last weekend I attended the Sittingbourne Sci-Fi 2019 event. I went with Mum and, I have to say it was rather good. It was a really well run local community effort. It was a brilliant grounding to be built on (I hope) in years to come. I was really impressed that there was no major hassles – getting in, finding the venue, being to crowded and the like – it just appeared to go along smoothly. I am sure the organisers will probably have a different story to tell, but to the untrained eye… it went smooth as silk.
There was a surprising amount of Cosplayers attending and, I think that that fact helpped a lot. It was absolutely amazing to see the time and effort plainly invested to make the outfits look as good as they did. If you know anything about me, you know I love Doctor Who and Horror films, so imagine my delight when this happened…
As I mentioned at the start, I went with Mum to this and I was amazed that she actually made a couple of new friends while at the event.
I am really looking forward to see where this event goes next time around… they have a solid base for any improvements they might want to make.
A random title to a post, but to clarify, my life and the way my life is going, I feel like I am being beaten over the head by the very thick end of a very big wedge. I can’t seem to dodge the large things dropping on my head, even the really big meteor sized things. Basically, I am in round number 11, and my legs are gone and the champ is slugging away trying to finish me off.
I am just out of a pretty heavy depressive episode that lasted a month. This episode was the worst one I have had in over three years and it, quite frankly, almost finished me. Apologies for the frankness, but I have been dilly-dallying with the need to write this post to get it out of my head and the flowery prose ain’t doing it. I have to face this head-on and get it down on the screen. Just write until it’s done and then make it look pretty after the fact.
Things are going on in my life that I can’t write about at the moment out of respect for other parties, respect that is not alway proffered in the other direction. When the time is right, I’ll write more. If you happen to know what I am referring too with this, I ask that you respect my wishes and not bring it up in the comments of this post or on social media. When the time is right, I will address the situation.
During the interview for my job, I used the phrase that I never burned the candle at both ends, I took a flame thrower to the candle. This was about my previous life when I worked in Theatre. I quite literally burned my soul apart working in the theatre in the way I did for over ten years. I feel like I put in a lifetimes worth of work in ten short years and I came out very much the worse for it. At the time it was fun, I didn’t remember the times when I was so tired and hung-over that I could hardly stand up; I didn’t remember the times when I chose the Theatre over all else.
Looking back now over those days, I probably wouldn’t change what I did, I would, however, change how I did it. As it stands 20 years after I last worked in a theatre, I still don’t have any qualifications that could get me a decent job. I got the first job I applied for after my major breakdown. I was lucky, my job required me to have on the job training from before day one. I feel I have grown into my job, and that the way I deal with the day to day is much improved than it was 2 years ago. I am not fully qualified yet, and probably never will be, but each day is a learning process, and I revel in this.
However, the nature of the job requires me to be very flexible and be almost on call 24/7. This isn’t exactly in the job description, but when your job deals with vulnerable people, then you can’t let the house you work in be in a staff deficit. So you can imagine that my need to take his month-long break added to my stress.
* * * * *
The final thing that really made my decision to take the time off came one Wednesday night when things got so far on top of me that it was a toss-up between walking out of the place I work at and wait for the next lorry to pass on the main road or just go and start walking and not stop. It scared me enough to stay up for the rest of the night and challenge my brain to unlimited rounds of mental boxing to see who would stay alive through the night. I managed to stay alive and not under a Lorry. I went home and made that all-important first phone call to the GP. I got an appointment for the same day (a bloody miracle with my surgery).
I took my Mum to the appointment and got a sick note for two weeks with the offer of more if I wasn’t back to my jovial self.
Off I went to try and rebuild myself, it was a task, in my mind, that equalled rebuilding the Titanic with Mecano tools. Everything I had put in place over the past two years to keep this from happening since I started work, for some reason, hadn’t worked this time and I had crumbled.
I retreated to my corner in the Dining Room at home where my computer and Xbox lives, and I tried to block out the world with everything and anything that I thought would work. In the end, I started setting myself goals in a video game to complete the game and see what happened at the end.
Each day I took at least one more step towards the end game, somedays I managed two. I played this game relentlessly. From the time I got up to the time I went to bed, Destiny consumed my mind. I focused on completing the game and any side quests that popped up along the way.
After three weeks and 2 days, I finally finished the main game. It was at an end. Those 23 days had been laser-focused on getting that game finished. While my mind was still very fragile, I knew I was so much stronger at the end than when I began. Three Weeks and Three days I evaluated where my head was at. I came to a realisation that I should start the process of going back to work. I rang work that day and told them I was ready to come back… after a few hoops were jumped through I came back.
Here I sit in the middle of week three being back at work, and my mind seems to be getting better all the time, but other things are getting in the way of 100% Game completion.
