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 😜

It’s personal

I’m clearly no stranger to sharing my life both online and offline, if I was this blog wouldn’t exist and you wouldn’t be reading this now but offline I’m starting to get tired of sharing my story and talking to people about my history and mental health. I’ve spoken to so many people in different settings from pop up cafes to fundraisers, funding bids for work and over 1000 young people through volunteering on the youth service I now run and although logically I know it’s not true it does feel as though there must be a shortage of people who haven’t heard my story by now.

Today I’m running training with my new volunteers on writing their personal story and although no one is forcing me to I don’t feel like I can avoid telling it again it doesn’t seem fair to ask them to share theirs and me not share mine, I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of weeks and Im still not entirely sure why I’m so against telling it now I think it’s partly that I’m tired of hearing it and then the fear of being judged and the shame of not really having achieved much in my life. I really do enjoy my job and it’s not that I think it doesn’t count but I’m in my 30’s and just getting started in career where most of the people around me are younger than me and more qualified. I don’t feel like an inspiration or someone to look up to, hearing other people’s educational backgrounds and qualifications reminds me of what I don’t have and what I’m not clever enough to ever achieve, maybe this is internalised to an extent but I also know the reality of my experiences in education.

When you’re known for one thing or people see you a certain way it can be hard to break that view no matter how much you change or try to move on you’ll still be seen the same way, I’ve talked about my past so many times as a volunteer and although not in great detail there’s a high chance that I’ll be meeting people in my new role that have heard my story, I don’t hide having mental health problems and it’s not like I even could if I wanted to I’ve made sure of that it’s something I’ll never be able to fully hide but even though it’s my own fault I wish I had a choice.

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

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.

Ghosts of attachment past

PP hug tight
A rabbit hugging a hedgehog with the words “one day, someone is going to hug you so tight, all your broken pieces will go right back together” by paper panda

I was reading Amy’s mystery illness which prompted me to write this. A favorite person when you have a mental health problem like BPD isn’t always a friend, don’t get me wrong my best friend is the person I talk to daily, see as often as possible, share everything with (yes everything) she’s even been dubbed my wife but in the context of BPD and attachment she’s not my favorite person.

I know I’ve talked about attachment before and it’s likely I’ll talk about it again, it’s something I struggle with, being self aware isn’t enough to break the pattern it’s one thing knowing I have a type and knowing I get attached to certain people (mainly older women often those in the care profession) it’s another thing knowing how to manage those feelings especially when relationships end.

In MBT they encourage you to check things out to test your perceptions with reality, the black and white thinking that comes with BPD and the certainty that the way you think and feel is accurate often isn’t but the problem is sometimes it isn’t possible to check things out and test the feelings which leaves you questioning reality. There are 4 people in particular that I’ve had these strong attachments with, all of them were professionals and all of them left (I want to say left me even though I know that’s not true).

Building new relationships is hard it feels like a betrayal to get attached to someone else it’s also a challenge when dynamics and boundaries change and figuring out new relationships with different people especially people who aren’t my “type” it’s both refreshing and confusing. Changes in my life can be hard to when they affect relationships when moving from a volunteer to staff it changes the relationships with people around me.

People leaving is always hard and loss is painful but the difficulty I find is being left with questions or wondering whether they even cared at all, I don’t want to play the BPD or mental health card but it’s hard when you struggle with attachment issues and you feel led on that someone promised you something and made you feel as though you mattered but didn’t actually as ad they said they would. As I don’t know who reads this blog I am being intentionally vague here but the attachment to a favourite person someone you’ve relied on and told some of the most personal things about you and your life is to me something far more intense than a friendship even with someone close who is trusted completely where there is no risk in disclosing personal information. The loss is still there the right feeling in my chest, wishing for contact now joined but anger and frustration, I don’t want to miss them but I do.

One of my former favourite people a mental health professional said things that left me feel completely invalided and life my issues were insignificant, had it been someone else it may have been unpleasant but due to the relationship we’d had I felt as if I was losing my mind, again questioning whether they’d ever cared, I was angry and hurt and resented others for the reaction they got from this person. Leaving the service they work in and no longer attending the place I saw her has helped to an extent.

This post has been a bit disjointed and I’m not quite sure how to end it, It’s still hard to talk about attachment and feels very cliched to be attached to these older women, the mother figures, I find it embarrassing though writing it is less uncomfortable than saying it verbally. I hope that the more I talk about it or write about it the easier it will become and the less shame I feel and that in reading my posts other might feel less ashamed by their struggles too, writing about uncomfortable topics is a way of challenging myself and being open and vulnerable it’s also something very relevant at the moment struggling with letting my guard down and opening up, it would be nice if in time it wasn’t so hard to talk about and my attachments become less intense.

5 years time 

I’ve recently had a couple of meetings looking at my personal and professional development, it’s been refreshing to work with someone who’s never met me before who just sees me for what I am now not what I was 5 years ago, 3 years ago, 6 months ago, sometimes it’s helpful to see how far you’ve come but sometimes it can be hard to move away from that image of me from the past especially as I talk about my lived experiences of mental health problems and how I was in the past in my job.

I’ve never really considered myself to be ambitious partly because I’ve always assumed I’ll fail, something that has been repeatedly instilled in me over the years and left me feeling that ivt’s best not to set goals because if I have no goals I can’t fail. The bar is set so low that it’s almost on the ground there’s no where to fall nothing to achieve or succeed at, no one to see me fail which also means I don’t talk about any ambitions I do have and keep things to myself partly out of fear of failure but also the fear that people will think it’s ridiculous that I even consider having goals in life especially any that may be related to employment or education. 

Being in a position where people expect things of me is scary it’s not something I normally let happen and has at times increased the anxiety and the panic within me yet on the other hand I’ve been pushing for more responsibility feeling restless and wanting more, it’s not that I’m bored but for once I don’t want to settle and I want to move forward and do more, move to a bigger pond and try and find a place in it.

I never want to go back to the nothingness and the isolation but along with the push for more responsibility and more experience is the push to change people’s view of me I may have worked hard to get to the point I’m at now and while it’s still not where I want to be I want people to see me for what I am and what I do now without the comparison to how I used to be.

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