Corona change

It’s Thursday so I probably shouldn’t be thinking about this yet but, hey, it’s what I do.

I may, or may not be back in work full time on Monday. Being honest, I started this half term week with the understanding that I am back in work full time from June 1st. Since then, I’ve been in school, spoke to the Head and was told ‘it is up for discussion’. And then yesterday, the local authority published a report saying that despite government instruction, Lancashire does not yet meet all the requirements to reopen schools due to the levels of Coronavirus. So, who knows?

The point is, things are changing every day. I’m not political but there seems to be no clear direction, no leadership: ambiguous comments built on ambiguous comments. I can’t believe that, even though hundreds of people are still dying every day here, we are being told that we can ‘stay alert’ but go out when Wild Card’s country is still in complete lockdown with under ten people dying a day. They’ve had under 200 people die in total. And they are still in lockdown.

But, thinking about change with the forever-changing possibility that I am back in work, I’ve considered how life has changed for me.

I’m exercising. Regularly. I know, I can’t believe it myself. It started months ago with a free 30 day subscription to an online exercise site. And then I just took some of the exercises and started doing my own thing. Each time I do the routine I add more repetitions or a new move. I’m now up to 30 minutes three times a week. On top of that, I’m walking for 30 minutes most days too. That is a big deal for me. I haven’t exercised that much or frequently since my early 20s. It probably needs improvement but, you know what, I’m proud of myself. I actually have muscles – definition – in my legs.

Talking of which, I haven’t put any weight on over lockdown. That is another achievement. Due to my gluten intolerance which was diagnosed last September, my eating habits completely changed and I dropped a significant amount of weight very quickly. I wasn’t eating properly though and that couldn’t be sustained. I was upset that I’d stopped losing weight at first until my best friend pointed it out – I’m eating properly, no longer denying myself anything (apart from gluten) and yet I haven’t put any weight on. I still need to lose some weight which is why I am increasing my exercise and have started to log my food again. But no weight gain is good.

I have had a face skin care routine from August last year when a friend introduced me to double cleansing. (I may have a slight obsession with face products now). But since lockdown, I’ve been much better with moisturising my whole body – I exercise, shower and moisturise. Similarly, whilst my relationship with Wild Card has ensured that I wear make up everyday, not just when I’m in work, scrolling through Facebook Watch videos has taught me a few tricks and my make up looks much better, more natural. I hate the whole ‘Instagram plaster your face until you look like something out of Star Trek’ look (sorry girls) but I’ve found a happy medium now.

Talking of happy mediums, I’m afraid I am not one of those people who took lockdown and completely transformed their house. I kind of thought, if there is a chance I could get corona and die I don’t want my last days to have been about painting the living room. But my house is cleaner and more tidy and I have organised and sorted through a few key areas. My garden is also looking better but not finished. I’m OK with that.

I have been reading a lot more though. I love reading, always have, but the last few years have seen pockets of reading and longer periods of not. I was just too tired. I’ve read lots of books since lockdown and I’m loving it all over again.

Being a teacher and therefore a key worker, I have worked over lockdown. I’ve been going into school a couple of times a week and setting and checking work each day. But there has been balance too. Yes, my job is very important to me, but my family and health are more important. It was hard at first – guilt plagued me – but I’m slowly finding a better balance between it all: work, home, family, me. Of course, this will all need re-evaluation when I go back to work.

And you know what? Despite the sometimes tumultuous ups and downs, I’ve been able to sustain a long distance relationship with Wild Card. I mean, how difficult has this situation been and yet we are still together, still loving each other. Yesterday, he told me I am his life. That’s a big statement from him – he’s normally about actions rather than words – and it has really touched me. 😊

So, how has this situation changed your life for the better? Remember, every cloud has a silver lining.

Advice

Although I’m only due back into work tomorrow, I went in today for a couple of hours and I’ve not long been home.

Tomorrow I was supposed to be in all day but due to my one hour early dart on Monday, we have decided that I will leave at lunch tomorrow too (1.30pm instead of 3.15pm.)

I decided to go in today for a couple of reasons. First, because I needed to keep up that momentum and this was easy to face as I was in control. Second so I could fully prepare for tomorrow. Thirdly to show willing. Yes, I got a bit freaked out on my first day back but I really am trying.

