Category Archives: change

Life goes on

Last night I had very little sleep. I received a work email at around 11.30pm and stupidly I looked at it. I won’t go into details but I’m currently in one of those situations where I’ve taken on an additional role, not been paid for it but I wanted to do it to support my team. My grade for my regular post is significantly lower than anyone else doing the same job across the UK anyway and my employers have never been too fussed by that. Anyway, the long and short is the email made me feel incredibly devalued and demotivated. I have made a decision that I won’t continue with the additional role because the offer of any pay increase is minimal in real terms and the trust (I work for the NHS) won’t address any of the issues I have raised. They want me to continue working like a crazy woman but only do the bare minimum to support me. I would be a total mug to carry on.

Many reading this will wonder what the issue is. If the package isn’t right, don’t do it. The problem is more complex than that. When I’m challenged at work and have responsibility for making changes and decisions, although stressful, it motivates me. It actually keeps boredom and depression at bay. I want to make changes and influence our service for the families, children and adults we treat. I get a real buzz from that. It’s only possible to be influential if you are in certain positions and are mixing in certain circles. However, if I continue to invest the same level of time and energy with absolutely no recognition or support, I’ll likely end up struggling with my mental health anyway, just from the stress and resentment alone.

What to do? I don’t have the answer. Maybe it’s time for a change anyway. I’m limited with where I can go with my specialist clinical skill set and location constraints. I’ve considered volunteering for the Samaritans and have applied. I was going to put this on hold due to work pressures and time commitments but maybe that’s the way forward now. I’ve considered further education and completing a masters or even a PhD … finally using research to validate a patient outcome measure I developed years ago. Last night I was so wound up and frustrated at reading the email. This morning I cried big tears as I wrote to the individual whose role I have been covering, informing them I would not be continuing. Now, though I feel sad about the situation, I am already looking ahead and making new plans. I recognise this is so different to where I was a year ago. I’m not hungover, jaded and feeling sorry for myself. I’m calm and I will manage. I am hurting though. Life always seems to throw up little challenges and tests along the way. Decisions to be made. Keeps us on our toes I guess. Dealing with them sober is the only way I can cope. Thank God I am sober.

Love Claire xx

Big steps

I started this blog at the suggestion of the lovely Jim, Life Beyond Booze, who was really my first connection with the sober Word Press tribe. Although Jim’s posts are now as as scarce as a hen’s tooth, he was a great support to me and many others and he occasionally pops up to treat us to one of his hilarious and clever posts. The folks I met through connecting with Jim have pretty much remained a firm group and I now consider many of them friends. My sobriety blog developed into a managing anxiety and depression blog and, unsurprisingly I suppose, others on the ‘sober train’ had similar experiences and mental health challenges. It has been an interesting and eventful journey up until this point. A journey I had no idea I was taking but one I absolutely needed to invest in.

Why am I talking about all this today? Well, firstly, I have reached my 200th day sober. 100 days is supposed to be a phenomenal milestone and now I’ve doubled it! Secondly, 4 days ago I began the very slow process of stopping my antidepressant medication. Almost one year ago I started taking SSRIs for the second time in my life. I’d initially taken them for 6 months, stopped for 6 months and then my mental health regressed so much I was back taking them again in June 2019. Anyone who has followed my blog will know how totally devastated I felt when I started taking antidepressants. It was truly soul destroying and I had tried so hard to manage and cope with my depression with counselling, support, exercise etc. But it had become a desperate situation. For the sake of my family, I finally admitted what I viewed as defeat and I ‘gave in’. Both times I took that first pill I sobbed and was inconsolable. I had two different types of medication because the initial ones triggered some rough side effects that unfortunately didn’t reduce with time. I swapped to a different type for the second time round and apart from the initial 5 days of the worst anxiety I have EVER experienced, I have had no other issues with them.

