Stranger than fiction

I didn't have a picture of a tightrope, the treetop walk at Kew is the closest thing.
A large metal walk way amongst the treetops at Kew Gardens

I’m not a fiction writer, not that I consider myself a writer as such I enjoy blogging and writing workshops and training but I can’t write stories. I admire people who can write fiction, recently I’ve been reading quite a lot of fan fiction, now I know the reputation a lot of fanfic has and the sort of images it brings up in a lot of people’s minds – badly written sec stories often with interesting pairings and while there is plenty of that it’s not what I read.

I read a description recently where a character was described as “walking a tightrope across a canyon of pain, trying to keep his balance, occasionally swaying slightly“ although this was a metaphor for physical pain I think it’s also very accurate for mental health and the balancing act of trying not to over balance from one problem or another and stay on course. I’m struggling with anxiety and low motivation and the 8 -10 week wait for another CMHT appointment has now been 15 weeks with no appointment in sight.

My tightrope is currently swinging between work and benefits with a chasm of fuck knows what beneath me too deep to see the bottom but with nothing good down there.

I’m behind with work and struggling to talk to anyone about it, I’m frustrated at myself and I’ve come to such a roadblock with this that it’s making me feel stupid which is why I’m struggling to ask for help or admit that I’m having a complete mental block, I’ve always struggled to ask for help with things I don’t understand for fear of looking stupid (or being told I’m stupid). Other issues at work currently stressing me out are things beyond my control such as not enough volunteers and having to rush training new ones and now someone close to me is leaving. Have a mentioned before that I struggle with change? Especially changes with relationships? The last couple of weeks have been an emotional shit storm from hiding in the toilets crying because I’m actually devastated that they’re leaving to losing my temper and shouting at them due to a build up of stress and frustration.

On the other side the benefits and money stress which is something that doesn’t just impact on me, my tax credits have been stopped in what I can only see as an hmrc cock up which has also had a knock on effect in stopping my housing benefit and having to repay the council what they’ve paid so far, I recently had to reapply for my PIP/ disability benefits and still haven’t heard back from that, the scary thing about this is if I lose it completely I won’t be eligible anymore for tax credits and my boyfriend will lose the carers allowance he gets for supporting me.

As I can’t currently see an end to the tightrope I just have to hope I can keep my balance and not fall over the edge like the character the quote was about.

Three hundred and sixty five days

Watching me decay

One year ago today I started working on the youth wellbeing service, initially to support the volunteers when they delivered workshops and helping with training while someone else did the main day to day running of the service. One the first day he threw me in at the deep end and got me to rewrite one of the workshops, despite not bringing my armbands I managed to avoid drowning and quickly decided I wanted more than just the odd hours supporting the volunteers partly because I liked the extra money but also because I was starting to want more than the things I was doing.

I guess I was lucky to have a manager that was happy to give me more responsibility and delegate more work to me plus he didn’t have the time to do the amount of work the youth service needed on top of running another service 3 days a week. I loved the things I did as a volunteer but I was starting to get bored and after years of stagnating I didn’t want to get stuck again so the more I was given the more I took.

This arrangement was meant to last a couple of months then until Christmas then April. On the 26th of April I had my interview for the service lead position and on April the 27th I was told I’d got the job.

Today I jumped ship and went to work in one of the other offices with a different team, since starting this job I’ve found it hard to be alone in the office all day so I tend to pop up in other places from time to time, I celebrated in a work appropriate was with a boiled sweet which my current manager laughed at me for when I sent her a text telling her (feeling the love) but I might go wild tonight and have something stronger, maybe a bag of haribo 😜

To alcohol the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems

A young drunk dino.

drunk (2)
A picture of me drunk with my mouth open wearing a black and white striped top

I’m a mouthy drunk, not the messy head down the toilet drunk of my early 20’s or the numbing my body with vodka so I could take action to numb my mind drunk of my late 20’s, I’ve never had a problem with alcohol as such more a problem with the things I do when I’ve had alcohol.

