Category Archives: stress

The unexpected (missing) joy of holidays

My last post was all about my saying ‘yes’. It was a kind of poem, sending out a declaration of intention. Sadly I haven’t really abided by many of the statements I made. All too quickly the negatives and the ‘if only’ thoughts crept in.

I’m away on holiday right now. It’s drawing to a close. I was really looking forward to coming away. I told myself I’d just sit, be happy with chilling and not doing anything much. I would be the queen of zen and tranquility. I even brought my yoga mat to take to the beach. What was I thinking?

In reality, the whole arrival and setting up the caravan was a complete fiasco. The drive took almost 5 hrs. The site information had clearly stated “levelling blocks would be required” but my husband had chosen to ignore this little nugget. As we perched at a very precarious angle on the side of a slope he finally admitted defeat and I had to race down to a caravan shop to buy ‘recommended’ levelling blocks. The van would still not level out and we enlisted the help of 5 other caravaners and a ramp, kindly donated by some bloke that felt sorry for us. Eventually we were level. Two hours later.

Level and ready to go, we started the mammoth task of unpacking. We have an old, small van and a large awning where most of our junk gets housed. Last year the awning broke. We got it fixed but one of the new poles was a little awkward. Holding up the proceedings even further. Then, no running water. The pump was doing nothing. This was something that had been a problem when we last used the van. Something that was on the list of jobs that my husband had a year to sort. You can see where this is going can’t you? No running water in times of COVID-19 is absolutely not my idea of fun. The shower blocks were set up for social distancing, two people at a time. Not only would we have to queue every time we wanted a shower or a wee (my husband bans using the toilet on the caravan) but to wash our hand and brush our teeth too. Deep sigh.

So, at around 9.30pm I had to start cooking burgers and sausages. By this point, I was seething. I kept trying to channel ‘the power of now’. This isn’t a problem. This is holiday time. Stop yelling at the world and your family and get over it. I’m ashamed to say that I couldn’t and I didn’t. I raged against humanity. I spiralled into ‘poor me’ and ‘this is so unfair’ territory. I was a complete toddler and I became more difficult, with an increasing bad temper, as the night (and next day) wore on.

We managed to buy a new pump eventually. My husband was slow to sort it, waiting for me to go buy it no doubt. My mood remained uptight and stressy for a good few days. Not helped by observing my 15 year old giving me the finger when he thought I wasn’t looking. He was upset I’d asked him to put his phone away for a while. I resented everyone and everything. I knew I’d reached crunch point when I suddenly had an overwhelming desire to go and buy a bottle of wine and drink it. I’d even reasoned that although sobriety had improved my mental health for many months, it was doing nothing for me now. I was grouchy, cross and stressed. I wasn’t enjoying the moment and peace evaded me. Why not just go back to having something in my life that I could look forward to and enjoy? It was the closest I have been to drinking again in 8 months. I chose not to drink but my resolve is wavering.

Eventually, after a torrent of tears yesterday evening, I picked myself up and made the decision to say ‘yes’ to enjoying the rest of the trip. The little that was left of it. My son apologised, told me he loved me and it was a sudden ‘reaction’. We moved on.

Today has been better. I ran this morning. I haven’t done that in weeks. I wrote an email to a friend and read her lovely long reply which was immensely supportive. Her suggestion, that I maybe reconsider taking antidepressants, is something I have thought a about a great deal. I’m still very undecided. I don’t want to but I also don’t want to waste my life worrying and stressing about unimportant issues and small hiccups. The peace, calm and sense of ‘all is ok’ is not with me as it once was. I’m not crazily anxious and nor am I ‘depressed’. I just don’t have the ability to give myself a good (and well deserved) kick up the bum.

Well that’s me right now. In the morning I’m up early for seal watching with my younger son. Some quality time (another bit of good advice I followed). I’m trying not to be hard on myself and I’m trying to ignore the guilt and regret I feel at wasting this precious holiday time. I know it’s time I won’t get back. I guess there’s a lot of sadness and some deep rooted unhappiness that prevents me really feeling at ease. I can see the caravan holidays are coming to an end as a family of four. The eldest is outgrowing it both physically and emotionally. I suspect their growing up is an event I have not wanted to face. The grief it stirs up is too painful for me to even allow in. Perhaps that is something to reflect on and maybe a post for another day.

Love Claire x

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

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

Night & Day

I wrote most of this post late last night and just couldn’t bring myself to publish it for some reason. I saved it and re-read it this morning. I added another paragraph or two and decided to put it out there. It’s therefore confused and a bit of a ramble, not dissimilar to my mind right now.

I have started so many posts tonight and then decided not to carry them on or just deleted them. Life is very muddled sometimes and it can be so difficult to get those thoughts down on paper (or blog in this case!).

There is no clarity tonight. I’m feeling disjointed and uneasy. Interestingly I can identify that much more easily now but that isn’t altogether helpful when I am in the centre of it. There is no distinct issue. I’m not in a bad mood and nothing has ‘gone wrong’. I simply feel at odds with myself.

I know I’m overthinking and mulling over the future. I understand that there will be times where the lovely feeling of calm and peace are disrupted. I realise I absolutely need to deal with my own personal dissonance. It’s just tricky when I can’t put a finger on the problem. I’ll try to get some things down here. Maybe it will help.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my marriage. About how, as a couple, we interact, engage and communicate after 20 plus years together. Is there still enough between us to keep us together as the boys grow up and inevitably away? I’m probably not the first person to have ever wondered or worried about this. I doubt I’ll be the last. What were we once like as a ‘new’ couple? Did we talk and giggle into the early hours, wanting to feel each other’s presence all through the night? I honestly can’t remember. That makes me sad. Those memories are gone.

I don’t want us to only be able to function by living almost separate lives. I would like to share interests and hobbies and for us to talk about those interests. I couldn’t think of anything more lonely than feeling alone in a relationship. Maybe at this stage in a marriage/partnership you have to reinvent yourself as a couple. Or maybe I should just accept and be content with how things are. Lower my expectations. That’s tricky when you aren’t even sure what your expectations are. I don’t know what I want or what I need. Plus, if I don’t even know, how can I communicate it to another person?

Then there’s work. I do love my job. It’s rewarding and motivating and I’m one of those lucky people who work with people I’d consider good friends. Am I going to do the same thing for the next 15-20 years? There isn’t really anywhere I can progress to now. I can sense the time approaching where I need something new to challenge me. Does that have to be within work? Could it be something else entirely?

So many questions unanswered. I’ll sleep on it.

It’s now the morning after the night before. I have already cancelled my two gym classes which is often a sign I’m not functioning very well mentally. I have been struggling with numbness, pins and needles and stiff hands, wrists and arms for a while now. I’ve had lots of tests. Nothing found and they are still ongoing. Recently it’s become painful and very weak and achy. This morning was terrible. Is it related to stress in my mind? Perhaps.

I’ll try to get out later. Go for a long walk. I already know I won’t run. It’s going to be one of ‘those’ days for me. God I hate this feeling of being stuck. That’s the only way I can describe it. At least I’m not hungover or feeling weighed down by alcohol. That made days like today 100 times worse. Sobriety means I know I’ll get through it and the feelings will pass. I’ll find some tools to help me today. Ones I know I can cope with.

Too much ruminating about the past and the future makes Claire an anxious mess. Staying in the present is bloody difficult some days though. I will try.

Claire xx