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

 

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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.

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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.

New year same old Dino

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An illustration of a man with a purple background with the words I can’t believe it’s a year since I didn’t become a better person.

Today the perks of being a dinosaur turns one, my little blog is growing up fast *wipes a tear from my eye* it’s also the first blog post of the new year, I don’t really go in for the whole new year new me thing, sure 2018 will bring new experiences and changes just as every day, week, month does no matter where in the year it is and 2017 also brought some big changes with being discharged from all mental health services for the first time in about 8 years, important people no longer in my life, leaving behind toxic environments that were detrimental to my mental health and not staying because it was the only option of support and probably the biggest of all was having my training recognized as not just good but worthy of actual money and being paid for and getting a job closely followed a second one.

None of these things have been without challenges and people who know me well will know I’ve had times where I’ve felt overwhelmed by the changes, I’m now pulling back a bit and slowing things down I’m recognizing that is all new and that I don’t need to try so hard to prove myself. This blog was another new thing for 2017 and it’s still going and people read it which is still a surprise to me, I find writing helpful often during the writing process of creating a blog post it starts to unravel things in my brain a bit and the connections seem to form better even though people say I’m articulate I still find writing easier than speaking though talking and opening up is less of a struggle than it was, I certainly never thought at the beginning of 2017 that I’d not only get on well with someone I’ve only been working with for 6 months but also disclosing things about really difficult points in my life.

When I was writing training at work I wrote long notes almost scripts to go with the slides, when it came to delivering the training I didn’t use the notes as much as I’d anticipated and on some days not at all however writing those detailed notes really helped to get all the information together in my brain from whatever dark and dusty corner it was hiding in and blogging is like that for me. I’m quite a hands on person and enjoy the interaction with volunteers and service users I tend to write these posts on my phone then email it to myself and upload it from my laptop although my hands would prefer it if I used speech to text my brain finds the physical action of writing (or typing better).

So for 2018 I hope to write more, get better at and feel more confident in promoting the blog and sharing it, I want to work on turning myself into a brand and personal development and utilizing my social media better. So happy first birthday blog and thank you to those who’ve been reading since the start and those who’ve joined along the way I hope there are even more people reading this time next year.

The most wonderful time of the year?

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A rather appropriate Christmas card I saw last year

I don’t like Christmas, call me Scrooge or the grinch but i really don’t enjoy it. Christmas can be a really difficult time for so many people there’s a big emphasis on joy and happiness, being around family and friends but the happy family isn’t a reality for many, my family diminished over the years with elderly members moving into nursing homes and dying and now I have no contact with my immediate family though the family Christmases I did have often were rarely happy ones.

My mental health tends to deteriorate around this time of year the run up to Christmas really makes me stressed and anxious despite knowing rationally that the day itself will most likely be fine and that I’m actually going to spend it with two people (and two cats) that I’m choosing to be with. One of the struggles I have with Christmas is that most of the things I do to support myself aren’t an option, I’m off work for two weeks, there’s a big reduction in public transport so as a non driver I’m limited on how much I can get out, health services are reduced as are most other things like council services and housing association (not that my housings are any use when they are in) it feels like the world shuts down and the prospect of over a week with nothing to do doesn’t feel me with joy but anxiety.

I need routine and structure to stay relatively sane (emphasis on relatively) though this structure is mainly external as left to my own devises I tend to spend too much time in bed or watching YouTube but the idea of days with nothing to do and falling back into bad sleep patterns reminds me of when that was all my life consisted of endless days of nothing stretching out ahead of me with little point in knowing what day it was when they were all the same, where I’d stay up half the night and sleep half the day (this was mainly a way of reducing the amount of time I had to spend around my mother) although how ever much I need routine I’m not missing getting in at 8:30 to prepare for volunteer training.

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My attempts at festivity fairy lights wrapped around my crutches and stick

Christmas is also shortly followed by new year and the thought of change and reflection, I’ve been reflecting a lot recently especially on relationships as I mentioned in my last post, I’m tired of missing people especially people who don’t miss me who made promises they didn’t mean I don’t want to miss them anymore. In January I’ll be once again going through medication changes in an attempt to finally get off antipsychotic medication something I’ve been wanting for a while.

Disability, chronic illness and mental health problems don’t go away for the holidays it just means different challenges and things that can affect pain or fatigue and trying to manage pacing while still enjoying the day.

To anyone struggling this Christmas, with isolation, pain or mental illness you’re not alone this dinosaur sends love and solidarity. If you need support during the Christmas period the Samaritans are always there and comedian Sarah Millican will once again be doing #joinin on twitter for the 7th year running, have as good a Christmas as you can a big Christmas RAWR from The Perks of Being a Dinosaur.

Rocket Science

If you can’t here expecting a review of a lush  bathbomb then sorry to disappoint you this is a rant about mental health services, maybe try Lulu or Jen

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A blue rocket shaped bath bomb made by Lush cosmetics

I am not a frequent flyer, I don’t have air miles I haven’t been on a plane in years and the last time I went abroad was to Edinburgh by train. Despite this I and other in a similar are labelled frequent flyers or regular attenders (this is meant to be the better term) because we find ourselves in situations where our mental health has got to a point when we need support and intervention often requiring medical attention as a result of harming ourselves.

Self harm isn’t something people do for fun or because they enjoy being in a&e it’s because emotions become overwhelming (and this is a very simplified explanation of a complex issue) and as I’ve written before the treatment once you’re at a&e is often not pleasant or equal to the treatment of people going in for accidental injuries with long waits in loud and busy waiting areas and psych liaison who at most may give you a leaflet and discharge you at 4am with no way of getting home.

It’ll be no surprise that this latest rant is inspired by a crisis concordat meeting this morning, two hours of frustration at having to bite my tongue in frustration at the language used and throwaway comments about people with personality disorders and the triggering content in the suicide prevention information listing the age groups and sex of people who ended their life and details of methods chosen again separated by sex.

Sometimes I look at the people sitting around the same table as me and wonder how they can be so oblivious to the blatantly obvious, do they really not see the link between the high numbers of people in Richmond who come into contact with the street triage team and the above average number of people detained under section 136 of the mental health act and the complete lack of crisis services in the borough? Are they actually surprised that people who are distressed or in crisis don’t want to travel an hour or more to an area they may not know to get support? And may not have the means to do so? It really isn’t rocket science or a difficult connection to make, I don’t exactly consider myself the sharpest tool in the box yet I can see it so why can’t they?

Aside from Mind since I’ve been a part of the crisis concordat (around 2 years now) and the outcome based commissioning program (coming up for 8 months) only one person has actually asked me about my experiences of a&e and the treatment I receive it still seems like a radical idea to most of the people involved to actually listen to someone who’s been in the very situation they’re talking about. Despite feeling like i’m banging my head against a wall (thanks Steph) and frequently coming away wondering if being there serves any purpose I still keep going if only to play my own version of crisis bingo.

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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