Tag Archives: change

Reframing

After my last post, where I found myself in Limbo Land, I made a decision to try and enjoy today. We are back holidaying in the caravan and this time have come back to a place we have visited many times and love dearly, The New Forest. For those who don’t know, it’s on the south coast of England and is a beautiful area. Beaches, villages, gorgeous coastline and of course the forest itself. The weather is not forecast to be in our favour but today, other than one almighty downpour, it stayed dry and sunny. We cycled around 10 miles through the forest directly from the caravan site. Coming across wild pony after wild pony. Gorgeous brooks and purple heather stretching far and wide. It was gorgeous. Once back, we all sat out in the sun and I lay back in my luxury reclining chair (a treat to myself on our last trip) and I fell asleep. Completely zonked out. Likely I was snoring or dribbling, I was so out of it. I was fast sleep for an hour and woke up feeling totally refreshed and renewed. We ate dinner out (huge bonus), followed by us all doing our own thing for a while before watching a movie in the awning (tent attached to the van).

All in all it has been a better day than of late. At times, I still felt irritable and snappy. I also worried excessively that one of the boys will hurt themselves, or that we were cycling miles in the wrong direction. I just can’t seem to ‘chill’ or ‘go with the flow’. There were, however, other times when I cycled merrily along at my own speed and just enjoyed the moment. No real yearnings for alcohol today and not wishing for something different or better. A good day.

I have started to wonder if restarting the antidepressants might be a good idea. It’s been a couple of months since I stopped them and I am noticing the difference without them. I know they don’t solve underlying problems but I have lost that sense of peace and calm I had when I was taking them. The combines effect of antidepressants and sobriety seemed to reduce the negativity and endless worrying about everything and nothing. I’m not sure, still thinking, but it is worth considering.

I had another thought today, triggered by something Collette said in a comment on my last post. I am in limbo at the moment, feeling stuck and somewhat trapped. Collette suggested considering that it might be for a reason. There could be a purpose to not moving forward right now. After today, it dawned on me how little time I have left to be with my two boys doing what we have done. Cycling, having tea out, chilling in the sun and watching a movie in the awning. Maybe, just maybe, I am meant to be standing still. I have focused on the negatives of Limbo Land but there could be positives. This is an opportunity to focus on my children. To be available for them should they need it. I have been worrying about the future, when they have flown the nest, forgetting that they are still here now. This could be the time to truly build my ‘adult to adult’ relationships with them both. It is also the time to soak up the last few years of their childhood and form some everlasting memories. I am reframing ‘being stuck’. I’m changing it to ‘taking a pause’. There will be an appropriate time to make changes and move forward again. For now I will pause, tread water and be Mum for a while.

Claire x

Resilience

I have been thinking today about sobriety and what it has given me. It can be difficult to hold onto the positives of giving up alcohol as it becomes the norm. In the initial months of becoming sober the fantastic changes I felt inside and huge improvements in my mental health were a daily occurrence and realisation. I spent every day thankful and grateful for all sorts of impacts it had on my life. Better sleep; waking up feeling well; less anxiety; increased self esteem; a feeling of peace; more hours in my day; respect from my teenage boys; less internal and external conflict; less guilt; resilience; more focus; improved memory; better self control; and so on and so on.

The list is endless and is all a direct result of removing alcohol from my life. Awareness of these changes and positives fades as they become part of the status quo. Surely I was always this resilient? I never had problems with self esteem and setting boundaries did I? Calm and peace is not new is it? Nope I wasn’t, yes I did and yes it is. Personally I think it’s really, really important, as we clock up the sober days, months and then eventually years, to remind ourselves about the reality of what life was like BS (before sobriety).

BS, I was fragile and vulnerable. I was teetering on the edge, in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’. The slightest issue, event or comment could send me over that edge, into conflict or despair. I had absolutely zero resilience. Zilch, nada, nil. Resilience is such an important thing to have in life. How we achieve it I don’t know. Where it comes from is still an enigma to me. Maybe different people build it in different ways. What I do know is, when you have the internal strength resilience gives you, life is much more doable and challenges are not insurmountable. Sure, you still feel low, fed up or downright miserable some days. At times people can offend, upset and infuriate you. Situations don’t always go your way. Resilience helps you move through all this without falling apart. Sobriety provides us with that resilience.

