hollymath: (Default)
2015 was going to be the year of sorting out.

A couple of friends and I told each other this as we were around each other's houses, helping with DIY or painting the kitchen, accompanying each other to scary meetings and helping each other write scary e-mails and catching each other up on the progress we'd made in getting counseling, going to the gym again, talking to the GP about that thing that'd been bothering us, making difficult phone calls about money...

I started the year with two big things pressing upon me: Get A Job, and Get Registered Blind.

Cut for ridiculous length. )


Dec. 2nd, 2014 09:56 am
hollymath: (Default)
So, here's what I said was my accomplishment for yesterday:
Finally started the grim process of signing on, throwing myself on the dubious mercies of the DWP a few months later than our bank balance could afford, but as soon as my mental health would possibly allow. I've only begun the process and it still made for a draining, miserable, headache-inducing afternoon.
I have a lot to say about my job-hunt and jobs and work, and what I want to, can and should do with my life (and whether there's any overlap between those three things)...but I'm just way too tired for that right now. I've swung back to insomnia from hypersomnia (it's always one or the other, lately) and I had an incredibly demanding (though good!) weekend before this grimness yesterday, so this is all you get for now.

I just wanted to say I still feel pretty rubbish today, which I think it might be related to all of this, and there are a ton of difficult or dull things I should be doing today but so far I've only been able to eat leftovers and watch DVDs, and feel small and lonely and cold.
hollymath: (Default)
I was asked at work Friday if I want to go on the train-the-trainer program my work is doing next week.

(I was already going along anyway: in my role as office manager, it was thought good for people to meet me and stuff. I know some of the soon-to-be trainers but not all, and the ones I know, I know in different roles than the one they'll be taking on, which will involve me being kind of a communication hub and keeping tabs on them.)

When I was asked I thought, "sure! Why not?" I have seen the course being delivered (all the way through over my first year in this job, and we're halfway through it again now) and I thought from the very beginning that running it looks like a pretty interesting and cool and fun job to do.

I've never done facilitation or training on anything like this level, which would make it good fodder for my CV (especially because as well as the explicit standing-up-there-with-a-flipchart stuff, there's tons of one-on-one coaching and stuff that go on, especially between the residential blocks of the course, and that too is good skills I don't see how I'd acquire otherwise). My boss has talked about funding me going back to university, but it doesn't sound like we have the cash for that right now, so I should be looking for other kinds of "personal development" stuff like this. And of course it'd mean more money, and since our costs will shoot up when we buy this house, that would be especially welcome now.

But this obviously gives me a lot more work to do, in both the short- and long-term. Short-term I'd be much busier this week, of course. I have to prepare a session to facilitate for half an hour, on a random subject of my boss's choosing, as well as be, y'know, engaged with everything everyone is doing throughout the week, rather than just hanging out at the back daydreaming about how much I'm going to enjoy my weekend.

Longer-term, of course, this'd mean I'd be traveling across the country running this course. Or, as I immediately thought, perhaps more likely to fill in, definitely at first anyway, if someone's sick one day or something. I like the job I have now and would want being a trainer to supplement it, not take it over.

And it would be pretty long-term: After this upcoming week, I couldn't possibly be a trainer until May at the absolute earliest, and that'd be unlikely (considering that I'd be expecting to be last-minute cover); I'd almost certainly not be doing this until autumn, or possibly even next year.

Yet by the time I was on the bus home from work, I was already wondering if I'd made the right decision.

I hope not too much of that is because of the short-term considerations. I am and have been, since November or so, feeling particularly overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed by the prospect of this week away even when I thought I wouldn't be very busy for it.

It's not by any means only work that's leaving me feeling overwhelmed, but work's one of the few things asking if I want to take more on, the rest of the world just seems to be demanding all I can give it, if not more. So even if the work offer would be more beneficial to me than some of the non-work demands, the work one's the easiest to say "no" to -- I don't think there would have been many negative repercussions if I'd said I didn't fancy it on Friday, and I don't even think there'd be a lot now if I told my co-workers I'd changed my mind after some thought.

And I'm particularly wary of agreeing to travel, even as an infrequent but regular part of my job. I'm conscious of how much the travel is wearing on me lately. It's not great for my mental health, it means nothing at home (from food shopping to dishes to buying more toothpaste to sorting out house-buying) is getting done for days at a time while I'm away, it's very hard on Andrew, it's even having a negative impact on my relationship with James.

