You’d think that the first day in a new job would be the hardest… somehow today is feeling harder. I am rather anxious, pre-work; I’m not sure why it’s worse today vice yesterday. I mean, I know the people are all really nice, I think it’s a decent job that I know I can do… so why this level of anxiety over day two?
In part, perhaps it’s a level of sensitivity to being around people again. After all, I’ve only really spoken to Luke and family in the last four months. So that old thicker skin has softened and I find myself over analysing every tiny thing I do. That’s pretty common with social anxiety I believe… that acute awareness of when you do something “wrong”; even if it’s not really that wrong by normal standards. You make a little joking comment and it falls short: “ah crap now they hate me and I look like an idiot!”
I want to work, I really do. I just need to learn some patience with myself to allow myself time to get back into the swing of things.
As I seem to have posted a lot this week I thought it only right to round off the week with yet another mind-dump. It’s been an up-and-down week, a right rollercoaster of high/low/high and I’ve really, really, not enjoyed it. Things have improved as the days have ticked by and I’m hoping that this weekend will be a chance to do a reset and refill my mental engine oil.
This week reminded me a lot of spoon theory. I suspect that the Berlin business trip meant I needed to borrow spoons many days in advance of their availability, and then I tried to do a full working week in deficit. Usually I am mindful of what I can manage, and lately I have been able to do more things without burning myself out – things like late nights on Mondays so I can go to the pub quiz or doing the food shop with hubs and dad.
My resilience has been lower this week than it had been in a long time. Little things – website malfunctions, Colleague X, an innocent but insensitive comment from a fried – have sent my anger meter sky-rocketing. I’ve been hypo-ish and/or mixed every day, but thankfully as each day passes I can see and feel things settling back to normal. I visualise it like the image below (hastily thrown together in MS Paint!), and I’m aiming to get the indicator back to zero by Monday morning so that I can get back on my best game.
The website is going to be undergoing a redesign in the near future which I am hoping will make things a little easier to find. Things like separating the blog, the creative writing and the ‘Spotlight On’ articles so you guys can navigate to what you want to see without having to trawl through articles. Whilst I’m thinking about it, don’t forget that you can have your say with the polls available via the menu button.
Gosh I’m writing a lot lately, and it is pretty much all just my own brand of self-therapy. If you’re sticking with the blog throughout all this rambling then I sincerely thank you.
I got transitioned to CMHT two weeks ago and had my first meeting with new psychiatrist today (also a Dr P. Can’t replace MY Dr P from the old team!), and it was hard fucking work. There was a waiting room and everything – it all felt so formal and predetermined. As if one new person to deal with wasn’t enough he also had a psych student observing, plus my care co-ordinator sat in too.
We went through pretty much everything in about 45 minutes. Hard to condense around 13 years of history into that little time, but we tried! He wanted to know about the earliest indications of illness, what kind of things put me more at risk, and the things that have helped in the past when things have been tough. Open-ended questions galore. I do much better with structured talking than having to give free-form answers; when I’m left to talk I feel like I miss the point I was trying to make and that my responses aren’t communicating what I wanted them to.
Going forward, New Dr P is planning to speak to the personality disorders service to get me assess for psychological intervention. It’ll involve having an assessment and then being referred to either DBT or psychotherapy, and this can only be a good thing. I took away a sense that he was interested in helping me build skills to cope instead of reacting to every blip with a medication tweak – this makes me happy. From what he was saying, the smaller mood-swings are less due to the bipolar element and more down to poor coping skills; rejection and stress and confidence and so on affecting me.
Luke is coming with me to my appointment with my CC next Tuesday – I want them to meet because Luke is normally the first to notice things going awry so it’ll be an additional layer of safety net for them to meet and talk. It also means I’ll have my greatest advocate with me which will hopefully give me some extra confidence whilst I’m still getting used to a new person. And in the long-term, this should all work out for the best. Right?
In the grand scheme of things it’s not too bad. I am functioning; even enjoying my weekend. I just lost – badly – at Monopoly, and it’s been a laugh. Things are (objectively) good. So why is there this nagging doubt somewhere in the back of my mind that something’s not-quite-right?
I just feel… distant. Removed, remote, unengaged. The feeling abates somewhat when I am engaged with something but when there’s nothing going on it comes back full-force, and it’s uncomfortable. I feel energetic but de-motivated. I kind of want to head to the pub and find a random person to drink and talk with until it’s closing time and I can simply crawl back into bed. Of course, the ‘good’ and ‘responsible’ part of me knows this is pretty unacceptable; this belief in doing the right thing leads to unwarranted guilt and extreme frustration. I want to rebel against my self-imposed rules.
Anxiety is a key feature of this mood that I’m not really sure I can define. I suspect it results from the internal conflict between wanting to do something out-of-the-ordinary and wanting to stay safe/play by the rules. It is unpleasant. I wish I was less conscious of ‘the norm’. On days like today I wish I hadn’t worked so hard on developing insight – if I didn’t have the awareness then I’d have an excuse to simply indulge the part of me that wants to cut loose. As it is, I know that I am potentially going to be a danger to myself if I throw all caution to the wind. But fuck me is it unpleasant to be constantly buzzing with a desire I can’t satisfy.
There’s a hint of the red-flags about this too – those red-flags that we committed to paper a couple of years ago to create a kind of checklist of things to watch out for. Things like voices. Things like Eve. Things that tell me that something’s up. Coping with them is fine; knowing they’re potentially problematic is healthy. One thing I should do is let Luke know all of this; as it happens I am terrified of letting him down so my cheat’s way out is to write this post and communicate with him this way. I am sorry that I am still so hopeless at actually vocalising these things.
