This is going to be the shortest post ever from me. I wanted to say ‘hello’ and let you all know I’m doing ok. I’m going to catch up on everyone’s blogs and posts over the next few weeks and then I’ll write a few of my own.
As my lovely friend @jaquelyn3534 would say … “I’ve missed y’all”
I have been away on my holibobs. We went up to stay in a converted barn in the North East of England, just south of Durham and north of Yorkshire. We went with both sets of the boy’s Grandparents. Some may say that was lovely, others would call it brave. A few may consider it sheer lunacy. My parents and my in-laws actually get on very well and I find being away less stressful when we are with both sets rather than one. I suppose I find some free time and space for me if I’m not under the microscope. That said, it is quite an undertaking!
The cottage/barn was advertised as being on a ‘working’ farm. In reality, it was on a bit of a building site where a new housing estate was being developed. The ‘farmers’ had clearly sold all the farm land to a housing development company and all that was left was the farmhouse and our ‘shed’. The accommodation itself was lovely. Spacious and comfortable with a hot tub in the garden. The ‘village’ that was within walking distance did not really resemble a village and was pretty much deserted the whole time. All very strange. All a little random. Still, we ventured out each day and saw some beautiful scenery. The coast, long sandy beaches, waterfalls, gorgeous moors and countryside and stunning villages. Loads to do and see. Plenty to keep the over 70s and under 18s happy. Very poor WiFi which was a big negative for many but we survived.
On the first day we arrived, we unpacked and I watched my husband and his Dad grab their first beer, clink glasses and say ‘cheers’. Then my Dad joined in with his beer and the two Grandmas enjoyed a large goblet style glass of wine each. One white, the other red. There was lots of “… and relax” and ‘the holiday starts here …” type comments. I suddenly started to panic. I didn’t think I was going to be ok with this. There was a real sense of ‘group drink’ and I really bloody missed alcohol. I couldn’t ask them to stop but how was I going to cope? I began to get upset and dread the week ahead. Then, out of the blue, I considered drinking. Just for the week. For social purposes. My little addict voice told me all sorts of convincing reasons as to why this was a great idea. I wanted to relax and chill out. I didn’t want to be the dull grey person who would, in all reality, rather sit on her own, eating chocolate and drinking tea, whilst doing a jigsaw. Why not just do what the others do and enjoy it? It’s a bloody holiday for goodness sake!
Then my Dad began to irritate me a bit. Well, quite a lot actually. I always feel disloyal when I blog about my parents. I’ve said before that I love them and I know they really, really love me. They are just quite difficult at times. In different ways. My Dad is the most tricky though. He is a know it all. He has a comment on every subject and strong opinions to go with that. He’s fundamentally a misogynist as well as having other opinions that tip into the offensive and prejudiced categories. He has diluted this over the years but it’s always there. He monopolises conversations, rarely listens to others and is constantly in ‘impress’ mode. It is immensely annoying. Well, I find it annoying. I get snappy and a bit mean, which I know upsets him. We have had some huge fights and arguments over the years and they all had one thing in common. Booze. Lots of it. He would get louder and more obnoxious and I would get nastier and very intolerant. It wasn’t a pretty sight or experience.
So this holiday, on the first night, instead of pushing the ‘all systems go go go … let’s drink!’ button, I took my foot right off the pedal. I had a bath. I read some of my book ‘the happiness project’ by Gretchen Rubin (which I highly recommend) and made the decision that drinking would only make what was already going to be challenging, much much harder to bear. I poured a cup of tea. I went to watch tv with my eldest son and by this point the grandmas had stopped drinking alcohol. They joined me with cups of tea. The evening passed uneventfully and no argument occurred. No regrets and recriminations in the morning.