My boss requested a meeting this morning to catch up and discuss how the first day had gone. I was honest. I told them it was harder than I thought it would be and explained why. I also discussed some issues hat had been playing on my mind. They were understanding. They reiterated that my wellbeing was paramount. And, in hindsight I have realised, they have said they think I am rushing my return.

Not so much that I shouldn’t be back (although that question has been asked) but that we are rushing the phasing. We are going to review in a week’s time.

As you can imagine, I’ve been deep in thought even since. First is the fear that they think you’re still ill (am I missing something they are seeing). Then you question what you’ve told them and said. Then… Are they right? Am I putting too much pressure on myself?

I just want to be back in work as normal.

Part of the originally planned phasing has altered to be fair. My first week was supposed to be about just going in for teaching which meant a few half days. It didn’t happen due to them needing to change my timetable in my absence so that all my teaching is now on two full days. Throw in a snow day and the first week was a bust – I didn’t go in. This week was supposed to be me in all the time but catching up on administrative duties but due to the timetable this ended up being a planned two day teaching week. Sound good? It isn’t. Too much on a day for a first return and those days off in between are not really getting me used to going back in.

So yes, in a way the phased return has been condensed. I’m eager to get back to normal and have high expectations of myself. But I’m being advised by so many people not to rush it.

This could mean that I don’t go back to full duties for a while instead of on the 9th April as planned.

I just want to feel normal! I just want to get on with my job and my role and have the impact that I have always had.

But I don’t want to be ill again.

Anyone got on advice or experience of phased returns?

Break

It is my first day back and I am on a break.

It has been much tougher than I expected and I feel on the verge of tears.

I had some lovely comments from staff and pupils which have made me feel welcome. And yet I feel so displaced, unsettled. Like I don’t belong here anymore.

I suppose the only way I can explain it is that I thought it would be like putting on an old pair of shoes again: they would feel different to what I usually wear but comfortable too, particularly once I had got used to them again. Instead they feel like shoes that no longer fit, that actually aren’t as comfortable as I remember.

When you have depression, when you have a breakdown, you lose yourself: the person you were; the things you liked and disliked; your reactions and the way you coped with life.

For me, recovery wasn’t just about finding myself again but about tweaking my old life to prevent this from happening again. I suppose by going back, I’m trying to fit new me into an old me shape. Does that make sense?

I can’t change my job. I can’t leave work. Nor do I really want to. But today I feel trapped and lost at the same time. Work is familiar yet unfamiliar too. It is disorientating. It is displacing. It’s horrible.

Do I keep pretending? Roll out the same behaviours, expressions and tools that made me, once, so good at this job? Will that shoe finally fit again? Or does it need breaking in anew?

*Update*

So, I lasted until 2pm then I came home. I couldn’t take anymore. I know I should feel proud for lasting that long but it feels like I step backwards. I really thought that it would feel like I had never been away but it didn’t. I was told to not be hard on myself – this would a good start. Let’s hope I feel that way tomorrow.

Day zero

I am not in work today – more on this later.

For the first time in weeks, I went back to bed yesterday (after the children had gone to school with their dad). I don’t know whether it was a reaction to knowing that I was in work the next day, or simply that I was tired after being ill the previous week and that it was still lingering.

I woke at 10.30 and felt pretty good. I did my chores, got ready and went out. Another small victory – this is the first time since my breakdown that I have gone out on my own without the need to go food shopping.

I had set myself the task to look into getting my completed cross stitch framed.

As an English teacher, you will not be surprised to hear that Jane Austen is my favourite author. Years ago, in a (very) rare moment of romantic consideration, my husband organised a road trip which included Stratford upon Avon (Shakespeare), Oxford (Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy) and Chawton (Jane Austen). Despite husband not being a fan of these authors, we had a lovely time. And I got to see Jane Austen’s House and museum ☺. The cross-stitch was bought in the gift shop and is a representation of one of the only images we have of Austen – a watercolour painted by her sister Cassandra.

The cross-stitch is the biggest and most complex pattern I have ever completed. It has literally taken me years, partly because there was a long period of time when I simply didn’t do it. I find stitching very relaxing and so naturally, in an attempt to combat the stress and anxiety of my breakdown, I picked it back up again.

And so, the completed picture is very important. It is a memory of happier times. It is a beautiful image of my favourite writer and signifies a love of literature that lead to my English degree and career in teaching. It is a symbol of perseverance and my recovery.

