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Thoughts from a Small Island

Random words from my mind

You Had One Job

This week has been a mix of emotions for me. Mostly it has been good but this weekend has left me feeling a little flat. My heart is telling me that everything is ok and I am getting on really well and then my head is telling me not to listen to my heart as it talks nonsense. My head thinks that my heart only has one function and that is to keep me alive. My heart thinks my head has one function to contend with and that function is thinking. Neither of them have much concern for the other and when one of them gets out of hand the other will put up a fight to try to come out on top.

I have had my first full week back at work and it’s safe to say that it’s been going well. I have a little routine in place for getting up and ready in the morning and then each day I’ve been at work it’s been pretty steady with what I’ve been doing. I work in a cafe in a store here on the small island and am surrounded by some of the best workmates you could ever ask for. I wouldn’t be lying if I said half of us are on medication of one form or another but this is just one of the things that brings us all together. We’re one of those type of teams (although I’m quite a solitary soul in reality) where if one of us feels a bit off, the rest of the team rally round and close ranks to support the fallen soldier (maybe a little dramatic in description there but the sentiment is true). They have been there for me throughout my recent struggles with my mental health and were there again for me this last Friday. I like to think I can handle most things life throws at me but mental illness tends to cloud your vision sometimes. I had been on the till for over an hour and a bit when it died down and I signed off it. I was allowed to stop smiling at people I didn’t know which then allowed a wave of emotion to overwhelm me and I realised I was having a mini panic attack in the kitchen.

A colleague looked at me and said “Are you OK?”
“Not really” I replied while wrapping my hairband around my fingers
“Do you need a break?”
“I’m pretty sure I do. I’m just nipping upstairs for a minute”

My head had won. My heart was trying to tell me I’d be alright and that if I just continue to breathe and focus it would all go away. My head however decided it would have a bit of a fight and push me as far it could. I was cross with it for doing this and even more cross for the fact that I had allowed it to. I felt like I’d failed. All I had to do was ignore it and listen to my heart. I had one job. One job!!

However, once I had retreated to the safety of the offices upstairs my heart began to show itself again and calmed me down. It began to do its job and keep me alive. My breathing slowed, the fog lifted in my head and I returned downstairs.

The rest of the weekend has been uneventful in so much as I have coped with my latest wobbles. I am angry at myself for letting it happen in the first place but also proud of myself for getting myself out of it without any help from anyone but my heart.

I now have a day off tomorrow with my wife and daughter and the plan (weather permitting) is to go to a massive car boot sale, look for things we don’t need with money we don’t have, then maybe head to a beach or go for a little walk somewhere.

Whatever you all get up to, have a good one and make some memories.

Until next time…………………………

To Share or Not To Share (That is the Question)

I’m afraid this is going to be a bit of a mini rant tonight.

I do not go on Facebook all that regularly now and it has made a world of difference to my mental state now that I no longer need to see photos of people’s food, see what bar someone has checked into or see what ridiculous ‘game’ is currently being played. Currently on some social media outlets there is apparently a ‘game’ where people are posting a number and how proud they are (e.g. 3 and Proud). The thinking behind this is that it allegedly raises awareness of cancer.

How?

That I do not know. From what I can gather, people are sent a private message to participate and post this completely vague status on their profile but there does not seem to be any mention of the ‘awareness’ part of the ‘game’ in the status. This is where my problem with this lies. By all means play a game, raise awareness for a certain illness or charity or whatever you want to do on your profile page but if it IS for charity then at least make people aware of it somewhere. Whether it is a link to a charity website, or a phone number to call for information / donate money then this is acceptable. What is NOT acceptable is playing a game about cancer, or whatever the chosen illness is, and not doing anything to support people. I have personally lost too many people in my life to cancer, Alzheimer’s and other illnesses over the years and it is certainly not a game. Nor is it something I wish to joke about. What I have done is decide personally which charities I wish to support and how much I wish to donate to their respective cause.

One of the few examples of social media actually helping a cause was the ‘ice bucket challenge’ because when people took part they mentioned why they were doing it and for what charity it was supporting. This in turn generated a lot of media coverage for the charity involved and helped to raise an insane amount of money in a short space of time to fund further research into the condition affected. A good result all round.

