Tag Archives: mentalillness

Jumping Blind

Backstory, always with the back story! As ways there is a reason for this, I have many times countered the comments and suggestion that being ‘two-faced’ is a bad thing. It isn’t, it keeps you sane. When I am at work, no matter which job, I am going to have a positive outlook at attitude. When I am at home, that is where I allow the shadows to creep up on me. So it might look to an outsider that I have my shit together, that I am always happy. That I might swear a little but it is all good, vent and done.

As I previously discussed, things had gotten pretty bad last year, to a point I really was struggling. And it was my main job that was a big cause of all of this. I have held off putting this down as I needed some distance and I needed time. It wasn’t the job as such, you see, I worked for the NHS for several years, 4 jobs over 2 trusts. And I don’t know that it would be fair to put the blame entirely at the feet of the NHS. There are many contributing factors at play. for example, it was my first proper job when I first moved here. I have no big support network, no close friends. I struggled when I first moved here with people I met, I just wanted to have friends. And most of my life, I have had male friends so the idea of female friends, and the social interaction was new to me. There were losses, and they have been hard no matter how I might suggest otherwise if asked. I was at my wits end when I left my first job and started my next. I was within the same trust, and there were teething problems, like my former manager signing me off from the trust. A slight oversight which I found (find) implausible as I had asked her to drop off my Occupational Health forms. And that meant I didn’t get paid my first months wages. (In my first job for the NHS I didn’t get paid for 3 months). The job wasn’t what I expected, and I have to be honest, it wasn’t made any easier by the environment.

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During this time, if you have caught my other blogs, you will know that I injured myself. I will just side bar a moment. One thing that my first job for the NHS did, was give me the opportunity to dance, I went Salsa dancing and Belly dancing – both of which I really enjoyed and it helped me lose weight. I was going to the gym, I lost weight, I was happy – exercise makes you happy! It does, dancing especially so. But I also managed to in injure both feet (separately) which has meant that dancing isn’t the best idea. Of course this has had a knock on effect, finding that people I would spend a lot of time drifting out of my life, not going out as much.. I won’t go on, you get the picture. But this is why blaming just my employer, job, place of work, isn’t justified.

Now back onto the job situation, I, as I am sure many, find looking for a new job difficult, when you can’t get out of work easily, and in my case don’t drive. This causes additional problems in time management. So when I found another job within the same hospital albeit another trust, I jumped at the chance. I have to be honest, shortest time in a job for a long time, I started just over a year ago, and was role switched at Christmas. I was bits by December, tears were shed at home, at work. It wasn’t pretty. So I started 2016 in a new role, new department, smaller. I thought it would be better, that it would be more comfortable. Small enough that you get to know everyone, not so small you spend your days dodging bullets. But no, it was a nasty place, in so many little ways that it took a long time to fully understand.

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BUT! STOP THE PRESS!

I DID THE THING! 

I left my job (the main, day job, paying one) and honestly… as terrifying as it was… it is done and as it was a couple of months ago, I can’t begin to properly explain what a difference it is. It is a massive adjustment and of course, money is tight. I was always wary when people would say, if you don’t like something, just change it. I always laughed it off as something that people with money could say. That giving up your job, when you have responsibilities is not something you should just do. That part of being an adult is dealing with things head on and not just running away. But I can say, a couple of months later, that it was the best decision that I have made. I took ownership at a time when I felt I was drowning. You see, we all work to live, that is a simple statement of fact. But we shouldn’t live to work. The moment that you realise that you are just your job, and nothing else, that you become a shadow of your former self, that your mental and or physical health is effected? That is when you need to take a moment to evaluate. 

I don’t want to be one of those people, who have a cushion to fall back on, and gasp at how easy taking a career break it, or finding a new direction. It isn’t. It isn’t easy and if you are starting over you may end up starting at the bottom again. You may have less money. You may need to rethink what you can afford. But really, your health genuinely is more important. You may even find that you aren’t needing to spend money on things to help you feel better. And having spoken to a couple of people, this is not isolated, and my leaping into oblivion is not all that unusual as much as I might have been met with shocked glances on giving my notice in at work. It is important to take a step back occasionally to evaluate where you are, what you are doing and if you are happy. And if needed, make a change. Remember, it is your life, and you need to make sure that within reason, you are able to be happy in it.