On both occasions they helped. I wouldn’t say they ‘cured’ me or made life miraculously wonderful, but they gave me a way out of the grey, colourless existence I had been living. They put me on an even keel and hit the ‘pause’ button of the terrible downward cycle that is anxiety and depression. They gave me back a little bit of control over managing my own illness. I still felt pretty crap much of the time and I definitely did not achieve my one focus; to discover Claire again. I continue with counselling which ended around last September. Looking back now, I would say I was ‘better’ but still not well. I started reading more about anxiety and depression, looking further into alcohol addiction and soaking up any literature I could find. Then on the 16th November 2019 I gave it up. To this day I don’t know how I have succeeded. I was a ‘drinker’. I loved my wine. People who knew me knew I loved my wine but oddly had no idea how much I really drank. I also realised I had significantly increased my reliance on alcohol as a crutch for my mental health issues over the years. In addition, I drank rather than ate … my body seriously lacked any nutrients. I was underweight and my hair was just as thin and disappearing just as fast as I was.

Fast forward to today. 200 days later. Taking the antidepressants allowed me to examine my behaviours and realise I needed to make that huge step into the unknown. Taking alcohol out of the equation gave me my life back. It was clear that 2 weeks into sobriety, living an alcohol free life was the answer I’d been searching for. The grey quickly changed to a rainbow and the excitement and interest in life, gone for so long, had reappeared. The past 6 months haven’t been easy. As many of you will know, my mood regularly fluctuates and anxiety and depression still lurk at my door. I am starting to recognise the signs and pre-empt the downward spiral by using new tools. I am 2 stone heavier and my hair is thick and has grown back. Claire returned!

This past few weeks I have been deliberating a lot. I am ready to remove the last crutch and stop my medication. I have read around the subject and want to be sensible about it. (Thanks to Ashley, Mental Health @Home, for the suggested reading material). Some people have suggested I remain on the antidepressants as they aren’t impacting on me with any side effects. I understand their view and I appreciate stability is not something to be sniffed at. The crux though is this … I want to come off them. I want to know if I can do this without antidepressants. If I can’t, then I will have no option and they will be part of my life for a much longer time, maybe a permanent fixture. It’s time to find out.

So, here I am, 200 days sober and 4 days into taking a reduced dose of my SSRI medication. I will keep posting. Checking in is so important right now. I am scared and nervous. It feels like I’m taking one last final big step. It’ll be ok though. Whatever happens I know it will be ok.

Love Claire xx

Easter kindness

I have to say, I don’t always find writing on my own blog very easy. I love reading other people’s and commenting but I just can’t seem to find the right words for my own post. Having said that, I’ve sat myself down in front of the lap top and I think I’m just going to chat about my Easter weekend. Just roll that dice, take a chance and have a ramble!

On Friday (Good Friday) it was a luxury to wake up late and not have to switch on my work laptop or check my phone for work emails. I have been grateful for work in recent weeks, its kept me occupied and stopped me descending into the Claire world of over thinking life, the universe and everything. I was so exhausted by Friday though and I made a purposeful decision to not ‘work’ at all for the Easter break. I lounged about in the morning, drinking tea, reading blogs and catching up with friends via what’s app. Then I went into the garden. Boy did I go wild in the wilds of our little oasis. The bushes and trees that run the length of the left hand side have not been touched since we moved in … 16 years ago!!! Once I start, I’m unstoppable. I pulled out weeds, that then suddenly became whole shrubs. There were trees with stumps as big as a bowling ball that came out in my hand when I pulled … because they were dead! I left huge gaping holes in the bushes. The neighbours are going to be delighted we can watch them sunbathe and also see what they are up to in the kitchen. Literally 3 days of cutting, pulling and bashing and its still no where near finished. You can imagine the pile of garden waste that now sits under, behind and in front of the trampoline. Oh and no garden waste collection (I forgot to renew it) and no refuge centres open. Oooooops. My husband is still not really speaking to me!

The gaping hole where the holy bush once stood.
Look what I did!!!

