Welcome back Claire, we have been expecting you……

I know I write my blogs as CC, that will never change, it is kind of like an new extension to my personality now. However, I have always had the “real me” and the me that Depression controlled. For the first time in a long time I look in the mirror and in my eyes I see the “real me”. The smile on my face is Claire. The motivation and drive isn’t there just because I need it to be, it is now there because I want it to be. I feel happy, driven and you know what, bloody proud of myself!

Quite a lot has happened since my last blog, which sounds mad as it was only last week. Firstly, I did my 10km….. AND I LOVED IT!!!!! Official time was 1 hour 3 minutes and 15 seconds. I was surprised how easy I found it. I was actually skipping along at certain points, quite literally. It was my first time doing an organised race but I have most definitely got the buzz. So much so that I am seeing how many more I can squeeze in around my holidays before my Half Marathon. I want to do loads around the country. What a way to see new places! Meet new people! Have new adventures! My Half Marathon doesn’t seem so scary and impossible any more either! I know with training, the continued amazing coaching advice I have been getting and faith in myself, it will be an amazing achievement! Considering this time last year I never would have considered myself a runner, now I feel like a fully fledged member of the gang. That feeling when I crossed over the Finish line was just unbelievable. I felt like I could have just kept going. It made me realise one thing, nothing and no one will take away my love for this. My belief and love faltered for a while because of the negative side of my personality. Now I know for sure that that little voice has been booted right to the back of the line!

Alongside that I am also starting a Gateway Certificate in Skills for Sport & Active Leisure (Level 3) through a course Mind has introduced me to. I went along yesterday to see what it was all about, and considering what I had done the day before I bloody loved it! We did circuit training and although I do think my legs are seriously pissed off with me, especially after Bring Sally Up squats (ouch!) I managed remarkably well. Getting praised for excellent squat technique and perfect planking really made my day! I was nervous to be honest when I went in as I put a lot of pressure on myself with me training to be a PT but they were great. I think I will learn a lot from them in way of how it works and new techniques, routines etc. I am very excited. As well as this I have a meeting with a peer support networking group tomorrow. They are interested in my ideas about using exercise and fitness alongside mental health! I cant believe it! I know it’s a tiny step and I have a hell of a long way to go, but slowly and surely little pieces of the jigsaw are starting to slot in. Instead of telling myself to get a grip and calm down and think of all the bad things, I am just enjoying all the positive things that seem to be coming my way. I feel like the foundations of my empire have finally started. Digging out to lay the cement that keeps it all in place.

For once I walked into my counsellor with my head held high and a genuine smile on my face. I feel strong, I feel capable, I feel like I can do whatever I need to do. I questioned the fact that really this has all happened quite quickly considering, but as she made me see, everyone is different. I wanted to get better so I have been doing everything in my power to make sure I do. I have engaged in my own recovery since that very first day, I didn’t want to be a sufferer or a victim of my own mind. I wanted to kick it’s arse and come out fighting and that is exactly what I am doing! What is has done is unlocked a passion deep within me and I have grabbed that with both hands and ran (no pun intended but hey, if it works!). For all the bad shit Depression has given me, I have to look at all the good it has encouraged me to achieve. Raising money for Mind, doing something I do everyday any way in a sense, getting involved in volunteering which is starting to open up other doors which is absolutely amazing! Then there is my blog, which I love doing. My Mental Health awareness course as it became obvious to me that this is an area I 100% want to be part of. My motivation to make sure I complete my PT course. I have grown closer to people I thought I had drifted away from, I have seen others for what they really are, I have made new friends who are just as important to me as some of my oldest. My children are seeing their Mam with life in her eyes again. With a smile that reaches those eyes. A spring in her step and a reason for living that goes beyond them. They are my world but I am also reaching out and grabbing things for myself. I don’t use the word selfish anymore as it is so negative, I am doing and going for what I deserve!

My next counselling session will be my last I think, for the foreseeable future any way. How do I feel? Nervous, scared even. I really value her, she has been remarkable and helped me more than I could ever describe. I also feel strong and capable. I have learnt things about myself and how I can deal with certain things. I am aware of things I wasn’t before so this means I can read between the lines. I am learning to value myself as an individual with my own needs not just there for everyone else or a scapegoat when needed. I wont back down from what I want, what I believe in, what I want to do. I will support anyone, I will hold your hand and hug you when it is needed. I wont ever not be there for the people who want me, but it wont ever be to my own detriment anymore. I know I deserve the same in return. Guilt may try to take over but I can put her back in her box when I need to. She wont drag me back with her. Any one is welcome on my journey, but please don’t expect me to change direction to suit you. I wont do that any more.