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Detri – mental health ?

So I have previously discussed my mental health on my blog, it is not something I talk about openly. I mostly use my social media platforms for photoshare, promotion, pictures of cats… it is almost as if, to a degree I have compartmentalised them all… which is something I have discussed previously. My habit (ability?) to compartmentalise. I am not sure if this is a skill that was learnt through necessity, or just something I have done naturally. Visible mental health is the post I have previously discussed my personal mental health. I guess you might be wondering why I put it in a blog and not anywhere else. Well, yes, I could mention it on facebook, but you see, facebook is a community, although I know many of the people on my friends list and call them friends… facebook has this ability to break down barriers. I may never meet many of these people. Others I know only socially, or through work. Some are networking, so you see, many people on my friends list won’t care. Or I should say, I would be unduly burdening them. And I compartmentalise! I can show whichever side I chose on there, on twitter I can vent, on IG I can share selfies.

Now all of that took a lot longer than I intended. I am so sorry, and thank you if you have managed to stick with me thus far! So what I wanted to say is that, mental health, can actually cause physical symptoms, I am sure that you have come accross this before? But it isn’t simply ‘my brain is hurt, so my body follows suit’. It is more complicated, but again not really.

I have high blood sugar, I have done for many years, and generally speaking I manage it well. It is one of those things that, well you can’t see it? It doesn’t really effect me in a way that makes anyone notice. But it is there and has some serious side effects as well. And of course, the longer I manage it well, the more complacent I can become. Like I said, I have had it for years. It comes down to diet, and I will freely admit mine is pretty bad. But I manage it and take queues from my body as to what it is and isn’t happy processing.

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A few years ago, while working in my first NHS job, I developed mild ME – this had for me, similar symptoms to the blood sugar issue when it was first diagnosed. I was always tired, but no matter how I slept, even if I felt I slept well. I would have severe lethargy, I would fall asleep at a moments notice – including trying to do floorwork/yoga, there were more symptoms but generally speaking it left me incredibly frustrated. More recently, in the last couple of years, I had a couple of episodes of stomach flu. Which for someone who doesn’t drink because her aversion to throwing up is so strong, is … challenging. And this escalated in this last year to pain in my lower back/kidneys, keeping me away, also throwing up and all that you would find involved with this. I won’t go into it, but it involved seeing a practise nurse, a misdiagnosis (I will stop and say, giving a  good medical history is KEY to a diagnosis. So when a medical professional refuses to listen. Stop. Stop everything and demand that they listen.) and resulted in the conclusion that my kidneys were not happy.

Now, often when you already feel that you are drowning, a little reflection and introspection is the last thing you will do, or think of doing. To keep going, I would treat myself, I would have that cocktail, that ice cream, I would use sugary drinks to keep me going (I can’t tolerate caffeine) during the day. I never sleep especially well and when your job is already taking a lot of energy you need that little boost. Picking up take away on the way home because it is quicker, rewarding yourself on Friday night because you managed to make it to the end of the week, eating snacks, biscuits, sweets that are lying around at work, that patient’s bought it, eating the cake from a birthday/leaving celebration. So frequently during the day, you forget to take a break because you aren’t hungry, and by the time you are hungry, you pick up another biscuit. Or when you are working overtime with such frequency, that you manage to make it home 2 hours after dinner. You end up picking up something entirely inappropriate and have another sugary drink, because it doesn’t matter how close it is to bedtime, you have only just got in and dammit if you aren’t going to enjoy your evening.

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And that, that is the problem – my physical health was being made worse by symptoms of my mental health. It is not a simple thing to separate these two things. When people say, hey go to the gym, it will make you feel better. Or stop eating all those cakes, you will feel better, or pick up a hobby, it will make you feel better…. yes, I entirely agree that it will make you feel better. You will feel great, eventually. But the problem is, again that the physical and the mental health symptoms are inherently intertwined and you can’t just tackle one. You need to look at both. You need to understand how one is effecting the other. And yes, while you are drowning it is extremely difficult to be able to do this. So I just want to say, you need to find someone to help work you through it. Speak to your GP surgery to see if there are GP specialists that would be more suited to your situation (most GPs do have a speciality) and see if you can book a double appointment with them. There are resources out there, but they aren’t always immediately accessible or clear. And you have to remember that most of the time you will be talking to people who are not medically trained or specialists. 