On Friday night we had a family quiz with my ‘in laws’ using Zoom. It was great fun. My parents joined in but I think I’m going to ban them from any similar activities until they agree to have their hearing tested. Multiple repetitions of each question becomes rather …. repetitive. By the end of the game people were clearly drunk, falling around and shouting at their respective devices. I sipped my alcohol free wine and was thankful that I gave it all up nearly 5 months ago. Sobriety has enabled me to cope with this lockdown and Covid-19 situation with a positivity and calmness than would not have been possible had I been still addicted to wine. Sure, I have bad days, but as Anna (Storm In A Wine Glass) said in her recent post ” I realise how my worst day sober is still a million times better than my best day drunk.”

Saturday and Sunday followed much the same pattern. Lots of gardening (well, destruction and demolition), chilled out lazy mornings and a trip to the supermarket for our food shop and one the for lady down the road. I arrived home from delivering her groceries to a little ‘care package’ left on my door step by my brother and his partner. He lives about a 40 minute drive away and had made the journey over to bring me some gorgeous goodies and treats. Their kindness overwhelmed me and I already knew I had a wonderful brother, but he really is the bee’s knees. I started thinking about ‘kindness’ after I’d checked out all the little gifts. It’s a quality I value greatly and true kindness is really a beautiful thing when it happens. I’ve had a lot of criticism throughout my life. Self-criticism, overt criticism, ‘subtle’ criticism and criticism meant to be constructive but really not. It has led to me being a little too judgemental and often having mean and unkind thoughts about others. In the past I have slipped into, not particularly nice, conversations about certain people and not really given it much thought. Since ditching the booze I have made a conscious effort to not do any of this, practicing kindness in how I act, behave and think. It’s actually an easier way of being. I still can find people irritating as hell and that’s ok. I’m not super human and people piss me off. I am, however, more able to understand a situation. I’m less bitter and resentful of what other’s have and do and I’m more at peace with my own world. In a selfish way, being kinder towards others has improved my ability to be kinder to myself. It’s a quality I want to instil in my boys. Plus you get really cute little gifts every now and then too!! Its a win win.

My little treats in the ‘care package’

Today, Monday, I have stayed out of the garden and left my husband to try and salvage something from the wreckage. I ran 5 miles and cleaned the house. I’ve made a tandoori chicken and rice tea for the boys and now I am sat typing this blog. My life is so different than it was 6 months ago. I am living under government restrictions but I am the most free I have been in a very long time. That’s a lovely feeling and I am going to savour the moment as my first sober Easter weekend draws to a close.

Love Claire xx

Cows spotted on my run, not following social distancing rules.

My week (in pictures)

When I left you last I wasn’t in a particularly good way. My unwelcome visitors were, well exactly that, unwelcome! Fortunately for me, this time they did not stay long and both Mr Anxiety and Mrs Depression went on their merry way as the week wore on. It’s hard to express how grateful I am that it was short-lived and I am following the advice you lovely people gave me. Yes, it’s normal to have periods like it and really important to continue telling myself it will lift. Things do get better.

The week trundled on. I was working in the hospital for two days and working from home for the other three. It’s been ridiculously busy but only in terms of organisation of services to enable patients to have some form of contact where needed. That’s been successful so far and assessing speech and communication over a video link has not been too tricky. I think it might be due to the ‘screen’ factor. I appear to be far more interesting now I’m on their phone, tablet or laptop. We cover an enormous region as a specialist service and I think this will change how we work in the future. It will enable some families to access services much more easily and not have to commute a one to two hour journey to see us. Every cloud eh? All staff have now received a letter informing us that we may now be redeployed to work on the front line and requested to cover shortages in other locations, in area outside of our usual roles. I just hope they give me some basic training if I have to do anything, particularly if nursing based – I could be more of hindrance than a help.

