Tricky period with work and people management. I haven’t had the time or headspace to write a post and I have been remiss in reading others blogs. I have a few days leave next week and plan to enjoy catching up with everyone one here. In the meantime, I am going to remember that kindness is key and my intention for today is to practise kindness to others and myself. This week has lacked the quality of kindness somewhat.
I am having a rather wonderful Monday. I know, I know. You may want to reread that first sentence. It’s not often I start with a positive and recently I’ve felt more negative than usual. But not today my WP friends, not today!
I don’t normally work on Mondays but I was supposed to go into the hospital early this morning to support a family whilst their baby is in surgery. Long story but I found out yesterday that my services were no longer required and I could stay at home. After a week off on leave I had been feeling anxious about going in. Work has been really stressful and I was starting to dread this morning. However, I now feel like I have had a ‘steal’ of a day. My first thought was … ‘I can catch up with outstanding emails before tomorrow’. My second was … ‘WTF is wrong with you Claire? Will you never learn?’.
It is now approaching 11am and my boys are home schooling upstairs in their rooms. We bought a new desk for my 13 year old and set him up with his own work space. I’m hoping he’s going to knuckle down a little more but I can’t do it all for him. Ultimately, the motivation has to come from him. I have eaten a lovely breakfast, had one too many cups of coffee/tea and done my yoga practice. The weather was miserable earlier but it’s already brightening up so I’m planning a walk with a podcast to keep me company. So far, so good.
I know I have to start work again tomorrow and I know it’s going to increase my stress levels. I have to find a way to deal with it. A way that doesn’t involve returning to guzzling wine. I’ll be honest, because we should be honest with ourselves right? I have been considering drinking again. On a fair few occasions and really quite seriously. I’ve been bored, stressed, lonely and frustrated …. all triggering the old habits and behaviours. The only thing that stopped me heading out to buy a bottle of Shiraz was fear. It scares me, the thought of starting and not being able to stop. I’m a believer that it can be doubly hard to give up something a second time around. For me anyway. I can do a specific diet to the letter the first time, but once I stop it I can never do it again. I would be the same with alcohol. I’m not convinced I’d ever be able to give it up a second time around.
And that, my friends, is the crux of this sobriety thing for me. At the same time as considering having a glass of wine, I am wondering if I’d ever be able to give it up again if I did. There is the warning message flashing big and red above my head. Don’t start again if you know you’ll want to stop at some point. Why bother putting yourself through it? So I didn’t. Today I am completely relieved that I remain sober and I will find other methods to manage the stress.
Wendy from http://untipsyteacher.com recently wrote a post entitled ‘How I get out of a low mood’. I have some of the same strategies and tools and it’s so important to make use of them. Today I am using them all. I’ll finish my coffee and this post, check on my boys and then get out there for some lovely fresh air. My only decision is which podcast to choose as my companion. Not a bad decision to have.
Sometimes we just don’t realise how stressed we are. I certainly don’t. Suddenly I find myself gasping for breath, drowning, going under and it’s all a bit too late to save myself. I can sense something is off kilter, I know things are mounting up and I can feel the pressure build but I don’t see the wall until I am about to crash into it. And about a week ago … I smashed into it pretty badly.
However, here I am, just a few days later and it’s like a weight has been lifted. A little battered and bruised but the air is flowing back into my lungs and there are no serious injuries. A few years ago I just couldn’t recover like this. It spiralled into chronic depression. Complete wipe out and long term after effects, including excess drinking. So what was different this time around?
In all honesty I don’t know, other than the major difference of not pouring a poisonous depressant into my body. I guess that has a huge impact. Don’t get me wrong, on Saturday, in the eye of the storm, I thought … here we go again. Disengagement, switch off, dysfunction and months of recovery. I did nothing all day. I did however take the proactive move of turning my phone off. I allowed myself a day of sleep. I set myself a target of getting up to make a cup of tea and eating something. I succeeded. Sunday, I managed to get out of bed and took a walk with my mum. I still didn’t do any yoga, any house jobs, anything much really, but I fed my family, I read and I did part of a jigsaw puzzle. On Monday, I remained under water and I kept sinking. Each time I started to float up, thoughts dragged me down again. When I am very stressed and about to crash into the wall I ruminate. I dwell on situations and circumstances I can’t change and worry about what lies ahead. I attach a story to these thoughts. This stops me hitting those brakes to avoid the wall. It prevents me reaching for my life float before I drown.