You know that something is wrong, deep down, you admit to yourself that that swirling gnawing feeling that alternates between the pit of your gut and the raging torrent in your head; something ain’t right McGee. You can fob family and friends off only so often with excuses like “I’m just having a day… nothing to worry about” after all “your day” has lasted a week so far and it’s just getting darker and longer. You can try and fob off your friends that you missed the gathering of the year because you had to finish a project by a deadline and it’s dropped on you at the last minute. The fact that the deadline you have to meet is trying to make it through one more night without those thoughts acted on that could put you in the Emergency Room or worse.
When you finally realise that all of the excuses in the world aren’t going to get you out of a jamb this time. You have to ultimately choose where to try and start the most laborious mission of your life so far, a mission that is, quite possibly, going to last for the rest of your life. It’s those happy thoughts that make you want to get to a real crossroad and rather than heading left or right, reverse a mile or so and run as fast as you can towards the huge brick wall facing the junction and not bother with the brakes.
I want to offer you a sliver of hope.
Just a chink of light in that permanent black sky you see about now.
I want to tell you. It WILL get better, and that chink in the clouds will get bigger and bigger with each bold step forward you take, the next step may not be ahead, but you will have learnt something to be used towards the next successful step you take. Open your eyes just a little to the possibility that while your head and heart are currently as dense as lead, someone or something is coming soon to help you with your full burden. You won’t see it coming, and
it is going to be tough at times to understand that it is getting better every day.
Now, by this point, you are sick of all the clichés and self-help book crap.
To be frank so am I and I am writing it down. What I would like to say to you that every word that you have just read has been uttered at least ten times each from some well-wishers and morale booster that accompanied me along my journey to being where I am at right now. It is frustrating as hell to call for help and be told to take a walk or take a hot bath. If relieving depression or any mental health problem would be solved by taking a walk or a bath then the world would be full of Unicorns crapping Rainbows all over the shop.
I have friends who prescribe to the strict love school of Mental Health management; you know the type: PULL YOUR SOCKS UP, JUST GET ON WITH IT, BUCK UP YOUR IDEAS, MAN.
All helpful when all you really feel like saying and doing is pulling their socks up over their head and buck up the idea that they thought you could get over by just getting on with harming yourself (and them) with the nearest heavy implement.
What I do want to let you know is that I personally know from my own life, that most of that cliched mambo jumbo will help in one way or another. It is going to sound so patronising when you are in the deepest depths of blackness, and people really do (on the whole) feel that their words are offered in support and kindness. You want answers and a solution to your problem when you are crying out for help, but unfortunately, there really is no safe quick fix for fighting with a 200lb black dog sitting on your shoulder, you have to tickle that dog until it falls asleep again and you
can move forward into the sun light.
What I am suggesting is that in your daily life make up a “memory bank account” of all of the advice you are given or have worked out for yourself, tips and tricks that help you through each dark day. You can do this by making a mood diary or just make a mood board to put up around the house somewhere. Don’t rely on knowing what you should do from memory, because in the throws of a low mood or crisis you won’t remember diddlers about what works to make you feel better.
Make up a daily action plan for things that you should do (within reason) during your bad times. It can be something as simple as 4 or 5 things that you could do to help make your day better. Maybe it’s something as trivial as washing your hair, reading a chapter or two of a book, going to visit a friend for a cup of tea and a chat. It can also be something more complex, like planning a project that will take more time than any ordinary task.
The one thing and one rule that I will always suggest is that there should be absolutely no pressure to do anything unless you feel that you can mentally and physically do it safely. There is not point in forcing yourself to go out into town whilst you are in the throws of an anxiety attack just because you told yourself first thing in the morning that that is what you HAD to achieve today. Your body and emotions can change in the blink of an eye. If you need to break a meeting or miss out on an appointment, that too is OK. If it is all too much, take a step back in your safe space and get yourself feeling well again. Find that person to talk too. Reach out wherever you feel you will get the best support, family, friends Facebook or Twitter. They are all valid places that have helped me in the past and if your support networks are a little more diverse that they norm, that’s good if it works for you.
Everything considered, the one takeaway I would suggest that you take from this overlong post, is that do what is right for you and worry about the rest of the world when you feel up to tackling that. You will make choices that are not in your best interest when you are in an altered mind set through Anxiety or Depression or whatever crappy thing you are dealing with at the time.
This is me after having yet another night of no sleep.
This is me wondering why in the hell does my body hate a regular sleep pattern.
This is me just sitting in disbelief that one person is going to need so much coffee to just through the end of his shift that he may as well just eat a jar of Nescafe Gold Blend for the efficacy of getting the whole job done in one fell swoop.
I posted something I wrote a year ago a while back and I promised an update as to how things panned out over the year since. I don’t normally manage to follow-up on promises like this, but, quite honestly, I think this is an important post to do to show that the optimism that I had a year ago can manifest in so many different ways over the passage of time.