But it's frustrating because possibly the single biggest thing my mental illness has taken away from me is the ability to judge things like this. If I'm dithering about whether I want to do something -- it can be as small as "go out tonight with friends" or even, when I'm really bad, "get dressed and leave the house" -- I don't know which narrative to follow. It could be argued that jollying myself along and pushing through will be better for me: I'll be happy I did it once I have, I'll be better off in some way. Or it could be argued that by giving in to sofa and pajamas (or whatever "not doing that thing" looks like, depending on what the thing is) I'm in tune with what my body and/or mind need, I'm pracicing good self-care. The more ambitious thing could seem masochistically foolish, or the easier thing may be construed the worst kind of poor character and laziness.

I can make either argument for pretty much anything -- at pretty much anything I've gone to, you can bet that I'd previously nearly convinced myself not to go. Somtimes I'm very glad to have done whatever-it-was, but I remember many times I've gotten home, kicked off my shoes and thought "well that was a waste of my time and efforts!" And of course I'm racked with guilt nearly every time I stay in, I'm worryingly incapable of enjoying indolence. So it feels like I can't win, sometimes, and there have been periods in my life where I'm sure I'd have better results deciding what to do by flipping a coin, rather than bothering with my careful deliberations that always seem to bring me to the wrong conclusion.

I really don't know what to do about next week now (which effectively atarts tomorrow evening, as I'm getting a lift to Stratford-upon-Avon, where we'll be spending the week). I have Yet Another Sinus Infection, which on top of previous and concurrent overwhelment means all I want to do is go to bed and stay there until something else seems like as good an idea as staying in bed now seems to me. This is no way to make a decision about my future career goals and skills.
hollymath: (Default)
I read this today and, though I'm not at home with babies, it resonated with me a lot.
How was my day? Today has been a lifetime. It was the best of times and the worst of times. There were moments when my heart was so full I thought I might explode, and there were other moments when my senses were under such intense assault that I was CERTAIN I'd explode...I was simultaneously bored out of my skull and completely overwhelmed with so much to do. Today was too much and not enough. It was loud and silent. It was brutal and beautiful. I was at my very best today and then, just a moment later, at my very worst. At 3:30 today I decided that we should adopt four more children, and then at 3:35 I decided that we should give up the kids we already have for adoption. Husband -- when your day is completely and totally dependent upon the moods and needs and schedules of tiny, messy, beautiful rug rats your day is ALL OF THE THINGS and NONE OF THE THINGS, sometimes within the same three minute period. But I'm not complaining. This is not a complaint, so don't try to FIX IT. I wouldn't have my day Any.Other.Way. I'm just saying -- it's a hell of a hard thing to explain.
I'll not comment too much on how my workmates and the people on the course we run resemble "tiny, messy, beautiful rug rats" (who my days are sometimes "completely and totally dependent upon the moods and needs and schedules of"...!), I'll just say that I feel very well understood by this -- I feel, as the article writer says, "really being seen and known," and she talks about precisely the importance of feeling known and seen. Which I don't, really, when I'm away for work, and which I think made it so welcome and so soothing for me to read today, a day when I was strung-out on the effects of insomnia and mysterious abdominal pains that have been with me off and on for a week or more but were Very Much On today. As she said, it's lonely not to be able to explain how you feel, even if it's just because you're too tired or too inarticulate or because you're not even sure yourself how you feel.

I don't think I can use the same solution that the article writer does here -- I can't imagine taking very well to being asked "when did you feel loved today?", nor asking anyone else that (though I do try to be aware of what I'm asking and making sure it's appropriate: I already explicitly don't like asking "How are you doing?" of some people because I know that crafting an answer can be such a burden in some contexts (it certainly can be for me!) and I'd rather say "I hope you're doing well" because that's what I really want them to know, not "you owe me an update"). But sometimes it's worthwhile to see your thoughts and feelings so well represented, even if there are no ready solutions.
hollymath: (Default)
I love, love, this meme going around my flist/circle where people offer dates they can write blog entries and ask for suggestions of things to write about.

I keep thinking I'd love to participate, but then I keep reminding myself that I write as much or more than almost everyone else, and clearly don't need any more incentive to do so!

But do feel free to suggest stuff you'd like to see me write, if you'd like.


Meanwhile, I really should be asleep. I need to be up early for breakfast -- I'm away at a hotel/conference centre for three days for work. Tomorrow's only the second day and it already feels like I've been here a week. This always happens: they're packed, busy days that leave my brain feeling so Full of Things that I worry some will slosh out my ears if I move my head too quickly.