With this in mind I have been questioning whether I should share a status on my own profile page. There has recently been a lot of talk and news coverage of mental health issues , particularly in young adults, and this has been delicately handled by the media. Members of our own royal family are championing the cause too having been open about their own issues with grief and loss. With my own issues I have always been very open to family and friends about my mental health and it has helped enormously but my issues with attention grabbing statuses is playing on my mind. The message reads:

My door is always open, kettle is always on and my sofa is always warm and a place of peace and non judgement, any of my friends who need to chat are welcome anytime. It’s no good suffering in silence. I have tea & coffee in the cupboard and a listening ear if needed .
You are never not welcome!! I’m sure you all already know this but everyone needs reminding that I have an #OpenDoorPolicy
Could at least one friend, please copy and paste not share, I’m trying to demonstrate that someone is always listening
#mentalhealth
#suicideawareness
#itsoknottobeok

I want my friends to know I am there for them but I don’t want to make a big song and dance about it. Surely my friends know me well enough by now to know I am here for them?

Decisions, decisions…………………………………

 

What A Day

As I sit down to write this evening I have come to a realisation.

I am tired.

Not tired in a mentally drained way, but tired in a physical way.

Today has been the first day in the last couple of months where I have actually wanted to go out and do things. Not work, shopping or walking around but going to places full of people having fun. People having fun without a care in the world. I thought to myself this morning that I want some of that so I went out in the hope of finding some fun. I had got up at my usual time and gone through my routine of chamomile, colouring and music and then my daughter appeared with a spring in her step. Quizzing me on the day ahead I answered her with a ‘..let’s see where we end up…’ kind of answer.

Leaving the house with a rough idea of where we’d end up we set out on the first part of our journey. The bus journey was quite straight forward and didn’t have its usual anxiousness (I’m pretty sure that is a word???) and we got to our first stop on time. We didn’t stay long however as we soon discovered that the ‘theme park’ we were at was beginning to feel a little too childish for my 11yr old mini teenager. After a few more goes on the water slides confirmed our taste for adventure (or something a bit more exciting than halls of mirrors and robotic dinosaurs) and we left in search of fun.

A stop in the nearby town for sausage rolls and crisps then led us on to another bus to head toward the beach and the 2p arcade machines. The fun-o-meter was rising but still not high enough and after frittering away a couple of pounds worth of change we left empty-handed.

On a walk to the bus station my daughter decided we could give it one more try at a local country park. 2 buses later and we excitedly arrived at the gates, walked in and headed straight for the 4D cinema. A big sign states it is not suitable for anyone like me so rather sensibly I stayed out on a bench in the sunshine while my daughter ran inside. I’m sure a cinema full of people and me having a panic attack would not be a good combination so rather than push myself too much I kind of knew my limits. Then it was off to walk along a platform about 40 foot off the ground but safely anchored. This was more like it. Adventure,  a small bit of danger and more importantly fun all seemed to be coming to the surface and I enjoyed it. I took some time out to take some photos on my phone of the bluebells and gather some calming thoughts and then continued on with the afternoon of fun. A trip on a kids train ride (with my daughter I hasten to add) cemented the fun we had been having as it was 2 minutes of just pure happiness without a care in the world.

In summary I have therefore found the answer to my own happiness. It doesn’t involve anything fancy. There is no scientific equation needed involving various letters and symbols. In fact all my happiness needs is my family and the ability to act a bit daft every now and then. I am pretty good at acting daft at home where no-one can see me but now I am branching out into being daft in public. I am at an age where I no longer care what people think of me as I have all the love I need from my family and few close friends. It kind of feels like one of those inspirational quote things that goes along the lines of :

Dance like no-one’s watching
Sing Like no-one’s listening

And that is what I am trying to get behind every day. Some days I slip and the fear creeps back in, other days I can hold it at bay and have fun.

Let’s see what tomorrow may bring. Hopefully it’ll be fun again…………….

 

 

I Had a ‘Moment’

After my first week at work I have been feeling a bit more positive about the future for me. I am starting to accept myself for who I am and I am also spending my free time doing more things that are productive and helpful to well-being. One of these is getting back in to my photography at every opportunity.

I finished work on Friday evening and it was to be my weekend off. On Saturday my wife and I tidied the house and the garden in preparation for family coming to visit. In the evening my daughter had gone out to play with a friend and my wife was struggling to stay awake. I looked at my watch and checked the time which read 6.15pm , I then looked on the interweb for the sunset times at one of my favourite spots on the little island to find out it was at 7.50pm. On reading this I made a decision to go out, get a bus and walk to the spot and watch the sunset. My wife looked at me as if I had just had another breakdown and asked if I was sure. I replied that I was serious and she just said I should go for it. I left my house at 6.20 and the bus was leaving at 6.25 (cutting it fine but it added to my excitement).