So off I went. Turns out getting something framed is not as simple as I thought but I got a quote from one place and will be revisiting another framers at the weekend. I did do some shopping and had lunch on my own, book in hand, in a busy restaurant. Small victory number 2.

Last night I was a little nervous but no more than I am after the summer holiday.

I didn’t sleep particularly well but I expected that. I woke at 6am but knowing that I was only taking two of my children to school, I stayed in bed until 6.30am. It was then that I saw this:

This snow was completely unexpected. Typical I thought. First day back and I have to contend with snow. As you can imagine, a snowy school full of children is not an easy place to be in.

I showered, woke the children and started to get ready. It was still snowing quite heavily so kept an eye on the two school websites. Low and behold, at 7.30am, the message came through that my school was closed.

You’d think that this would be a welcome message. It wasn’t really. I had built myself up for being in school. I had been repeating my mantra all morning whilst drying my hair and putting on a full face of makeup (Confident, calm and controlled). When the message came I was ready for work and the children were ready for school. My daughter elwas ecstatic of course as this meant that she had a snow day too. Unfortunately for my son, his school has remained open. This through me in to a full scale panic. What do I do? Am I still expected to go into school (has happened previously)? Should I take my son in? What about my youngest’s nursery?

All of this was further compounded by my ex calling on his way home from work to say that the roads were treacherous and that it had tripled his journey home. I was in a headspin.

Ridiculous hey? It seems quite simple now that I have calmed, but for about 15 minutes I couldn’t think straight. I made him come round anyway.

He said that our middle son should not go to school despite it being open. We live some miles away from the school as we chose this one as it was near my work not near our home. Unlike other families who were in walking distance, we would need to drive. And if my own school had considered the roads to be too dangerous to drive on, it seemed silly to risk going that way for him.

So, I changed out of my work suit and here I am!

Just one

Tomorrow is my last day before I go back to work.

I have felt nothing for days about this. No anxiety or dread. No fear or sadness. No excitement or anticipation. Just, nothing.

Ironically, this confused me but my counsellor discussed this with me and I think I have thought it through now.

A thought has been developing the last few days though, like a rosebud slowly opening. I feel different. I’m not the same person anymore.

I can’t quite tell if that is because this experience has changed me or whether the fact that I battled so long with my stress and anxiety before my breakdown has meant that I couldn’t remember myself before that.

Will I be the same person on Thursday? Will I slip on my teaching persona like the suit I will wear? Or have I been tainted or altered by my experience?

Will I be better at recognising and controlling the stress or will my newly healed mental wounds be susceptible to reopening?

I don’t fear seeing anyone. I don’t particularly care what they think about me or my absence. What is important is me being able to do a good job, enjoy it, but protect my fragile sense of self.

Yes, I am mother, daughter, sister, teacher. But I don’t want to be defined by those things anymore.

I want to be defined by my own self. Those parts of me are facets on a diamond – they add to it, help create it – but do not define it. The facets help to make it special, to shine. But they do not create it. The beauty is there all the time.

So, what am going to do with my last day? I’m not sure yet. But I do know it will be what I want.

Little victories

I’m quite proud of the fact that I managed to get up at 6am again this morning. I know this may seem like a little thing but to me it’s a sign that I am mentally well and preparing for my return to work. These little signs that I have been getting better are very important: particularly in the beginning when the world was so dark.

Unfortunately, that’s where it stops for this morning. My attention has been taken by the warm glow coming from outside- snow has fallen in North West England and it’s heavy. I also have to say that the thing I was most looking forward to this morning was the chance to take my various nasal and throat sprays and good old paracetamol. I’m not feeling good with swollen glands and aching joints to add to the blocked nose and sore throat.

My son also continues to be unwell. We went to the doctors yesterday and he was put on antibiotics. For the third night in a row he came into my bed in the middle of the night and it takes some time for us both to fall back to sleep. He’s going to be very disappointed when he sees all the snow – the first substantial fall of his four years – and realise he can’t go out it.

So after taking various meds, I’ve turned the lights low, made a hot drink and opened the curtains so I can see outside. Beautiful.

I’ve got my final back to work meeting later on today. I’m not sure what else can be said but I have to go I suppose.

Wishing a good day for you all. 😊

Countdown

Eight days to go.