I don’t drink much now, chronic illness and medication have seen to that and I’m really only a social drinker but I’m also anxious socially and alcohol is a great way to reduce the anxiety and my tongue. When I say I’m a mouthy drunk I don’t mean rude or aggressive (passive aggressive maybe) more that my tendency to over share increases as my inhibitions decrease adding this to a habit of using humour as a way of making light of difficult subjects it can be awkward at best and messy at worst.

But this isn’t really about alcohol, to quote thirteen being drunk doesn’t change who you are it just reveals it” I recently did a support plan at work about supporting my mental health including triggers, what I can do to support myself, how work can support me and what signs there might be that I’m struggling. One of the things I included here was changes to my relationships with colleagues, I feel I have some good relationships with some of the people I work with and we tend to have a laugh and joke about things including each other it’s banter but if I’m struggling or not in a great place mentally I can take that too far past it being funny or harmless.

The problem with banter is when mixed with anxiety and alcohol and a loosened tongue the less fun parts come out, I’m not incapable of being unpleasant or bitchy I’m certainly no saint but it’s not always just to be a dick it can and recently was in reaction to hurt, those annoying attachment issues rearing up again at unplanned social interactions with someone who was once a source of support who then let me down and lied to me more than once. I’ve struggled with change and boundaries but I’m not oblivious to them and I’m not naive I don’t need people to lie to me and give me false hope only to completely go against what they said, the worst part is although I’m angry part of me still misses them but I don’t want to not that I particularly want to be angry either but it would be easier to just be angry.

It would be better if I didn’t have to see people who let me down or at least have some control over the interactions but that’s not always possible and while the banter may have gone a bit far and the anger crept in aided by alcohol it didn’t messy and there were no close encounters with the toilet or trips to a&e.

They see me rollin…

… they won’t get out my fucking way

It’s 6:30 on Friday afternoon, I’m stuck on a busy train that smells like a giant armpit and someone is crunching crisps in my ear and dropping crumbs on my shoulder, welcome to commuting. You may have seen some news articles this week about the issues faced by disabled people with priority seat badges not being able to sit down, this is not something new and although the TfL badges are an improvement people have very selective vision when using publigc transport. Of course it’s entirely possible that people with hidden disabilities who don’t want to wear a badge may be using these seats but when every seat at the front of the bus is full or every priority seat on the train is occupied it seems unlikely these all these people have a hidden impairment

It’s not just about priority seats either but the general lack of consideration towards disabled people using public transport and general attitude that we’re a nuisance or in the case of the never ending buggy vs wheelchair debate wanting special treatment and expecting to be treated better than everyone else, people don’t even notice you they don’t look up from their phones or newspapers or even look where they’re going when running for a train. Since I started my new job four weeks ago I’ve been commuting daily, mostly to the office I’m usually based at which is a three minute train ride and a 15 minute walk from home however recently I’ve been working at our other office a bit which is further away plus traveling to my boyfriends every week. Because I’m working at different offices and not always able to use my pc I have a work laptop, like me it’s big and heavy and quite old and because of my disabilities I can’t carry it around easily.

As a reasonable adjustment work bought me a rucksack on wheels so I can wheel around my laptop, notebooks, resources for workshops and any other stuff I need. In the 4 weeks I’ve been using it I’ve had help getting on and off the trains once, the station I get off at rear work doesn’t have a lift so I have to carry it up and down the stairs. People find cases and bags on trains annoying I know it’s bulky but I have no other option unless someone wants to replace my brain, spine and connective tissue so I can carry things while staying upright and not being in pain, today I dropped my stick trying to get up to get off the train it’s metal and wood so makes a loud thud when it falls; some women sitting near me were commenting that the man sitting next to me didn’t pick it up but they were sitting near enough to reach it and didn’t help. I see people with buggies being helped on and off trains or up stairs I’ve even helped in the past but being disabled people get annoyed because I don’t run up and down the stairs or because I need to use the handrail or have mobility aids that take up space.

