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.

World Mental Health Day

I decided that today will be the day that I take action to try to resolve my work issue. What I didn’t realise was all the anxiety that it would stir up and all the insecurities it would bring flooding back.

I have to laugh at the irony of my timing…only I could chose such an anxiety provoking activity on World Mental Health day! What has shocked me is the strength of the feelings I’m experiencing. It feels like I’m reliving it. I’m annoyed at myself for feeling so strongly. I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve been wronged. I feel like I’m giving my power away. I know I need to take action, I need to get back to work….I want to get back to work.

What these last few months have taught me is the impact mental health can have on life. What I realised today is how shaky my confidence is. I know my action will have consequences and I don’t know if I’m ready to deal with those just yet. I also know that the more I stew on this, the worse I’ll feel. It’s a catch 22.

I don’t like confrontation. I do however need to be assertive. I wasn’t able to stand up for myself before. I need to do this. What I need to remember is that I tried my best and worked my hardest at a time when I wasn’t ok. I didn’t realise how not ok I was. At a time when I needed someone to recognise it for me, it didn’t happen. While I can’t go back and change the past, I can change my future.

I deserve better than I experienced. I need to be assertive and state my case. I have made a start and written out my grievances. Maybe I need to settle for that being enough for today. Its a step closer than I was yesterday.

While the past is unchangeable, I have learned a lot. I’m definitely better at listening to my body. I also feel that I know my mind better too. While going back over the events that led me to where I am today, I can see when my mental health started to go downhill. I’m older and definitely wiser now. Its always easy to be wise after the event though.

So, for the rest of today, I’m going to be kind to myself. Practice my self-care and write my ‘To do’ list for tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.

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.

Sassy 1 – 0 Anxiety

Its been quite a journey over the last few months, not always an easy one as I’ve battled my anxiety. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve always been a worrier and been anxious at different times of stress, e.g. exams, waiting for results but never to the extent that it has seriously impacted my ability to get on with my day to day life. That changed when things came to a head in April.

Now it’s September and I’m actually feeling like me again. That’s not to say that I’m not anxious, there are still some unresolved work issues that need to be tackled but I feel like I can cope with resolving them. Don’t get me wrong, I am still taking medication and will be for a while yet. (While I am feeling more like me, I’m not ready to give up my safety net just yet.)

I have also gained huge awareness of my mental health. Truth be told, I hadn’t realised just how unwell I actually was. I just kept on going and wondered why I wasn’t getting anywhere and why I was constantly chasing my tail? I was exhausted, not sleeping properly and it took all of my energy to get up and get through the day. The really scary thing is, if my physical health hadn’t declined I would have kept on going and ended up in an even bigger mess. It almost doesn’t bear thinking about.

I now know just how critical it is to listen to my body and really take care of myself. Nothing is worth risking my mental and physical health for. I am also incredibly lucky to have a supportive partner, family and friends as well as a GP that I can open up to and know that they will help and support me. I know that sadly this is not the case for everyone, GP’s are overstretched and don’t always have time to spend with their patients.

When I look back to Christmas 2018 that I spent with my family, I barely recognise myself. I was anxious about the smallest of things and kept my feelings to myself. I doubted myself. I felt stupid and like a failure. I felt like I let my family down. I did have an inkling that I wasn’t right but didn’t act upon it. I had recently had the dosage of my anti-depressant increased and figured that once it kicked in, I’d be fine! Now I see that there should have been major alarm bells ringing that all was not well. Hindsight really is a marvellous thing.

I can’t go back and change the past, I don’t have a time machine. I can definitely learn from it though. I feel I really have. I will do my damndest to ensure that I never go back to that dark place again. Nor will I ever let anyone take my power from me or allow them to make me feel that way. I am annoyed that it wasn’t picked up on, but that’s another issue and not one I have control of. I can however, control my actions and behaviour. I am only responsible for me and my choices.

I am proud of the choices that I have made and am continuing to make to get and stay healthy – both physically and mentally. I’m on a positive path and well on the way to getting my sass back. Long may it last. Look out world, Sassy is coming for you…

Decision deadline approaches…

I feel overall that I’m winning my battle with anxiety. I’m feeling more positive and more like myself. Whether that is due to medication, my self-care or a combination of both, I don’t know but whatever it is, I’m not complaining. Long may it last!

There is one black cloud approaching on the horizon. Work. The issues there are still unresolved. As I write this I can feel my stomach tying itself into knots and my mouth getting dry. I don’t know how to start to resolve this issue. It’s also not fully my decision; my GP, employer, an Occupational Therapist are also part of this decision and my partner is also involved.

I do know that if I’m to return to my job, I need a different manager. I don’t feel comfortable with my current manager. I don’t feel that I can trust my current manager. I don’t want to leave my job, I love it and I am good at it. I’ve been made to doubt my abilities over the last year or so and its taken me till now to recognise how skilled and experienced I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect and am still learning everyday but I am good at my job.

I think I’m ready to get back to work and all that it entails. Its been a long time that I’ve been off sick. Home is definitely my cocoon, my safe place but I think I’m ready to face the world again. That said, I’m kind of relieved that its not my decision to make alone. I’ve definitely been guilty of rushing back to work too soon in the past. I can’t afford to make that mistake again. I now know that my health is my top priority and I will never again let myself get into a situation that is so detrimental to both my physical and mental health.

I feel kind of stuck and a bit out of control. I don’t like feeling out of control. I need to wait for a second appointment with the Occupational Therapist – patience is not always my strong point. What I can control, is continuing with my medication and going back to my GP for guidance. I can also continue with my self-care. Putting my reasons for seeking a change of manager onto paper may also help….it’ll clarify my thoughts and be helpful when making the application to change manager to my employer. In the meantime, I’m going to breathe and trust that everything will work out for the best.

A work in progress

I am not perfect. I make mistakes. Sometimes I speak without thinking. Sometimes what I say comes out wrong. Sometimes I say the wrong thing. Some days I feel like I can take on the world, other days getting out of bed is a challenge. I try my best. I’m still learning.

My mental health is definitely a work in progress. I take it day by day. I’m getting better and am working hard to continue to get well. The stigma of mental health is still something I am battling. I know it is ok to not be ok, but saying that out loud to another person is something I don’t feel able to do. I don’t know why? Maybe it is because it feels like an admission of failure, like accepting that I’m not superwoman. I have long been battling against my superwoman complex….its a work in progress.

I spend my working life problem solving and helping people to solve their problems. Mental health and its impact features in my working life and I regularly encourage people to seek support from their GP’s. I have accepted that I am experiencing anxiety and take medication for this. So why don’t I say it out loud?

I am human. I have limits. I have skills and talents, strengths and weaknesses. I’m open to trying new things. I’m absent-minded and can be easily distracted. I went upstairs to get sellotape, I found it and came back downstairs where I then found myself battling with the ivy that is trying to take over my garden. It took me what felt like minutes to figure out why I was gardening and not wrapping the present I intended doing. Answer, I saw my roses needed deadheading and went from then to the ivy. I’m a daydreamer.

I’m also getting older, I got an appointment through for a cardiac assessment. It was a sobering moment. I know it’s all part of my head to toe health assessment, but it gave me a jolt nevertheless. It reminded me that life is fleeting. I’m human.

I’m perfectly imperfect and that’s okay. I’m me and there’s nobody in the world I’d rather be.