Tag: mental health and work

All change…

Officially, my last day of work at the department store was yesterday, although as I am currently signed off sick, I was not actually in work. Last week I had my exit meeting with my manager (handing back my ID and keys etc) and said goodbye to my closest colleagues. I’ll be popping in again this week to say bye in person to a few people I was not able to see, and deliver some notes of thanks. They gave me a reed diffuser in a summery freesia scent, which is already providing a perfect calming aroma in my lounge, as well as a card wishing me well. I hope that I keep in touch, in particular with a few people from the department where I worked. We found a lot in common in the months I was there.

So it’s all change again now. I’m sad to leave. I’ll miss people – colleagues and some customers. I’ll miss the creativity. I’ll miss some aspects of the routine and order. I feel bad for having to go after I’d got to grips with things, received training and my colleagues and manager had put time in to show me what to do and support me into my role. They are all incredibly understanding and caring over my situation that has led me to need to leave and that helped me a lot; I still feel bad for leaving the team and leaving more work back on other people. I guess the good side of that is I must have had some confidence, in the end, that whilst I was there I did manage to do some good. Before I started this job I felt utterly useless, unable to trust that I could do any good because my previous employer seemed to find me so deficient. I see now that at the store I gained a tiny bit of confidence, as well as knowledge.

I’m amazingly anxious and I’m not quite sure why. I’m feeling it physically and feeling shaken and near crumbling and crying and really wishing someone could hold me and tell me it would be alright. I don’t know exactly what is causing this. I’m teetering on the edge of dissociating but I’m staying on this fragile edge instead of slipping over. On the edge are raw and exhausting emotions and I’m spinning and spiralling rather than falling into the safety in the hidden mist of dissociating. It’s painful. I’m trying to use my grounding techniques and self soothing and trying, if only in tiny moments, to avoid falling over that edge. Dissociating may be a relief but the pain it causes me afterwards, and others during, is even worse.

I’m trying to find the way through the next steps now that I will not be working for a while (on my GP’ s and support worker’s and others’ advice). I’m confused about all the forms I have to complete and assessments I have to go through. I’m scared of how they’ll judge me. Scared of whether I’ll manage financially. Scared of so many things that are making me feel trapped, not believed, going into the unknown…. I’m so thankful I have my support worker guiding me through, otherwise I’d implode and go back to shutting down and hurting myself out of fear and pain and flashbacks. I’m so thankful I’m not alone. I’m trying to find ways that this instance of having to leave work – because I’ve lost or head to leave more jobs than I can cope with counting, for the same reasons every time – is not yet another repeat of this cycle and is not only another failure, loss, or let down to those who have tried to help me. I’m trying to find ways I can make this different. I have therapy now. I have my doctors and support worker. I have a home. God willing I am soon going to have some more social interaction and a place to contribute something, in a mental health charity I’ve been referred to. These all count for a lot in stopping me going so deep over the edge and now I pray I can build something good from this place.

Ginny xxx

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Crashing

This is a hard post to write.

I have not been coping physically with my job for a long time. I have really tried to ignore this. Since I started it made my pain levels worse and ever since they have kept increasing. I kept hoping it would at least stop getting worse and maybe that I’d get better at coping with it. I wanted to be able to do it. Be some kind of normal. My job sometimes helps me mentally, engaging in something creative and focusing on helping customers and giving the best service I can. It takes my focus outward which I’ve long believed is really important in staying well. The tactile aspects of my work, handling the different fabrics and trying to create attractive displays, can in themselves be grounding and soothing. Additionally, it’s an area where I can try`to do some good and not feel useless. (I know that’s something I need to work on, how connected my sense of worth is with others’ outward perception of me, but I can’t deny it helps for the time being.)

Now I’ve come to the point of crashing completely. In the last 3 months in particular my pain and physical weakness has increased faster. Since around the time of my operation I guess marked a real down-turn physically and it was to be expected really that  my fibromyalgia symptoms will be worse for a while afterwards. Everything is worse really, my back problems (I had a slipped disc years ago), arthritis…

I know I haven’t really talked about it so maybe this sounds weird. Whenever I talk about my physical health I worry it all sounds stupid, nobody would believe me, I’m a fake and I should just get on with it and everything’s my fault. (There’s a lot I have to work on there too, I know.)