I have said it before and I do believe it, this is something I will have to battle with all my life. I am aware and ready for the fight. Having dumped a hell of a lot of baggage over the last 14 weeks I am lighter on my feet and I can stand tall. I also throw a mean right hook! If I have a bad day then I will explore why, what has started this? I know the ways in which to approach it to feel better. If that is whole hog and keep busy all day then so be it, but if that is just simply to sleep or sit and watch shite films or tv then so be it. I know a lazy day, no matter how hard it is for me to do, wont set me back. In fact sometimes it is very much needed.

I feel happy, I feel positive and I feel back in control. I will be going back to work soon which is great in one way but also a bit daunting. I wont lie, because of the situation there and knowing its not what I want it’s going to be hard. I am looking forward to being back with my team though. Even if I no doubt will have drove them batty by the end of week 1. However at the same time if it wasn’t for what has happened I wouldn’t be on this path now. So in a weird way I should thank them. Although I think I’ll say under my breath.

I am off to get these foundations started any way. I’m in for a long, busy few months and for once, I cant fucking wait!!

Much Love

CC xx

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If I Can Dream…….

“We’re lost in a cloud,

With too much rain

We’re trapped in a world

with too much pain

But as long as a man

has the strength to dream

He can redeem his soul and fly.

Deep in my heart there’s a trembling question

Still, I am sure that the answer gonna come somehow

Out there in the dark, there’s a beckoning candle.

And while I can think, while I can talk,

While I can stand, while I can walk,

While I can dream, please let my dream come true right now……..”

Thank you Mr Elvis Presley, for having a song that I needed to hear very much today. The words spoke to me so clearly, they described pretty much exactly how I am feeling. I turned the music up loud and I sang. I sang my little heart out. Then I replayed it, and I sang again. And as dodgy as it probably sounded, it felt damn fucking amazing!

Music has the ability to get through to me like no one or any thing else can. It can touch emotions I don’t realise I am feeling, it can free my soul, it can make me laugh, it can make me cry, it can make me dance around like a fucking looney or it can make me close my eyes and transport me to another place. Somewhere far away from the chest crushing problems I am feeling at that time. It can help me breath easier as all other thoughts, for those 3 – 4 minutes, completely disappear. I have music for all different types of moods, every song I hear will remind me of some one or some where or a particular situation. Sometimes these memories can be hard to take, I am learning to leave certain burdens behind but it is still very much a work in progress. The one thing I don’t want to happen is to lose my association through music. Music keeps me sane. Music is always there for me. Music can help me feel when I feel so numb and empty that I think nothing will ever work. Someone like Elvis has the ability to get to me so much it gives me goose bumps in a warm room. I can feel every single word he says. I don’t just hear music, every sense is awoken.

Back to the reason why this particular song means so much. Before yesterday I had been feeling pretty good. Things were starting to make a little bit more sense, I was getting positive feedback and lovely messages in regards to my progress, my fitness, my recovery and my blogs. I felt I was finally starting to achieve what I wanted to. What I needed to. My fingers were pretty much on ground level, I could smell the fresh air, I was so close to freedom! Then yesterday, I woke to find someone had stomped on my fingers. I had let go. I was back in my hole. The fresh air, the sunlight, the feel of freedom felt so many miles away again. I felt empty. I just didn’t want to face the world. I wanted to hide again. I wanted to shut my eyes and just not exist until a better day came.  I felt weak.

With this, came an important decision, one that I know I had to make and now it is today I can see was completely essential, but one that made me feel like a failure. Like I was giving up on myself. The mind is one hell of a mind fuck! I decided to have a rest day. I just couldn’t run, I couldn’t do anything. Physically and mentally I was done. Completely and utterly done. My tank was beyond the red. Mix this in with the fact I was aware I hadn’t kept to my plan on blogging every day for MHAW, well I just felt completely and utterly wank! I seem to blab on about not letting anyone tell you you cant do something and blah blah blah, but yet here was me giving up. Falling at a hurdle.

I know today that that was just the self pity part of my amazingly diverse personality giving me a few kidney jabs. The negative parts of my mind do NOT like it when I don’t give them any attention, and for a good few days I seemed to have got them locked in their cage. They obviously needed a bit of revenge. Bravo you little fuckers, you got me good!

