Existential crises

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Today has been One Of Those Days™

On the plus side, I now have many more good days than not-so-good, but today had the potential to send me spiralling.

I woke up to a text message from my bank saying I’d gone overdrawn (I don’t have an overdraft) and needed to rectify it by 15:30 to avoid charges.  I couldn’t think why, so I logged on to my account and saw that an app subscription had gone through (ironically,  an app for meditation!) which I was sure I had put on hold when I left my job.  Turns out I hadn’t, so I ended up having to do a lot of financial jiggery-pokery to resolve that.  It’s just one of those things you can really do without when you’re brassic.

Next, the post arrived.  It included a snarky letter from the Student Loans Company saying they had been informed that I wasn’t in employment or receiving benefits, and that by not informing them I was in breach of the terms of our agreement.  This was news to me, as I’m currently on the payroll of a company for which I’ve been doing copywriting work from home since January.  I’m a “worker” rather than an employee, so while I don’t have a contract of employment with them, I’m on their payroll so that I can be taxed etc. accordingly.  There was a hiccup last month whereby the payroll people said they hadn’t received my P45 (which I’d given to the company) and it turned out it hadn’t been passed on, but has been since so there’s no issue.  I queried it with the company I’m working for and they said it’s been rectified so SLC should soon catch up, but it’s just another issue to be sorted out.  Honestly, the letter was SO rude – it basically said if I wasn’t in employment I had to prove how I was supporting myself, so send them 3 months’ worth of bank statements!  I know it’s just a standard letter and I haven’t done anything wrong, but it was just another reminder of how much easier it is to be part of society when you’re full-time employed.  Cue feelings of inadequacy and failure because I haven’t felt strong enough mentally to work, along with panic about my future state pension etc. etc.  I gave myself a talking to and put it to the back of my mind.

Later, I was chatting to a dear friend and she shared with me that she’s pregnant and due in September.  I felt this overwhelming excitement for her and her partner, as they’ll make absolutely wonderful parents and I know having children will add to their happiness.  A few minutes later, however, I was struck down by the dreaded comparison syndrome and could feel the beginnings of an anxiety attack.  “Why do I not feel like a grown up?  Why am I not doing grown up things like having children, buying a house, paying a mortgage?  Why am I sitting on my parents’ couch still wearing my pyjamas?  WHY CAN’T I COPE WITH THINGS OTHER PEOPLE CAN MANAGE?!”  I hated myself for this; I was so happy for my friend and yet my selfish, ugly mind could only obsess about myself.  I set about busying myself with cooking up a batch of soup as cooking helps me focus, but on Radio 2 someone had emailed the Steve Wright show with their selection of “oldies”, which included songs which were popular when I was at school (nice!) and felt the need to inform everyone that they graduated in 2012, had super duper degrees coming out of their ears and were writing their first novel.  I always find it slightly pretentious when people say that – yes, they’re writing a novel, but are they guaranteed to write several hundred more and be the next JK Rowling?  So anyhow, this left me feeling even more inadequate, not to mention old!  I know this sounds like perpetual doom and gloom, but I want to give you a snapshot of how my mind works, and equally how hard I try to counteract these negative thoughts.  The radio thing in particular made me realise how confidently most people come across (yes, I know this can just be down to good acting) and how it just has to be done to get ahead in life.  The problem is, I’ve never been about self-promotion, I’ve always just believed in being a good, kind person who works hard.  It’s only now dawning on me that you have to blow your own trumpet on a daily basis, and although I’m working to build my confidence, I’m just not programmed that way.

However!  Once I’d made my soup (which is really bloody tasty, and in the interests of balance I’m reminding myself that the only thing some people can create in the kitchen is a mess) I went upstairs and decided to clear out my inbox.  I have a habit of leaving job/recruitment digests unread until “later”.  I suppose the irrational part of my brain convinces me that either a) the email will contain jobs like the one I left, where I’ll be miserable, or b) will contain great jobs suited to me, but that I automatically won’t get because I don’t deserve them.  Even writing this I can see how ridiculous that is, but it’s a toxic pattern I’ve allowed myself to fall into and one that I damn well have to break.  In the spirit of doing so, I replied to an email from a recruiter who had sent me a job description for a role local to me, asking for more details.  She called me soon afterwards and we had a good chat – I was even brave enough to share with her that I was thinking of working for myself, which is true.  She was fantastic, and booked me a registration appointment for Friday morning, then sent me through another six or seven jobs.  One in particular really appeals because it’s Wednesday to Friday each week, which would give me time to work on the side projects I’m doing with a view to being self-employed.  This lady’s timing was perfect and she gave me the impression that she’s one of those rare recruitment agents who actually wants to get people into work.  What’s more, she made me feel like I would be easy to place – it was the boost I needed today.  It prompted me to read the job digests and I even applied for a few roles, then I ordered a new pair of smart trousers to wear when I go to register.  Thank God for catalogue accounts!