I feel like I’ve crashed suddenly. Gradually it has got harder and harder to – move, to put it bluntly…  Getting harder to get through the day….harder to be able to get home, having to sit and rest, and crumpling as soon as I get in, lying down most of the evening… Today I have had to spend most of the day lying down. Pain and shakiness in my legs makes any standing and walking really hard. My legs are cramping and jerking out of the blue. I can’t feel in my right foot normally and at the same time the pain is really bad through my lower back and hips, worst on the right… I’ve had all this before although not as bad, but I am very scared right now. I feel scared and shaky and lost and so tired. I slept a lot today too. My support worker came this morning and I was so tired I was struggling to literally get words out.

So I find myself admitting again that I am probably going to have to leave this job. The physical deterioration from trying to meet its demands is too much. I have tried to look into reducing my hours but it does not look as though this will be possible. I;d have to massively reduce them in any case. My manager has been kind and understanding in her approach but has to follow the sickness absence procedures set down by the company. Since I have been off sick 4 times within a 6 month period, this is flagged as a problem. I can well understand that it is not fair to colleagues to be off too frequently and I know myself that I am struggling more and more with daily tasks, which is increasing my anxiety and in turn my psychotic thoughts and my fears about what colleagues are saying and thinking about me and making it harder to cope with the hallucinations and all the mental struggles of every day.

Outside of work the effect is great too. Not only are the pain and mobility problems an issue, but I have no energy or coping resources left to manage day to day tasks like keeping my house clean, keeping in touch with people, doing positive things to bring a balance to life outside work, or perhaps most importantly right now, giving the energy to therapy and recovery that I need to. The months I have left with the PD service are precious and working on making use of my individual and group sessions is demanding. I want to be mentally “present” for it, not shut off protecting myself because I’m desperately trying to cope with pain and utter exhaustion.

I’m going to be referred to Occupational Health so I await to see what they will suggest.

ergonomic occ health

I also have to follow my doctors’ and my support worker’s advice. I believe they would all prefer me to reduce my hours. My support worker definitely thinks so.

The one thing that ironically, in a twisted way makes this situation possibly not quite so bad, is that I may actually not be worse off financially working fewer hours or not working at all. I want to talk about this more in a separate post shortly. It’s a bizarre situation that doesn’t sit well with me. At the moment I am struggling in pain and making myself physically worse every day, working part-time, earning just above the minimum hourly wage.  I receive less than £10 per week help towards my rent, I am not entitled to any help at all with things like council tax*, and although I was initially assessed as eligible for a small amount of tax credits, this decision has now been changed and I have been told that I am not entitled to any.  Now, I strongly believe that it is morally right to work as much as I can and not to expect to receive handouts when I could be earning myself. However, what I cannot get away from is that on my current earnings whilst I am working as many hours as I can (well, I have to admit now, more than I can) I cannot live. I do not have enough to cover basic bills and simple living costs and I would not be getting by if it were not for regular help from my family and even occasionally my very good friend who has lent me money for grocery shopping when money has been tightest.

Not only can this situation not go on – I am over 30 now and I simply cannot go on needing financial help from my dad; I have to support myself – but the cost of this job physically is just too much to go through to still not be able to live. It is painfully ironic that because if I were not working or were working fewer hours, for example for a few months or so whilst I complete my therapy, my financial situation would actually be more stable because of the greater help I would get towards rent and living costs. That makes me really really uncomfortable and it isn’t right. Yet I have to be able to live.

It isn’t the main factor that has led me to this point. If I were coping physically I would keep going and if I could I would see if I can increase my hours. But I’m forced to accept that just isn’t so and physically things are not good right now.

I feel really worn out and vulnerable right now. The last time I was so low physically, about 7 years ago, I didn’t feel so afraid or sad. I wonder why that change has come. Perhaps I feel more responsible now. Perhaps I am sadder about potentially leaving my job because there are aspects of it that I genuinely like this time. Perhaps I feel more of a failure that this has happened again.

I need to focus on the good things that could come out of it if I do have to leave. My health problems are not life threatening or anything that serious and so many people are going through much worse, much more medically severe, perhaps without friends to help them and understanding doctors. In moments I can see that there can be ways that in the next few months I can try to turn things around.

