One step

I’m sat in my car. It’s a sunny but blustery autumnal day.

Yesterday, the day after I hit rock bottom, I felt a bizarre but kind of muted euphoria. In the depths of my internal crisis, when I had felt like giving up on everything, I hadn’t. I’d sought help. I’d continued to fight.

Today, I’m numb and tired. I’m not sleeping well still. And putting on my brave face is exhausting.

I feel like I am in a little cocoon, sat in this car. The sunlight is reaching me and I can hear the wind through the trees, but I feel protected I guess. Going back in the house means action or bed. I’m not in the mood to make that decision.

Last night I started to listen to Mel Robbins’ latest podcast on anxiety. Unfortunately, I was too tired to concentrate and listen to it all. What I did hear, as she interviewed a medical specialist in the subject, was again the idea that our anxiety comes from within – a built in alarm system, hardwired by our own internal experiences and – in my words – lens. To conquer anxiety, you have to reprogramme and rewire what is causing it – not the external stimulation.

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I believe strongly in the power of coincidences. They’re messages, learning.

Still. I’m not sure what to do with this information at present. I probably should go back to the doctors and reconsider medication. I don’t want to though, because the medication isn’t dealing with what is constantly causing these depressive episodes.

I’m still in the midst of trying to support my son and am waiting for school to contact me to make steps to support him.

I’ve contacted my union to discuss next steps for my resignation, now I have received my letter. I also now need to contact the agencies again to get the ball rolling, ready for November.

I’m trying my positive lens whenever Wildcard calls, and he is still calling. He’s still wearing his ring. And last night he mentioned my visit in December with me and his parents. No plan to end our relationship yet, then. 🥴 He was quiet this morning, but my positive lens shut down any over thinking on that front.

And so, here I am, again. Fighting on, one little step at a time.

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It’s a beautiful day.

This morning’s wins…I’ve practised facial care. I’ve made waffles. I’ve spoken to my mother.

I’m sat outside. Not in bed.

There’s no filter on that photo. Beautiful, isn’t it? Even though my hedge is overgrown and there are nettles in the ‘flower bed’. You can see the roses my dad loved – the ones that have grown into the hawthorn hedge and grow above it to reach the sunlight. It’s October and they are still flowering.

Too high up for a clear picture, but you get the point.

Then there’s the stag horn. Two in fact. These are not the original one. It died years ago. We left these two off shoots – two of many – and they are growing, crooked, in completely the wrong place. Their leaves are just beginning to turn colour. Beautiful.

Neither of these plants should be where they are. They’ve not been cared for or looked after. They’re not planted in the optimum place. In fact, on more than one occasion, I’ve tried to get rid of them -long, long ago when I actually cared for this garden. And yet, there they are on this glorious autumn day. They’ve kept fighting and growing against all odds. And they’re thriving, against all odds.

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Don’t worry, I’m not asking for money!

For the past 18 months I’ve had a business idea and it’s an idea that won’t go away. It’s something I really want to do but my lack of confidence is stopping me.

What I want from you is your honest opinion. In a way, you are the perfect audience because I’m not trying to sell you my idea because you all live too far away. All I want is your opinion. You have no reason to lie or sugar coat the truth because you don’t actually know me.

If you’re willing to help a stranger from a different land, please get in touch. Ideally, you will have children or nieces or nephews as my business is for children.

Many thanks in anticipation.

Events

Today has been today: neither good nor bad but elements of both.

It started with my morning call from Wildcard. Despite yesterday’s tension*, he was fine this morning.

I hadn’t slept well though. My mind had been racing. I lay there and my whole body needed him. Not in a sexual way, just wishing he was near.

I mentioned to him that I hadn’t slept well and that I had both missed him and dreamed of him. He asked if I had dreamed we had been fighting.

It was a flippant remark. Humour, perhaps. But wow, it cut deep. *We have never really had a full blown argument: where both parties are angry and accusatory which is why I say ‘tension’. Most times, he or I are upset at something the other has done. It rarely last more than a couple of a hours. There have been 2 occasions where it has lasted longer- when I really hurt him, but unintentionally. But no, we have never actually argued (fighting in his language).

It cut deep enough to wound. Yes, there have been a number of fights/tensions between us recently. Two over the last two nights in fact. I mentioned my feelings about this yesterday and about how I can’t blame him if this, me, I become to much drama.

I cleaned my house and just thought about this. I couldn’t help myself. But I put music on, singing at the tip of my voice. Yes, sometimes there were tears (thank you, James Morrison) but I cleaned and was productive.