I’ve continued to support those in need in our local area. The people have been lovely and so appreciative of being able to have some shopping done for them when self isolating. To be honest, they are very straightforward as far as shopping goes. Compared with my own Dad anyway. His list consisted of baby plum tomatoes, Sainsbury’s taste the difference sausages, Rachel’s coconut yogurt, Coleman’s English mustard and a partridge in a pear tree! He and my mum are doing well with self distancing and I’m proud of them for sticking with it and following all the guidelines. We decided to delay Mum’s surgery for the skin cancer on her leg and nose. We agreed it was better to take the risk of a slow growing cancer getting worse than picking up Covid-19.

A little stop on my run yesterday

I’ve carried on running. I’m getting back into it slowly. It’s an interesting experience where some people make a lot of effort to move out of your way and there’s a clear mutual respect of the distancing rules. Others are not moving for nobody. No way. Not even a pretend wobble to appear like they are making an effort. They just keep on walking, sometimes two or three people across the path and I end up being forced to run into the road. I never ceased to be amazed by some people. Like those who are busily clearing out their houses of junk with all th spare time they suddenly have. Said junk is then bagged up and helpfully dumped outside charity shops who are, surprise surprise, shut. Never mind eh? I guess they are being ‘good’ by donating their useless crap to charity. Just someone else now needs to deal with it all.

Before the gardeners came off the Xbox to help

I’m trying to have some ‘me’ time but with work and having the boys home it isn’t easy. To be fair, they’d be happy on their screens all day long but we are trying to restrict that. Today they helped in the garden. It needs a lot of work and much to their disgust they had to spend 3 ours weeding and picking up the pruned branches. I spent my day cleaning. Let me just say, I HATE cleaning. Unfortunately, my anxiety was not the type that encouraged me to get cleaning and tidying. I particularly don’t like cleaning toilets. But today I did three of them and the surrounding areas. I also gave the kitchen a good going over. It actually felt good! My brain switched off and I sang and wiggled about to 90’s Indie music. I’m not promising anything, but maybe I might be persuaded to try the lounge and back room tomorrow. It could be a rock day for Alexa. Who knows?

A sparkly kitchen and alcohol free wine!

So, with the guinea pigs fed, our burgers ready to eat and my alcohol free wine poured, I’ll sign off. I’ll add some photos to make the whole thing more interesting. Oh, one more thing, I have reached 20 weeks sober today. 20 weeks. TWENTY WEEKS!!! I’m just going to give myself a big round of applause. Still the best decision I have ever made.

Biscuit and Toffee enjoying tea

Stay safe all

Love Claire

No respect for social distancing …

In the midst of social distancing and self isolation I still get two visitors knocking on my door. They don’t stick to guidelines or obey rules. Nope, they let themselves in and take over.

Anxiety has been here for a couple of days now. I kind of know how to deal with him (or is it a her?). I’ll refer to it as male for ease. He winds me up, throws all sorts of questions and ‘what ifs’ in my way. Dishes out problems I can’t solve and situations I can’t control. When I come up with a solution, he won’t accept it. Like a toddler repetitively asking ‘why?’ and ‘when?’.

I can handle anxiety. I use techniques to bring me to the present and the strategies do work, now that my body and brain are no longer muddled and confused with alcohol. Yesterday morning was particularly bad but I persevered. I cleaned, I ran and I listened to my buddhify app. So far so good. Or so I thought.

With a huge hit of anxiety I can sometimes have a visit from depression. She (I’ll switch genders in the name of equality) hasn’t been in my life for well over 6 months. I haven’t missed her, not one bit. I thought I was rid of her but like the proverbial bad penny, here she is! I could feel her coming late last night. I know that sounds weird but I know the signs now. Sure enough, 3am there I was. Wide awake and hanging out with two old ‘friends’.

This morning, anxiety had moved on for a break but not depression. She’s moved in, feet right under the table. That awful feeling of no feeling. Knowing there is so much you can do to help yourself and so much to be personally grateful for but absolutely no way to reach through the black fog and grab it. Not even a desire to do that. No energy, no interest in things that made you buzz with excitement only a few days ago. Most of all, no bloody reason. There is nothing in my life that others aren’t struggling with right now. Many many struggling with more challenges than I am.