I know my usual audience aren’t the type of people this post is about and I’m sure plenty of you will be sitting there nodding knowing exactly what I mean so I hope that this post forms some kind of a bond or solidarity with the disabled people who take up space, who use transport, who have to try and navigate an abled world. And if you are a non disabled commenter please offer someone a seat, ask if they need a hand, done be a commuting cockwomble.

There’s nothing more to it, I just get through it

My motivational coaster at work

My motivational coaster at work
A brightly coloured coaster saying punch today in the face

I’m struggling. As a mental health blogger you’d think that would be easier to say than it is, it’s probably a combination of reducing my Quetiapine, a new job and being utterly exhausted but either way I’m not feeling great. I admitted I was struggling at work yesterday and told my manager that I spent last Friday crying at my desk because I felt so isolated being alone all day, i probably work in the most understanding organisation for someone with mental health problems and despite a fuckton of therapy I still find it hard to admit that and ask for help.

I don’t feel that I’m hard on myself I just think I should be able to manage though of course my brain is now telling me this was all a mistake and that I knew I’d fuck everything up it was inevitable that I wouldn’t be able to cope blah blah blah. It’s one thing when these thoughts are conscious because then I have some control over it but this is like a running commentary in the back of my mind it’s not me deliberately putting myself down but it won’t stop and I don’t know what to do to shut it up. I’m still working out boundaries and what is the right amount to share with people, I feel like I overshared yesterday to someone who isn’t my manage who doesn’t need to deal with my mental breakdowns and now I simultaneously want to crawl into a hole and die and also apologise repeatedly (not sure if this is a mental health issue or just being English).

I do have targets to meet I do have things I need to do and achieve but I’m not under pressure these are things I have a year to do and everyone keeps reminding me it’s only been three weeks so it’s not that. I have a psychiatrist appointment in just over a week and I’m hoping things have levelled out a bit by then, if I’d known it would take several years to come off this medication I might have thought twice about taking it though not everyone has such difficulty with medication adjustments so how would I even know this would be so hard.

Attachment issues are naturally coming out to play because I feel low and I want to cry constantly (which is actually really unlike me) so once again having thought I was feeling ok about someone I suddenly miss them again.

This was disjointed rambling but I wanted to actually start and finish a blog in one go rather then going back and making sure it was post worthy because my head is disjointed rambling right now and I need somewhere to dump it all, I guess one positive is I have no desire to self harm and I’m still over 5 months free.

I just keep on keeping on

Working 9 (30) – 5 (30)

A photo of me at work wearing pink glasses and a black top with my chin resting on my hand looking stressed

I took part in a photo project on Facebook for people with chronic illness a few months ago and balance was one of the prompts that stood out for me, people talk about a work life balance and having a life outside of work but another type of work life balance for me is the balance between how I’m seen as a member of staff and a person with mental health problems.

My mental health isn’t a secret it couldn’t be if I wanted it to be not just because of this blog or the very obvious signs all over my body including my hands (big regret) but also because I came into the organisation as a service user which is something I make no secret of but at times it’s hard to know how others see me. This may be my own internalised anxieties or not feeling good enough but I find it hard to know whether at times of stress I’m see as a stressed or frustrated member of staff like any other or if I’m seen as a person with a mental health problem overeating as a result of their mental health.

Again this may be internalised anxiety and probably a generous dose of feeling like I don’t deserve help or that I shouldn’t ask for help and should be capable and prove myself (probably mostly the last part) but because I feel like I should be able to cope and I’m afraid of being seen as incapable I find it really hard to say I’m struggling at work. I know I keep going on about how scary it is that people having expectations for me to live up to but Friday afternoons seem to be the time my brain likes to have a breakdown and I even got left off work early for being mental today, being overtired and alone all day meant I spent more time crying at my desk than actually working.

