Chicken or the egg

I was wondering why no one had liked my last post. Was it that bad? Was it boring? Maybe I’m not writing enough or am I being monotonous? I then realised that I hadn’t actually 0published it. Oops.

As a frame of reference, that sums up my mental health quite succinctly at the moment. I’m worrying about everything. I’m otherthinking everything. I’m negative. And I’m forgetful and tired.

And, to make it worse, even when I try to think about things..  to plan, consider and just plain sort my head out.. I can’t. Thoughts rush in and any attempt to slow them or prioritise results in blank. Like faulty breaks – they’re off or they’re on. I need to get to the bottom of the hill but I either let myself roll down and gather speed uncontrollably or throw on the breaks and feel the strain. My mind is definitely kangaroo jumping as I attempt to deal with this. Whatever it is.

I would like to think that I have learnt enough about myself to have stopped this episode from becoming an all-out breakdown. I suspect it is my medication though that it is stopping me from descending fully into the blackness.

My doctor put me back on anxiety meds a few months ago and they have helped a little. But not enough. I probably should have listened when he suggested upping my antidepressant (I am on the lowest dose) but I felt it was more anxiety than anything else. Maybe I was wrong.

It’s well documented that the current crisis is having a negative impact on mental health and particularly for those with preexisting concerns.  Stupidly, it’s not even that I am worried about the corona itself as such.  It’s the stress and impact it is having on everything else. My job. My relationship. My kids’ education and future. My finances.

Greater awareness of my mental health state is a good thing. Last time it floored me unexpectedly. But… knowing I’m not ‘right’ means that I am doubting my own judgement. I don’t know if my ‘problems’ are causing my mental health concerns or that my mental health is creating ‘problems’. Chicken or the egg.

If I was more settled mentally, would I be able to cope better with the problems that have headed my way? Yes, probably.

Is my mental health making the current issues seem worse than they are? Possibly.

Has the current situation tipped me over? Potentially.

I really, really want to sort my head out. That’s what I want. I want order and considered thought. I don’t want irrationality and overthinking. I want to trust my judgement, but I don’t.

It’s times like these that all you want to do is sleep. Just go to bed, shut off and not think anymore. And that my friends is a big indication that all is not well, whatever the reason.


Hidden – 26th April 2020 (daily prompt)

I always considered myself to be a very emotive person. I have strong emotions and I’m not afraid to show them. Or so I thought.

Years ago, when I was in my previous school, I took part in some leadership training. Part of the process was that I had to choose a number of colleagues to complete a detailed, anonymous, questionnaire about me. The results came back as a report.

The biggest surprise to me, without a shadow of a doubt, was that everyone had commented that I did not share my feelings. I was hard to read. I didn’t tell people what I was thinking on a personal level. I was astounded. I thought it was the opposite! I was too emotive, too open.

I considered this for some time and came to the conclusion that I had over-compensated for this belief I had in myself. My attempts at a poker face, hiding my emotions as a guise to look professional, had been all too successful. Later, when I moved schools, and ever conscious of this, my suspicions were confirmed when a new colleague commented upon how calm and effective I was – never showing any stress etc. At that time, I was as stressed as I had ever been, and so it confirmed my thinking.

Family, on being approached about the subject, said that I hid my emotions and feelings unless I wanted to. Then, and only then, would I openly share and discuss my thoughts and feelings openly. I was amazed at this view of me, so different from my own. Again, I could only conclude that this perception I had of myself – of being too open and emotive – had led to me hiding my feelings, more than I thought was possible.

And maybe, just maybe, I began to get better at hiding my own feelings from myself. When I had my burn out/break down three years ago, my counsellor and I discussed how I had repressed so many thoughts and feelings that eventually my pysche had fought back. Everything flooded my system to the point that I couldn’t function under the weight of it.

I don’t know how much I have changed, being honest. I know I am much more self aware now. More than I ever was. If anything, I now have to fight to control and manage my ever active thoughts and emotions.

There are some that are hidden though – I haven’t changed that much. Some I have under lock and key and don’t allow to surface often. But part of my recovery was to acknowledge that by hiding and repressing these thoughts and feelings I wasn’t dealing with them. And the more I didn’t deal with them the more power I gave them.

The difference now is, I choose when to deal with them. I monitor them and wait for the right time to think and deal. Sometimes I get it wrong – I’m human not a robot – and they overpower and overwhelm. Then, I have to deal with them with more urgency and learn from the process.