Today I actually felt happy. Yes, happy. I can not tell you why exactly, because I don’t actually know. Perhaps it was the Spring sunshine. Maybe it was the antidepressants doing an amazing job. Maybe it’s my new diet. But, without worrying too much about the why (as only someone with anxiety could) I decided to accept it with gratitude.

As I said in my last post, my little trip away has seemed to do my mental health the world of good. Wednesday I started a new eating plan too.

I have played around with Lifesum for a few months. I’ve previously had My Fitness Pal and have used it a few times quite happily. However I like Lifesum’s interface (is that the right word?) and so decided to pay for the subscription for a year. It’s two months payments for Slimming World /Weight Watchers – both of which I have tried and failed on multiple times- and so I thought it was worth a try. I have lost weight on both of these diets and I know they work really well for lots of people but just not me. I stop losing weight, yo-yo, and give up when I realise I am paying a £5 a week to be looked at pityingly by a group of smug slimmers.

After lots of reading up, I’ve decided to try low carb. I have PCOS and so cutting down on the sugar is a good idea amongst the other obvious health benefits. Problem is, I love carbs: a crispy jacket potato with butter and salad and spicy chicken. A decadent sandwich stuffed with turkey and rocket. Homemade lasagne. Chilli and rice.

Even now, only five days in, these still appeal to me. Other things seem to be taking a back step: no sugar cravings in the last few days. And I am not hungry all the time. And I seem to get full really quickly. And finally my, ehem, toileting habits have improved. I’ve also been sucessfully intermittent fasting on 16:8 and have managed this on all but one day. Yay me! I have not had the bloating and my stomach feels smaller but, it’s not been weigh day yet and I’ve been fooled by ‘feeling thinner’ before.

Ultimately, if this can create some healthier eating habits – no late night binging so far and I am definitely eating more veg and less sugar – then it is worth it in the long term. I’ve been having a small amount of carbs with tea but may cut these out too if I don’t lose weight. My original plan was to do this until I am back in work because I wasn’t sure I could maintain it. But I’m going to take each day as it comes. I’m monitoring my calories on Lifesum also so where I have a bad day with carbs I will make sure I keep within my calorie allowance. And if it doesn’t work? I will just keep trying until I can see those lbs coming off.

I want next week to work a little differently. I have proved to myself that I can be a good housewife when I have time to do it. I am determined never to let those feelings of failure and guilty about my home plague me again: when I have the time, I can keep on top of the housework easily. What I need to work out now, is what I can manage outside of working hours. And so I have decided that next week I can not do any general housework between the hours of 7.45am and 5pm as this approximately is my working day with the odd few later nights here and there. I need to manage my housework before/after these hours and if I can’t, I will hire a cleaner as I will have proved to myself that it impossible to meet the standards I want with the limited hours I have.

So, what am I going to do in the daytime? Well, I have a few appointments next week. I’m also going to try to get out each day, somewhere… Anywhere. And after that? I will allow myself to do any ‘extra’ housework. You know, decluttering – not every day jobs but things you save until you have more time. I’m going to sit and plan my week and make sure it is a productive as I can. 😊

Have a good week everyone.

Routine and indecision

Is that title an oxymoron? Not quite.

Yesterday was a good day. I had a really sleepy morning – couldn’t get going for some reason – and then at 10am I made myself get off the couch. This led to a productive day: tidying, cleaning etc.

I have family members who are obsessive cleaners. They enjoy it. It is a huge part of every day. One cousin’s house is like a show home – two children under eight and yet those cream carpets are still cream and there’s not a thing put of place. It’s a large, modern house and she has it decorated beautifully. She is also a teacher but each holiday she decorates.

My house is very different. First of all, my shelves are filled with ornaments, pictures etc – items that mean something to me. No minimalism here. So, the little carved animals that my dad makes, scented candles, silk flowers from my sister’s wedding, a photo frame: all on the same shelf. And then repeated. Too much? Probably, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of anything. So add that to an old, small house without storage and three children and you get my home. And then you understand part of my conflict…I want a tidy house, I want a show home. But that would mean clearing out so many memorable things and a cleaning regime I have no time for (how does my cousin do it???)

I read a great post recently about clearing out your past. You can read it here:

https://wp.me/p2UPkl-xC

It got me thinking about the drawers and cupboards and boxes of my past that I need to sort through.

Since my medication changed and I have started to feel better I have got myself into a much better routine. I’ve started to sort through those scary drawers. My house is cleaner and tidier.