The first thing to note about getting a job after so much time off is that you soon realise how much time you really waste when you are unable to work with health issues. You soon realise that all those days you thought you were being constructive by learning Esperanto via Email, are pretty much as useful as learning Esperanto in the first place.
Prior to starting this job, I volunteered with several organisations doing what I thought I wanted to do when I was better. Those volunteer opportunities did give me a grounding in certain things that I would need to know, but the bare reality is that nothing prepares you for going back to work after so long. For a start, the shifts are longer and they quite often start much earlier than anything else you have done.
In my job, the old saying that two days are never the same is the most misunderstood statement ever. In my case, no two hours are the same. I love this, I love the fact that there is a surprise around every corner, every member of the house that I work in, want and need different things at different times and the only thing that is set is the times they take their medication.
I get the pleasure of taking people out to live their life and to make sure that they lead as much of a full life as is possible. This can involve, playing Golf, going Bowling, visits to the Cinema. In my first house, I even re-learned how to play The Pokemon Trading Card Game.
My job requires periods of being as serious as life and death. You have to make sure that you are on the ball constantly. When you are out with one of the guys, you must have eyes on stalks at all time, you have to be alert and ready for anything that could be thrown at you at any time. This does add to the stress levels and I know that I have to be mentally ready for everything. Over the year I have gotten down pat the notion that I have to make myself ready for getting my guys ready. One technique that I used when I was really ill was to map out my journey before I did it; this works really well these days. I have the map in my head of everything I have to do that trip and then I plot out my route. Obviously, things can change and it’s ok, I am in a place where change doesn’t affect me the way it did, I just take a slight detour and get back on track as soon as I can.
It isn’t all a bed of cheese on toast. There are ups and downs with every job and this one is no different. My first house housed younger people and there was plenty of challenging behaviours on show. When you start your day at 8 am and the first thing you hear is “Morning you f*****g p****k”. It can put a dampener on your day if you haven’t had extra coffee or Valium that morning. There are other obstacles that would be inappropriate for me to go into, but you quickly get on first name terms with the local police.
On a personal level, my sense of worth has, for the most part, grown leaps and bounds. I am now more confident than I have been in over a decade and a half. Even before I was diagnosed I didn’t Have a great sense of self, but now, I feel I can achieve anything I set my mind too.
Whilst I was in treatment, I was subjected to so many different group therapies that were supposed to get me ready for being better. At the time, I Thought it was a bunch of hogwash. These days I rely on the skills and coping mechanisms that were suggested and I put in place for short-term relief. These days, every day has at least one period of reflection and if something comes up that stumps me, I have a strategy to help me get over it.
I have also learnt from the people I work with, the majority of which are younger than me but have been doing this job for much longer than I. The people of my age upwards who have other life skills outside of Care Work have other skills they can offer and, trust me, they have gotten me out of more shit than any normal person should have to deal with.
I have found that along with long learned tips and tricks, that I have developed a few things that help me no end.
Sleep – Take it when you can get it. Don’t feel bad about getting an extra nap in whenever possible. You are going to find that if you are on medication that you will have to adjust to the side effects and try to make sure that you get over them and still be able to do your job. For me, the hardest part was getting over the brains slow starting functions of Seroquel (Quetiapine). I found that having a REALLY strong coffee first thing will kick-start your day and it will help the side effects.
Breakfast – Another thing linked to Side-Effects is eating regularly. Don’t forget that just as the mind needs kindness, your body needs it too. I found that I needed to eat breakfast regularly. I needed that burst of energy for helping the side-effects abait. I also needed it to give me a few minutes to just calibrate myself for what the day was going to throw at me.
Support – Have a Support Network that you can call on if you need it. Don’t be afraid to include as many or as few as you need. Make sure they know that they can give you advice and prompt you to take care of yourself, but also make sure THEY know that YOU know your limits. It can be hard for those around you to see you spread your wings and fly, and they are worried about you but you know you better than anyone else. Don’t dismiss advice out of hand, they may see something you don’t, evaluate, take on board and take the right action for you.
Be Honest – Aside from your close Support Network, you need those you are working with to be, at least, aware of what you deal with. If you need a break, be it for an hour or a few days (or longer) then be as honest with the person you feel you can trust. Whilst it’s not exactly the feel-good pep rally that I have posted so far, it is a fact that the law is on your side in most cases. If you have a disability, it doesn’t matter one jot that you are working or not, you STILL have that disability and you may need some extra support at work or just the odd Mental Health Day, where you take a day or two to re-balance and get yourself back to fighting fitness for work. They will thank you in the long run for not working yourself to the bone and being off work for months through a full-on relapse.
These are just a few things that I have found over the last year that have helped me that I think anyone in the same position might find themselves.