Ironically, the one person who seems to be able to read me easier than anyone else, my new boyfriend, is the source of many of my currently undealt-with-hidden thoughts and emotions. No one has ever been able to read me as accurately and as openly as he can. I swear that man can read my mind.

But with that comes fear. Fear that I may lose this man. Fear that I am reading him wrong. Fear that this is not what I feel it is. Those fears conjur all sorts of ideas and thoughts, many which unhappily become unhidden by their own volition or often by him seeing them before I do.

So, maybe that’s what true love is. Two lives where together, nothing can be hidden. I don’t know. But I really hope I’m proved right with him.

For now

I’m freezing but I don’t care. Tonight was a late one from work with two meetings and my youngest’s parents’ evening.

I got in, weary, and out the oven on for something to eat. I let the dog out and was about to make a fire when my sister called: she’d made my tea!

I drove the short distance to her house and had the most delicious tea. We chatted about work and I told her that I’d had a good day.

As I drove home, happily satiated, I thought about my good day. Work has been much better with my temporary role snc I’ve really enjoyed it. I feel like I’ve achieved something. I’ve taken on a couple of new classes and they’re going really well. I’ve only got four weeks left though until I return to my old role. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I know there will be changes again next term so I am probably going to hold out for that. It good to feel good about my job again though.

It then got me thinking about how far I’ve come this last year. I’m proud of myself for getting through it. A part of me felt a twinge of guilt though: I never imagined feeling this way again when Dad died. But then I think it’s more that I’m managing it better. I think about him every day still but I don’t think about it, just the good things if I can.

I got home at 9.15pm and as there was no heating on, let the dog out and then I’ve come to bed early. It’s warmer under this duvet.

Bumble is proceeding slowly. I’m talking to two men now although one has gone quiet. I’ve matched and messaged six others. Four that I matched with yesterday have not responded and so have disappeared. It still puzzles me but as I far there seem to be plenty more potentials do I will stick with it for now.


MI’m sat in a hospital cafe with a rather delicious cappuein front of me. I’m waiting for my prescription which I’m informed will take 15 minutes. It’s usually longer.

I’m on my own, but that’s OK. The other four filled tables also have single occupants.

I’m feeling pretty miserable. Monday was my first day back in work after the Christmas holiday and the start of my new, temporary role. I was determined to ‘hit the ground running’. Show them what I’ve got.

I’m not the same person anymore. The loss of my Dad and the experience of his illness and death have changed me. I’ve tried very hard to hide this, to be the person I used to be – strong, capable – but I have failed. A conversation with work just before we broke for the Christmas holidays has proved that.

In telling me that, all they’ve done is acerbated the problem: for me, I’m failing at hiding it so I’m failing in general. I feel that people are doubting me, seeing my new weakness. I’ve heard that one colleague, in a show of support apparently, has called me a ‘broken woman’. That I am, but I’ve worked very hard for work not to see that.

But this new, temporary role was a chance to change that. A different focus, different expectations – a chance to prove my worth again. People have short memories – the past year I have been plagued by a burn out, the death of my beloved father and the subsequent grief and – I’m guessing – associated illnesses. I want people to remember what I can do, the years of success that I had before this.

Unfortunately, Monday morning I woke to a severe flair up of a pre-existing medical condition that rears its head when I’m run down. Not a problem, I thought. I will get it quick – make the emergency hospital appointment, get the usual medications and get back to proving my worth.

Apparently not. After a lengthy appointment at the hospital I was informed that this flair up was particularly bad. This meant my usual medications, plus steroids and a sick note for a week.

I was angry. I didn’t want this! I drove to work in a rage. I could ignore the note, just go in. But a conversation with my ex on the way (the man who never advocates unnecessary time off work) brought me to my senses. A senior consultant has told me that I need a week off. That means, I need a week off.

I drove to work to hand in my note and met with my boss. They were sympathetic, understanding. I don’t know what’s worse.

I was angry, upset, apologetic. I told him that I didn’t want the time off, that I wanted to prove myself. “Don’t give up on me.” Should I cringe at the memory of saying that? I don’t, because that is how I felt. How I still feel.

He told me to stop worrying, I couldn’t help it. He knew I was good at my job, knew what I had been through. Just get myself well.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was glad of the time off. Pain and exhaustion ripped through me and the illness took hold. My consultant had warned me it would get worse before it got better. Seems she was right about this too.