On Monday evening I chose to not drown. I chose to avoid the wall. I’d crashed just days before, I couldn’t do it again. I didn’t think I’d survive this time. I had to give myself a break and some time. More time. I did my yoga session (thanks to the encouragement of my lovely yoga buddies), I made some decisions about how best to reduce the spiralling thoughts and how to stop the endless stories dragging me into places of darkness. It’s not easy for me and there is no magic wand. I have realised that too much stress is a huge trigger for my depression. Work, relationships breaking down, parenting, a pandemic, lockdown …. it was too much. If I don’t learn to reduce the pressure I am going to forever be driving into walls or being sucked under the water. Only I can do this. I have the power to say enough is enough. I am not a passenger in my life. I have choices and I need to make better ones.
15 months ago I made a choice to remove alcohol from my life. It was the of the best decisions I have made. Now, I need to continue to make more good decisions. To say ‘no’ when it’s needed and to reduce stress where it is preventable. I am not out of the woods, not by a long shot. I am however driving more slowly, looking out for trees in my way and using my brakes to avoid any walls. And if I do crash, I can survive it. Here’s to floating and not drowning.
Very quick post to check in with my lovely community here. I’m ok and simply plodding along. Good days and not so good, but I guess that’s the same for everyone right now. There has been a lot happening this past week. Just some challenges to deal with. I’m continuing to read your posts and comment when I feel able. I don’t have a lot to report or say so I’ll wait a little while longer to write my next post. I’m extraordinarily tired of things just now, with a very cloudy and befuddled brain. I only have so much energy each day, so I am reserving what I have for the ‘essential’ activities. When the lethargy starts to leave me, I will write again.
I am here, lurking in the background and finding strength and light from your stories and musings. Thank you.
I am aware I have slipped off the radar a little recently. I don’t post very often but I do try to read and keep up with my blogging community, their posts and comment where appropriate. I haven’t done that for a week now and thought I best say ‘hello’ and check in!
I continued to struggle with sleep and anxiety for the best part of the week and found the UK lockdown number 3, home schooling two teenage boys and working from both home and the hospital quite triggering in terms of stress levels. Many of my husband’s family all tested positive for Covid last weekend, including his dad and sister. It seems as though his mum and 91 year old Nan have avoided it somehow, which is great news! On Wednesday I felt physically sick from tiredness, stress and headaches so I made the decision to call ‘time out’, have someone else cover my clinic and go to bed for two hours. After I woke up, I made the decision to get a handle on my anxiety and stress before I ended up sliding downhill into depression. I worked a little, sorted out a laptop from school for one of the boys to use (and stop him use he kept missing online lessons) and did a yoga session. Then took a long bath!
Since my melt down on Wednesday, I have picked up the regular yoga again. I have taken baths every evening and read a novel while lying in the soap suds. I have emailed relevant people at work to,yet again, raise the issue of my pay and treatment, and I have included my union rep. I am carrying out a skin care regime morning and night and I love it. My skin feels so hydrated and my eyes are no longer puffy and sore. I walked 4 miles yesterday and today. I have managed two nights of 7hrs uninterrupted sleep and I already feel the anxiety lessening. Relationships at home are still fraught, especially with the added pressure of 4 of us trying to work and live under one roof. No space and a lot of tension. But, here’s the thing. Focus on reducing anxiety over all and when I feel less anxious, I can handle my home situation more sensitively and I am less reactive. It’s true what I have been told, look after my own well being first and then deal with the other stuff.
Ditching the sugar is unfortunately remaining more challenging than I would have hoped. It has to almost be completely removed from my diet for me to succeed because, as many of you will know and understand, there is no ‘moderation’ in my world. Once I start with the sugar, it takes over and becomes my next addiction. It simply proves to me that, should I ever wish to try alcohol again, I would never ever stop at just one drink. I might manage one the first night, but within days it would be far more and with increasing frequency. It is not worth the risk. I never want to go back to the torment and trauma of the first steps in giving up. I’m not sure I’d ever succeed if I tried to abstain again!