I love my job. I really wouldn’t do anything different. I have learned so much about my job, but more importantly, I think, is that I learned more about myself in a year of work than I could have done otherwise. Through all the years of self-reflection of blogging and writing stuff on the internet, I have learned that I am capable of pretty much anything I set my mind too. Be the best that you can be.
I like to keep in mind, my old school motto – “Only My Best Is Good Enough For Me”
Take it and run with it, I promise, you can only succeed with the first step outside your comfort zone. Leave plenty of doors open, you can always explore more openings along the way.
Feel free to drop me a comment or a message using the contact page if you would like to say or ask anything.
A year ago today I wrote this. I honestly don’t recall if I actually posted it or not. It was by pure fluke that I came across this today. I was just looking through documents in my OneDrive folders to clear out some clutter, and I found this. I remember the excitement when I knew this was happening and the fact that the future was looking a little rosier.
I’ll post an update in a day or two about how the last year has been for me. Small beginnings and all.
I always thought I’d find the one thing that I would good at. It always seemed just a fingertip reach away; alas I never actually found that extra inch to grab it with. I think, looking back on my life now, I used to be the sheep that followed and was never brave enough to be the Shepherd that led the flock. That didn’t bother me too much, I was happy in the company of friends and I could blend in and almost disappear within my social group.
For the most part looking back, I see that I wasted a lot of opportunities in life, partly through a lack of ambition and just wanting to live wholly for the now and partly because I now realise I was becoming unwell. It was something that I wouldn’t get treatment for until I was over 30 years old and it wouldn’t be pleasant for anyone around me. They say the person who is hardest on you is yourself when you deal with mental health issues. In my case, it was and to some extent, I believe always will be. We with mental health problems have a battle just to get our heads from the pillow each morning never really knowing what the day holds and which beast from within will take over and make or break the day.
When I think about all the chances I had in life that I squandered I could quite easily just break down and spend the rest of my days kicking myself. However, with age and a little bit of growing up, I see that is pointless. People around you will tell you not to sweat the small stuff and just plod on the best you can. That is an admirable quality if your brain will allow you to do so, but when your brain wants you to dwell on that stuff for every quiet moment of your life, then that battle to get out of bed in the morning can and is quite daunting.
When I got seriously ill around 10 or so years ago, I had nothing left in my Mental bank to play with. I lost all my reasoned faculties and I gave in to the illness, even if I didn’t have a name for it at the time, everyone who knew me and interacted with me could see and quite often felt the brunt of my mental state. When things didn’t improve over the next few years and my career was stalling big time due to the illness, I found myself out of options and my final spell of absence from work led the company to politely get rid of me. That was the moment I really, really felt no good for anything. Even at the time when I instinctively knew that not working for a while was a good idea to get myself on an even keel and back into a fit state to work and rejoin society in a productive way.
However, 9 years later I found myself still doing roughly the same things I had been for the previous 9 years. Nothing but sitting on my backside and just staring at a computer screen and pretending to be a part of a life that involved trying to claim to be one thing or another. Mostly I tried to pass myself off as a Blogger/Writer and that was/is just laughable. Whilst I do write and I do blog, I have no real dedication to it. I would love to write every day it just never happens. I start with the best intentions but never lasts, I guess I found something else that I realise that I am just not good enough for.
One of the things that really drain’s one’s spirit when you become ill and can no longer work, is that you still must live and pay the rent, so a life on benefits lays ahead of you. When you are in the throes of those early days of illness these safety net benefits are, perfect and give you the breathing space to try to get well. When it comes to getting better and getting off of the benefits it becomes a whole new beast. You dread the next brown envelope that lands on your doormat and you dread the next scheme that the Government wants you to participate in to justify the fact that you get the few pounds from them to live and get well again. In the end, you become dependent on them. You get to the stage where you can’t go back to work as you have become entrenched in the system and going back to work would mean being worse off working than on benefits. This is the trap I found myself in.
Many times, I tried to find a job, but there was always a reason not to take it:
Not Enough Hours
There was always a reason for me not to take or apply for the job.
I was still not good enough, this time to move on in life.
I saw an advert for a job in Support Work for Adults with learning difficulties.
The job came with full training, it was full-time at a reasonable wage and it was in my local(ish) area.
Damn – I had no reason NOT to apply and take the job if offered.
So, I applied…
I went for the interview…
I got the Job.
Suddenly I was good enough for someone.
This when my whole life appears to have flipped 180 degrees. I am currently waiting for all the legal checks to be done and I should hopefully be starting by the end of March.
My whole outlook on life changed within one week.
It isn’t going to be plain sailing. I have almost 10 years of negative behaviours to break myself of, but now, it just feels like I have a grain of worthiness about myself and that grain can only bed in and seed the germs of self-belief and hope for the future.
Never let your head tell you that you aren’t good enough, it lies… one day you will be good enough and it could change in as little as one day, or it could take a little longer, but I now believe that can happen for anyone who wants it.