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.

Maybe baby

Today, I finally sat down and composed my grievance document for work. It has made me feel sick with anxiety and taken me back to a very stressful and unhappy time. I’ve been avoiding it. I’ve attempted it several times and parked it as my anxiety levels went through the roof. In all honesty, I don’t want to go back to that work place. My GP won’t sanction it anyway.

I could ask for a transfer to a different location but if I’m totally honest, all I want to do is stay home and have babies. I’ve worked at my career since I graduated from university and now I want to be a Mum. More specifically a stay at home Mum. I don’t see the point in having children and having a child minder raise them. That’s only my opinion and I respect other people’s choices and views that are different to mine.

I know babies are expensive and being financially secure would be ideal but we don’t live in an ideal world. Fact is, I’m forty. Time is not on my side. My biological click is ticking, it has been ticking for a while and it is getting louder.

I like being at home. I feel safe at home, not that I feel unsafe when I’m out, but my house is my space. I’m in control when I’m home. I’m not really big into nights out – the hangovers are just not worth it. I’m ready to put my needs to one side and prioritise those of my child. It won’t be a huge wrench to put work aside to have a baby. I’m content.

I’ve also finally met a man that I want to have children with. He has a child from a previous relationship so I know already that he’s a good Dad. Its still fairly early days for our relationship and we have talked about having a child together. The sooner the better as far as I’m concerned!

There are some health issues to get under control, my blood pressure medication is necessary but not compatible with pregnancy. I’d also like to be off my medication for anxiety and depression too. I’m not quite there yet. They are definitely my security net and I’m not ready to relinquish that right now. I can’t think of a better reason to keep focused on my recovery than having a baby.

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.

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.

This too shall pass….hopefully

While it is true to say that I am feeling much more like myself than I have in a long time….something that my Mum commented on having noticed. These past few days, or more specifically nights, my anxiety has reared its ugly head.

I’ve always had fairly crazy dreams and have definitely woken up shaking my head on more than one occasion. These past few nights though have been different. I’ve found myself waking up drenched in sweat after dreaming of being chased, trapped, attacked, assaulted and feeling cornered. I’ve been finding myself trying to shout out in my sleep at my attacker and have woken myself trying to do so.

I’ve had nightmares before but previously when I’ve fallen back to sleep, I’ve had more pleasant dreams and woken feeling refreshed. Certainly not saturated in sweat with my heart racing. Recently though when I’ve managed to reassure myself that it was just a dream and I’m safe before going back to sleep, I’ve had another nightmare more disturbing than the one before.

Worse still, this feeling has lingered. Still is. I know what the cause is too – work. Ow that I’m feeling better, I find myself feeling more and more angry at the way I was treated by my manager. I’m wanting to go back to work but need a resolution to the manager issue. I’ve had a follow up meeting with the Occupational Therapist who is on agreement that a resolution is needed to allow my successful return to work.

Patience is not my strong point, so waiting to hear from my employer is causing me anxiety. I don’t know whether to take the bull by the horns and make the first move? I don’t feel that I’m calm enough to put my grievance in writing as yet. I’m stuck. I’m also tired of feeling like I’m out of control or of waiting for things to happen.

As the weather has taken a cooler turn, I’ve felt myself struggling to get warm. Its not uncommon for me to feel cold when I’m tired but I’ve also felt achey all over. I haven’t gotten around to getting my flu vaccination yet this year…I don’t know whether to go for it or hold off till I feel better. I’m worried that I might be getting a cold. Long gone are the days that a cold would come and go. The joys of being asthmatic means I now worry that it goes into my chest.

Its also fair to say that I am exhausted tired. I’m never fully rational or think straight when I’m tired. Unfortunately I’m also not really able to sleep during the day, unless I’m ill or having a migraine. I badly need a good and restful nights sleep. I really hope it happens. Until then, today will be fueled by caffeine and sugar.

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…

Crossroads

I feel like I’m at a real crossroads. I’m imminently about to turn 40. I think I’m still in denial about that….I don’t feel 40. I don’t even know what being 40 should feel like! In my head, I’m still 21. I think that 40 is a really grown up age, I’m nowhere near a grown up….I’m still making it up, hoping I get it right and trying to get my s**t together! Grown ups are together!!

I digress. There are two key things that are bothering me and causing me to feel unsure what direction to go in. The first is my desire to be a mother. I can hear that biological clock of mine ticking and its getting louder and louder all the time. I’m terrified that I’ve left it too late. I’m also very aware that if I do conceive, because of my age the pregnancy will be much higher risk and there are increased risks of birth defects. My relationship with my boyfriend is also fairly new…we’ve been together 7 months. I know with every fibre of my being that he is my soulmate and the man I want to be the father of our child. (Much as I’d love to have 2 children, I won’t push my luck!)

The other is work. Not the whole unresolved issues (see my previous post: Decision deadline approaches…) but what do I want to do for the rest of my working life? I’d love to be able to work from home but I’m not in a place financially to do that right now. Realistically, I need to find a sideline that I can do in my spare time whilst continuing to work full time. I’d love to go down the counselling route, so would need to save to go back into education to achieve that. I’m also fortunate enough to be on a permanent contract, do I really want to give that up?

This is also where the things that are playing on my mind converge. If my dream of having a child is to be realised, I’ll need to do that sooner rather than later. Of course that’s a decision to be made jointly with my boyfriend. There is also a huge financial element to having children, small people need lots of stuff!! All flippancy aside, having children means that they come first and their needs need to be met emotionally, physically and financially. Raising a child needs financial stability….not realistic if I’m planning on going back to education.

So here I am. At a real crossroads with no idea which way to go?