Early afternoon I went to help my sister prepare for her date. She was entertaining at home and her house needed a good clean. I worked on her kitchen and again, weirdly, found some sense of calm whilst doing so. (I am never going to win housewife of the year). But, another win.

I’ve received notification that the school have accepted my resignation. I felt relief and panic all at once. I don’t have to go back, I don’t have to fight. But, with the early resignation, I’m really going to have to work hard to settle things financially. I’ve just given up a large salary. One that was to help me sort my life out. But, I know I couldn’t go back. I never would have been happy there.

This evening has put life into a bit of perspective though.

Just before I was due to go to bed, my daughter and I got talking. She was asking about my family. It made me feel quite old really – it’s the first time she’s asked me to talk about my past and extended family.

However, in talking about my family, I’ve realised a few things. One, I’ve had a good life and a good family. And yes, I am getting old. Two, I don’t see enough of my family. Three, many of the people I look up to in my family have had real periods of uncertainty and change. And whilst life is never easy – events can throw your life off kilter – these family members had turned their life around. Worked for it. Found happiness again.

Maybe I’m not as big a failure as I think I am. Maybe this lesson has been that I can’t go back, I’ve got to look forward. I’ve got to change my life like so many of my family have done before me.

Balance reminders

I’ve taken a shower today. That’s a positive. Don’t take showers for granted: at your lowest, even taking a shower is too much.

Other than that, not a great day.

I didn’t sleep well. Minor issues with Wildcard played – and continue to play – with my head.

I woke to an email from work with a date to see Occupational Health next week. Considering I only sent in my sick note yesterday, I felt this was very quick. I sunk lower in to that dark pit and have struggled to get out of it since.

Why would anyone think I want to talk about how I feel about my work, my life, to a medical professional who is being paid by my employer? Maybe that is paranoia or narrow thinking. Either way, the thought of doing so fills me with complete and shuddering anxiety.

*****

I’m writing a few hours after the above.

I’ve spoken to my union who have given me some reassurance about the OH appointment. I feel a little better.

I have unfortunately, had another issue with Wildcard. I don’t know what to think. My catastrophising brain thinks that maybe, these recent problems are heading for the end.

We’ve had a few challenging weeks. My negative and anxious mindset about my job have caused issues between me and him. He’s forgiven me each time but no one can be naive enough to think that is the end of it. It tips the balance just a little the wrong way.

What with that, and the more recent issues, worried he’s beginning to think I am too much. Not worth it.

I’ve got another major issue going on with my son which I haven’t mentioned yet here. It started at the weekend.

In both cases – my situation at work and with my son – cultural and language barriers are preventing me from explaining to Wildcard well, and him from understanding well.

I’ve tried.

I know what some of you are thinking – if he can’t stand by you now, then he’s not the right person etc etc.

Truth is, how long should a person have to stand by you? Why should they suffer because you are?

If he walks away, any semblance of happiness I have will go. I will implode. But, I can’t blame him. I can’t. He’s under no obligation. We are not married. Maybe, I have just become too much. I love him so much that I should not be a source of unhappiness for him. Even if it destroys what’s left of me in the process.

I’m sat in my wilderness, cold and shivering.

I’ve made myself get out of my bed.

My daughter has pointed out that I’ve done all I can in each and every situation of my life that’s causing my stress. Despite the hours in bed and my overall anxiety, I have actively tried to find solutions and help for all of them. It was a positive reminder.

I will hold on to that.

Apples

Here’s a question for you… do you know where your happy places are?

Now, before you answer that – as I am sure certain things jumped straight into your mind – think carefully. Really think. Don’t answer with what you are supposed to say. What everyone says. Just let yourself think.

Yesterday, as my post spelled out, I was not in a great place. I haven’t been for weeks.

If we rewind six months, I was contemplating my future. Unsure of what to do, I spent weeks…months not deciding anything, and feeling the pressure of the decision.

In the end I chose to go back to my career. I was swayed by the job I was offered and the money it would give me. I made a plan. How I would use the money wisely this time to build the future I want. How I would take the job offered to me to ease myself back in, rebuild confidence and learn. Find myself.

There and then, as 1st September loomed closer, I felt positive. Excited. Nervous, yes, but up for the challenge.

From day one, it has been awful.

Everything I had been told was a lie. Whilst I had been told the road was tough, I accepted the role on fabrications of ‘solid teams’, ‘high staff morale’ and ‘recent improvements’. I was swayed by ‘major investment’, ‘forward thinking management’ and ‘good behaviour’.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope and Hell No.