But please understand that while it might seem that you are being weighed down by so many little things, that it feels as if it is insurmountable, that you can’t see the stars… things are often linked. In most aspects of life, there is be a common cause, a thread that once you can untangle will help make sense of things. The best thing to do is keep a diary – if you noticed something is different, write it down. It might be that when you are called on to explain, it won’t be easily recalled. But keeping notes will help you figure out patterns of behaviour or when symptoms are worse. I am only using personal experience to try and help others. I understand that everyone has different experiences but one thing that is important, we need to break down the stigma, we need to talk. 

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Visible mental health

I know, what am I even talking about! Mental health isn’t visible… isn’t that the problem? Or when it is something you notice… do you understand what the symptoms are, what the ticks, clues are. How to help or react? Is is something you worry about in yourself or a family member.

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I was tasked with looking at whether social media is good for mental health as my feature in this weeks radio show. I normally do a shout out for people’s comments or stories for the show amongst my friends .. but I stopped. This was one subject I just didn’t feel comfortable asking of people. And yet I am a campaigner for visibility in mental health. Why then would I not want to offer people a platform to discuss their own experiences.

Because often the reason I know that someone else even has a mental health condition who isn’t already pretty close to me, is because it is being discussed in a closed group, in a safe environment. I want to normalise mental health discussions and I want to help people talk about it. And being able to discuss it in a safe group is the first step. I have writen a blog with my own struggles, but I am also secure in the knowledge that many of you don’t know me. And that you won’t bring it up with me. Because frankly when someone tells you they suffer with a mental health condition you want to know how to treat them. Are they telling you because they need to share it with someone or because you have been treating them in a way that isn’t cohesive with their condition and they want to help you understand so you can change how your interact with them ? Do you know anything about the condition, are you going to research it. Do you ask questions?

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One thing I do continuously find myself battling with personally, is what do you share with people, I mean at what point to you stop being a little ‘weird’ or ‘quirky’ and start becoming a liability. When do people start looking at you with other eyes, when do they stop mentioning things, inviting you to things, at what point to you drop to the bottom of the list because you have ‘issues’.

Social media is a wonderful thing in this respect, because it stops you feeling so isolated, you can join groups, you can find people who understand, who have been on similar paths, who have words of wisdom or advice, somewhere free of judgement, or at least if there is, it isn’t from someone you need to interact with again. It can even just be a place to vent away from prying ears. Social media is fantastic as it has broken barriers, it has opened doors, it has meant that geography is just numbers on a map, that you don’t have to go out to talk to someone, that you have potentially people to talk to at a moments notice, if needed.

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I love social media for these reasons, but on the other hand, it is incredibly isolating, not only for you, but for those around you. While you are emotionally investing in your new friends, who may live thousands of miles away, you are increasing the distance with your friends and family, co workers, peers, who are in close proximity but feel as if they are in a different galaxy. And conversely, may be able to share some of those same fears, and hopes that you are pouring into your virtual friendships.

Now, I am the first to say that the internet is not evil, it is a great tool, and does good things, but it can’t and won’t replace being able to pick up a phone, and invite someone out for a coffee. There is nothing really that will replace that social interaction and sometimes you genuinely need that human contact. If you are feeling isolated, or have moved to a new area, friends have moved into different phases of their life and don’t have time to meet, social media can be a great tool to meet new people. There has long been jokes about it being a dating site. Have a search on local groups, activities, see if there is anything you can join, be it a hobby you already have, an exercise class, or new skills. Being on social media often means people involved can start communicating and then it feels a little less daunting when you actually go to the group. You make new friends and learn new skills, or pick something up you didn’t do before. 

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So what I am trying to say, is that talking about mental illness is great, the only way to ‘normalise’ it in our society is to ensure that talking about it no no longer something we avoid, or find odd, difficult, or other. When we don’t talk about it, we never learn about it. Shutting it away makes it seem like a bad thing, something that should be covered up. And the internet is not only a powerful tool allowing you to seek advice, and find people who are empathise with you, to make connections. It is also a tool for people to educate themselves on mental health. We literally have all the information at our finger tips. We can and should educate ourselves. Be positive in all things.

Peace.

peace