It remained the same for the entire week. I took my time out when I needed it. Not always easy when the mum and mum in law want to follow you around and sit with you and talk to you. ALL THE TIME! I completed a jigsaw and in the end all adults were clambering to get pieces in. I adored being with my boys and eventually I became less snappy and I relaxed. I did it without the help of alcohol. I found other ways to get my kicks. They might sound boring to some but they are how I find happiness and peace nowadays. No longer in a wine bottle. It’s in the nuggets of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Who knew? 🤷♀️
Yesterday we started packing up our caravan for a trip away. The plan was to head off tomorrow to the Cotswolds for 5 days and finally get away from the house. My husband had picked up the van during the week, cleaned it and paid for it’s storage. I didn’t achieve very much in the packing department as I was having one of ‘those’ days. Lacked motivation, felt exhausted and generally a bit grumpy. Last night we sat down after dinner and I checked emails and texts about the arrival time and general holiday details. I discovered I had missed a rather essential piece of information. England is opening up a little more from the 12th April. Non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants with outdoor facilities, gyms, hairdressers … this is all good news. Not, however, toilet and shower facilities on caravan and camping sites! Well, not strictly true: some sites will open toilets and cleaning facilities but no showers. Our site was a no facilities open at all kind of site. Oops. I missed the fine print there. Although, it wasn’t really fine print. It was quite clearly expressed on every piece of communication I had received in the past two weeks. Epic fail on my behalf. We can’t function without an on site toilet and shower facilities. Our caravan is not a fancy, sizeable outfit with mod cons such as a working shower or a toilet space you can actually fit into.
I felt a bit gutted. I broke the news to the family. I noticed a small smirk on each of the boys’ faces as they desperately tried to look disappointed that they didn’t have to go and live in a tin can with no WiFi for 4 nights. Even my husband failed to hide the relief at the thought of not freezing his backside off and having to wear a hat at night to keep his head warm (we don’t have heating in our caravan). The joy as he realised he could watch his football team play on Monday night … well, that was blatantly clear to see! Had it only been me looking forward to this trip? Was I the only one who felt disappointed about not going? Or are my family just far better as seeing the positives in whatever the plans are, no matter if they change? (I don’t actually believe that’s true …. my son’s reaction when he couldn’t go to football training last Sunday was something to behold).
I decided to apply some gratitude and reframing practice to the situation. I listed the positives about not going away and having some time (off work) at home. This is my list:
Warmth (the weather this week looks pretty chilly in the evenings and at night)
Not having to psych myself up for a day of packing, shopping, transferring guinea pigs to my parents, cleaning ….
A free day to do whatever I want today
Time this week to work on my application for re-banding my job. I have continually put this off but it’s so important I get it done.
Day trips to more local areas with the ability to come home, shower and get warm and cosy
We can still cycle and walk and explore each day. We just do it from home as our base. More facilities are open from tomorrow so we have more choice than we have had for 4 months
I can take baths
I can still practice my yoga (I’m not confident enough to practice outside the caravan in full view of fellow campers)
Being able to sit watching TV in the evenings without wearing a coat or 20 layers of clothing
Our beds are ready for us to get into at night and don’t need to be packed away in the morning
Writing the list almost put me off ever going away in the caravan again 🤣.
I do love going away in our van. It’s hard work to get everything ready and set up and we don’t have the luxuries we have at home but it’s a refreshing way to live. We don’t rely on technology and spend more time together as a family. There will be other caravan trips though and it just takes a little effort to ensure we still spend some quality time together whilst having a staycation. I’m quite excited to make some plans for the week ahead.
One last thing I am very grateful for. Thank goodness I realised about the toilet and shower situation before we spent all today packing up, all tomorrow morning hooking up and driving 2 hours to the location. I’m not sure any of us would have found many positives had that happened, no matter how hard we tried.
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.
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.
It’s my son’s 16th Birthday today. 16 years ago I was a completely different person. My little bundle of joy, and need, and wind, and poo, was about to arrive and change my life forever.
16 years. I was 32. I’d been married just over a year. Been in our house for two. The house was much smaller than it is now. I, on the other hand, was HUGE! A tiny 7lb baby and I’d managed to somehow gain almost 4 stone. I’m surprised he didn’t come out looking like a chunky KitKat!
16 years. Maternity leave stretching ahead of me. Sat contemplating what life would be like (it was all very organised as I had a Caesarean section due to him being breech. He has always liked to buck the trend). I had taken the planning for his arrival to ridiculous levels. Mrs Extreme strikes again! Pages and pages of handwritten feeding charts, buoyed on by the immense amount literature I had read. Get into a routine immediately. Don’t let people pass him around. Feed at these times only. Leave him to cry. Blah blah blah. I was going to be the ‘perfect’ mum and do it 150% right. Ha! 4 months later, post natal depression in full swing, it was not quite as I anticipated.