All in all I’m ending today feeling a lot more positive than I was earlier, and I think this post illustrates the steps I’m taking (small though they may be) to get back on my feet again.  Not that I need to justify them to anyone, but sometimes I myself need to be reminded!

Here are three things I’m grateful for today:

  1. The signs of Spring – birdsong, snowdrops and aconites
  2. The love and support of my family
  3. Music

Here are three positive things about me:

  1. I am a fantastic cook and made a delicious Slimming World-friendly hot pot for dinner
  2. Last night I won my Slimming World group’s “Greatest Loser” award for the second year running
  3. I love to solve problems, no matter how technical

 

If all we’ve got is us, then life’s worth living

We_Can_Do_It!

This could be end up being a bit of a ramble, I’m feeling very energised tonight.

I’ve got some more song lyrics for you, too – Bon Jovi this time.  Please humour me, I was born in the ’80s and have older siblings who loved these bands, and by the power of osmosis I do too.

How you spend your minutes is all that matters
All tomorrows come from yesterdays
When you’re feeling broken, bruised and sometimes shattered
Blow out the candles on the cake
Like everything’s a big mistake

It seems you always wait for life to happen
And your last buck can’t buy a lucky break
If all we’ve got is us then life’s worth living
And if you’re in, you know I’m in
I’m ready and I’m willing

This might seem pretty innocuous, but tonight it resonates with me.  I spoke last time about how I feel so worthless, blah blah.  I’ll tell you something I’ve realised recently, though: I’ve never coveted anything successful people have or begrudged them their successes, I’ve just spent years and years believing I wasn’t worthy of those successes.  That I wasn’t deserving.

I’m reading this book by a success coach called Jen Sincero, and it’s a difficult read because she talks so much sense.  She uses the example of how, prior to the invention of the lightbulb, many people weren’t aware that electricity existed.  The fact that they could now light their homes was a revelation, but electricity itself had always been there, waiting to be discovered and harnessed.  If no-one had been bothered to explore the possibilities, we’d still be using candles.

I know that’s all a bit self-help, but the fact is it’s time to help myself.  Right now my parents are watching a documentary about Winston Churchill, and he’s a very good example.  Love him or hate him, he made the British believe we could win the war, and that everyone had a part to play in doing so.

It’s pretty simple, isn’t it?  You don’t succeed at anything by convincing yourself that it’s impossible.

So this is me, just shy of 34 years old, logging on to tell you that I can.  I can and I am and I will.  It’s all still a bit foggy in my mind but I’m working with someone very dear to me who knows about these things and is helping me to harness my self-belief.  Eek, I have self-belief!

Until next time…

 

 

How high can you fly with broken wings?

I’ve been watching some of the Winter Olympics TV coverage and I’ve found myself fascinated by the freestyle skiing. The competitors propel themselves up massive slopes and do quadruple twists in the air when they reach the summit, then ski backwards down the other side. It’s important to add that they do this as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. To me it’s awe-inspiring. It makes me wonder what goes on in the mind of a child; who out there is watching today, thinking “I could do that”? Will we be watching them in twenty years?

I’ve never been like that. I’m the least coordinated person in the world and remember standing in the hall of my primary school in my PE kit and plimsolls, eyeing the ageing climbing apparatus with extreme skepticism. It didn’t matter how many times I saw other children scale the frames and ropes, to me it was impossible, there was absolutely no way I could get up there and therefore I wouldn’t try. It struck the fear of God in me. See also: ice skating and forward rolls. Of course, these things are not essential in everyday life and so I’ve come out relatively unscathed.

Or have I?

The problem I have these days, having quit my toxic job back in December (that probably merits a separate post, suffice to say I had to leave for the sake of my sanity) is that I don’t believe I can do anything. Anything at all. Even things I’ve done before! I observe my peers holding down good jobs, buying their own homes, successfully forming long-lasting relationships, and wonder at it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not desperate to be in a couple or pass on my neuroses to a troupe of cute but dysfunctional children.

The job thing is a big one, though. I worked hard at my last job for the best part of 6 years and I have very little tangible evidence to show for it. I flit from feeling like I have potential – I’d even go as far as to say that I sometimes read this blog and dare to think I haven’t quite lost the knack for writing – to feeling like I just can’t “adult”. My anxiety is so bad lately that I have to carry medication with me everywhere and I honestly don’t think I could even manage a 9-5. I think I used up all my resources in what appears to have turned out to be a pointless job. I now realise now how hard I worked to convince everyone, including myself, that I was ok when I really wasn’t.