My mental health and volunteer experiences help me support my volunteers but I worry that I’m seen as less professional especially because of my self harm and the fact that I don’t cover my scars or that people will think I’m not capable; as it is I’ve been judged by professionals when I’ve attended consultations or panels as a person with lived experience or service user rep, metaphorically patted on the head or had things I’ve been dealing with for years explained to me with a patronising smile and yes some of these people may do it to everyone but when you’re trying to prove yourself or been seen as more than just a token or a tick box to satisfy a requirement it’s that bit more frustrating. I keep being told that everyone experiences anxiety at the start of a new job and it’s normal to have doubts but again this is where the difference lies because I always feel I’m waiting for people to see through me and tell me this was all a mistake.

This blog is a bit all over the place but what (I think) I’m trying to say is that the balance between work and life is more complex for me than just work and outside work.

This existential crisis was brought to you by caffeine and chocolate.

Fake it till you make it

Tonight* my brain is spiralling down into doom and failure convincing me that I’m a fraud just waiting to be caught out and that I’ve someone convinced people into believing I’m something I’m not, that people will soon realise this and see right through me and that giving me a job, responsibility and letting me run a service is a mistake. I’ve had the talk about imposter syndrome with someone before, someone I respect who to most people would never appear to feel this way I even bought myself a print of the picture used in this blog to try and convince myself that actually I’m not the imposter I think I am.

The feelings of responsibility and expectation are once again terrifying me, for a long time I’ve believed that if I never try I can’t fail and I can’t screw things up but I’m restless and wasn’t feeling stretched anymore by the things I’ve been doing. I’ve spent a large amount of this evening crying as my thoughts continue to spiral and snowball collecting more and more until it becomes and avalanche (sorry for the naff metaphor) anxiety has been creeping in recently and I’m trying to tell myself that it’s normal to feel some anxiety about a new job.

It doesn’t really matter what people say because my brain won’t listen, I know I’m not the only one that feels this way and I also know that I did well in my interview but facts and emotions don’t mix and the fear is strong. I wanted this job so much and I still do but the loss of security and increased responsibility and the worry of everything going wrong is very much on my mind (and in my dreams).

Today I have my induction with two other new members of staff and I’m hoping that I’ll just be treated like any other member of staff and not have to hear everyone say I know everything and that I’ve been here forever because this is still new to me and there’s a lot I’m going to have to learn.

*I started writing this last night

Image credit to People I Loved screenshoot from Blurt Foundation on instagram

Part of the problem?

Dinos back
A green backgroud with pink dinosaur cartoon carrying a black brefcase and pink walking stick. The words dinos back are at the top in black

Guess who’s back? Back again, dinos back, please like and share.

So it’s been a while, I’ve had to do lots of writing for work recently which hasn’t left me with much brain capacity to write for enjoyment, but I’m back and return with a rant.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme is stress which is ironic as stress and work are the reasons I haven’t blogged recently. It often feels like a week can’t go by without there being some kind of awareness day/ week/ month so far this year we’ve had time to talk day, self injury awareness day, university mental health day, eating disorders awareness week and no doubt many others. This month is borderline personality disorder awareness month normally I’d write something about these or use them as a springboard to write about a related subject but this time I’m writing about other peoples way of promoting these awareness days.

I know that I often use these awareness days and campaigns to promote my blog and that’s not what I have an issue with but people using it to promote their illness or compete over who is the illest especially on social media. Mental health problems and chronic illness already have so much stigma attached and there are so many misconceptions around them, the biggest areas of stigma I’ve found are within the medical system from Drs and medical staff I’ve had several occasions where I’ve been poorly treated and discriminated against due to my mental health and especially self harm. So why when there is already stigma attached do people within the mental health and chronic illness “communities” claim to be “raising awareness” by glorifying their illness or posting things that just add to the misconceptions?

