I am currently mid wobble, or maybe not mid, but definitely within one. It feels horrible.
My anxiety is spiking regularly, I can't keep off social media on my phone, i'm drinking too much and my mind is stuck on a constant thought loop about whether things I have done are the right things or the wrong things.
I know exactly what has triggered it.
Anxiety is much like a drug addiction, you can wean yourself off the thing(s) that make you anxious and work on being more resilient, but if you catch sight of your drug, touch it and don't necessarily actually have to taste it then it can set you spiking.
I'm sat at a desk on my own, no one sits within 10m of me. That doesn't help.
I havent spoken to anyone today.
I feel like I'm on the verge of tears.................................................
Round and round and round life feels confused
Like Kylie in her hot pants feeling they’ve been overused
Carrying your bags, holding umbrellas in the rain
Every smile electric, every word orchestral refrain
When the best thing ever also just may be the worst
Can instant connections, deep understanding ever be reversed
To touch, to feel to shake like a winged Papillon
Moonlit sonatas silhouetted in their song
Dawn glimpses over the water, glistens on the main
Simple pleasures, conversation, heart versus the brain
Your favourite song acoustic, stripped back to the core
Never give up hoping, encore encore encore
I support my mental health by taking Anti-Depressants, 200mg a day of Sertraline.
I've spent the last month cutting these down to 150mg. It may not sound much of a cut but you have to wean yourself off these things otherwise your head hurts (too much).
Last week I went to Glastonbury, and accidentally weaned myself off coffee too (£3 a cup!) so my head is definitely hurting today.
But you know what I'm actually pretty proud of myself. It was a huge step to start taking tablets to balance my mind up a bit, and its been a huge(r) step to decrease my dose, because that means I have to reply on my natural self more and not the chemicals. I'm not saying that my mind is sorted, and it probably never will be, but to have the confidence and will to take less of something which helps is a major major step.
Still a long way to go, but one step, or 50mg at a time....
Confidence and work.
Confidence and love.
Confidence and life.
Why is confidence at the heart of so many things, and why is confidence so hard.
You can be the best worker but without confidence you may not progress.
You could be the best partner but without confidence not find a partner.
You could have so much to offer in life but without confidence not achieve or indeed enjoy.
Confidence is made up of many things. Genetic and life experience / ability to learn / change.
I don't think mine is naturally very high (my uncontrollable factors). But I'm going to try and have more faith in my own abilities and do a little assessment, trying to err on the positive side and see myself in a positive light.
It's now 15 mins later and the table below was really uncomfortable to complete. Natural low self confidence makes me challenge every time i write something positive and make me think 'people will think you're arrogant, you're a dick', but I'm not doing this for them, I'm doing it for me, so here it is......
So (being positive and confident) I'm actually in good shape, I have a lot going for me.
The really interesting one was self trust, 80% of confidence is made up of these uncontrollable components and mine is a lot better than I would naturally think. I have not had a terrible time, my upbringing was not terrible, I can do lots of things and learn. So why don't I trust myself more?
I think that comes down to the other part of the table, the controllable factors.
Here (after another 15mins) is my honest, and positive assessment of those
So I think all of my controllable is in a pretty good place and I could:
- stand taller every day
- get back to the gym and eat more healthily
- smile more
- invest more time in training my mind
- record, revisit and believe my achievements, no matter how small
and crucially, give myself a break, look at the positive bits and be thankful for that.
Self harm has many forms.
It can include the physical, like cutting and burning or punching walls, all things that I have done before when my self love has been low and my self loathing high.
It can include the mental, self doubting talk for example. A regular occurance.
It also can include other things that don't do you any good, such as not exercising, not eating or not eating healthily and engaging in other things that do you harm, such as drugs or drink.
Some signs of self harm are easier to spot than others.
Self harm can also be a sign of stress (and of course depression / other MH conditions). I've written before about how stress affects the decision making part of your brain, this bit that may convince me that instead of a healthy balanced diet that will make me feel better and feel my body what it needs that instead I should eat junk food, white magnums and drink too much.
When you are stressed and making bad decisions, or not thinking straight you need to realise it, or you need help from others to help you realise it and help you through the tough patch.
With some bits of self harm like not eating, that might be making sure your friend eats. Taking them to lunch. Sometimes it's as simple as that to help.
Ah bank holiday, the crack of leather on willow, the sound of birdsong, the laughter at the bbq and the tippy tap of fingers on a keyboard.
I've been working this morning. It's my choice I suppose but my emotional / mental bank account needs some reassurance that I have things at work in hand, that the plan is a good one and that I'm going to deliver it, hence the last 2 hours of tippy tap.
As well as the double trouble of anxiety and depression I suffer from presenteeism as well. Or more accurately because of anxiety and depression (and also having a lot of work to do) I suffer from presenteeism. This means I check my phone a lot when i'm not at work, i log on on a bank holiday and sort things out that can't wait to get ahead of the game and i find it very hard to switch off. This means my brain and body are regularly in flight or flight mode, thinking about what's happened, worrying about what might and struggling to be very present.
When i go back to work I might get asked if I had a nice weekend (I might not of course) and whether it was nice to have a three day break from work. I'll lie and say yes, but the reality is that when you think like I do you don't often get a break, you can come back from time away from work more exhausted.
People will tell you that work can wait but in this instance I don't believe it can. I have a huge deadline in 3 weeks that has to be delivered, it can't move, it needs to be high quality, it is reputationally very important and I have to make sure it's delivered. I have a team to support (who are also struggling) countless internal and external customers to keep happy and am delivering with the sword of damocles of uncertainty hanging over my head of what my job will be in 6 weeks time.