I notice now that my vulnerability has lessened, I’m less affected by what others think about me. I want them to like me, of course, but I know that stuff happens around me that I can’t control and people will form opinions that have no bearing on the truth or facts. This has come with sobriety and this brings more resilience. Life is pretty tough when you feel constantly fragile. Like at any moment you might break or shatter. I am the opposite of that now. I actually feel strength inside and out. The first step towards this change was saying ‘bye’ to booze. Practicing yoga and mindfulness have built on the foundations laid down by being alcohol free. I knew I wanted to try these and the advice from my sober tribe when I wrote my post ‘Musing over mindfulness, meditation and mereally gave me a push to give them a go. I am now addressing my diet and ensuring I am eating for positive physical and mental health. Continuing to build, brick by brick, my own personal wall of resilience.

Tomorrow it will have been 9 months since I put a glass of wine to my lips and every day of those 9 months has made me stronger, tougher and more resilient. That’s why I am sober and that’s why I will stay that way.

Love Claire x

Outrageous

Seals are not interested in the keto diet

It’s been a week of ups and downs, and not particularly in a fun way 😳. That’s an outrageous start to a post but I’m feeling a bit like that right now. Hell it’s my blog. I’ll be as outrageous as I like!

I began the keto diet a week ago. I’m following Dr Axe’s book mainly because he proposes lots of vegetables, vitamins and probiotic supplements to help the body adjust and to maintain a good overall balance. I’ve stuck to it fairly strictly and I have no idea if I’m doing it right and (WARNING!! F-bomb alert) who the fuck knows if I’m in ketosis or not? I don’t feel like I am because I am not feeling all kinds of shit. I was warned and almost put off that it would be terrible for a week or two, or even more. It really hasn’t been. After two days of sugar cravings that turned me into a monster no one ever wants to meet or even dream about, (seriously, never ever), I calmed down. My desperate need to live close by the fridge devouring anything that looks like chocolate has gone. I’ve had a couple of AF wines, making sure they are low in carbs, but not wanted more. Overall I haven’t felt very hungry. I’m not tired and in fact my energy levels have really upped their game in the past two days. My mood has improved considerably. Far, far less ‘woe is me’. The down side … I don’t think I’ve lost any weight. I haven’t weighed myself because I don’t want to feel all dejected and lose motivation. I am much less bloated than I was and it’s early days. I’m carrying on with yoga but not much else due to time constraints. I chose this diet due to research I’d read about improved mental health, positive impact on hormones and reduced inflammation in the joints and muscles. Weight was one additional factor. Only time will tell if it’s for me but less sugar surely has to be a good thing and at least there won’t be a chocolate shortage now.

Work has turned sour once again. The good old NHS eh? The pay offer and deal they finally proposed for my new role was frankly an insult and an embarrassment. I’ve said ‘no thanks’ and will wait to see the fall out. If they don’t take it seriously then I won’t continue to do it. Simple as that. I am disappointed but it hasn’t really affected me as much as I thought it would. I honestly believe, with this situation, the outcome will be the right one for me. What it has done is make me stop. I was working myself into the ground and after the ‘pay offer’ meeting I decided to hell with it. I would focus on my patients and families, support the speech and language team which is the role I AM paid for and leave the rest alone. I pretty much took this morning off, had a lovely chat to a friend over the phone, sorted out my son’s school uniform and bought a bright lime green bag in the sale. I think the NHS owed me some time and it felt bloody brilliant.

I have booked a sports massage, I’m thinking of going to visit my friend in London sometime soon and I’m planning on become the queen of keto baking this weekend. I have my almond and coconut flour and I’m raring to go. I did have to close my eyes and hold my breath when I pressed the button to buy it. Boy, it’s so expensive! The cookies better taste like the sweetest nectar is all I can say.

This weekend I will have been sober for 9 months. Riding that Soberista train with many of you. Though my life is full of ups and downs (steady on, you’re all at it now), I am dealing with them. I’m starting to believe that I can do this, I’m not alone and I’m worth good things. I know for sure that belief would never had happened if I was still drinking alcohol.

Love Claire x

What do I want to know today?

My mindfulness journal had this question as the prompt for writing. I wasn’t really sure how to respond or answer. What does any of us want to know at a particular moment or time? It might be something very specific or factual. It could be existential or philosophical. It might be nothing at all. Maybe you feel you know enough. It’s an odd question really.