I'm not looking forward to the trip home -- I got a lift down here but have to get a train to London, two tubes across to Euston, wait for the off-peak train at seven and then get on a train back to Manchester that will no doubt be rammed on which I cannot have a seat reservation -- but I'm looking forward to being home again. Life's been so hectic lately, I'm glad I've got a nice chilled weekend to look forward to.

I do miss Andrew but it's lovely to have the cricket on as I go to bed without him whinging and making me turn it off.


Dec. 2nd, 2013 02:20 pm
hollymath: (Default)
I seem to have the work/life balance of a Mars rover.


Oct. 30th, 2013 05:52 pm
hollymath: (Default)
My boss just asked me what I'd like to do a degree in, if I could do anything.

"Linguistics," I said right away.

"You can think about your answer first, if you want to!" he teased.

But I have! I've been thinking about it for ten years!

He's told me to look into what I'd need to do that at one of the local universities or the OU or whatever.

I don't know how likely this is to happen, but it makes the 3.5-hour drive home (well, to Stockport where I have to get a train) a little more fun.
hollymath: (Default)
Today I'm not writing about house viewings, or anything about buying a house really (it's the most malevolent barrel of monkeys; I can't dredge up any little bit of it without all the other bits attacking me), or how my boss's certainty that we're forgetting something major ahead of the big deal that is work next week is no help to my anxiety at all, or the breathtaking incompetence of NatWest, or that I've been so exhausted this week I tried to use the phrase "losing coherence on what feels like a molecular level" to describe it, or how dismayingly hard I find it not to talk about stuff I have been asked not to talk about, or the way my life is bringing me amusing meaningless coincidences -- you're not all flirting a lot more lately, but it does kinda seem like it -- or how I can tell how badly I'm doing by how overwhelmed I get when anyone anticipates even the most minor thing that'd help me and offers it to me.
hollymath: (Default)
I'm feeling ridiculously run-down lately, and having thoughts that I think are indicative of me needing a little holiday.

But I find myself with the same problem with that I had this summer: I don't have any mental energy to put into planning one, I just need it to appear fully-formed in front of me.

That actually kind of worked out this summer, in that BiCon gave an arbitrary time and city to aim for, even if I ended up not actually going to it. So I can hardly expect such luck again!

I don't really know why I'm crashing so hard lately. I had a much easier September than I might have done -- I avoided all the bi/Lib Dem Singularity this year, however unintentionally, and work was a lot lighter in September than I'd originally anticipated it would be.

Part of me is thinking, if I feel this shitty now, what will I be like in a month when work finally starts the next round of the course we run, this time not 20 minutes' walk from my house but far enough away that I'll be gone for three days at a time every six weeks or so.

The other thing is, the house-buying plan hasn't made any actual progress but the psychic pressure has increased enormously because of a couple of things. One is the government moving the 5%-deposit scheme, which we're planning on exploiting, forward from "January" (which I already thought was frighteningly soon) to "a few weeks from now."

The other is Andrew having lots more conversations with his dad about everything from practical considerations (how much we'll be lent, what it'll cover, plans for getting any work done that the house needs before we move in, etc) to some fairly heavy emotional components in why it's so important to Andrew's dad to help us get our own house...about which I will only say that they're more than enough to have dissolved any internal resistance I had to the idea. I was feeling a bit sulky and wanting to drag my feet before, but now that's all gone.

Still, the reason for my resistance -- that there's tons of mental and emotional as well as pragmatic work involved in buying a house that I don't feel Andrew and I are best equipped to do at the moment, what with him still ill from stress as he recovers from the coping behaviors and habits his shitty previous job instilled in him, and me just, well, being me -- is still there.

I recognize this as a subject likely to make me anxious, so am using some of my tricks for dealing with anxiety. The one that's working best at the moment is Thinking Around Corners. I can't think of "buying a house" full-on, but I can think of, say, trying to declutter before we move as something managable I can be getting on with in hopes of making the actual moving process a bit easier or less stressful when it happens.

So I'm inadvertently starting to think of all our possessions as burdens to be packed and moved soon, and while this has inspired me to fairly ruthlessly clear out clothes I don't or can't wear any more and help Andrew sort through his comics -- both of which have been a great relief -- it's generally a big stressor for me anyway, the clutter and how I feel kind of powerless about it. There's a whole nother post about that, though, which I started the other day but stupidly lost. I want to go back to that, though.