From day one, I saw the divided senior team of which I was supposed to be part. I wasn’t part of either side. I wasn’t invited to meetings. I was ignored.

The rooms hadn’t been renovated. Instead, nothing worked. No whiteboard, electrical or otherwise. No ability to print.

No key, no pass, no induction.

Timetables and rooms were wrong. Resources were given two days in advance of teaching and yet I was expected to be leading a department who had not been led for years.

Behaviour…. well. They ignore you. They bully, fight, swear. They’re obnoxious and intimidating. But it’s ok, ‘once they get to know you they’re good lads.’

What has been made apparent from my five weeks there, is actually, there is no team. There is no care. There is no leadership. People will tell you they feel sorry for your situation and then load you up with an unobtainable and excessive workload.

Within two weeks, I’d burst in to tears. I wanted to walk out. I was told about how ‘mental health’s an important part of the school’ and maybe I was ‘expecting too much of myself as a perfectionist’. I later found out that this leader had huffed and puffed when she’d found out I was upset and had to speak to me. More lies.

The new academy is hopefully taking over soon (I was told they already had.) But, one teary outburst and lots of happiness since, I know that my card is already marked no matter what they say.

The last few Sundays, working all day, I’ve been miserable. Snapping at my children. Fighting with Wildcard. Crying. Feeling sick.

Tuesday, I woke up ill. The flu-like symptoms that had threatened descended. I planned one day off then back in. At 6am, my whole body screamed differently.

And so it continued.

Whilst I was unwell, I realised that probably half of it was stress. I didn’t want to get out of bed. Work dominated my dreams and waking moments.

After a few heartfilled conversations with friends, family and ex-colleagues, I made my decision and called the doctors. I have two weeks off and a resignation letter ready to send.

I’ve probably thrown away my career. Not sure I care anymore. I’ve cried more about letting family down and worrying about money. It has passed for now.

So, step one complete, I’ve forced myself out of bed.

Yesterday, I made myself pick the apples on my dad’s tree. I waded through 6ft nettles and weeds. I got stung and scratched. But I felt a sense of achievement.

I sat in my happy place – a place I have avoided- and I wrote in my dad’s journal for the first time in 3 years.

And, gazing at the basket of apples, journal on my knee: I felt at peace.

Defining the dream

I haven’t written half as much as I wanted or probably needed to, about my last trip to see Wildcard. In summary….it was wonderful but challenging.

At times I felt so loved and cherished- not just by him but also by his family. I felt so much love from them and for them. I was happy and content.

At times, I felt confused. I felt like I wasn’t sure how he felt about me, what was happening.

Once again, there was no conversation about our future. There was no proposal. I half expected this, but I can’t pretend there wasn’t hope somewhere.

I came home frustrated with myself for my conflicting feelings. I came home disappointed that he hadn’t committed.

A few days ago, I told him I had posted a parcel out – the photobook of our little holiday with his parents, and some other little gifts. He asked why I had posted them, and I replied: because I don’t know when I’m coming next – do you?

He then did his typical thing. He joked. He told me “next year”. I did my typical of not being sure if he was serious, and became distant. At this point, he told me he was joking and that I could come when I want, as long as it didn’t coincide with his brothers coming (which I wholeheartedly understand).

It had unsettled me though, a little. Because it was clear that he still has no concrete plan for commitment.

This was brought up with my sister and we had a long conversation. She said my family had expected me to come home engaged. We discussed this. I told her that neither of us were in the position to do this – I needed to sort my career, finances and house. He needed to secure his parents and wait for his brothers to be in a position to help. When I said I would give him one more year, she surprised me by asking why I would put a limit on, if he was all I wanted?

Good point.

Because, as my London friend commented: I don’t want to wait for him, only for him to change his mind at some point in the future. I am TERRIFIED of this.

Waiting for it is not helping me. I’m anxious and clingy. I’m needy and demanding. It’s not the waiting but the uncertainty.

I truly believe that he thinks all is well. His actions would suggest that he believes me to be his wife and when the right time comes, it will be made official and he will move here.

The problem, of course, is that my life has undergone a massive upheaval is the last 18 months. The upheaval isn’t over yet. Most of this is completely outside of him and his control. THAT, I need to accept.

I’ve been unable to truly determine what I want from my life for a long, long time. I had once achieved all I wanted. Yet, I wasn’t happy. Most of that has now changed or disappeared. All I know now, is that I want him.

What does that actually mean?