So today I am back for my follow up appointment. Although there is improvement, I’ve been given more medications for the next few weeks. This hasn’t happened for a long time. Again, I appreciate how bad this flare up has been now. This different consultant was sharp and quick. Not much care, but efficient. I didn’t feel like asking questions.

As I entered the coffeeshop, I was followed by two hospital staff, coming to fix the coffeeshop fridge. One of the men quickly got into a cherry banter with the coffee staff and his colleague, and as I was being served, me too. He made me smile and I watched the banter between colleagues in good humour.

As I sit drinking my coffee, I’m considering how we present ourselves affects others, perhaps without us noticing. Today’s consultant’s abrupt efficiency has meant that I didn’t ask questions I had. The experience in the coffee shop cheered me up – all from one man’s smiling face and sense of humour. I was lucky to be an onlooker of that, just for a moment, because it has made me realise how important your ‘outside’, your demeanor – whatever you want to call it – really is. I’ve tried hard to be professional, to be the person I once was. I realise now that it is impossible. Inside I am changed and that is ever present on the outside too, no matter how I try to cover it up.

So. What can I do about it?

My job is still important to me. I’ve lost some confidence in myself. I need to prove to myself and to others that I can do this. My demeanor needs to show this care and determination. Does it matter that I’ve shown people my more fragile side? I’m not sure. But I can’t change it. I can only focus on how I present myself from now on.


The irony of this blog has not been lost on me. I started it when I separated from my husband in an attempt to see this as a positive chance to start my life again.

The irony of course, comes from what happened afterwards. Seems like Life wanted to change anyway, regardless of my marital status.

In November last year I had a ‘breakdown’, although I much prefer the Teaching Unions’ labelling of ‘burnout’. I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. Once the tiredness had finally ebbed, I was left with a numbing darkness: a malevolent emptiness which reeked on my own self-dissatisfaction and sense of failure. In those burned out eyes of mine, I had failed at my marriage, failed to keep my Dad well, failed at my job because I wasn’t strong enough, and failed as a mother because I was weak and a mess.

Months later, sedated by antidepressants and the memories of counselling, I returned to work. The phased return helped and soon I was feeling like the old me again. Not the new me my blog had promised to recount, but the old me.

And then, only a couple of months later, Dad deteriorated further. We thought we were losing him in April but he survived somehow and we were told that he was at the end of his life and we should prepare that he would have about twelve months with us. I believed we would be lucky to have another Christmas with him, but I hoped. He was a strong man despite his illness.

He returned home frail and didn’t seem to recover the way we had hoped. There were more tests, doctor’s appointments, carers… And then the ambulance calls in the middle of the night, only for him to be sent home days later with more medication.

Then in May he was admitted again with severe anaemia. Within days, a chest infection started. Then a little heart attack. And still we had hope. We had til Christmas, didn’t we? We had a year! He’d pulled through before.

After a week we started to doubt. He was not getting better. The hospital were not giving up, but our hope was fading. Our handsome, strong Dad was pale and weak and sleepy. He was black and blue from blood tests and transfusions.

And then, on June 6th, after discussion with the doctors, we made the decision to withdraw treatment – Dad’s non-invasive ventilator – the thing that was keeping him alive. He wasn’t getting better and we couldn’t see him suffer any longer.

Dad died less than twelve hours later with me and my two sisters by his side. And my life as I knew it ended.

I’m not the same person without my Dad. I’ve lost what little strength I had recovered after my ‘burnout’. A colleague has described me as a ‘broken woman’ and its stark accuracy startled me. I feel broken.

The clichés – a ‘part of me is missing’, ‘something has died inside me’ – how I wish they were metaphorical! I always thought they were but then I had never experienced grief like this before.

I write about my grief to cope with it. To remember it. Because it, in a slightly strange way, is also a part of Dad and I don’t want to forget this part either. And I hope these honest reflections can help someone too. Help them realise that they are not going mad, that these tumultuous feelings are a normal part of grief. Grief is not just crippling sadness – something I didn’t know until now. Grief is a very lonely place.

Change was a positive aspiration two years ago. It’s now a source of anxiety and pain.

My counsellor tells me that my grief is ‘healthy’. I’m told that it’s ‘selfless’ which is a good thing apparently. These are just words to me. I’m glad I’m not dipping back into depression again but these words mean nothing. I’m still grieving.