So why am I working all hours, why am I pushing myself?
It's because I am massively passionate about what I do. I want things to be perfect (another curse), I want to please people (another one) and I also want to make sure that anything I am associated with goes well and that I get a job at the end of it doing what I'm good at.
Q. Am i working too much and suffering from presenteeism?
Q. Why's that?
A. Well it's complicated, but uncertainty over future role, massive work pressure and brain wiring all play a part
Q. Am I ok?
A. Just about. But sustained working like this with uncertainty is not healthy.
Q. Am I coping / resilient?
A. Yep. Come and spend a week in my shoes and see how you do. I am amazingly resilient
Q. Why did I do this Q&A
A. Not sure, it seemed like a good idea at the time
Anyway, ramble over. I need to do some more work.....
I was with my team earlier this week and we had a really good constructive meeting.
We start our meetings with check ins, to see how we all are, at work, at home, physically and mentally. This is really important because we probably only see each other once a month at most and whilst a virtual hug is nice, nothing beats the real thing....
Going round the table listening to how people are, hearing a colleague talk about how they'd been wearing a mask quite a bit recently (i assume this is where the expression 'putting on a brave face' really comes from) and admiring the openness with which people are able to and can share is inspiring.
One thing that was evident was that everyone has some chips, some have some cracks, some have been repaired or pieced back together, but i described myself as broken.
I'd never used that word to describe how I felt before. I broke a rib once. I broke my nose on a bouncy castle, but never have I 'felt' broken.
I'm not in pieces, I just feel like who I am has taken a real bashing recently and that relentless pressure combined with not enough time to maintain or build resilience has resulted in this feeling, And the feeling is pretty horrible. On the outside I'm still whole, still working, still delivering, still caring, still dading but on the inside, the inside of my head I'm not really sure who I am.
Challenges to the core of who I am are really hard to take and have affected me a lot. I don't want to feel broken, I'm just not really sure how to fix myself or at least put all the pieces of the jigsaw the right way up so that I can see the picture.
We looked at this picture in the meeting.
A lot of us were on the right hand side.
I'm not really sure where broken fits, maybe it's fuzzy mind. But it's kind of like your own belief in who you are and what you are good at and why you add value has been smashed. And when that gets smashed and is broken it's hard to feel anything apart from confused and empty and alone.
Being yourself, being authentic to who you are is important.
My authentic self means I can be moody, grumpy, sad, snappy and angry / frustrated.
But my authentic self also means I can be playful, fun, innovative, creative and inclusive.
Sometimes parts of your authentic self can upset others, or doesn't fit easily with their authentic selves.
So should you change? And if you do change some parts of your authentic self (if its even possible) how does that affect the other parts of you?
As an example.
Some footballers get a lot of yellow or red cards. Playing a certain way is a big part of their game and what makes them the player they are. It's the reason that they're in the team. That's why they get picked.
Paul Scholes who used to play for Man Utd & England was a player who commonly put in terrible tackles. In 499 premier league appearances he:
But he also:
Bad tackling was part of who he was / is. He has the 3rd highest number of yellow cards in Premier League history. But whilst the way he played the game had its negatives it was coupled with amazing positives which meant he was first on the team sheet.
He played as his authentic self.
My mind, the way I think my ups and downs, my passion, my attention to detail and my impatience to get on with things and take action make me who I am.
They are the things which mean I deliver. Which mean I care so deeply about other people. Which make me sensitive but also prickly (I've been described as a cactus before).
Changing my authentic self is hard because I fear losing the bits which make me great in order to smooth off some of my rough edges.
When you ask someone to change you risk losing the bits you like, because it's all part of the same package.
Accept your authentic self. And accept others. Just don't intentionally hurt anyone and be understanding.
I'm lonely. Even when I'm not alone.
I feel really isolated at the moment. Even when i'm not in isolation.
Isolated means 'far away from other places, building, or people; remote'
You don't have to be far away in a physical sense to feel isolated. You can feel isolated because you're different. Because you think differently, look differently, believe differently or behave differently.
It's not right that people feel isolated, in or out of work, but that isolation is often self imposed because they do not feel understood or accepted and it can be more painful to be in the crowd feeling like that than it can be to be alone.
That's where I am at the moment. Isolated. In pain, but in less pain than I would be in the crowd.
People isolate themselves at times of stress, they withdraw into themselves and away from people.
Often the last thing you want to do if you don't like the way your own mind speaks to you is to spend more time with your own mind.
That's when you need help from your friends and people who care about you to help you take the baby steps out of isolation.
If you see someone isolated reach out and help them make the steps, but I don't mean me, I'm fine.
I heard something about this on the radio today, ‘so what do you do then’ and I thought for a while that I'd say ‘I work trying to help people understand and reduce flood risk, but I’m an engineer by degree’
But that’s not who I am and that’s not what I do. My work life is important to me but it’s a huge simplification to answer the question like that. So I’ve answered it differently. This is a more accurate who I am, who are you?
A Part time lover
A Taxi driver
A Path finder
A Monster scarer
A Maker of lists
A Peace keeper
A Card sender
An Occasional weeper
A Gift giver
A dancer who’s hairy
A Secret keeper
Father Christmas, Easter bunny and the tooth fairy
A Hard worker
A Nature lover
I can be grumpy and sad, crazy and mad
Happy and glad, good and sometimes a little bad
Have days when I feel like I'm flying on wings
Because I am made up on a million things......
Mr Paul Wyse