Finally, finally, I’ve allowed myself to truly think about that. I’ve made myself daydream about a weekend in the life with him. I felt it as I wrote…every touch, laugh and look. You can find it here:

https://startingfromthemiddleblog.wordpress.com/2022/08/14/dare-to-dream/

I can’t coast any longer. I’ve made one decision- about my career – and whilst I’m not sure it is the right one, I’ve made a plan. This daydream was about my love life and my family life. It’s something I haven’t dared to do for a long time out-of fear.

I’ve started to analyse it. In my next post, you’ll hear what I think this all means.

Learning

I got the job! I felt a lot of things, relief being the main one. No more stressing about my future, money or job applications. I have a job.

I would not exchange this past year though. It’s been really hard but it’s been a real learning journey. I watched a Facebook video that summed it up perfectly:

When you’re surrounded by darkness, don’t assume you’ve been buried. Think that instead, you’ve been planted.

I’ve been in the dark. I’ve felt the weight of the soil. I’ve fought drought and floods, heat and cold. Now I’ve pushed through. The journey is just beginning though: I’m just a little seedling. But I’m strong, I know that.

This weekend is a big one. My daughter’s 18th, her party, and I am going to see Wildcard for two weeks.

I’m feeling many, many feelings and emotions about both events. But I’m not letting them overwhelm me. It’s a battle sometimes, but I’m winning the war overall.

Although I should be doing a number of things on my prep list, I’m sat relaxing with an ice pack on my shin. Sunday’s gardening for the party resulted in a horsefly bite which is now infected. It’s trebled in size since Sunday and is red, hot and firm to the touch. I have been given antibiotics but I’m terrified – my mum suffers from lymphadaema and cellulitis and has never seemed to be completely clear of it for some years. I’ve long been scared that I will get this. My leg is elevated and I’m taking my medicine so I just hope that I start seeing some improvement overnight or I will have to be seen again.

It’s hard not to attribute this to my weight, although horseflies aren’t prejudiced. Mum is severely overweight. She wasn’t always though. And then of course was my Aunty’s comment that I had been ‘really skinny’ the first time I’d visited Wildcard – a stone and half lighter to be fair – which hasn’t helped.

But, to ensure the self-hatred knife gets truly embedded in my newly reformed confidence, I ran in to an old friend this afternoon as I was shopping.

Not to speak to of course. I saw her before she saw me and then something I’d bought triggered the door alarm and I returned to the till. So she definitely saw me.

We haven’t spoken for about six months. Before that, probably another six months. This was the friend that I used to go out with a couple of times a week – shopping walking, coffee. Our friendship deteriorated rapidly when I started my relationship with Wildcard. She was prejudiced, jealous and disagreed wholeheartedly with my relationship. Some of her words still haunt me – she was someone whose advice and support I once highly valued.

We drifted apart. She re-befriended her long time best friend that she had fought with when she became closer to me. She didn’t contact me when she contracted Covid and became seriously ill – instead, allowing her best friend to contact a work colleague she didn’t actually trust. But then, I didn’t contact her either.

We met briefly last year. She was due to return to work after long covid and I was about to sign my termination agreement.

Last week I actually messaged her – I’d been thinking about her and had discovered one of her favourite artists was visiting our local city. Her reply was dismissive. She didn’t take the olive branch and our two message conversation ended there.

When I spotted her, I was struck by three things. 1 – I didn’t want to speak to her. I was embarrassed and knew there was nothing to say that meant anything anymore. 2 – I was happy to see she was with her daughter and two grandchildren (small babies) and that the 5 year feud was over. 3 – she had lost a lot of weight. As in, barely recognisable.

I’m slightly shamed to say, that’s what I am now obsessing about. She had lost a lot of weight when we first became good friends and then plateaued. She then put a little back on. At that point, I lost my 3.5 stone. I’ve now put some back on and she’s lost even more.

I’m really, really pleased for her. Her life appears to be back in order now. I wish she hadn’t seen me still in the struggles of mine but that is entirely pride.

We meet people for a reason. At a particular time. We support them, they support us. And when that need is no longer there, we drift apart. We fight for those we can’t live without. We fight the grief of when we lose them because they can’t or won’t be with us anymore.

I’m hoping when I next see her, my pride will diminish and I will have the confidence to say hello. I had a feeling that this would have been unwelcome though- by the time I left the shop she was walking away. She could have waited if she wanted to speak to me – clearly she didn’t either.

As the days pass by, I know I can’t live without Wildcard. But I also know that something has shifted there, too. I can’t put my finger on it but it’s there. A few weeks ago I was really anxious about it. I also started putting the pressure on for this trip – setting a benchmark of expectations that will only cause stress and arguments when I get there .