For six months I have tried to do what is expected of me. Carry on with my life. Keep being a mum and a teacher, a sister and a homeowner. As each month has passed, I’ve tried to hide the grief which is still as strong as it has ever been. (Maybe that’s it – you never get over it, you just learn to hide it better? ) Apparently, I’m not doing very well at this.

Last Sunday, after some Christmas shopping, I returned home and cried and cried and cried. I went into work Monday morning, frog-eyed and raw, to speak to HR in the hope they’d let me hide myself away in my office and work. Carry on, the way I’m supposed to.

An hour later, I’d let out my grief again. I’d discussed my pain, my fear about Christmas. My fear that people saw through my very carefully constructed facade of being OK.

My fears were well founded. My colleagues say that I am not the same, that I don’t have the same ‘gumption’ I once had.

How hard I have tried to hide this! I know I don’t have the same strength, but I didn’t want everyone else to see this. It was OK in the beginning, people expect you to be that way. But after a time, I believed that I should be back to myself, externally at least.

Although I feel like a failure, I’ve been told that I’m not and people don’t see me as one. I’m not sure I agree on either count.

Day to day, most days, my grief is a burning ember inside me. It’s a gossamer veil that covers me. Change is a catalyst though. It stokes the embers and the grief burns in my chest. Like today – simply preparing for Christmas with final shopping and cleaning and tidying has caused anxiety all day. Such a strange emotion as I’m not sure why it’s anxiety, but that is what I have felt and what I always feel when I experience change since Dad has died.

I know Christmas will be hard. Its a change. I’ve never had a Christmas before without my Dad: now I will never have one again with him. My anxiety is a symptom of this knowledge.

But somehow, this week’s grief and work revelations have created something new in me. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want people to see me as weak. How can I find myself again? I haven’t created these changes but I need to embrace them somehow. Use them as a catalyst for positivity if that is at all possible. That determination, the strength that has been bred in me, encouraged in me, from my Dad, is wanting to fight back. It was fine for me to pretend to be OK if I thought no one realised. Now I know that I have failed to hide it, I’m even more determined.

I can’t change my grief. I can’t erase it or end it. It’s there because I loved my Dad and will always love my Dad so it will always be there too.

I have no answers to this. It’s another irony. I share my grief in this blog because I believe that grief is personal but should not be private. And yet, I’m determined to find a way to hide it.

I’m shaking my head at myself as I write this.

So, to all of you that are missing someone this Christmas, I know how hard this is. I’m with you. We are not alone. I will be sending a prayer to you all, as I pray to my Dad, asking him to send a little bit more of his strength my way.

Merry Christmas xx


It’s hard to believe that a week ago I was walking around Prague!

This week seems to have flown by, not helped by the fact that on my first day back my youngest injured himself and had to go to A&E! Tuesday we were at Alder Hey Children’s hospital and we went back this morning for a check-up. All is looking well though which is a relief. 😊

Prague is a beautiful city. If you like culture, history, museums and shopping I would not hesitate to go. From Manchester the flight is less than two hours. I’m not sure I would agree that Prague is inexpensive but it is certainly cheaper than Paris or London. Expect to pay City prices.

I’m not going to bore you with the details, but I saw some beautiful sites, ate some delicious food, drank too much alcohol and made a new friend. I also got a little male attention which massaged my ego nicely. Nothing else to report on that front though.

I’m feeling good. The trip seemed to blow the final whispers of darkness away from my mind. If I can get a train on my own… If I can walk around Prague on my own.. Well, I’m doing alright.

I have just over a week until I go back to work and I have made that decision. I can’t say I am excited to go back – I certainly don’t want to feel stressed again- but now I am well there is no point living a life I can’t have. I can’t be a stay-at-home mum and I’ve known that for fourteen years.

Instead, I sort of feel like I am chomping at the bit and ready to renew and restart my life. I’ve got a week to make preparations to make sure that happens properly, so I don’t end up in the same rut. Ironically, today I am facing the complete opposite problem to a few weeks ago. I want to go out today but know that I need to use my time wisely to sort a few things out before the weekend. Sigh.

And so to anyone who is just starting their recovery journey from depression and anxiety, know that you will get there. You will find yourself again, the days will be brighter and life will become good again.

Take care everyone and I hope you have a good weekend. X

Why happiness is mine to accept

To understand this post, you may want to read the previous one first!

I have a good job, a nice home and three beautiful and healthy children.

My dad has survived lung cancer and his prostate cancer is in remission. He is still with us.