I decided I would quite like to know what direction I should take. I want to know if I’m following the right path, heading on the correct journey. I feel like I’ve taken a turn somewhere, not necessarily a wrong one, but one that’s leading me somewhere different and away from my original route. I look back and I can’t really see the road I was on. It’s overgrown with trees and bushes. Should I spend time cutting them back and start searching for what was there, maybe to find it isn’t really the way I want to go? Or do I continue, down what looks like a footpath but I can’t be sure. I want to know where the signpost has gone. Where is the stile to help me over the tricky patch? There is just no clear map.

I really don’t mind how long the journey takes. I’m not in any rush to reach a destination. But what I’d really like to know today is, am I’m heading in the right direction?

Claire x

Going Keto

Time for a long overdue update. My recent posts have all been a little on the naval gazing side of things and too much naval gazing makes Claire a very dull girl.

A little bit of good news at last. Yesterday I had my interview for the position I’ve been covering at work for the past 4 months. I was offered the job and I have accepted. There are still lots of unknowns regarding the pay, the banding of my current role (as this is an ‘add on’) and the lines of responsibility but there has been agreement this will be addressed. This is a start and a big step forward. A month ago my stress and anxiety levels were pushed to the max due to feeling ignored and unappreciated at work and I was unsure what direction to take. I set boundaries and I communicated the issues and my expectations. I came to terms with accepting that, should the situation did not change, I would walk away. It was a really tough time and I hit a very rocky patch emotionally but I stuck it out. Now, I have been officially offered the post and I will be paid (at least something) for it. Underlying issues need to be resolved and I am quite ready to stand up for myself if they aren’t sorted. I have found an inner strength and self belief that allows me to know my worth and not accept anything less. That feels pretty darn good.

In other news, I have worked my little proverbial socks off since we arrived back from the ill fated caravan trip. There hasn’t been much time for anything else. I kick started yoga again. Boy, one week off had a big impact. I’m was absolutely not a yoga guru before the holiday but this last week I have been a creaky and squeaky old lady. Lots of muttering a few expletives under my breath as I attempted a ‘sort of’ downward dog and a very wobbly warrior three. Never have I been so relieved to hear the words, “now we will get ready for our final pose, corpse pose”. Thank the Lord for Shavasana.

My weight has been worrying me for a while now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hugely overweight but I have gained a fair few pounds over the past year. In fact, 2 years ago I stuck a huge bag of clothes in the loft. Clothes that were far too big for me. Last week, the ‘fat clothes’ had to come back out of said loft. As if that wasn’t depressing enough, some of them were too tight! Oh the shame and mortification. I reflected on why I might have gained so much weight. Looking for reasons other than the lorry loads of chocolate I consume every night. My daily activity levels have seriously reduced during lockdown. When you reach the end of the day and your smart watch tells you the total daily steps are 82 you know you need to get your arse moving. So, I tried a run on Tuesday. It was a very unpleasant experience from start to finish. I felt so heavy and each and every step was torture. In addition, my joints and limbs have been so achy, stuff and sore recently. This can’t go on. Time to take action.

My plan is to increase activity levels and manage my food intake. I will persevere with the running and ensure that every day I at least run or walk 2 miles. I will continue with my yoga. I will, and here is the biggie, go on the 30 day keto diet. I have bought the book. I’m reading it now. This is my new ‘thing’. If I can ditch the wine, I can do this for 30 days and hopefully for the longer term. So, Dr Josh Axe, author of ‘Keto Diet’ …. let’s do this thing. Who’s with me? Anyone? Hello… Are you there? Hmm, radio silence ….

I’ll keep you all updated. Be warned, this may not be pretty.

Claire x

Reflection

Time for some self reflection I think. Life has gone a little awry recently. I’ve found myself engaging in a good deal of ‘stinking thinking’ (thanks Collette for this perfect phrase). My sobriety has been really tested, I’ve had periods of huge anxiety and my mood has dipped uncomfortably low on some days. This all seems to have happened during the past month to six weeks and I’m starting to wonder why that might be the case.

The obvious answer would be the antidepressants and the fact that around that time I started to wean off them and have been without them for almost 6 weeks now. My constant deliberation as to whether I should remain med free has come to no conclusion as yet. I don’t want to dwell on the whole antidepressant debate right now. Instead I’m going to look back and reflect on some successes.