So, my friends, I am using every tool I currently have in my box. I hope my tool box is actually like Mary Poppins’ bag, bottomless. I’ll keep discovering and adding different things that help and support me. Using my bottomless bag, these periods of anxiety, stress and overwhelm should feel easier to deal with, have less impact on my mental health and not throw me quite so violently off course. A magic shield and a bottomless bag of tricks … what more could a girl ask for!?
**Warning** Minor meltdown occurring alongside insomnia. Slightly dramatic post coming up.
Why can’t I find the courage to make the changes I need to? I’m really stuck and feeling trapped and I tell you, it’s not a great feeling. Not. One. Bit.
I’m not even sure what changes I need to make. I just know work has to change. My marriage has to change. My mental health and approach to life has to change. My attitude stinks and seriously must change. But how do you do it? How do you stand your ground. Set your boundaries. Overcome fear, guilt, anxiety? And here is the big question. What if the change you make is not the right one? Am I going to end up with years of regret and “oh shit, why did I do that?” mental torture?
See how tangled I am? I can’t even blame alcohol. I am now unsuccessfully self medicating this period of angst with sugar so I guess the old Claire lives on! I feel weighed down by so many emotions that I can’t move or breathe freely. Maybe I am just incredibly selfish and expect and want too much from life. The world is in the middle of a devastating pandemic and here I am, Miss Self Pity, wondering why my life is the way it is. First world problems.
I have so many lovely things in my life and I know I am incredibly lucky. I need to revisit practising gratitude and kindness as it really helps me feel grounded and focus on what is important. Hopefully, in time, I will find the courage to make the changes that are needed. Frustrated is no doubt how many of us feel right now. My frustration is off the scale. I’m getting sucked into ‘stinking thinking’ mode (thanks for the term Collette!) and stinking thinking never leads to good things.
Well, now I’ve offloaded all the swirling thoughts in my head into this post I feel a little better. No answers or solutions but that’s ok. To anyone who stuck with this one until the end, big thanks (and it begs the question, ‘why?’). I’ll give sleep another go. It’s evaded me so far tonight but maybe now it will come. A problem shared and all that …
It’s just past midnight here and I’ve put out the presents, set the table with crackers etc and it’s all looking very festive. I’m excited for my boys to see and open their presents in the morning and I’m actually really looking forward to a day of total R&R.
I’ve had a bit of a tough time emotionally these past few days. I won’t go into the detail. It isn’t really relevant. What I have learnt is this: when I am not drowning out the difficult stuff with alcohol, the pain feels intense and raw but it actually can be managed and dealt with. The anxiety and sadness don’t overwhelm me like I have always feared they will. The feelings come and they go; they ebb and flow. When I drank, those feeling were numbed for a short while but then they became cemented, entrenched and part of my make up. I could never shake them off like I can now. This is a really important lesson for me to have learnt. If I sit with the emotions I don’t like, they will eventually pass.
So, as I turn out the light and look forward to my second sober Christmas Day, I am once again reminded that kicking the drink has given me many gifts. I am so grateful for them all.
Happy Christmas to my lovely blogging community. You are awesome.
What a crazy, crazy time this has been and looks set to continue. I haven’t posted for a while I know. I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth, white knuckle riding life (or so it feels at the moment). It’s a roller coaster that’s for sure.
I finally broke up from work for a week last Friday. I really needed to finish and stick that ‘out of office’ on. The stress was gradually building day by day. More and more to do; colleagues off sick with stress, Covid or isolating; people making big mistakes under just too much pressure. I could feel myself losing control so my leave came at the perfect time. I have to say, so many people seem really low and down at the moment. It’s no wonder with everything that’s happened and continues to happen. Now people’s Christmas plans have been upended at the last minute and the UK has a new strain of the virus that is spreading faster and is fairly unknown. Another huge test of people’s resilience and strength.
For me, my plans remain the same. We had decided to stay home just the four of us. We will meet my parents for a walk as long as it isn’t raining and not see my brother or my in laws until this shit show is over. I know vaccinations are happening but will take time and my gut tells me this will get worse before it gets better. So, I’m hiding out. Protecting myself, my family and other people. I did venture out on Saturday. Just to the local shopping centre and I hated the experience so much, I turned around and came home. Too busy, people not really paying attention to any guidelines and I felt unsafe. I’m not prepared to take unnecessary risks. I have to work in the hospital. My husband teaches in one school and my children attend a different school. We have to do those things. No point adding additional risks into the equation.