My relationship with my mum has improved. She is happy and I know she will always be there if I need her.

Never say never. The job I have now is suitable for my situation on the whole. I get time off with my children. My job is enjoyable and challenging and I am good at it. There will be time for change in the future when the moment is right.

My children know they are loved. They know they can depend on me. They may not have as much as some but they have more than others. They are polite and well mannered and have a healthy interest in reading and history and technology, of course.

Happiness is not just for those in a relationship. I can be happy without a man. But at the same time, love could be on the horizon til the day I die.

At least I know that the connection exists. Somewhere, out there is another connection – so strong that nothing will keep us apart.

I tried my best to keep my marriage alive. What I have now are lots of happy memories, three beautiful children and a much better relationship with their dad.

As I write, I am an able bodied woman with no major health concerns other than the need to lose weight. It could be worse.

Life can be good if we open our eyes to it.


Oh the house is so quiet! For the first time in a while I have not gone back to bed today. So I am sat in a quiet, empty house (for now) enjoying the silence and relative calm. Last week was difficult. Although I think I have said that the new tablet seems to be having a more positive effect on me, I’m still having relapses of low mood particularly when I perceive that I have to do something difficult. Last Friday I had a welfare meeting at work. I won’t bore you with the details. But I made myself go to the school (hiding from any pupils who might see me). I met with the Headteacher and the Business Manager. I cried – a lot – but sort of silent tears as I listened to what they had to say. But I left feeling supported and hopeful that when I return I can put all this behind me. I don’t know if the stress of that and the impending Occupational Health meeting on Monday juat were to blame, but I came down with a violent cold and severe eye infection the next day. I’d been feeling pretty smug the week before that I had managed to ‘get away with’ a head cold whilst everyone else around me seemed to have a full blown cold/flu. Seems like this was not the case as my week’s worth of head cold turned into a second week of sore throat, cough and constantly streaming nose. I spent all day Sunday on the couch asleep. Monday I went to the Occupational Health meeting. I had been dreading this and if the appointment had been later in the day, I probably would have cancelled. Instead I went, eyes and nose streaming, hair a little greasy (yuk – I know) and just wanting to get it over with so I could go back to bed. It was fine, you know. She said a lot that I’d heard from my gp and counsellor and so that helped to reinforce their messages. She’s going to suggest to work that I have more than six counselling sessions if I need them. She told me to give myself time, be kind to myself and work slowly to get back. She said my tablets would take a good month to have full affect – I’m only a week and a half in. Yesterday I looked after my three year old whilst nursing one of those headaches you get from constant coughing. I did more housework than I had done for a while (but not enough, of course) and then spent the day alternatively playing and cuddling with him on the couch as we watched a film. It was heavenly, apart from the headache ☺. This morning I feel like I have turned the corner. I woke up without headache, sore throat or streaming nose. I have taken the children to school and then have put washing on and have had a quick tidy. I’m now sat drinking my first coffee in a week. Delicious. So what? You’ve had a cold. All I can say is, it felt like yet another hurdle. You know how utterly fed up you feel when you’ve been ill for a while? Well picture that when you already feel low. Not good. I’m at the stage in my recovery where I want to start thinking about everything properly. It feels like an open wound at the moment. It’s there; I can see it and feel it, but if I don’t look at it, it doesn’t feel as bad. But I know that if I don’t deal with it, it isn’t going to heal. I keep glancing at it, knowing that I’ve got to face up to it soon. I feel like to do this I need to prepare, like going into battle or, (perhaps better so I don’t mix my metaphors) preparing for an operation. I need to focus on only this, without disruption or distraction or interruption. I need to think, and write and feel at my own pace without pressure of anything else. What I would really like is to go away for a few days on my own. I’d like a little cottage or maybe even a B&B somewhere beautiful like the Lakes. I want to walk, to write, to contemplate. I don’t know if I can afford it and I would need my Ex to move in for a few days. I just think that this space would help me to truly focus and I love the Lakes. I’m missing my walks there with my friend. To be honest, in just writing this I have summed up the cause of all that I am feeling. There is no time in my life where I don’t feel pressured by outside influences; my roles as mother, daughter, sister, homeowner, teacher. I need to unpick all this, refine and define my roles and carve out a new role as caretaker for ME. That is the one area I am truly failing at, not the others like I believe. I need to keep telling myself that. My one, and only one, failure in my life so far is not caring for myself.