And other things too. Pretty much all the logistics of buying a house are hugely intimidating to me, which makes me feel like a huge failure as an adult. But Andrew promises to sort out the bank/mortgage stuff, though obviously I'll have to be involved too, and [personal profile] magister seems conveniently interested in actually thinking about what kind of house would be good and furnishing the house, which dovetails nicely with Andrew's complete lack of interest in those things and my unwillingness and/or incapability (I don't even know which it is, at this point) to be left to determine every single thing about the house basically all by myself. [livejournal.com profile] haggis has also made extremely kind offers of help, as someone who's recently bought a house (and not just that but roughly the kind of house and location we'll end up with too, so the situation's as parallel as it can be).

We'll get there, I know it. I just...yeah, I could do with a break. And nothing much has even happened yet, work- or house-wise.
hollymath: (Default)
My boss was heaping praise on a piece of work I did, the other day. Which was nice to hear, because I'd worked really hard on it and it ended up being a bigger and more time-consuming task that I'd thought -- and that's before I factored in the week that was basically lost to the internet/phone problems, the dreadfully blocked sink, looking after Andrew who was particularly stressed about the lack of internet and about having to shout at a lot of people who work for BT, and going out in the evenings in a desperate attempt to patch together my sanity.

Anyway, it was a relief to hear good things about my work, because I wasn't feeling many of those. Particularly with this being just a bit of an even bigger piece of work, which I had said I'd do but had achieved very little despite many hours of stubborn effort and many days of constant stress about it.

So clearly when he said all these nice things about what I'd done, I must have replied with something about how much longer it took than it was meant to, and how much there was still to do. Because he made a point of turning to me and saying "Take the compliment!" with a little laugh.

I laughed too and held up my hands in surrender, but I was thinking Damn, it's been years since someone had to say that to me. I've consciously made an effort at not arguing when people say nice things about me. I'm a lot better than I used to be. Or I thought I was!

It's a sign of how much I'm struggling lately, that all I can see, all I have time or energy for, is what still needs doing, what crisis needs managing today, what has taken too long or not been done well enough. It's difficult to accept a compliment on something you've done if your sense of achievement is in negative figures.

At the beginning of the second meditation class this week, we were asked to chat to someone else about how we were doing. The guy next to me and I sarted talking about how easy it was to see everything still left for us to do and how little attention we pay to everything we've achieved already.

This is a well-known thing about me, putting my self-worth into what I can do, so having little when there's lots left undone. Dwelling too much on how stupid that is will only make me feel bad, and that won't help anything, so I'm trying to just be aware of it. And of having to again be really careful with not arguing when someone says something nice about me.
hollymath: (i love)
Today I have been mostly getting really excited about a work thing coming up in a couple of weeks.

This time I do actually get to go to London with my colleagues, for a two-day conference.

"I have never really done an exhibitor stall at a conference..." my boss said. I laughed bitterly. It seems all I do for LGBT+ Lib Dems sometimes. So I went through the list of stuff the conference runners could provide for us, made suggestions of what we could put on the stall, and felt pretty good about that.

But then I found out that the posh dinner I'd been told we were signing up for on the evening between the two nights at the conference wasn't just posh ("have you got a posh frock?" my boss asked me. "Or can you sort one out?" which I waved off with all assurances) was a really posh dinner when he asked my colleague later "have you got a black-tie dinner suit? it's black tie." Suddenly I have to find out what the girly equivalent of black-tie is, and get it!

I texted [livejournal.com profile] greyeyedeve, with whom I'd already been planning a clothes-shopping trip, and predictably she said this sounded like fun.

Then I got another text from her that said "and you'll need shoes!" Oh god, I replied. I hadn't thought about shoes! "And a bag!" she texted soon after. Jeez, I'm glad I got help in this. I've never had to deal with anything like this before.

It sounds fun.

But weird.

But exciting. As long as I have help!
hollymath: (i love)
Since I started working, I've started doing a lot of other things too.

Looking for a book on a shelf one day, I ended up knee deep in stuff I'd unearthed from our understairs cupboard, never finding the book but inspired by untidiness and poor organization to make things as much better as I could. I threw away broken musical instruments, stacked up dead computers to be taken away for recycling at some point, even got Andrew to help in culling a few books, and have much unburdened myself to charity shops.

I have made more conscious efforts to keep on top of household things like doing the dishes, taking out the bins, and other menial chores I sometimes look upon with despair. I slide back into bad habits sometimes but overall there is marked improvement. Anyway, the general message of it not mattering whether I hate to do something or not is good for me.

I've finally gone back to the gym, after months of thinking "but I'm too tired anyway, why would I go somewhere just to tire myself out?" and other such unhelpful nonsense. Of course I feel good for it; what I really miss on grey days isn't the vitamin D from the sun but the idea that it can be welcoming to go outside, take a walk, or whatever. The gym replaces some of that (though I keep meaning to get myself a lightbox to help with the genuine dismay I feel at four o'clock when it's getting dark out).