I haven’t been doing my yoga regularly or getting out for walks, runs or cycling. I can tell I’m going slightly stir crazy so I do need to begin my routines again. It’s so easy to fall out of step. I know how much better I feel when I keep up my own self care. I am so grateful right now though. Grateful that we have a warm, cosy house. Food in the cupboards and the fridge. Thankful that we can keep in touch with family and friends via messages and video calls. It’s the small stuff that makes me happy now. Interestingly, I have just noticed on by sobriety app that I hit 400 days without alcohol today. That’s quite something. It doesn’t feel like that much of an achievement anymore. It’s part of my life and I never want to go back. But not that long ago I wasn’t able to get through 4 days without booze so it is something to be proud of. I won’t take it for granted. I know I would not have coped with any of the challenges this past year has thrown up if I’d been drinking (and likely actually throwing up!). I would have been a mess. Now I feel like chaos happens around me, mostly out of my control. I can watch it, experience it and remain calm. Knowing and believing, this too shall pass.
I am now past my one year sobriety milestone and life is ticking on. This past few weeks has been a little like wading through mud. Various challenges keep cropping up and with the back drop of Covid and lockdown it’s an uphill struggle some days.
My situation at work is dragging on and on and on. We cannot seem to reach an agreement on the pay for the additional role I have taken on. Usually it would be a consultant/medic who has the role and I have seriously upset the apple cart being a mere allied health professional (AHP). They have tried to offer me less than half of what would be offered to a consultant doing the same job with the same responsibilities because, and this is a direct quote, as a ‘non-medic’ I come with a ‘different skill set’. Damn right I do! Arguably a more holistic set of skills with significant expertise in the area of communication. I am a speech and language therapist, communication is my ‘thing’. Anyway, I have not accepted this offer and after a lot of back and forth we are now going to put the job description through a formal banding process. Which I have to say, has its own issues. It’s just all bureaucratic nonsense really and they have stalled and delayed. I am the first non-medic to take on a leadership role for a surgical team. They don’t want to open a whole can of worms where other allied health professionals start to demand equal pay. It’s all a little corrupt and dishonest and quite frankly I’m at the point of walking away. My colleagues, the patients and their families are the thing that keep me going but boy, it’s bloody exhausting.
On the home front, we have been having some serious teenage struggles with my 16 year old. The Xbox, particularly when playing FIFA, triggers such rage and anger it’s scary. It has scared him too. The other week he punched a hole in a door and made his knuckles bleed. With his right hand I might add. The one that has only just come out of plaster after breaking his wrist. Numpty. He also swore at his Dad and I. Think of the worst, crudest swear word you can direct at someone …. he used it. He has now, along with a hole in the door, broken two TVs, 4 Xbox controllers, 1 TV controller and damaged his bedroom walls on three occasions. I would like to say I remained calm and reasonable during the last exchange but I didn’t. I screamed and shouted back at him, which was not helpful I know. In my defence, I am completely sick of him trashing my house because of a stupid video game. He does pay to replace the things but that’s meaningless to him. It comes out of an account where he stashes birthday and Christmas money and it has no value. He is generally a kind, loving young man and after we all calmed down talked it all through. He had a week off the console. We haven’t replaced the TV. He has to play downstairs now, which means sharing the time available with me as it’s the room in which I work. He has, so far, remained calm and he is reducing the time spent playing FIFA. Let’s hope we have turned a corner.