So this morning, when all I wanted to do was drown in my melancholy, in bed, in the lead up to my 11.30am welfare meeting at work, I made myself follow my routine. And it felt good.

Fact is though, I still haven’t sorted the rest of my life out. As recommended by counsellors, family and friends – How am I going to make my life easier, more manageable? It’s all very well having a tidy and clean house now but at the moment I am off work. A stay at home mum. This is not the reality of my life.

There is no way in this world that I would give up main custody of my children. Ever. But when he gets his house, perhaps things will become easier.

This is my dad’s home, his sanctuary. He is going nowhere.

I love my job. I can’t afford to leave it or go part time. I’m good at my job….. When I’m well.

So, what do I do? How do I make it easier? Some tough thinking needs to be done and I can’t keep putting it off. Just like this morning, I need to make myself do it and force myself into facing up to – and conquering – the difficulties in my life.

When I started writing this blog it was to document how I was going to change my life now that I was a single, working mum.

The seated man

He is taunting me. He sits there, smugly mimicking me with his expressionless, emotionless face.

Apart from getting up with my children and then later to check on my dad, I have been in bed all day. I told myself that I was just going back to ‘get warm’ (we have no heating until the fire is built) but each time I have found my eyes drooping and then have dozed.

I have ignored the vibrations of my activity tracker, the seated man taunting me repeatedly as I lay inactive in my bed.

Work has played on my mind most of all, but also the things that I had planned today. I have accomplished nothing.

As my sister said, in the short history of this depressive episode, this is the first time I have spent all day in bed. One day. Hopefully the last. And if it isn’t? This article may help:

https://www.blurtitout.org/2017/09/21/depression-wont-let-us-out-of-bed/

Tomorrow, I plan to laugh in the face of the seated man.

Boys will be boys

I’ve not ventured out much since my ‘breakdown’ (I need to come up with a nickname for him – it is definitely a him- because ‘breakdown’ is a painful reminder somehow. ). I don’t want to see people I know and to have to explain or answer questions, even well-meaning ones. I’ve managed a few trips to the shops but I’ve generally gone when and where I feel I won’t be seen.

What this has also meant however, is that apart from one day with their dad my children have been at home. My side of the house (my dad lives in the other half) is not big. I’ve got one open plan room with a kitchen one end with a table in the middle and a sofa and TV at the other. Upstairs, we take up four of the bedrooms with dad in the fifth. The boys are in the two box rooms and my daughter is in the slightly bigger but not quite double sized room.

I will get to the point. My house is not big and there is little escape from each other. We live in a semi-rural area: there are no other children as far as I know. There’s no park or play area.

For my dad and I, this is fabulous. It is a very quiet place to live. We are surrounded by fields and trees. I know how I lucky I am, even if they are developing one end of the road with a new estate (grrr).

For my kids, I suppose it is a different situation. They don’t ‘play out’ with other kids. They don’t ‘call round’ to their friends’ to socialise. They have the garden, sure, but either way they are stuck with each other 24/7.

Today, my beautiful boys are grating on my last nerve. They cannot be in the same room with each other without wrestling/jumping on each other etc etc. Sure they laugh. Sure it’s fun at first. But it always, always ends in tears. A misplaced elbow or kick. Then there is usually a bit of retaliation followed by some crying and complaining. And I see it coming, every time.

But of course, it doesn’t matter what I say or how I say it. They carry on regardless. Picture two lion cubs or something, rolling about, pulling and grabbing each other.

I don’t know if this is typical of boys (I don’t remember my daughter and son being like this before my youngest was born) or whether they are sick of being in the house. Probably both. But it is hard work. Particularly when I feel like I am being ignored.

Which sort of brings me back to work. I could go back on Monday but need to see the doctor in the next few days. I’m two minds. I’m certainly better than I was but am not 100%. Could work be what I need to push me back to me or will it tip me over the edge again? Can I cope with misbehaving teenagers, stressed teachers and disbelieving parents at the moment? Or will the eager faces of my Year 7 pupils be enough to melt the remaining darkness away?

And then I think, if you have to debate it then you’re not ready.

I know I want to discuss my medication with doctor and hope they can prescribe something that doesn’t turn me into an exhausted whale. And if they can, there is change over to consider.

Now would be a good time to go back as everyone has been off for two weeks so I will not feel so isolated when I go back.

My mind is wrestling like my two boys. Hopefully it will stop without the crying this time.