  • I have maintained my sobriety for over 8 months now. I didn’t even realise I’d hit 8 months until the day after which in itself is petty crazy, considering I once thought about drinking ALL the time
  • I stepped up to take on a new role temporarily at work. It came with a significant increase in responsibility, leading a medical and surgical team at a time of great stress and anxiety.
  • I have done a good job in leading the team, maintaining our service and now resuming patient care.
  • I have become a yoga addict and since lockdown at the end of March (other than being away for the last week), I have practised at least 5 times a week and sometimes twice a day. I really do enjoy it.
  • I have maintained close friendships and formed new ones that have brought me so much joy and happiness.
  • I have cut ties with old ‘friends’ and people who had a negative effect on my mental health.
  • I have survived social situations that involved some of these people and I did so sober.
  • I have a lovely invisible shield. Granted I forget to use it some days and for a while it’s been stuck at the back of a cupboard BUT I’ve pulled it out, dusted it off and it’s back in action.
  • I have attended a christening in Belfast that involved a stay over and I spent a weekend away with a large group of people to celebrate my brother’s 50th birthday. Both occasions involved people engaging in a lot drinking for a significant amount of time. I enjoyed both events and remained alcohol free.
  • I have become a garden lover and enthusiast, gaining so much pleasure from pottering around and watching my plants and flowers grow.
  • I have realised many new things about myself. I am actually fairly introverted. I enjoy my own company. I can achieve peace and calm inside my mind and body, even if it evades me right now.
  • I have faced my ongoing battle with anxiety and depression and I will continue to find strategies and ways to deal with them when they come knocking. They will not get the better of me.
  • I play online scrabble and enjoy it
  • I have learned that kindness brings all kinds of positivity into my life
  • Eight months on, I am still living my life sober and free.

Looking back I am proud of the things I have achieved. My journey is not just about sobriety. It’s about learning to love myself. It’s about discovering what exciting things life might hold for me. I just need to learn to open my eyes and really see.

“sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tiptoe if you must, but take a step”. Naeem Callaway

Love Claire x

Today

I have a mindfulness journal. I found it in a cheap bookshop and art store. It was £3. I have almost filled it with thoughts and emotions. There are exercises and prompts to help focus my writing and one of the final questions was …

What do I want to do today?

I’m not a writer by any stretch of the imagination but this is what I wrote ..

Today I want to move forward 
Today I want to feel acceptance and gratitude
Today I want love, peace and kindness
Today I want calm
Today is a day for people who love, respect and care for me
Today I want to let go
Today I want mindfulness, joy and laughter
Today I want nature and fresh air
Today I want family
Today I want friends
Today I want to look in the mirror and say ‘I like you, you’re ok’
Today I want to breathe
Today is the day it happens
Today I will move forward

The instruction was to write down one thing but as always I went rogue and created a huge ‘to do list!’ I won’t accomplish it all today, but TODAY is where it begins.

Love Claire xx

Unanswered questions …

You can never take your sobriety for granted. Never take your eye off the ball. Don’t assume you are safely through to the other side. That is what I’ve learnt today.

This past week has been full of anxiety triggers for me. Work pressures and stress, the sad loss of a very old family friend, not having been able to see my closest friend for 4 months now (and still likely to be longer) and the outlook and reporting on the news just so bloody bleak. In addition, I am fully med free having spent 4 weeks weaning off my antidepressants. I have had virtually no sleep since Friday, struggling to go off until 2 or 3am and then awake again at 5am. Then, today, for the first time in ages, the unthinkable happened. I wanted a drink.

It wasn’t a romantic, sit by a lake, enjoying a picnic, sipping a glass of Prosecco type of longing. Oh no! It was a full on, fuck this, I want to go and buy two bottles of wine (white or red – I’m not fussy) and drink the whole lot type of craving. Nor was it a, “I’m a bit curious as to whether I can moderate and be able to live with alcohol once again” moment. Nope. It was a, “moderation is for idiots, I’m going to get totally pissed and I don’t care” attitude.

Don’t panic. I haven’t. I went out and bought plants and shrubs for the garden. I bought paint for the utility walls and white spirit to mop up the paint I will undoubtably spill on the floor. I did not treat myself to a Chablis or a Shiraz. I’m not currently lying on my bed half comatose having fallen spectacularly off the wagon. It is however a sign I’m struggling again. What I can’t work out is what is acceptable and ‘normal’? Is it ok to feel anxious because problems, challenges and change are all happening at once? Is it ok that the anxiety is kickstarting my over thinking and subsequently affecting my ability to accurately read and interpret a situation? Is it ok that sleep has suddenly evaded me after achieving a consistent 8hrs every night for months and months? I suppose the question I really want the answer to is this. Is this the return of generalised anxiety disorder and is it directly linked to my coming off the SSRIs? I honestly can’t face it all again.