What next? Christmas arrangements with the recent UK rules. Trying to please everyone. People feeling offended. My brother stressing about how to manage it all and Mum in tears. My Mum is also having surgery to remove skin cancer tomorrow and is understandably very anxious about life in general. I did have to listen to her moan and groan about me the other day. She hadn’t realised I’d picked up the phone and she was listing all my faults to my Dad. That also ended in tears (not mine!). In the end, it has been decided my husband, the boys and I will not see anyone within the five day Christmas window the government have allowed. It was becoming far too complicated with the ‘bubble of three families’ and frankly I just don’t see the point on risking my parents’ health or my eldest missing his mock GCSE exams in January for one or two days. So we are set for an extremely quiet Christmas, just the four of us. We can got for walks with family and my in-laws live 2 hrs drive away so it would be tricky to see them anyway. I am noticing how fed up and low people are now feeling. Lots of them struggling with this restrictive way of life. I had conversations with many people last week, upset and tearful about the new Tier system and arrangements for the Christmas period. The area I live in will move into Tier 3 restrictions once ‘lockdown’ ends on Wednesday. There will be little change to what we are currently allowed to do. It is ground hog day for sure. Vaccines are around the corner and as a patient facing member of the health service it would appear I will be the first to be offered one. I will have it but I’m not going to lie, I am nervous about it. I am also anxious about my children having it if they are offered. The unknown long term impact concerns me. That said, the long term impact of contracting Covid is very real and there is also a lot still unknown. It’s the right thing to do, to protect myself, my family and stop the spread of the virus. It’s just hard to shake off the anxiety.
So, lots of things happening and challenges to deal with. On a positive note, I am loving my bike. I’m slowly building confidence and though turning left is tricky as I can’t signal without veering into the curb, I am now able to pick up some speed without permanently squeezing the brakes! I’m practicing yoga daily and I totally love it. I don’t know what it is I love about it but I just do. I also went for a run last Monday which is the first in months. It felt great. I’m reading more and I have started a jigsaw. My cross stitch is coming on. It might be finished in time to give to the little girl at Christmas. It was supposed to be for her Christening gift last February. Ah well, better late than never.
Although some days I feel overwhelmed with life’s challenges, overall my mental health has been stable. I haven’t descended into periods of not being able to face the world or had days when I just can’t let go of what is bothering me. There have been disappointments, frustrations and tempers flaring but I can still breathe and continue on. I have been bored on occasions but interestingly boredom doesn’t fill me with anxiety anymore. I haven’t at any point been tempted to drink. I rarely have AF drinks either. A cup of tea provides me with the ‘and relax’ feeling I used to seek from booze. I have many dreams and hopes for 2021 and the future. All in all, I think I’m doing ok.
Now I have been sober for a year, I am starting to feel a little like I did when I gave up smoking in my early 30s. Giving up smoking was difficult but I did it initially by ‘cutting down’ when I met my husband at 27. He has never smoked and so I didn’t smoke when I was with him. He came to live with me around a year later which meant I smoked even less, tending to only have a cigarette when I went out with friends and when I was drinking (which I’m sure you can guess, was a fair amount of the time!). When I found out I was pregnant at 31, I gave up entirely and never touched a cigarette again.
If asked if I was a smoker I said ‘yes’ for a few years after I gave up. I always felt like a smoker and at that stage I still had cravings for them, particularly when out socialising and drinking. I therefore considered myself a ‘smoker’ but just choosing to not smoke. At some point this changed. I can’t tell you when or why, but I realised I didn’t want to smoke, never had a craving and the thought of putting a cigarette in my mouth made me feel physically ill. That’s when I became a ‘non-smoker’.
How does this apply to alcohol? Right now I feel like I am still a ‘drinker’ but I just choose not to drink. The cravings are less but I still like the idea of having a drink at times. I don’t ‘need’ it or rely on it like I used to. Similarly, I stopped ‘needing’ cigarettes after I gave them up but I still felt like I was a smoker for a while. I wonder if, in time, I will come to view myself as a non-drinker in the same way. Whether the thought of drinking alcohol will turn my stomach the same way considering smoking does now. Having a cigarette no longer crosses my mind, yet I thought about it all the time in my 20s. I could never have imagined not smoking but now I can’t imagine what it’s like to smoke. Does that happen with sobriety and giving up booze? Will I forget drinking in the same way? I hope I do. I’d like it to have absolutely no place in my life or my thoughts. I suspect it won’t be quite the same experience though. There is more social acceptance, and even encouragement, regarding drinking. It’s hard to get away from it sometimes. Adverts, films, greeting cards, comments on social media, tv …. alcohol surrounds us. Maybe this means it’s harder to move on from being a ‘drinker’ than it is from being a ‘smoker’.