accomplish a task. This sister is doing it for herself!

What DO I want to be when I grow up?

I’m starting to think that I’ve been settling. I’ve been off work for several months now, I’ve always said that I love my job and I don’t want to leave. I was asked how I feel about having been off and my honest reply was that I miss the people but not the work.

I’ve also come to realise that I’ve defined myself by my job. I’ve let it become who I am rather than the job I do. That’s not healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked hard to get where I am. I’m good at what I do and I have more years of experience than I care to admit, but maybe I need a change.

Herein lies my question and if I’m honest, my difficulty. I know what I’d love to do – become a sommelier. My difficulty is that it is a complete change and it is scary. I had a light bulb moment when reading Laura Clery’s brilliant book IDIOT. (I read it in one sitting, I just could not put it down. I definitely recommend it. So does Dawn O’Porter, if my recommendation isn’t enough.) I realised that I too make decisions based on fear. Fear of failure, fear of change, fear of taking a risk, fear of not knowing what will happen, fear of not being able to pay the bills. I could go on but you get my point.

I wasn’t always scared. Even if I was, I didn’t let it stop me. I’ve upped sticks and moved to a different country. I’ve moved to completely new places where I knew nobody and I’ve succeeded. I’ve even ended a long term relationship when I knew it wasn’t right for either of us. I’ve also taken some risks (I think that was more about my mental health signaling that I wasn’t well rather than a calculated risk though.) I’ve made those brave decisions in the past, so what is stopping me now?

I’ve exhausted my full sick pay entitlement and I’m managing. I do have the security of a permanent position and am very broody. (I’m very aware of my age when it comes to my desire to be a mother. I’ll be classed as a geriatric mother, which just sounds unbelievably awful.) I think it boils down to confidence. I am far from the most confident person but following my dream gave me the courage to do whatever it took. Move to a different city, not a bother. Need to drive for work, drop me off a hire car and I’ll drive there. (Back in the days when I hated driving and had no car.) I can’t quite figure out at what point I stopped dreaming.

There’s no doubt that my recent physical and mental health difficulties compounded by my work issues have knocked my confidence. Truth be told, it was on the floor. I had none. I was convinced that I was a failure. I’m not fully back to myself yet but I’m getting my confidence back. A wise woman once told me that “energy follows thought” and my friend is a big advocate of having a vision board so maybe it’s time I start to create my vision board, think those positive thoughts, create that positive energy…and start dreaming again.

Friends

On International Friendship Day, this seems very appropriate. I’m lucky that I have amazing friends. I may not have a huge number but those that I have are worth their weight in gold and I wouldn’t swap that for all the money in the world. Life may have taken us in different directions and we may be at different stages in life, but no matter what, we’re friends.

As I approach the milestone that is my 40th birthday, I’m in a reflective mood. As my physical health and mental health haven’t been tip top recently, I guess this is even more the case.

Earlier this year and, as it happens just before everything health wise came to a head, one of my friends and I met up for the first time in far too long. I’m pleased to say that it was like we’d just seen each other days rather than years before.

We caught up on all our news in person, rather than through social media. It may get a bad press as its mainly how young people connect and communicate but its been a life line in helping my friends and I keep in contact when we’re all living our lives in different countries.

It was also the first time I properly opened up about the difficulties that I’ve been experiencing at work. My friend had been through something similar years before and talking to someone who really got where I was coming from and who has known me for a long time was such a tonic. Feeling heard and validated was very powerful. The advice given invaluable.

Having supportive people around me is a great thing. Friends are so important, knowing that I can text or phone no matter how long or short a time since we last talked and get some advice, have a laugh, catch up and just be myself with is awesome.

I consider myself to be very lucky to have such amazing, generous, loyal, honest, funny and wonderful friends. I don’t tell them enough how much they mean to me, so I’m going to change that…starting right now.