I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me. Tonight I just needed to get all this out and admit that I’m scared.

Thank you for listening. I can’t imagine where I would be right now without this blog and the support of you lovely people who read and care and comment. There’s so much more I should say on that. I hope you know how much you mean to me. Hugs xxx

Ginny xxx

(*apart from the 25% single person occupancy discount. For non-UK readers, council tax is a roughly monthly fee payable towards local government spending like policing and other emergency services, refuse collection, some elements of care for vulnerable people, etc. Most working adults pay council tax. The amount payable depends on the value of the property you live in.)

Image not mine, sourced on the ever useful Google – I am afraid I do not know the artist (it says in the top left I believe but I was not able to expand it to read it.

Quack quack!

Quack quack!

Just for fun – walking through the park I came across these two little ducks happily sitting there in the middle of the grass. They were quite well traveled for ducks since the river is a considerable distance away, a good 20 minutes’ walk I’d say.

Today I’m feeling a bit like a duck out of water too. I’ve got another virus (only just got rid of the last one!) and the arthritis and fibromyalgia pain is really bad. It’s a struggle at work today. As well as the pain I’m not managing to keep focused and I feel weird since I had a meeting yesterday as part of the investigation of the complaint I made about the hospital where I’m having treatment. It didn’t go badly but…I don’t know. I’ll post more about it at the weekend.

Wishing you a happy day. Time for me to quack back to work.

Ginny xx

“Are you one person or two?”

“Are you one person or two?”

I’m writing this in a coffee shop. I was just thinking about therapy on Friday when a lady came up to me. “Are you one person or two?” she asked straight away. I had to smile – nope, I’m not currently in a dissociative episode but thanks for asking! (It turns out that what she meant was “is this seat taken?”)

It does feel like having to be two (or more) people sometimes. The socially acceptable me that has to cope at work and pretend to be fine, and the emotional mess underneath. The me that is vulnerable, scared and crying and still re-experiencing the traumatic events of my childhood and desperately wants a hug. The me that is angry and bitter and has lost all compassion or patience.  The me who is hypervigilant and whose thoughts are spiralling, and bound to the voices and obsessional thoughts, and the me that is out of it, numb and disconnected, only watching the world outside, losing huge chunks of time.

Sometimes it isn’t a question of having to be two separate people because part of me is so unacceptable (for example, having to hide what’s really going on in order to function at work, or in social situations). To some extent I suppose having the other “me” that goes to work is some kind of a coping strategy. Otherwise I might be hidden at home under my blankets crying all the time. The problem is, sometimes it’s a question of flicking, uncontrolled, unstable and without wanting it, between the different “mes”, and being taken over by the different emotions and reactions to the emotions the different personalities experience. I think maybe, because my emotions are so all-consuming and take me over so much that I don’t seem to exist outside them, when I have such a surge of different emotions, going through them feels like being split into different people, all dissociated from each other. Another problem is losing memory around the time that I experience the strongest emotions, so feeling I have not been present at all. And whether switching people / personalities is wanted or not, it is shattering. When it’s unwanted, perhaps because it’s frightening. When it’s wanted, it is completely draining constantly trying to conceal what you’re really feeling and act against it, and it can make me feel that I am being very false,  and that I am so bad really on the inside even if nobody else sees it yet. I guess because I think the emotions I label or experience as “bad” make me bad. That’s something I probably need to try to examine.

Now, particularly for fans of The Big Bang Theory, this could of course turn into a particular skill, a la Sheldon Cooper 😉 :

[Raj wants Sheldon to sign up to an online dating website.]

Sheldon: “Are you sure? I’ve heard that on those sites, often when you think you’re corresponding with someone, it’s actually a computer program pretending to be a real person.”
Raj: “And you’re afraid it’ll do a better job than you?”
Sheldon: “Excuse me. No one does a better job pretending to be a person than I do. Siri comes close, but I know more jokes.”