I don’t know how to fix this. In some ways, mainly because sometimes I don’t recognise myself, I wonder whether it can be fixed.

When I say I don’t recognise myself, here’s an example. Yesterday I was driving and had on an Aerosmith CD – that’s nothing new, I’ve been an Aerosmith fan for years. There’s a particular song called Amazing which is about their lead singer’s recovery from a near-deadly drug addiction and I’ve always loved the lyrics. Yesterday, however, I found myself in tears listening to these particular lines:

When I lost my grip and I hit the floor, I thought I could leave but couldn’t get out the door

I was so sick and tired of living a lie, I was wishing that I would die

The tears came because this is exactly how I feel. I can’t put it into words exactly and please don’t take this to mean that I’m wishing myself dead, but honestly, living a “normal” life with real responsibilities feels impossible right now.

I’m going to make a Doctor’s appointment and see what they say. I’m practising all the mindfulness techniques, exercising gratitude daily, but it’s just not getting better. Right now my life feels like a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle with no reference picture.

Aerosmith – Amazing

New beginnings

Just a quick one from me tonight; I’ve been AWOL for too long, and as I sit here on the precipice of a new year it’s inevitable that I’m reflecting on the past twelve months – good, bad and otherwise.

I’m not a fan of all this “new year, new me” malarkey, but I can’t argue that 1st January is as good a time as any to take stock. I’ve had a rough few months, work has been unbearable and has impacted appallingly on my mental health. I’ve been having therapy and interviewing for other jobs but nothing has been forthcoming, so I made the (brave/stupid?) decision to hand in my notice and remove myself from the major source of negativity in my life. As of tomorrow, I am unemployed. As of tomorrow, it’s up to me to make things happen.

And so, friends, I want to share with you something that happened to me just now: I’ve put on weight and have been dodging mirrors in my state of glumness, but I caught sight of myself in the glass of my back door this evening. My reaction? “You look so much better than before, look how far you’ve come.”, not “You’re disgusting, you’ll never succeed.” With that, I’m off to make friends with 2018.

Happy new year!

In a Viennese whirl

Bear with me here, I’m typing on my iPad and, being an old-fashioned girl, I much prefer to blog on a PC but I honestly haven’t had the energy lately.  True to form, I set up this blog with gusto and really enjoyed writing the first bits and pieces.  No sooner had I done that, though, insecurity and paranoia set in: I can’t write.  I’m boring.  Nobody is interested in what I’ve got to say.  Blah blah.

You know what?  Maybe this is horrendously dull but people will read it if they choose to.  Writing really made me feel better last week so I’m going to power on through, drivel or otherwise.

It’s actually really difficult deciding what to write about.  I have a million random little musings going on in my head at any one time but turning them into coherent text is tricky.  I usually try to come up with a fairly snappy title which will spur me on, and this one came about when I was sitting at my aunt and uncle’s dinner table last Saturday.  

We’d gone to visit them and afternoon had soon become evening, so my lovely uncle suggested getting some dinner.  My conscience silently hoped he’d suggest going to the pub (think chicken and bacon salad, steak or gammon) but instead, as he and my aunt were fighting off nasty colds, he suggested fish and chips.  My dad, who’s never been an ounce overweight in all his years, nodded enthusiastically while mum and I could only glance at each other in the knowledge that our collective willpower was about to be tested.  No, I thought, life doesn’t stop when you’re losing weight, so I resolved to have scampi and mushy peas and mum did the same.  I’m sure hardcore followers of the SW plan are wondering why I didn’t have fish and pull off the batter – it’s quite simple, I don’t really like fish shop fish, and frankly I feel like its sacreligious to not eat the batter.  Go big or go home!  Anyhow, I walked with my uncle to collect our dinner and dutifully stuck to the plan; chips weren’t a problem because my dad doesn’t eat many, so I just got a small portion to go with his fish.  Of course, when I unwrapped our order back at the house, I found that instead of two portions of peas they’d given us one portion of peas and some curry sauce.  I bloody love chip shop curry sauce, but polishing my halo I set it aside and shared out the peas between us.  And here it began: the scampi and paltry portion of peas looked small and unappetising (I’m used to eating quite large portions with SW because I eat so much protein and veg) and in true chip shop fashion my dad’s portion of chips was huge.  Sod it, I thought, a few cant hurt, and dished some up for mum as well.  Stick with me here, there is a point to this running commentary of my dinner.