At the moment I don’t have a positive, inspiring ending to my post today. I wanted to describe the feelings and emotions to try and depersonalise them. I’m furious that they, particularly depression, have returned to this extent and I’m praying it lifts quickly. I need to face what we are all going through as ‘Claire’ with my friends, family and loved ones by my side. There is no room for anxiety or depression. Quite frankly they can both fuck off!

Stay safe all

Claire xx

Up and running again

One of the weirdest weeks ever! Every single day, four or five times a day, things change. Plans are made, then unmade. People can’t work from home, people MUST work from home unless they absolutely can’t. Some of my staff are all guns blazing … let me get out there and fight this thing, others wanting to run away and hide. So challenging to deal daily with tears, tantrums and hysteria .. and that’s just my own.

So, I am finally set up (kind of) with the technology required to work from home for some days. How long for is unknown, like so many things right now. I may be redeployed to help elsewhere. God help anyone I have to care for. I’m not even sure where you shove a thermometer.

My first experience with Zoom teleconferencing was hilarious. Clearly the NHS world is not used to this type of futuristic magic. There were people who just did not realise they needed to mute their screen. We heard someone home schooling and yelling at a very bored child, saw someone relaxing on his hammock in his back garden and listened as a member of staff went to the bathroom. It was the highlight of my day.

Today I had an SOS call from a neighbour. They’d seen my leaflet and wanted someone to get supplies as they are elderly, in poor health and their son is now self isolating. She sent me her shopping list and told me it might be difficult to get her bread as she’s glutton free! I wish I was glutton free. Then I might not have this wobbly chocolate belly,

Finally, today I managed to go for a run. I have really lost my exercise mojo over recent weeks, even months. Today, however, with the sun shining, I stuck on my trainers and off I went. I walked/ran for two miles and ran for another 3. Shattered but good to get out after 3 days of high stress and anxiety (not mine for a change, other people’s). I’m planning to run most days now. Make it a routine.

I was asked by a fellow blogger to post some photos when running, so here they are …

It’s been a week of many firsts and of rising to challenges. I’m coping with change without panic and emotion and with a little bit of humour. I’m doing all of it sober. In fact, what I now know is that I have to be sober to deal with it. As people around the UK clapped for NHS workers, care staff, frontline employees, supermarket assistants, delivery man … etc etc … I realised that we have to ride this storm. I intend to do just that and to do it sober.

Stay safe, look after yourselves and keep in touch by blogging or commenting.

Claire xx

The only constant is change

As usual I have no plan for what I’m about to write. I haven’t posted anything in over a week but I still regularly check, read and comment on others’ posts. It comforts me to do that. This past few weeks have been a total whirlwind. So much happening in such a short space of time. I have no idea what emotion I’m feeling from one minute to the next!

Watching it all unfold has been surreal. Daily counts of those infected and those sadly that have lost their lives because of Covid-19 has quite simply shocked me. Heading into work this week (I work at a children’s hospital in a city centre) on a near empty rush hour train (hence the photo) the reality started to sink in.

The past few days has been full on with decisions and plans at work being made, remade and changed. The impact of each decision being reviewed and considered. Staff in my team in tears at one time or another with the stress and fatigue of the unknown. Then, the schools announced closure, but not for offspring of key workers (NHS staff, children in need, teachers etc). My two boys (15 and 12yrs) went into meltdown. Resolutely refusing to go because no-one else will be. This is still ‘under discussion’.

My mum was diagnosed with skin cancer on Tuesday. Two different types in two locations. She is 76 and already ticks ‘underlying health condition’ boxes. It was upsetting but treatment decisions have been made now and she has astonished me with her positive attitude about it all. I think she can see the bigger picture and is for once not asking ‘what if?’. She and my dad are self isolating and I’m feeling so proud of them both because I know they are feeling scared and isolated right now.