Part of me is feeling a little un-supported by any professionals. My time with Early Intervention ended a couple of weeks ago at a handover meeting and I am now under the care of CMHT; I have met my new care co-ordinator once and although I could text him I am both cautious of doing so and unsure that this feeling ‘off’ warrants making contact. On the grand scale of things, on a one-to-ten rating system with ten being my worst point, I am probably around a two. Maybe a three.
And I’m sure – or trying to convince myself, who knows – that this won’t escalate. If I believed in a God I would be praying for a small blip on the radar of health. If I beg the universe with as much positive thought as I can muster, the delusions will stay away, the hallucinations will remain unobtrusive and Eve will stick to her position of mental-passenger. Please.
The Semicolon Project
“Your story isn’t over yet.”
Indeed – it isn’t. There have been many – too many – times that I thought it was. Times I couldn’t see a way out of the daily hell I was living. Times I planned ways to end things; to end my life. I am still here; my story continues and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to run this blog and share with all of you in hopes of helping someone else.
The Semicolon Project has been all over the UK news outlets in the past few days and I instantly wanted in on the campaign. Officially the day to do it was April 16th 2013, but lately the vehicle of outspoken mental health advocates has been gaining so much momentum. Essentially, the message being broadcast is this: A Semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The Author is you and the sentence is your life.
I am determined that my sentence will continue on its destined path; whatever that may bring. That is why I am adding my voice and lending a small patch of skin to the many people out there who are working so hard to raise awareness and end the stigma of depression, anxiety and other mental illness. This is my declaration that I am not ashamed; I am full of hope; this is not how it ends.
P.S. I’m sorry mummy!
Last Thursday was just one of those days. No particular reasons for it; just seemed to be cruising high and low all afternoon until I got home. Ordinarily I would have suggested a night in with a takeout to the hubster and most likely would’ve stewed until my frustration took me to bed for an early night. But that was the ‘old’ me – without wanting to jump the gun and being very aware that I do go through ‘new and improved’ phases, I think the new attitude is here to stay.
So instead of just vegging out in front of the telly and letting things simmer away I booked myself into a fitness class at the gym; a step class no less. You probably couldn’t put me further out of my comfort zone. I’m not fit; haven’t been for years since Luke and I stopped walking places for the fun of it. I am not body-confident either. I literally had no idea how I’d manage a step class when walking more than maybe 3 miles leaves me totally puffed-out.
I rocked up to the leisure centre a little earlier than I had planned and checked in with reception. They pointed me in the direction of the fitness studio and off I went to await my – to my mind – total humiliation. There was a circuits class happening in the main hall and I stood watching these ultra-toned men and women moving nimbly around the stations; even those doing strangely froggish squat jumps somehow looked sprightly. I felt anxious – I wanted to run away from this place that pushed my body-consciousness buttons to the max.
In the end, I stayed. And I’m glad I did – it turns out step class is great fun (and totally exhausting; but wasn’t that the point?!). The first ten minutes saw me obsessively watching my classmates – all gym bunnies – hopping off and on the step like they were born to do it. Pretty soon I realised that the whole time I was focussed on what they were doing I wasn’t paying enough attention to my own form; no wonder I felt clumsy in comparison!
Sure, I was silently pleading for it to be over before we’d even reached the half-way point. Sure, I felt absolutely ridiculous with my spare-tire stomach jiggling around. And sure, I had twice as many water breaks as any other stepper. But – I did it! I got through 60 minutes of high-intensity exercise and I felt amazing for doing it. So good that I am planning on making this a regular activity; especially given that historically Thursdays are my worst.
There’s a lot to be said for the benefits of exercise for mental conditions. For me personally it meant that I felt I’d done something productive with my day and that I’d worked out all the frustration in every bead of sweat that slid over my forehead. The science backs this up; when you move your muscles release hormones, not least of which are endorphins that act to reduce stress, ease anxiety and depression, boost self-esteem and improve sleep.
Exercise isn’t a panacea, but as a natural and holistic therapy it seems to work wonders. Now, someone be sure to remind me of that when the next class rolls around!
The stay-cation is over; I am back at my desk and it already feels like a distant memory. The week off was a wonderful and much-needed rest. It was appreciated. But I forgot just how tedious this job really is.
The problem lies with my supervisor – a really good guy – and his ‘concern’ for me. About 6 weeks ago we had a conversation in which I requested more responsibility and a heavier workload; his reply was that he is nervous of over-loading me and losing me to sickness. Read: he thinks I’ll have a mental breakdown if I get stressed.
What I can’t get him to understand is that the long, quiet days cause me more stress than my time spend working at break-neck pace ever did. I crave excitement, pressure; I am unashamedly a fantastic corporate firefighter! The hours I spend here are, by contrast, routine and unchallenging. I rarely talk to anyone (colleagues included because of my desk position). I miss the variety. I miss making connections with customers. Most of all, I miss being mentally stimulated.
The issue is that having a secondary psyche is that idleness is a trigger. Filling my life with activity gives me the best chances of Eve keeping her head down. At home it isn’t such a problem, but when 10:30am rolls around and I’ve completed my tasks; well then there’s an issue! We are good at co-habiting in this body but the longer I let my mind wander, the more she takes over. Lately things have been so wonderfully stable; I don’t want what is basically boredom to be the deal-breaker.
I am unsure what to do about this situation; I don’t know how to broach the subject with my supervisor. Our head of department has scheduled in 1-to-1 meetings with each team member – mine isn’t until July 15th. I need to get this sorted long before then; that, or find an alternative.