Today I have realised I am not back at the bottom of my hole. I didn’t want to hurt myself. I didn’t want to die. I know that sounds pretty dramatic, but when you are rock bottom, that is how you genuinely feel. Or at least I did. So not having these thoughts was a massive bonus for me! It was one of the first things I realised when I did my morning reflection of the day before. Yes I wanted to hide, yes I wanted to close my eyes and forget the world, but only until a new day came. Not permanently. I had put my phone away early yesterday and ignored it. I put my son to bed and then I went to bed. I left the world to keep turning and took time to just, exist. Nothing more, nothing less.

Waking up this morning I knew the worst had passed. The sigh of relief was immense I will be honest. With me, I can never tell how long my bad days will last. All I can do is hope that it is a brief spell. I cant say I am back to what I was Saturday but I know that will come soon. I have to just keep my arms inside until the ride comes to a complete stop. I know I am not a failure. Far from it. I came back from yesterday and smashed it in the gym today. No personal bests but one hell of a sense of accomplishment for doing it. Same with attending a meeting with my manager. I could have cancelled. I could have postponed, but I didn’t. I went into work, saw some of my lovely colleagues and had a meeting that afterwards I wondered why I was even arsed. My manager was as supportive as ever. She eased my mind when I was concerned about how much longer I am having to be off for. I am more adamant than ever that this time will be utilised in any way I can to make sure I get better. I deserve that. My family and friends deserve that.

So I didn’t hit rock bottom, I just fell onto a ledge but a bit further down. The journey up and out will resume. I am determined. I have dreams. These dreams will only come true if I give it my all. Without the guilt, without the personal mental beatings.

A new hair colour brings a new mentality. The bad days can give me what they have, they can push me as far as they like, but they want to beware. Because I will come back fighting! And I have one hell of kick!

Two steps forward – one step back. I will get there.

CC xx

Validation

The ironic thing about having a mental health issue of any kind is you do often wonder if it is all in your head. Funny eh? Well to be honest, no. It’s not.

The thing is, you spend so much time lying to yourself, hiding it, faking, pretending and all the rest that you get to the point where you genuinely don’t know what the fuck is real anymore. Until you hit that point where your whole world seems to just…. stop.

I have suffered depression now for over 12 year, most probably longer, but certainly from around the time my beautiful daughter was born. I’ll let you into a secret though, through all my previous lows, cutting my wrists and being a fraction away from being admitted, to taking my hands off the wheel of my car amongst other things,  I have never believed truly that there was anything that bad wrong with me. Until my meeting with an work appointed Occupational Health Therapist yesterday.

With doctors you give them an at that time recap of where you are in your life. So over time a lot of things build up that maybe you don’t realise or can forget. With the OH I had to go back over my past and fill in the gaps for him. This was fair enough, I could do that, matter of fact logical Claire came into play and reeled off what he needed to know. What got me was when he read back his findings into his Dictaphone while I was sat there, ready to do his report later. It made my blood run cold. What have I been doing to myself?!

Kind of along the same lines as yesterday’s Self Doubt, because mental illnesses have been around me my whole life through different people, some of quite serious levels, I have spent so much time comparing mine to theirs and thinking “shut the fuck up Claire, you’re just being a whingey bitch”. I know now, or at least I am starting to, that you can not compare your journey to anyone else’s. They are like finger prints, everyone has one completely unique to them. As we are all different people, we have different ways of coping with certain things. What I find easy or deal with well can be particularly hard for some one else. I will always remember my friend sharing her story with me, and I wont lie, it is extremely distressing. I cried. It is heart breaking to think such horrible things occur to such amazing people. She shared hers so I shared some of my history. She turned around, despite everything that had happened in her own life, and said I couldn’t have coped with what you have been through. You are so strong.

Like, what the actual fuck?!

I suppose I have always believed that what has happened over the years is normal. That it happens to loads of people. That there are people so much worse off than me. Therefore I just wouldn’t let myself admit that there was anything wrong. In my eyes there shouldn’t be. I would say this is the biggest mistake I could have made, and to a degree for the sake of my health I suppose it was, but then I do wonder if I would be on the path I am on now, if I had accepted I had problems and had got them sorted soon enough. To use the terms my OH used, I suppose my bathtub was just not quite that full to overflowing. I could just about keep mopping up the spillages without making so much of a mess. Dab hand with a mop me! Not that you would believe me if you could see my kitchen floor like lol.