16 years. A baby that would not stop crying in the day. A life at home I struggled to get used to. Missing work, missing my social life. Feeling like I hadn’t bonded with my baby. He was all I’d ever wanted in life and I couldn’t enjoy it. We made it through those dark days. I refer to a particularly bad period as ‘Bleak January’. We survived together. He was an adorably cute toddler. Blonde curls and such fun and energy. Learning to walk. Learning to swim. Learning to be a person in his own right.
16 years. 15 of them spent drinking. Increasing amounts as the years went on. It’s 5pm, is it too early to start? It’s a Wednesday evening, I’ll open a bottle … end of my working week now. Out for lunch dates with mums. Glass or two of Prosecco to wash it down. May as well carry on through the evening. So many new friends and a social life that was booming. Dinner parties at home that became drunken evenings of dancing and singing (screaming loudly). It was fun though. The hangovers weren’t. 5am starts, lying on the sofa with him next to me, watching CBeebies. The colours, the enthusiasm of the presenters, the noise! No more hangovers now thankfully. Plus a son that is proud of my sobriety and happily tells all his friends that his mum doesn’t drink.
16 years. Nursery. Primary school. Secondary school. New friends. New hobbies. New sports. Xbox. Swearing. I have never heard such bad language used within one sentence when that machine is on. Suddenly he is 5ft 10 with size 9 feet and so very independent. Planning driving next year. Planning a law degree. Planning his own life.
16 years. Two children. Two extensions. Three guineapigs. Countless hangovers. 324 days of sobriety. One period of post natal depression. One diagnosis of anxiety and depression. 2 promotions. One pandemic. One caravan. Two amazing trips to the US. 16 of my own birthdays. Too many nativity performances and school assemblies. One life.
16 years. 16 glorious, tough, exhausting, amazing, rewarding, challenging, phenomenal years. I’m grateful for them all. Happy Birthday lovely boy. Thank you. 😊
Today is fairly cold but the sky is clear blue and I have been able to sit out in the sun. It’s been another quiet day with yoga, a family walk and then reading my Brené Brown, ‘The gifts of imperfection’, book in the garden. I have to admit I’m really enjoying it and learning loads. I keep re-reading chapters, highlighting sections and making notes on certain aspects of it. Much of what she says makes sense to me but there is a lot of info in there so I am taking my time.
I have almost completed the online CBT course I was registered for when I self referred to the local mental health service. I’m not particularly impressed and I knew much of what it has told me anyway. I’m currently waiting for 6 sessions of more specific one to one counselling, focusing on my relationships. Most specifically, focusing on my relationship with my husband. I have absolutely no idea what will happen there and I am slightly daunted by the prospect but I’m willing to try anything. I suspect he and I should really be attending the sessions together but that would mean an acceptance that I want to resolve things. In reality I think I would like to find a way that we can continue to live as a family for the next couple of years, without destroying each other and then decide what is best for us in the longer term. Maybe that’s terribly naive of me but at the moment I am not ready to face up to the devastation and trauma of splitting up. I guess the counselling might help me work some of this stuff out. This is all part of growing and changing I guess.
A year ago I was planning my trip to Vietnam. I went out there for just over 10 days with colleagues to work for a charity to deliver cleft care. God I was nervous but really excited. I’d never done anything like that before. I’d never been away from the boys for longer than a few days. It was an amazing experience and I learnt so much. Sadly we weren’t able to return this year due to Covid. I do hope all our colleagues and the families are doing ok. I wish I could have returned as my sober self. I worked really hard out there but I also drank a lot. Looking back, I know I was on edge and living on my nerves (if you know what I mean). I can only recognise that now because I have experienced calm and peace this last year. I did not have calm and peace back then. I returned totally knackered because I had burnt the candle at both ends. I don’t feel I gave my all to those families and I wanted to go again, to have one more shot and be the best I could be. Maybe one day …
It was after my return from Vietnam that I began to read about sobriety and started looking into alcohol and the effects of long term alcohol addiction. I’m approaching a year sober in November and I honestly can’t believe it. Claire of September 2019 would absolutely never have believed it. Just goes to show, we never know what is around the corner. The whole world has turned upside down and inside out since I headed off for that trip of a lifetime on October 3rd last year. My little world has also done the same. But I’m still here. I’m surviving, I’m sober and I’m sitting in the sun.