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The end result was that I spent about 3 hours in my own company, watched a beautiful sunset and got myself some of my best (in my opinion anyway) photos. I don’t usually post photos on my blog but it was one of those ‘seize the day’ moments that I just had to share.

Until next time…………………

 

Challenge Accepted

Yesterday was the final installment of my combined 40th birthday / Christmas presents and it was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. My wife had bought tickets to see Russell Howard at Bournemouth BIC and this meant leaving the small island and going to the big island for the day. However, it very nearly didn’t happen.

I awoke at my normal time and took myself downstairs to put the kettle on and get my head straight in peace. My daughter was fussing about in her usual way and trying to do everything at 200mph then wondering why she wasn’t get anywhere ( a little bit like when someone overtakes you on the motorway and you say to yourself “…they won’t get there any quicker..”) so I took myself to my conservatory and sat listening to music. Eventually she stopped fussing and went off to school so I thought I’d get dressed. The ferry to the big island wasn’t until 10.30 so I had plenty of time to prepare myself and that’s when it all began.

Dry mouth? Check
Tingly hands? Check
Thumping heart? Check
Fuzzy head? Check
Irrational thoughts? Check

I think you can all guess where this was heading and it isn’t a nice place if you’ve ever been there yourself.

Anyways, I slowly got dressed while my wife did her hair and I could see her watching my every move to see that I was ok. I breathed deeply and reminded myself that it was going to be a good day full of memories to look back on in years to come. Sitting in the car I fiddle with the hairband around my fingers and tried to challenge the thoughts in my head. On arrival at the ferry we were checked in and then it hit me again. I HAD to get the ferry if I was going to have any chance of a good time. I started to panic and my legs started shaking. I began to tell my wife that I couldn’t do it and she should phone my mum and get her to go with her instead. Unfortunately (or fortunately as it turns out) she wasn’t home which meant I had two choices. Stay or go. My wife calmly said to me that if I couldn’t do this what would happen in the summer when I want to go on day trips with my daughter anywhere else but the island? I can’t live my life on this small island being in fear of a bit of metal that takes me across the water. Our turn came to drive on and we went on the upper deck. As soon as possible I got out the car and headed for the outer seating area and sat in the sunshine with my book and a cup of tea that my wife got for me.

The journey was great (as it usually is) and we then disembarked at the other side and headed for Bournemouth.

I won’t bore you with all the details but the day was great and the show in the evening was absolutely amazing. We never stopped laughing from the minute he came on stage to the very last word. My wife and I spent a great day together which is quite rare these days due to work and general life and it is one we can remember for a long time.

My point to this (if there is one) is that this was my challenge for the day. I have had many challenges and another big one recently is that I’ve gone back to work. This was my first big challenge since my mental health crashed earlier this year. I challenge my thoughts daily to ensure I have a good day and try to push myself a little more. This particular challenge however was one that I had to face otherwise it could be a bit of a problem for someone who lives on an island. Anxious moments will come and go and it’s how I challenge those moments that will determine my recovery.

This was one challenge I accepted……..and passed 🙂

Have a Break

Welcome to the end of the weekend dear readers. Hope it’s all been a good one for you whatever you have been getting up to.

My return to work on Saturday went very well. I started at 10am and was greeted by my team with smiles and hugs. My manager then came and spoke to me and got me started on the tasks he had prepared for me. I have been given plenty of work to do upstairs in the offices getting the paperwork all ready for the next visit from the auditors and it is great. I can keep my head down and keep my mind busy. I can also escape for a cup of tea and some quiet space if I need to without having to worry if anyone will need to cover my section. Sunday went the same way (minus the hugs as they did all that on Saturday) except for the beginning of the day. I did my normal wake up routine of chamomile tea and colouring books only to feel the all too familiar feeling of dry mouth, tingly arms and the fear. However the difference this morning was that I was able to push past all this and calm down before it blew up on me into a full panic attack. I went to work and got stuck into the mountain of paper and had a good day, even managing to complete one of the tasks on my list. Yay me!!