And I have promised myself I'll stop drinking soda, at least in the house. It's so awful for me and I like it so much. It was only earlier this week I decided this (after drinking too much on a stressful day did actually make me feel ill and then I didn't like it so much!) but it has made me feel better: I can see now how people like the sense of control that restriction diets give them, so much that I'm not letting myself think any more about what foods might be "good" or "bad." I've never had an eating disorder but, once I knew what they could actually be like, I have retrospectively recognized habits and thoughts that come close; little wonder when my culture so encourages disordered eating in everyone, especially women. But I feel there's no downside at all to giving up fizzy drinks! I did have Pepsi with my fast-food dinner yesterday (which caused me no anguish, I'd already expected to allow myself that little bit), and it was pretty delicious; I enjoyed it guiltlessly and thought no more of it, which is a good sign.

Generally, for all the bad days (and I'm writing this today partly because today is one: not only do I have time admist all my lounging around but also because I want to remind myself of the general upward trend), I'm doing really well lately. I think it boils down to the job, which doesn't mean I think ill people should stack shelves in Tesco for no money because of "the dignity of work" or other such rot, but because I'm doing interesting, challenging work in which I am respected and well-paid. I'm very lucky in that.

But that working, which has eaten a lot of my time and energy, has also inspired me to take on so many other, new or long-neglected, endeavors means that I am overwhelmed by work and worthiness, and waiting for fun to appear as if by magic (I have no energy to expend on arranging it!), but for the most part I am happy.


Nov. 16th, 2011 02:33 pm
hollymath: (down)
Work has been on my mind a lot lately.

The "bi/Lib Dem Singularity" that was August and September (between Prides, BiCon, Lib Dem Conference, and so on) made a hectic few weeks, and most things broke me at least a little. I missed some things (like Cumbria Pride and northwest regional ldconf), which was disappointing but I'm confident I made the right decision in not going and overall I'm happy with what I've been able to contribute to and enjoy along the way.

After Conference, almost two months ago now, I said "I'm not well enough to be working yet. I wonder about this every so often when I get restless or when I slip into the notion that the only way to lead a worthwhile life is via gainful employment (or something else inapplicable to me, like having kids or being a student)."

While I was away in Birmingham for that, Andrew told me he was having migraines nearly every day for a week. He woke up screaming once because his head hurt so badly, and finally went to the doctor. The stress of the immense amounts of overtime he'd had to do for us to be able to afford seeing my family at Christmas had increased his stress and thus his blood pressure to a dangerous level. He worked reduced hours for a while, and then had a couple of weeks off work, and now is on a phased return to work. I'm very proud of how well he's doing, and relieved that he's finally concerned enough to be more careful than when he thought he could just push himself infinitely hard forever.

He's made it clear he doesn't want to work in the sense people usually think of it; he wants to write for a living. So far his income from that is not enough to support himself, much less the both of us while I'm not-even-good-enough-to-be-a-benefit-scrounger. He's written five books this year in his copious spare time and I'm proud too of how hard he's working on this despite work and stress and other health issues and every other kind of distraction a person has in their lives.

The last time I saw my nice lady at the jobcentre was at the end of September. "Have you thought about going back to work?" she asked me. She's kind and gentle, but the only thing that keeps me from throwing a tantrum is that my body could not express all my frustration and disappointment, even if I lay on the floor and pounded my fists and kicked my legs, even if I dissolved into a puddle like Amélie.

Of course I've thought about working. I think about it all the time.

Mostly what I think is about what I a failure I am, and how I hate being dependent on other people, and how angry I am, and that I am working to sort out the benefits, and in more than two years now have made exactly no progress. I think they're right and I don't deserve anything because I'm useless and worthless, or because there's probably nothing really wrong with me. I've been depressed my whole working life, and I've worked. Why should now be any different? I've been so ill and crazy I hardly remember my first job in the UK, hardly remember that whole year. I'm not even sure I'd want to remember it.

I think about all this, all the time.

And yet I think about the money I need. I think about the structure my days are lacking. I think about having something respectable to tell my family I'm doing when I'm over there on that unthinkably expensive Christmas trip.

And then I think about the insomnia and migraines, how there's been something wrong with me practically every single day. I cry at nothing, or anything. I don't look after myself or my surroundings very well. And these thoughts chase each other around and around.

I don't know what to do.