How long do you wait to find out? What if I’m basically just a stress head and I need to accept it as part of me, rather than blaming it on a mental health illness? Everyone gets stressed. I’m just not sure when my ‘stressed’ tips over into becoming unwell. Mental health is so complex. The interplay between lack of sleep, stress triggers, meds, personality and, let’s not forget, the lovely peri-menopause, makes it hard to tease out the cause and therefore the best way to manage it. I used a word early on in my sobriety. Tangled. It’s such a descriptive word and is exactly how I feel once more. Tangled.

I didn’t drink. I won’t drink. I know it is not the answer. Quite what is, I really have no idea.

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

Rose

I’ve had one of my little blogging blocks again recently. I’ve started a post a few times this last week but they haven’t amounted to anything. When that happens I just have to go back to my tried and tested method of writing any old waffle that comes to mind. A lovely blogging friend also suggested starting with a photo and seeing where that leads. My photo is of a rose in my parents’ garden. They bought the rose bush as a gift to each other on their 52nd wedding anniversary last year. It has the same name as my first name. Claire is actually my middle name. Pretty isn’t it?

I took the photo on Sunday. We were visiting on Father’s day. A lockdown garden visit. My parents were really excited to see their grandsons. Unfortunately my husband and I rather ruined the atmosphere by arriving in the middle of a very heated discussion. Some more sensitive folk would have classed it as a full blown row. The content doesn’t matter here. The issue is that this past week (and for a little while now) there has been a regular flow of similar spats and disagreements. It’s become wearing. I can’t really work out why it’s occurring more, if indeed it is. Maybe I’m simply more aware of it. It’s very bloody irritating though. It feels as though I need to ask permission to do things I want to do. As though I have to check out if it’s ok to just be me. I know, I know. Here I go, being all over dramatic again. I am starting to figure some stuff out though and once you see, you can’t unsee.

I’ve spent much of my life trying to ‘people please’. Wanting everyone to like me. I’ve agreed to do things I didn’t want to do. I’ve allowed decisions to be made I didn’t feel comfortable with. I’ve even altered my own opinions and beliefs to match those of others around me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve stood my ground in many a dispute and argument. Stated my case and my opinion loudly and at times aggressively. All when I have been as drunk as a skunk. It’s almost like I didn’t set any boundaries within relationships or make my needs known. Eventually that led to bitterness, resentment and anxiety. Mix up that little concoction with a bucket load of booze and what do you get? Fireworks. A mouthy, opinionated (and occasionally obnoxious) Claire. What do you get the next day? A sad, guilty, remorseful and humiliated Claire. A Claire who then apologises profusely for speaking her mind and expressing her feelings. Upset and devastated that people might not like her. Trying desperately to make amends, Back to square one. A little less self esteem, a little more eager to please and so it goes on.

Sobriety has taught me a lot of things. One of the most important being that I have a right to my own opinion and I have my own needs. Not everyone needs to like me and it is ok to say ‘no’ or not agree with others. The knock on effect has been that I am now clear about my boundaries. What and where they are. I express myself more effectively and I walk away from situations and relationships that are unhelpful and potentially damaging. I no longer seethe with resentment or bitterness because I am being used or treated unfairly. I will either attempt to address the issue or simply disengage and try to let it go, knowing I am worth more. No alcohol means no uncontrollable release of frustrations that have built up slowly over time. No regrets and guilt at losing control when pissed equals much improved self esteem and self belief. All this is incredibly positive. It does, however, have a significant impact on some of my closest and most long term relationships. Relationships where, for a long time, I have played the part of ‘pleasing’ and ‘giving in’ to maintain the status quo and be liked (and hopefully not abandoned). Relationships cultivated and built on the ‘agree – fall in line – challenge when drunk – apologise continually – make amends’ cycle. As I have developed and changed, those friendships and relationships (including the one with my husband) are being seriously tested and forced to change too. Some are possibly not going to survive this transition. That’s a scary thought but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. I will approach it as I approached sobriety, one small step at a time.

This quote is from my home page. I believe I have started to grow back after a pretty harsh winter. Like the rose with the same name, I may have even started blossom.

Love Claire x