For these very reasons my weekend has been a mixture of emotions. I’ve been back at work for 2 shifts now and it almost feels like reality is beginning to set in again. My off time has led me to relax more and enjoy my own company but now I have to talk to people, smile at customers and appear (outwardly at least) to be normal and recovered from my illness. I am back on a reduced hours contract until I find my feet again so instead of my usual full-time hours I am doing 5 days of 4hr shifts. Looking at this from an outsiders point of view, someone might think this is easy to deal with but from an anxious point of view this opens up new questions to consider. Examples of this are:

What if 4hrs is too much?
What if everyone gets fed up of me leaving early?
What if people are talking about me?
What if the customers ask me where I’ve been?
What if they don’t ask me anything?
What if they don’t talk to me because I’ve been off for so long?
What if I have another wobble at work?
What if I can’t remember what I’m supposed to do?

I now have the same answer to all of these questions and it is “I don’t care”. This may sound a bit selfish and not very much part of working as a team but if the last 4 months off work have taught me anything it is that I need to look after myself first. I am not superman, I cannot help or please everyone and if anyone has issues with that then it is their issue, not mine. I am not recovered. I am not better. I might not be for a long time yet but that is my concern and I will deal with it in my own time.

In the meantime I will do what I can to help wherever possible and will continue to spread awareness of mental health issues to anyone who asks me.

Take care of yourselves until I appear again on your activity feed…………………….

 

Hi Ho, Hi Ho……

In the space of 5 days, things have taken a decidedly upbeat route for me and I must admit I’m a little nervous.

Last Friday I had a very productive chat with my line manager about returning to work. It was one of those unofficial official type of chats where things were explained to me about my absence and how it might affect my future pay as my sick pay was nearing it’s end. My manager was hesitant about telling me this as he is very aware of my issues but he was very good about it. I actually felt better for him telling me as I reasoned it in my head by saying that now I knew the ‘official’ situation I no longer have to worry about what might happen to my pay. The end result of this chat though was that I am due to return to work in the very near future. I have been very careful in how I control this information and I have allowed my boss to tell only 2 other people at work my intentions. I have also only told my parents and my wife of the exact date of my return. The reason for this is very simple. Well, in my head it is. I have decided that the less people that know, the less people I have to ‘please’. What I mean by this is that if no-one knows I’m coming in, I will feel no expectation on myself to be happy, smiley me and I can just be myself. My manager has arranged for me to do a short shift and I will be upstairs in a quiet office going through paperwork in preparation for the forthcoming visit of our auditors. This will allow me to focus fully on something (much like my colouring does) for a couple of hours and keep my mind busy. In addition to this I can take regular breaks if I need to as the catering unit is next door and they have recently started stocking a lavender, chamomile and honey infusion which I drink at home to relax me. The only thing I have to get ready for is that I have 3 deep scars on my right arm about 3 inches long and I know that there will be questions. I am more than happy to talk about my illness as I truly believe I have nothing to be ashamed of but I know that for some people it could be hard to hear exactly what I’ve been through. If the conversation takes an awkward turn I could always try and pass it off by saying I was attacked by Wolverine (although the chances of him being allowed on a ferry to a small island with blades on each hand could be a sticking point for him).

So. Where will this new found positivity take me? On Saturday my daughter and I went for a bit of a magical mystery tour on the buses and it felt like the best day I’d had with her since my illness took hold properly last December. Then on Sunday, which was Mothering Sunday, I helped my daughter make a full English breakfast for her mum and, once she had left for work, my daughter and I went swimming for a couple of hours. On the walk home we ate chocolate, crisps and drank bottles of juice while laughing our heads off at nothing in particular. Monday was spent relaxing at home for the most part of the day and listening to music until my daughter had her swimming club in the evening. I decided in the evening to ask my dad if he fancied a wander along the beach while my mum and daughter were at the pool. He agreed ( he likes a bit of an adventure with me) and we went along the beach to some caves I knew about. Unfortunately the tide was already turning and I couldn’t get in the cave I wanted to as I would have been unable to get out again. Never mind, I got some cracking photos and made a promise to myself that I would return sometime with my dad to complete the trip properly.

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My full focus at the moment is on my recovery though and I know that this immediate happiness is not a cure for all ills. I am fully aware that recovery will take time and that there will be setbacks along the way but for now I am loving how it feels to be happy again. Long may this feeling continue……………………………………………..

A Bad Day is a Good Day

Now we are ‘officially’ in Spring I have been a bit more pro-active in getting out to do things and getting used to the big wide world in preparation for me returning to work in the next couple of weeks

I have been getting out of bed at about 7.30am (early enough for anyone really. Who genuinely needs to do anything at that time of day?) and having a proper breakfast with my daughter before she goes to school. I have then been listening to the radio while doing a bit of colouring in the living room. The beauty of this is that while doing relaxing, mindful patterns I am listening to hard rock / metal on Kerrang! Radio which is the complete opposite of relaxation but it works for me. Then I’ve been doing whatever I need to do in town. More often than not I don’t actually need to do anything in particular but I have been going out anyway.