But I'm officially off the grid now. Last Friday was the deadline for me to have completed my Atos questionnaire and sent it back. My third in a year and a half. I can't bring myself to list everything wrong with me again (my focus and concentration are so bad now that filling in the section that asks about those things takes me the longest; the irony is not much comfort).

The nice jobcentre advisor has given up on me; I haven't heard from her since she fobbed me off on that lady who's supposed to help people get back into work or training -- but it's for people on JSA -- as you'd expect -- so no use to me. I don't want to go on jobseekers' because I'm afraid I'd have to end up accepting a job I hate or that is bad for me. and in the meantime I probably still wouldn't get any money for the same reasons I'm not now. I have fallen between the cracks.

So then I thnk about getting a job. Part-time, few hours a day, something desperately easy and monotonous.

And then I think about being ill. And I think about how the first panic attacks I had, before I even knew that's what they were, were when I was jobhunting.

And these thoughts chase each other around and around.
hollymath: (i love)
"Haven’t heard from you for awhile," the e-mail started, "so am wondering if you have fallen back into your funk?""

Yes, I've gotten uncharacteristically bad at answering e-mails. Even this one languished in my inbox for several days before I got around to reading most of it, much less replying (good thing too, as it reminded me of fairly important stuff I'd forgotten all about!). It didn't help that, I think, that first line put me off.

I guess a word like "funk" is open to interpretation, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. Funk sounds like a mood, or an illness like a bad cold: annoying but self-contained and relatively brief.

I know this person well enough to be confident that she doesn't mean to be flippant or dismissive. It's far more likely that her choice of words is due to the Minnesotan tendency to not talk about stuff like this, and to downplay it if you do talk about it.

Still, I start to wonder if one of the reasons people with mental health issues seem to be wallowing, overstating their case, self-pitying or looking for sympathy, is that we so often have to try to explain ourselves to people who think we've chosen to indulge a bad mood or the brain's equivalent of a the sniffles.

I was, again uncharacteristically, blunt in my reply: "I didn't have a funk to fall back into. I have either crippling anxiety, keeping me uselessly jittery all the time, or paralyzing depression, leaving me all but incapable of doing the simplest things."

It's kind of ironic, really, as my poor e-mail correspondence of late, my altogether patchy presence online for that matter, is not due this time to my being an inert ball of flesh but quite the opposite: I've been busy.

I've been helping to encourage and arrange bisexual presences at local Prides (Oldham last week! Liverpool this week), debating whether to go to the Liberal Democrats Autumn Conference, playing my first gig ever with the band Suzie Does it and practicing for loads more... and getting jobs!

For most of this year I've done a couple of hours a week helping a friend of mine to clean house. It's unknowingly become the trend I'm following now, as i've got two new part-time jobs working, basically, for friends of mine.

At a friend's suggestion, I'm applyinng for carer's allowance for a friend of mine who's eligible for it, whose partner couldn't get it for what seem like silly reasons, so I was asked. I'm rather touched and honored as well as doing my best to formally take the responsibility seriously. The reasons for my friend needing a carer are related to mental health, and while this might seem like the blind leading the blind (ha) since i hardly have the best track record in that area myself, I like to think that my experience as a mentalist myself, and in working on a psychiatric ward, will actually lead me to be better able to respond appropriately and helpfully.

My other job is really exciting, and I'm very pleased that the person I'm doing it for is also excited and went to a lot of effort to help me get it. This other friend of mine is a disabled student who is allocated a note-taker for his lectures. This means i get to go back to university myself! And I'm getting paid for it. Plus I'm helping a good friend, who last year had to worry about a note-taker who was sometimes unreliable or wrote unintelligible notes, thus rendering his lectures useless. It seems a big deal for him to have someone he can trust taking on the role... and if nothing else, he knows where I live!

It's also partly at the instigation of this friend that I'm starting to think seriously about what it would take to get me going back to university myself. One of the things I'm hoping to do with the money I make from these little jobs (after all our credit cards are no longer maxed out!) is apply for British citizenship, something i have been meaning to do anyway but which I haave a lot more motivation to do now that I found out it'll give me access to funding and grants and loans and things to go back to school, rather than being a foreign student with all the exorbitant fees that implies.

In looking online at the lectures I'll be taking notes for (history, rather than something impossible to transcribe like linear algebra) my mouse wandered towards the linguistics section, and absolutely all the courses listed there looked delicious to me. I don't know what on earth I'd do with a linguistics degree, but I'd at least not have to feel restless and unsatisfied with myself every time I think about academics or look at my CV or any of the million other little ways that not having finished my degree now affects my life.