Certainly it can feel like pretending to be a person. Or pretending to be an “okay” person, at any rate! I’m trying to focus on the fact that even when we are in pain or turmoil or angry or whatever it may be inside that we feel is not okay, it’s what we do and how we act that is important in terms of good or bad. I’m not saying that I think it’s bad to express these difficult emotions, to get upset, sad, angry and so on. I’m learning that we need to do that. I mean that whatever we feel, and indeed whether we think it’s a bad feeling or not, we can still do good. Even if I’m angry and upset inside, I can still choose to be dedicated at work or to do some little thing to show kindness to a friend. Having the difficult feelings inside doesn’t mean we are worthless, or can’t do any good. Everything is harder, for sure. It costs us much more to smile, go out of the door, talk to people, go to work, etc etc, when we are having an awful day. If anything this increases the value of the good and the kindness we do because it is done with all the more effort and love.

Keep drinking the coffee 😉 and keep going!

Ginny xxx

[Photo from Gilmore Girls episode “Luke can see her face” (season 4 I think) …..The Big Bang Theory – directed by Mark Cendrowski, produced by Faye Oshima Belyeu ; Gilmore Girls directed by Amy Sherman Palladino. All rights belong to the respective artists.]

 

Today I will find good

Ouch. The pain is really bad this morning and I’m exhausted, anxious and don’t know if I’ll get through the day at work.

Today I am deciding to find as much good as I can. Today I commit to notice and be thankful for 5 good things around me. Today I commit to hold onto hope. Today I commit to find every small way I can to go that little bit further and bring help and happiness to others.

I’ll post the 5 thankful things later today.

Wishing you good today.

Xxx

Lonely, lost and loud

This evening I think I feel lonely and alone. Sometimes I’m not sure of the difference between those two feelings. Alone is isolated and separated and not belonging, not-empathised-with, not wanted even. Perhaps lonely is more without others, wishing for someone.

Since my close friend and her husband and I are no longer in contact at present, I have almost no interaction in person with anyone outside work, no genuine meaningful interaction at least, beyond exchanges in shops or chance meetings with acquaintances where the front must stay most securely up. That’s a selfish and self-centred reason to miss her, but it’s true, as well as missing her tenacity, determination, energy, faith and curious perspectives; her surprising kindnesses.

I do not know whether or how to try to repair our relationship and whether to expect her in any way to cope with me now, would be fair or something she’d want. She’s said and done things that are clear enough to me that our friendship had no goodness, enjoyment or happiness for her and that it had a lot of frustration, irritation and just a sense of obligation. If she were in need of someone or something of any kind, company,  help, happiness or prayer, I know I’d be the last person she’d choose.

I’m hurting and longing. I’m asking God to give me strength to turn to His Word and stay close to Him, who gives all we need and more and pours love into our emptiness.

I’m trying to make each interaction with anyone, down to the most seemingly insignificant, a chance to give my best – caring, patience, a smile, a warm response. Doing these things outwardly, perhaps my heart that’s hurting and cold right now may be changed.

It’s loud in my head today. It’s been a day of doubting and checking everything and a cloud of trepidation telling me everything I’ve done wrong and every way I’ve failed. Every comment and criticism ridicules and mocks me, cutting deeply. It feels like being surrounded on all sides. I actually startle easily and feel someone is following and watching me; I hear whispers of anger and disgust and voices pulling me apart – and my mother’s voice.  It’s like I’m stumbling on a jagged path where there is too much mist to see where it will lead. I can only see as far as a very few steps ahead. But I must keep walking on this way because either side is thick darkness, trees and unknown beings with branches or arms that would enmesh me, surround me and call me into deeper night that would obscure all hope. The path turns and does not follow the expected course and I have no idea where or if it will end. Often it twists and seems to lead me deeper into the forest, the branches clutching closer and the voices louder. I cannot retreat because behind me,  somehow, the path has fallen away. I can only stay on the path unfolding gradually before me, the rocks mark out the way, and I try to walk forward through the mist.

I wonder how many others may follow a way such as this and whether we may be nearer to each other than we know.

Ginny xxx

Monday again

I’ve been off work nearly a week because of annual leave for hospital appointments and my usual rota’ed weekend off. I’m really nervous about going back tomorrow. I seem to remember posting on this topic before! Such a small thing but causing me so much anxiety at the moment and the more I think how I shouldn’t be anxious the worse it is, so I’m just trying to walk forward and give my best in each moment and find every little opportunity to see good things and do good things.