Posting pictures of your self harm as part of an awareness day isn’t going to reduce stigma, posting pictures of your face scratched up or countless pictures of your starved body is shocking and attention grabbing but ultimately adds to the idea that self harm is purely graphic and bloody, that personality disorders are all about self harm or that eating disorders are about being thin and fragile, mental illness is complex but it’s not pretty and we don’t need more images of fragile, delicate white girls or bloody and bruised bodies in the name of raising awareness. If I had £1 for every time a health professional made a throw away comment about people with personality disorders or treated someone’s self harm in an unprofessional or even cruel way I would be a wealthy Dino.

We need to change how we raise awareness and avoid glorifying mental health problems as a way to show the reality of living with a mental health issue because the reality isn’t just what’s visible and just showing that side of things not only gives a very narrow view but also undermines people who don’t experience mental illness this way, it’s a broad spectrum and everyone is different and we all experience things, everyone has different symptoms and lifestyles, mental illness is invisible not everyone has scars (at least not physical ones) and that should be the message we send that mental health problems aren’t uncommon and they’re increasing and you can’t always tell just by looking at someone.

This indecision’s bugging me

One day I’m going to be sued for my constant use of song lyrics

 

AGM
2015 Georgiesaurus speaking about being a Youth Wellbeing volunteer

Recently things have been relatively OK I’m not saying it’s all wonderful but mentally I’ve been reasonably stable; I’ve had my first medication increase of Lamotragine and it’s hard to know whether it’s helping or not as this is probably the first time I’ve not been in crisis or extremely depressed when changing or adjusting medication, to add to this today I got a letter from the mental health team offering me an appointment in March with the recovery and support team presumably following on from the referral the psychiatrist I saw in December made. Yesterday I saw a friend I haven’t seen in a while and was telling her that I’d stopped going to the group I’d been attending due to it being a toxic and unsupportive environment that made me feel worse not better so with the recent mental stability getting the letter about the mental health appointment has just added another decision the think about, if I’m offered more treatment will it make things worse? Do I want it? Is it suitable or would I be better off considering something else I’ve been looking into?.

Life doesn’t come with a manual, I’m still trying to find out who I can complain to but for now I have to try and work things out myself and try and decide what the right thing to do in certain circumstances or what decisions to make when opportunities come along. One of the problems is that opportunities don’t always come along at the right time and that’s without the complication of not knowing when the right time is. For 7 months I’ve been working and earning on top of my benefits (all legit please don’t report me for benefit fraud) and it’s been the best, most intense, stressful, exhausting and rewarding 7 months, it certainly hasn’t all be smooth sailing with days where I was going solo bobbing up and down desperately trying to stay afloat and times when I was drowning and having 4:30 Friday meltdowns which involved texting my manager and almost quitting.

But 7 months in the grand scheme of things isn’t that long and in a perfect world I’d have more time to prepare and put myself in the best position to take on more not just skills wise but mentally too and feel as stable and secure as I can and ready to take the next step in moving off benefits another struggle here is my chronic illness I cannot manage full time and even if I was in perfect mental health I couldn’t physically cope on full time hours. I feel that so much of my self worth recently has been tied up in this job I’m told a lot how good it is that I’m working and being payed but as much as I’m enjoying having more money it’s more the feeling of being an equal on the same level as staff and things that come with it such as socials or attending the staff away day.

TTD18
2017 Georgiesaurus running a Youth information stand for Time to Talk Day

Sometimes I think I do too good a job at treating my mental health as something separate that I’m almost lulled into a false sense of security that comes with stability when realistically I still have to fight the urge to tell my manager everything I’ve done each day if he’s not in, let him know I’ve uploaded it onto the shared drive and where so he knows I’ve been working, of course I know that not only does he trust me to work alone but he doesn’t want to know every email I’ve sent or every webpage I’ve read for the workshop I’m writing. I’ve had a few relationship anxieties too despite MBT helping me with this it’s hard to explain to someone without mental health issues that people I’ve been close to or very attached to weren’t just people I worked with and that although they have moved on it’s still at times a struggle for me.

Although I’m handling it better I’m still not a fan of change and if anyone knows where I can hand in my resignation of adulthood please let me know until then I’ll be building a pillow fort.

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