It's all looking stupidly straightforward and wonderful now. After months of languishing in despair about my nebulous future, things suddenly fell together in such a perfect way for me that I'm almost spooked, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Which is not like me, and I think is evidence of how big a change this represents -- if not in my day-to-day life at this point (term hasn't started yet and my other two employer-mates have been on holiday!), certainly my thoughts about the weeks and months ahead, which has been exactly what has been most uncomfortable to think about.


May. 11th, 2010 03:07 pm
hollymath: (Default)

I got an e-mail today from one of the agencies I'm registered with, telling me about jobs it thinks I might be interested in.  Here's the list in its entirety.

Staff Nurse (DNA Collection) - Merseyside
RGN - Manchester, Merseyside, Preston, South & West Yorkshire
RMN - Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire, South & West Yorkshire
Junior Sister - Manchester
Clinic Nurse (with cosmetic exp)- Manchester, Leeds
Clinic Manager (RGN) - Leeds
Hospital Manager (RMN) - Bradford
Theatre / Scrub / Recovery / Anaesthetic - Manchester, South & West Yorkshire

DNA collection!  And is it just me or is there something a bit sinister about "cosmetic experience"?  Okay, it's probably just me.

I'll make a great hospital manager, though!

hollymath: (Default)
I got sick at work. When I told my boss, he said, “I’ll write you a prescription. I know what you need.”

He scribbled on a tiny post-it for a moment and then handed it to me.

10 eurovision songs
good night’s sleep

I think a person could do a lot worse.

He has a theory, well, first of all that Eurovision is like football for gay men, which is why he’s been talking about it longer than I’ve been working there this year, but he’s got another theory about Eurovision too, which is that it’s a good treatment for depression because who could be unhappy watching stuff like this?

While I think it’d be problematic as the panacea he’s proposing, it is sure to work on me. I was dorkily excited at my first Eurovision, for which Lucy and Dave made the Serbian food as it was hosted in Belgrade, and then of course last year was the reason that Dan and I now consider Eurovision day our anniversary, because it was when we got back together.

So now I’m home, looking for my boss’s current favorite (way better, he says, than the previous one he couldn’t talk about without giggling, Latvia) in this year’s contest: Germany.

From his description (and slightly garbled retelling of the lyrics), it does sound like the perfect Eurovision song: catchy, silly, surreal (“like a satellite, I’m in orbit all the way around you”). He’s looking for it to win; I hope it does.

hollymath: (life)
When I saw the brown envelope I was hoping for something more about the ESA (benefits for people who are too ill to work, not anything to do with the European Space Agency as one of my friends wishes it was). I briefly allowed myself to hope that it was some progress on the farce of my National Insurance number.

Then I tore open the envelope and saw a letter of such cold formality it made me glad I'd turned the heat on as I'd walked into the kitchen to see what had fallen through the letterbox this morning. "I am writing to confirm that your employment...blah blah blah... has been terminated with effect from 6th October."

Well it's a good thing they finally got my address changd. Just in time for this. I have had no letters from them since I moved in March, since all my attempts to get the address changed on my records were falling on deaf ears until I missed a meeting with my boss a couple of weeks ago and she called to ask me why; I knew nothing about it because I'd never gotten the bloody letter. I've had no payslips for six months. No nothing. Until this.

"Salaries and Wages have been advised accordingly... yeah, I bet they bloody have. I hope they've been advised about all the holiday time I didn't use!

"We thank you for your hard work and wish you luck with your future plans." Bollocks. You have no idea about my hard work. I don't even know who you are, HR person who couldn't even be bothered pretending, or getting someone else to pretend, that you signed this letter. (Which is saying something because I did know some of the HR people all too intimately when they tried to give me grief about starting this job in the first place thanks to Occupational Health people who decided I was too disabled to do it.)

My hard work. God. I've never worked so hard as I did some days in this job. Working in a psychiatric ward is not like most people would have it believe; we've come some way from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. But it's a demanding job, not often physically but always mentally and, surprisingly often, emotionally. And as with anything else, it's not just the job but the co-workers, the administration cocking things up... and working as part of the government has certainly shown to me new and exciting ways that things can be cocked up.

But it was a job I'd had for more than two years even before I spent the last five months of it off sick, the longest I've done anything. I had my first paid sick days and paid holidays with this job, it felt in many ways like my first Proper Grown Up job. And now it's gone, poof. It's not my job now. I don't have a job. And I haven't, for almost two weeks. Without me even being aware of it.