The thing with the OH, who was a lovely man from Belfast, got to love the Irish, is that he had no links to me. He did not know me from Adam (who the hell is Adam by the way? That phrase always intrigues me), he didn’t have my medical notes, he had a very vague idea of my work situation and why I was there, yet within 1 hour he made me feel more accepting and aware of my situation than anyone else ever has. My counsellor is awesome, and I am making incredible progress between her and this blog, but he just got me. He made me believe for possibly the first time ever, that what was happening to me was not my fault. I am genuinely ill. I am not exaggerating. I am not faking. I am not skiving. I am not making a mountain out of a mole hill. It’s not all in my head.

He didn’t just assess me, he also tried to teach me and help me understand a bit more. I think I took up more of his time than I should of but I left that office with him shaking my hand and telling me I am strong and I am getting better. He actually made me believe I will get better. Considering it’s a life long, incurable disease, it does not have to be something that I suffer with. He assured me that I am doing everything right – the counselling, the anti depressants, although these need to be checked, and most relevant for me, my exercise. He was genuinely so supportive of what I was doing and how I was doing it. He admired my drive and determination despite all the stumbling blocks that are in front of me that could potentially de rail me. He knows I want to get better, that I do not want this to be a noose around my neck any longer than it needs to be and because of this he knows I can achieve what I need to.

I was thinking I would be back to work within the next week or so, I had got myself quite stressed over thinking I should be back now. That I was taking the piss. He has made me see that at this moment in time it is certainly not suitable for me. The bath water has not emptied to a safe level just yet BUT the end is in sight. The bubbles have gone and I can see the base of the bath. Work is a very small contributing factor to my circumstances but by no means the reason I am where I am. Until these issues have been addressed or unearthed completely, where I am and what I am doing now is what is important to me. I need to build myself back up. I need to work on my self esteem and my self confidence in order to be the kick ass bitch I know I can be.

I want to thank that OH for making me feel validated. For helping me clear the rubble and seeing things for what they are. I believe I am over the worst. The dark thoughts are getting fewer every day now. I know I will look back in a years time and appreciate what I have been through and how I have managed to come out the other side. I have not let me beat me. I am obviously meant to be here for a reason. Whatever that reason is, is not clear at the minute, but I know it will be in good time.

I am going to bed tonight with a genuine smile on my face. For what I have learnt, for what I have, for who I have on my side, for what I have achieved in such a small time already………. and for the proper mint base tan I have managed to put in place in my garden today.

Happy as the proverbial pig!!

Sweet dreams

CC xx

 

 

 

Work to live. Don’t live to work

I have worked since I was probably about 12 or 13 years old, when I started off babysitting for the neighbours and doing the local paper rounds. Think I had 3 at one point! Coming from a single parent family, with a mother who didn’t work, for several reasons, I had decided early on that I didn’t want to be that kind of person. I love my Mam with all my heart, she is an amazing, strong, loving woman and these qualities I am proud to have inherited from her, but there were many parts of her life I did not want to copy or follow. I grew up with a very strong work ethic from early on. It also helped that we were pretty damn poor to be honest, so unless I earned my own money, I was getting jack shit! Apart from Christmas, my Mam always went to town at Christmas.

Over the years I have been lucky (or maybe unlucky in some cases actually) that I have worked a variety of different roles – Pub Duty Manager, I was also Kitchen Manager for over a year during this time, Travel Agent and now a Business Support Officer. I have worked for three completely different establishments and I have seen first hand the different pressures, stresses, strains and basically fucked up procedures that are in place. I have struggled at different times, in different ways in each job for completely different reasons. The way I was dealt with has also been dramatically different.

I touched on my first bout of sick leave with Depression yesterday. This was while I worked as a Duty Manager. The hours of work were stressful in themselves, 7am starts, sometimes 1am finishes. 12 hour shifts, sometimes more if sick cover was needed. Luckily I was only 21 so I managed quite well for quite a few years. I sure as fuck couldn’t work like that now! Granny CC would have a meltdown lol. Combine that with an area manager who was a complete bitch and constantly promoted her favourites instead of those that actually worked their fucking arses off, well it would grind the toughest of people down. I also had my daughter. Me and her father had split up when she was very little so we shared custody of her. I must admit I could not have got through those years without the amazing support of her paternal grandparents. It pains me to say this but they pretty much raised my daughter until she started full time school. I have them to thank for her being such a well balanced, considerate person. I will be forever grateful. Especially as I was making a general mess of my own life, I am glad she was shielded as much as possible.