Ah! Peace at last. My busy, bustling, burdensome brain has finally calmed. There are no big waves of feeling and no strong emotions to deal with which, after the month I have had, is nothing but a blessed relief. I love joy and excitement and fun just as much as the next person but I think maybe, like many things in my life, I don’t do emotions in moderation. The flip side being when I fall, I go to the other extreme. Occasionally it is good to take a break from extremes and sit in the middle and I think maybe that’s the place the antidepressants help me to settle.
I still feel all the emotions and enjoy them just as much. They somehow don’t take over when I’m in a better place with my mental health. I can appreciate them, like or dislike them, but they aren’t the end of the world or the only thing that matters. I can experience the feelings without them overwhelming me. That’s so important in being able to function. Some might consider it boring. Some people adore that high and low, rough and smooth. I used to be one of those people. I wonder if too much living life with such emotional extremes puts you into the ‘at risk’ category for depression? Or maybe I was depressed at times when I was younger but didn’t recognise it as that. Post natal depression with my first was the first experience I remember.
The other, completely lovely feeling of having your mind quieten down is the opportunity to stop thinking about yourself so much. Depression , amongst many other things, is so bloody boring. I mean, I’m really not that interesting a person to be spending so much time focusing on myself. The space in my brain means I can think about other things and care about other people. That makes me happy. In a selfish way it helps me climb the ladder to the top of the wall I have built around myself. Being compassionate and kind towards others really improves my mental health but when I am depressed my kindness mojo is switched to off.
So, after all the deliberation about the antidepressants, it was the right thing for me at this time in my life. I can feel they have worked even more quickly than last time and although I have a long way to go, I am grateful for the quiet and the calm inside my head and my body. I am also hugely thankful to all of you who supported me, sent me love and hugs and had your kindness switches firmly on.
I am currently sat outside the caravan typing this post. The sun has come out on what has been a very rainy and stormy day. We still managed our 14 mile bike ride this morning which was fun but ended up very wet. We then sat in the caravan/awning in a lightening and thunder storm, torrential rain and we were flooded … again! Big sigh. It happened the other morning. Wading through standing water to get in and out of the caravan. Only on our pitch, no-one else’s. Luckily this time nothing was ruined. The other day all our games, shoes and clothes were totally drenched.
Anyone for a swim?
It’s ok though. I haven’t let it trigger me and I’m not wallowing in self pity mode. We are leaving a day early because we don’t want to risk it happening again but that’s ok too. I have written emails and asked for compensation for the inconvenience and damaged belongings. We will see. In spite of all of this, I have managed to relax and enjoy my time away. I’m relieved about that as at the beginning of the week I wondered if that would be possible. I’ve had lovely chats with both my boys and soaked up the scenery. I have not checked any work emails which has enabled me to totally switch off.
Ponies taking shelter from the rain
Watching the storm from safety
I have decided I am going to buy a new bike. I have really enjoyed cycling this week. Unfortunately the fun was tarnished a little by my 18 yr old heavy piece of crap with gears that don’t really work and brakes that squeal as loud as a banshee. My dad loves cycling and my eldest son is becoming just as addicted. It would be something to share with them and also to do alone. There are also clubs to join where maybe I could spread my wings a little more. I have no idea where to start but I’m quite excited about researching bikes and finding the best one for me. I know it will be expensive but I work hard and I don’t treat myself to many things.
I’m still trying to reframe situations and attempting not to turn everything into a catastrophe. It takes hard work and effort to stay in the present and not look too far ahead. I don’t get it right a lot of the time but some of the time is better than none. I am a work in progress!
So I sit here watching the clouds float by, gathering together, readying for another dollop of rain. I best get up and move everything off the ground including my children. We could be swimming out of the caravan tomorrow. Now where did I pack my goggles?
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.