Interestingly I don’t think in my 25 years of working for the NHS I’ve ever felt this valued by so many. All sorts of shops, cafes and businesses are giving out free drinks, 50% off food and even free bottles of hand moisturiser to NHS workers. People are being lovely and so supportive and considerate. That’s such a positive to come out of this.

So, with all the drama and the stress, the sadness and the worry, my anxiety levels have of course been sky rocketing. Change is often so tricky and we are dealing with it daily, sometimes hourly. But for every moment of anxiety, there has been a glimpse of calm and peace brought by all the lovely, kind deeds that I’m witnessing. The renewed sense of community is palpable. Yes, there are stories of selfish idiots and acts of pure nastiness, but I’m not focusing on that. We are all in this together and I hope that after it is over we are all better humans and an improved society in many ways.

Finally, I’m not going to lie, there have been moments of ‘fuck it, I am going to drink’. I haven’t and I’m actually really, really glad about that. It would not help me right now.

Stay safe, be kind and take good care of yourselves. Oh, and keep blogging … reading your posts certainly helps me stay positive when it all gets a little too much. 😊❤️

Claire xx

Sweet Dreams

This morning I woke up and felt I’d had a very deep sleep with few episodes of waking, if any at all. That’s very unusual for me. Even without the alcohol I wake up a few times but now I can usually turn over and go back off. After a few minutes coming round I suddenly remembered my dream.

I also haven’t really dreamt as much since becoming sober, not ones I can remember very well. This week I’ve been able to recall more of them. Last night’s was vivid. I was totally trashed!!! Trolleyed, kayleyed, plastered 🥴. I’d gone to a fancy, posh party with three girlfriends and I drank a shed load of Prosecco. I remember just pouring glass after glass into my mouth and then feeling sick and dizzy. We stayed over at a hotel after sorting problems with crap rooms. I woke up the next day with another party to go to that evening and I felt shocking. The day was subsequently spent trying to find a different hotel, being given more awful rooms, changing said rubbish rooms and then hotels. My husband and dad appeared and refused to stay in the final hotel. I’d decided not to drink again that night but the second party never occurred anyway. I was too busy moving hotels and having room issues.

Completely weird. Bonkers I know. I don’t think I want anyone to analyse all that thank you. I do, however, remember the feelings and emotions it generated. I felt ill, fuzzy, stressed, unclear and generally very out of control. Not just when I was drunk either. I felt on edge all the next day trying to get to the next hotel room. I knew for a fact I was not going to drink again but I couldn’t fathom why I’d drowned myself in Prosecco the night before. I’m not even that keen on it to be honest! Red or white wine, maybe.

Boy it was good though …. No!!! Wait! …. not the getting pissed bit. The good part was waking up this morning and realising, in a Sue-Ellen type Dallas moment, that it was all just a dream. I have spent my day today feeling I can achieve anything. Work has been stressful and busy, with all sorts of things not falling right. I dealt with what I could, remained calm and kept others reassured. There was no panic, no anxiety and no emotional reaction. I felt really in control without having to control everyone and everything, if that makes any sense at all? I enjoyed that feeling and I appreciated it all the more because my dream had reminded me what I would have felt like 4 months ago. That would have been a very different day and an ‘on edge’ Claire to say the least.

I particularly like the new confidence I have that I can’t be so easily thrown off course now. I sense a new strength that comes from understanding my emotional reactions a little more. Rather than seeking affirmation externally, I can often find it within. I know that sounds airy fairy and a bit OTT but quite honestly fuck it!

I generally write these posts with no idea what I’m going to talk about when I begin. Sometimes I delete them because, well because they are a bit shit and I even bore myself. Mostly though, I publish them. It’s a reminder of the ups and downs of sobriety and how far I have travelled. If it helps someone else to kick start their own journey then all the better. Plus, I selfishly love hearing from you guys and knowing you are there 😉.

Sending love to you all

Claire xx