Today gave me a little bit of a setback though. I woke this morning with a feeling in my throat and tummy of sickness coming. Sure enough I was sick. I’m pretty sure this was down to my choice of takeaway for my tea last night but that’s not the point. The point is, that even though this was probably the worst start to my day in quite some time I actually viewed it as a positive start.

How is this positive I hear you ask? (well, maybe not actually hear you as I am here anonymously behind my laptop and can’t really hear very much without my hearing aids in)

Well, the fact is this. Although I was sick, I didn’t die. That might sound extreme to some but when you have anxiety this is what you think will happen to you when you’re ill. Instead, I went to bed and put my headphones on and listened to calming meditation apps on repeat. After nearly an hour and a half of this I had a realisation that this wasn’t how my day was going to be spent. I went downstairs, put the kettle on and had some breakfast. I then started colouring in and watched a bit of telly. I didn’t leave the house but I didn’t sit and mope. I went out for a run in the evening and got a bit of fresh air while blowing some of the day’s cobwebs away for good.

The whole point of my inane rambling is that for most things we have a choice of what we do. Sometimes there are things beyond our control which will determine what we do (illness, weather etc..) but at other times it is our own mind which holds us back or pushes us forward. I have decided that wherever possible I am going to push myself forward and challenge my mind.

Onwards and upwards………………..

Today is Going to be a Good Day

In the last couple of weeks I have gone to rock bottom and begun clawing my way back up to the land of hope (not necessarily glory as well but it’s a good start) and this is, in part, due to my new morning mantra. It’s not really the most profound of statements but for me it has helped to get me in a frame of mind in the morning to tackle the day ahead of me.

Each day is a combination at the moment of a little walk, a little bit of colouring in and a bit of reading and it is going really well for me. In the evening I turn on my iPad and listen to relaxation apps to help me sleep properly. It’s all little steps but I’m feeling like I’m finally heading in the right direction now.

My wife is currently on the big island with her best friend enjoying a spa break as a way of celebrating them both being 40. It is also a well deserved break for my wife who has had a lot to deal with in the last couple of months, what with my mental state and all that goes with it. Because of this it is just me and my daughter in the house until Sunday. Last night we spent the evening making popcorn and watching the Disney animated masterpiece that is Beauty and the Beast in 3D. We even drizzled melted chocolate over the popcorn just because we could and there was no-one to tell us off for it. A proper daddy and daughter night in.

Today however I did something different. Not completely out of the ordinary but different. It began the same way, with me telling myself my little mantra. Then it was breakfast, medication and little bit of colouring in. Afterwards is where the day deviated from the norm. I made a snap decision to take my daughter to a local ‘theme’ park for a few hours. A snap decision when I have anxiety?
Am I crazy?
Maybe.
We even went on the bus too.
A bus?
Full of people?
With no means of escape until your stop?
That’s correct
It’s only a 20 minute journey but having stayed close to home lately it was a bit of a test for me, one which I passed. Arriving at the park we showed our passes and walked on in. It’s quite a busy place but I began to quickly feel quite comfortable. We wandered about for a bit and my daughter went on a few rides. We mooched about and went down in to the main ‘arena’ which is a great big field with its main attraction being a toboggan run down the side of the hill. I can honestly say I haven’t been on this since I was a child (a long time ago now I am 40) but something today told me I should go on it. Anxiety went out the window and I just thought I would enjoy it. And I did. The staff member at the start asked my daughter if we’d been on before and my daughter instantly said she had and off she went on her own leaving me to be told how to use a brake. This, I thought would be quite useful for allowing me to get used to the speed of it. How wrong I was. After getting dragged up to the top of the hill on a wire it let me go at the top where a sign told me to slow down. Quickly followed by a corner and another sign to slow down. In the whole run I used the brake 3 times and only then just to take the edge off 2 huge corners and then to stop at the bottom. It was that much fun that we went straight on it again for another run.

This led to me think quite philosophically. Not something I usually do but I am known to be sensible at times. The thought was quite simple. Finish using the brake in my life as a way of stopping me from doing things and let myself gain a bit of speed and begin to enjoy my life again. It is a simple thought but it is something I hope to add to my daily mantra in the morning.

From tomorrow, the brakes are off and I am freewheeling. Here we go. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee………………………………………..

 

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