How do you feel as the new week starts? You are in my thoughts and I wish you something joy-giving and something grounding in every day.

Ginny xxx

Inexplicably disturbed

Near the end of the day at work today, someone was apprehended in the store for shoplifting. She looked young, about 14 or 15 or maybe younger; a small,  plainly dressed girl, who would have been almost studious looking in another context.

Something had been going on all day because all afternoon whilst I was working on the till, our security staff were on the shop floor in much higher numbers than usual, all apparently observing a particular area of the shop. It was one of those situations where your gut tells you “something is not right” – apart from the security presence my attention kept being drawn to a similar area of the store as if clocking something unusual that was slightly off.

I get those feelings. I group them with the way I pick up too strongly on others’ emotions and sense and know things others don’t. It can be a help, empathising, or sensing danger faster, but it’s so draining and an aching weight too.

For some reason as I watched a policeman and two security guards handling this young girl and escorting her, gripped tightly, off the shop floor, suddenly I felt a surge of fear. Not just anxietybut fear. I was completely disturbed. I wanted to run. It took a massive effort to concentrate on helping close down the till and complete my tasks. I can still feel this fear now over an hour later.

Why? Why was I frightened? What of? Was I frightened for her? She was silent but struggling and clearly very strong. I couldn’t read fear in her eyes exactly but something was wrong, not there. After some time the conscious thought occurred to me that she wasn’t alone shoplifting, she was someone’s marionette.

Admittedly I was stressed already, tired and feeling physically ill from the latest OD (don’t worry not life threatening or anything) and I’d had several difficult interactions with customers already.

Yet I can’t understand the level of fear I felt. Perhaps I was reminded of the police having to forcibly “escort” my mother into the transport to hospital, restraining her, with her alternately violently struggling or “playing dead”. Did I remember that? But I didn’t see and hear it although the level of emotion was the same as in a flashback.

Can you have a flashback only of emotion?

Ginny xxx

Stupid little things like coffee

Stupid little things like coffee

It’s evening. I got to the end of the day at work. I told myself if I got through my shift I could get a nice vanilla latte on the way home. Not always the coffee I choose but the kick and the warm sweet milk is comforting for some reason.

It doesn’t really make sense. I’m still feeling confused and like it isn’t quite my life. It doesn’t seem to make sense. Not that it didn’t end exactly. But just that it doesn’t make sense. Therapy and the crowded bus stuck in the traffic; getting out and feeling I couldn’t make my legs work right because the balance and weight was all in the wrong place and I wanted to curl up and hide; pushing and pushing;  work – faster than I thought it would go, though staying listening to the real world was hard; out; coffee. It doesn’t make sense. How can this be when yesterday and Saturday and Friday were what they were, when it so “was” the end. I’m not expecting to get an answer to that or not right now anyway. It’s just a state that doesn’t seem to make sense. I suppose. ..the answer is that even the worst passed. The answer is I was helped. God is merciful and I have such need of His mercy.

Ginny xx

Back to work

I go back to work tomorrow after a few days’ annual leave. I’m really anxious right now. It’s harder than usual for me to go out at the moment. I’m better than in the last few days where I was crying all the time, but still feel dangerously out of control and shaky. This makes me feel like I have to double check how I’m behaving and what I’m saying all the more and the thoughts and voices in my head are all the stronger – you’re stupid, freak, ugly, fake, selfish, why did you say that, stop talking, deceitful, it’s your fault, disgusting, you’ve made it all up, why did you do that, not good enough, they know how bad you are now, they’re angry with you….it would all have been fine without you, everyone knows it’s your fault – until the frightening emptiness comes back and I just want to sleep.

I know it’ll just get worse if I don’t go to work and it does no good to think about all this. I need to turn outwards, look at everyone else, work, try to do good, try to do my job, try to just ignore the ache and the anxiety, not let it take everything over.

I’m going to try to do some things immediately to overcome it. I’m going to call a friend who I know has been having a bad time recently, having recently lost a friend of hers; I’m going to try to make some cards in preparation for a charity fundraiser in the Spring; I’m going to prepare my clothes for work tomorrow. I’m going to be thankful for having a job to go to.

Ginny xxx