After dinner (during which the junk food pleasure sensors in my brain were going haywire) my uncle brought out a plate of Viennese whirls.  Now, I don’t know about you, but Viennese whirls don’t really feature on my list of must-have fantasy foods.  I’ve never woken up thinking about them like I have McDonalds breakfasts.  That said, when they’re in front of me and the jammy filling is seductively poking out from between the crumbly layers, the fattie in me can’t think about much else.  Persevere I did, though, rationalising that if I had one (aside from the obvious) it would leave only one for my relatives to eat after we’d gone.  Hurrah, victory is mine.  At least it was until the chip-guilt started to creep in.  It continued to fill my brain with negative thoughts to the point where I sought solace in the biscuit tin when we got home.

So the point of all this rambling is to demonstrate a situation which I’m sure is familiar to many people in a lifelong love/hate relationship with food: why, oh why, when we’re feeling guilty about what we’ve eaten do we then sabotage ourselves?!  It’s a vicious and self-destructive cycle with no hope of a positive outcome.  I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent human being, so why is it that I lack the emotional maturity and fundamental self-respect that it would require to stop doing this to myself?  Guilt has no positive effect on those trying to improve their health, but it’s so overwhelming. I used to think that it could be quite an effective springboard for change – not anymore.

Ironically, I’m a very forgiving person.  I just find it so hard to be kind to myself.

I’m pleased to say that my eating habits have been far better today and that when I’ve finished writing this I’m going to treat myself to a bubble bath.  Baby steps.

Is it easy?

The most common question from people when they hear I’ve lost this much weight is, “have you found it easy?”

There’s a can of worms!

My standard response is, “if it were easy, nobody would be fat.”

The truth is – and I don’t generally bore people with this – a lot of the time it feels nigh on impossible.  They want to hear you say, “yeah, it’s a great eating plan and it fits around my social life” but the reality is that, as great as the Slimming World plan is, all calorie-deficit plans work if you stick to them, but it’s the sticking to them that’s so bloody hard.

I’m no stranger to “dieting” – I’ve been overweight for as long as I remember and I’ve tried pretty much everything apart from weight loss surgery.  Xenical tablets seemed like a good idea at the time – they bind the fat in your food so that you pass it in your stools, and you’re told by the doctor to eat below a certain number of grams of fat in each meal to avoid diarrhoea.  Sound reasonable, right?  Wrong!  For me, anyway, I got to a point where I was scared to move!

The fact is, boys and girls, there is no miracle fix.

There’s no denying that SW’s Food Optimising plan is really user-friendly – I love that fact that you start with all the “free” foods you can eat (in sensible portions) without weighing them or counting calories.  It’s easy to follow and – shock horror – you can still eat out.  It’s become apparent to me that the only difference between my current weight-loss endeavours and those I’ve gone through in the past is that this time I haven’t given up.  That’s it.  However, chuck in years of low self-esteem and a handful of mental health issues and the “not giving up” part becomes that much more critical.

I was diagnosed with depression and general anxiety disorder back in 2009, and with the benefit of hindsight, I suspect my mental health issues started in my late teens.  Having said that, I was a very anxious child and always sought solace in food (ding ding!).  No, I didn’t have a desperately unhappy childhood; I have a very loving a close family and I could have talked about how I was feeling anytime, God knows why I didn’t.  I guess I assumed everyone felt the same way I did.

Right now I’m stuck in a self-destructive mire of depression and anxiety which (and I only realised this recently) has been going on for about 9 months.  Having had Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, having practised mindfulness on a daily basis and having continued to take my prescribed medication, my head is still a foggy mess.  Turns out there’s no easy way around that, either.  The problem I have is that my mental health bears heavily (no pun intended) on my self-belief, and therefore on my weight-loss momentum.  For years I thought I was depressed because I was fat, but it turns out the opposite is true.

When I first started losing weight, I felt amazing – we know that success breeds success, and so the first 7 stone or so came off nicely.  Ironically, though, that was around the time I began to panic that I couldn’t do it.  SEVEN STONE DOWN THE LINE!  I was my own success story, but all of a sudden I couldn’t visualise myself crossing that virtual finish line.  I got to about 8st off in total (1st on my own pre-SW and the rest with SW) and I hit a wall.  Since then, all I can think about is failure.  Some days I even manage to convince myself it’s easier being fat (it isn’t).

I’m still working on this, and I know it’ll be an issue for the rest of my life, whether I reach “target” or not.  Right now I’m muddling through and doing the best I can with the support of absolutely fantastic people.  I’ve regained half a stone and I hate myself for it, but I know that hate won’t help me.

So, is it easy?  No, it bloody well isn’t.