The support I got whilst on the sick from this company was pretty much non existent. From the moment I handed my first sick note in they just did not seem arsed! I suppose that is what happens when you work for a big chain. You are just a number to them. They do not see the literal blood, sweat and tears you put into your job. I wrongly made my job my life. I gave it my everything. My priorities were completely squewiff. I worked on through a time when I should have given in a lot earlier than I did.  I nearly physically destroyed myself. I gained an unhealthy relationship with food that I still battle to this day, I drank a shocking amount, every single day, I had always been completely anti drugs but I will be honest and say I that got to the point where I would take them. Not regularly and NEVER when my daughter was around, but still. I just felt worthless so therefore I never bothered to actually think of myself as worthwhile. I would do anything to feel something other than numbness and emptiness.  Then when you really need help but you get treated as worthless from a company you have given so much to, well eventually you see the light. Even if it is just a chink. I knew I would end up killing myself for real if I had went back to that place so I did one of the most sensible things I have ever done, I quit.

I actually lived on company premises so it was a completely terrifying time for me, especially with such a young child and a messed up frame of mind. I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for my then boyfriend (now my husband) and my father in law. We had only been together a very short time, and he was going away to work in Wales but he encouraged me, showed me I was doing the right thing and he and his Dad sorted me out with living in their old home. Again, something I am forever grateful for. I escaped a hole that could have actually destroyed me, because there were people there willing to throw a rope in and help pull me out.

The next main place I worked was as a Travel Agent, again for a large chain. At this point I had gotten my issues stamped back down again, I had put a large steel lid on things. Although it was during this time my Nana died and a few other significant things occurred which I am not able to talk about yet or maybe ever, I managed to keep it all within. I did make that fateful trip to the dickhead doctor in this time, as all I wanted was access to someone who would listen to me. I refused his sick note and refused point blank to take the pills. He pissed me off and upset me so much, I became so fucking determined to beat this twat on my own. Now, I think I did pretty fucking well considering, however, to realise where I am now, I know my stubborn streak nearly cost me my life, again! I was lucky to work with some bloody lovely people though, my manager was ace and I knew if I had wanted to, I always could have spoke to her on a friend level. Unfortunately, at that point, I was beyond talking to anyone again. If a man who was paid to care didn’t give a fuck and thought I was being dramatic, I couldn’t see how people who had no invested interest in having to care would want the hassle of my issues. Messed up isn’t it?! I must say though, I loved being a Travel Agent and I was actually bloody damn good at it, but money and family issues became too much and I knew it was again time to move on, but this time I did it properly.

This brings me to today. Working as a Business Support Officer for a civil service organisation. Throughout the two and a bit years I have been there so far, I have seen so many differences between the public and private sectors. Unfortunately I do believe it is because of certain changes that are occurring within my workplace that has triggered all of my current issues off. I know that I have been a ticking time bomb since I was a child to be honest, and I know that there is only so much the human mind can take, especially with an already pre existing condition, but work has definitely been the straw that broke the camels back. And thus, I am here. One thing I will say though, I could not ask for a more supportive manager and team of work colleagues. I am incredibly lucky that I know they are supporting me 100% through this. Even if it is because the organisation may feel a touch guilt for sending me over the edge! Jokes lol, kind of. My manager meets me regularly to see how I am and keep me updated. They have arranged an Occupational Health meeting for me tomorrow, nothing seems to be too much of a chore. Considering what I know others are going through and how vile some companies can be, I am very grateful. I have way too much to deal with on a personal level that if I had to worry on a professional one as well I don’t know what I would do.

One thing that is causing me worry and anxiety throughout the days is how long I have been off work for. Should I be back by now? Am I ready to go back? Am I strong enough yet? Then the paranoia sets in, well they know now they can manage without me. Will they still need me? Will things be different when I go back? I just do not have a clue what to do or what is right for me right now. How do I know?!

Through all my experiences I have kept a hold of my work ethic, I am probably more determined to be a success then I ever was but now I know I want my future to mean something, to have a purpose. I want to wake up happy and even excited to go to work! I want to feel alive. So I will do everything I can to achieve this status! I know I will never be cured, I accept that now. What I do need is to know I am strong and capable enough to deal with what I have and make sure my coping techniques are what work for me.

Depression may have defined me and ruled me for most of my life, but Depression is not me. I am me and I will rise above it, kick it in to touch and make what it has given me so far work in my favour.

Money is nice, money is essential but I tell you what, your sanity is priceless!!

CC xx