But…there will come a time soon when I may need to make decisions. That is – if he doesn’t make any.

I’m finding it hard to picture our future now . I don’t know how this will all work out. It scares me. I want to fight for him. But maybe, like my once-was friend , he won’t want that.

My plan? Enjoy and see. Let my little life-seedling bask in the warmth and see what happens.

Interview 2

So, I didn’t get the job I wanted. But it’s OK. I left feeling I had done the best I could and if I didn’t get it, it wasn’t right for me.

I was eventually contacted Wednesday afternoon. Friday, I had my feedback. It was as expected – someone with more business experience got the role. They gave me a couple of tips to help but it all ended with me feeling generally OK about the whole thing.

Tomorrow is my interview for the school position. I still am not 100% that I want it

Why?

(FEEL FREE TO SEND VIRTUAL KICKS)

Because I want my own business.

However, this is a means to an end:

Get back on board with my career.

Get my finances straight.

Learn from my new employer.

Start saving for my business.

Leave when ready and start my own venture.

See? A solid plan.

Of course, I have a whole day’s interview to get through first. I’m nervous, doubtful, determined and goodness knows what else.

Wish me luck.

The ups and downs

Hello there everyone. I’m on my lunch break.

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks. I’m sat with a knot in my stomach.

After weeks of contemplation, stress and feeling lost I finally made some decisions about my life.

I decided that I would continue with my application outside of education. I also decided that I would apply for the school leadership role which I had been approached about. Finally, I decided I would have to tell my current employer about it, thus risking his childish wrath again and losing any opportunity for the enhanced role if I’m not successful on the other two.

So how’s that worked out for me?

The interview was Thursday evening. I walked out feeling I had done all I can (within reason) and a renewed confidence in all I’ve achieved. It would be down to what they were truly looking for. I was told me would find out Monday.

This meant, as I may not get the job, I had to fill in the application for the school as that deadline was also Monday.

As Monday dragged on with no communication from the charity, I realised that I needed to let my boss know now. No more hiding behind possibilities. I wrote the email and sent it off.

It’s now Tuesday afternoon. I still haven’t heard from the charity.

I had no strong feeling either way about my chances but knew I had done the best I could. Regardless, I still had a miniscule thread of hope that I would be successful. Today, I’ve emailed them to say thanks for the opportunity and that I assume it wasn’t successful. I’ve asked for feedback. So far, nothing.

A little but of me is angry. They seemed so nice! So apologetic when they kept moving the interview date! But to not communicate at all now? I’m disappointed. Don’t keep me hanging. Rip the plaster off in one go and let the air get to the wound.

Last night I started looking a few more possibilities. My boss emailed me back and was rather magnanimous. And then I realised that it is unlikely I will find what I want in the next few weeks and he knows it. He’s probably quite smug. There a few jobs out there and I will apply for them.

Overall, I’m kicking myself for not pursuing the business. That’s what I really want. I wouldn’t treat people as I have been treated.

And so, life goes up and down.

Talking to myself

I’m at crisis point decision-wise. It’s now or never.

I have a number of paths ahead of me.

The first is to jump back into my career, at a stage not far from where I left it. Responsibility, good pay and my career would be back on track with barely an issue from my year’s absence. I have a very good chance of getting this job.

But…I don’t know if I want it. Thinking positively, I may love it again. A new school, new ethos, new situation. Or, I maybe I will feel frustrated at the symmetry of two academy chains and hate what it has made me become.

The second is to stay with the company I am with. My boss wants me to stay and has offered me an improved package to keep me. Up until recently, I’ve been happy there. But it is a much lower salary than I am capable, albeit for less stress. I’m also unhappy with the way he has gone about trying to keep me – some very large red flags are waving at the moment. I don’t like being manipulated and that’s what he did. I recognise that he needs me to stay on and he is thinking about his business. I also acknowledge that he has been great other than that. But….I’m not happy with him and I can’t let it lie. It’s a nasty irritation that I can’t ignore.

Then there’s the job I have an interview for. I want this job. I have no idea on the salary but I don’t care if I can make it up with tutoring. It excites me and will challenge me and will look good on my CV. It will develop new skills and experiences and I think it will give me job satisfaction.

I think I’ve just answered my question.

However… this job is not guaranteed. If I go for it, I am going to have to pass on the other two opportunities. If I don’t get it, I will have to find a new job. I don’t trust my boss-with those-big-red-flags will treat me well again.

Am I being injust and unfair?

Should I go for money? Or time? Or potential job satisfaction?