And though I knew this was coming -- I was after all on a 12-month contract that started the fifth of October last year (which I remember only because it was Andrew's birthday) -- it's still unnerved me a bit. It's the first time I've been really unemployed (rather than genuinely between jobs) since I started working when I moved here in 2006.

And it's odd that I should've been thinking of the benefits stuff when I saw that (clearly government-issue) envelope this morning. The combination of sisyphean frustration in attempting to sort out benefits and the new meds that don't seem to have the paralytic side-effects the old ones did has left me in some ways really craving a new job. Just a little one, somethign part-time and low-stress...

If I had such a job I think I'd be ready to get back to it now but having to find one first complicates things enormously for me, jobhunting being a thing that gave me panic attacks even before I realized what panic attacks were.

Still, I am not the person I was when I was last jobhunting, and while the months off sick and mind-altering drugs might not indicate that I'm better able to deal with things than I was then, I am feeling crazily optimistic in some ways.

But I'm aware of the craziness, and the emotional effect of the letter I got this morning, totally unexpectedly, so I'm not going to commit myself to anything just now.
hollymath: (Default)
I was fine when I was listening to the cricket (with [livejournal.com profile] shinydan explaining the jargon and other stuff that confused me as it went along) and doing the dishes, but when they stopped for tea -- they stop for tea! there is no way I couldn’t like this sport -- I’d finished what I was doing too. So I sat down for a minute and ate some yogurt and immediately started thinking too much.

I was glad I’d done the dishes. And earlier today I did some laundry, cooked myself some nice food (English muffin pizzas! an old college favorite; oddly English muffins are a lot harder to find here so I don’t make them very often now), cleaned the bathroom... I’d done all this stuff today, and I felt really good about it. Still a long way from being a domestic goddess, but clearly a lot of progress had been made. It really did seem easier to keep everything okay (or, at least more okay) after we moved. Sometimes these fresh starts do work...

Sure, I thought, it’s working out all right for me now, but what about when I have to go back to work? When I’m working I come home exhausted, mentally as much as physically, suitable for little other than staring blankly at my computer screen or burrowing under the covers of my lovely bed. On my days off I’m little better. And of course as things pile up undone around me, it’s all the easier and more attractive to just hide from it all, narrow my focus so I can’t see the chaos that would drag me down, but being down anyway because there’s nothing good to see in such a narrowly-focused world.

Owning up to my mental state is not the only long-overdue thing I’ve done this week; I’ve been inspired to tidy up the cupboard under the stairs when I tried to yank the vacuum cleaner out of said cupboard and got a cartoonish avalanche of boxes spilling open and CDs crashing down at my feet. So I dragged everything out of it, most if it rubbish, and opened the scary door to the spare room to see what in there might be put in the cupboard under the stairs. I am making lists in my head and on the little whiteboard and trying to kill my procrastinating habits.

The house is in a worse state than it was in some ways; the vacuum cleaner languishes on the kitchen floor, freed from its prison but still not used today because I was too tired after lugging things around and putting them where it had been. Random things that had been there that I’m hoping Andrew will sort out are now strewn about the house. Still I’m not despairing, I’m proud of myself for how easily I’m able to focus on the good I’ve done rather than what’s left to do.

And, inside as well as outside, I’m feeling kind of ugly and strewn-about at the moment. A work mate texted me today, made me smile: “Hey Holly, you ok mate?” I knew this ear would be sympathetic so I did my best to explain, in the limited number of characters, adding thanks for checking up on me; I feel so invisible at work that it really did cheer me up. Still by the end of the two or three texts each that we exchanged, I was feeling wobbly and anxious again, for no reason I could think of but maybe just thinking about work again...

I’ve got a little more than a week left, and I hope it helps a lot because right now I can’t imagine going back. At all. As I sat there eating my yogurt I mentally surveyed my choices. I could, as that mate from work has, return with a reduced number of hours; working four days a week has made a big difference for that person and I think it would help me too. But enough? Do I need to change my job altogether? I have been halfheartedly applying for easy admin jobs (still within the NHS because I haven’t gotten over my wild happiness that it exists, and anyway I guess it has a good pension plan or something) but nothing’s come of it yet.

Man, I used to work in an office, and I hated it so much I can’t imagine what me-then would think if she could see me now, longing to go back to typing and Excel spreadsheets or something, when all she wanted was to get away from them. But a lot of the misery there came from working for a bank, and particularly a part that chased after people who’d missed loan payments. While my co-workers there went on skiing holidays in the Alps and didn’t think anything of spending a tenner on their lunch, I wore ill-fitting Primark clothes I couldn’t afford to replace and brought lunch in Tupperware containers because even the Greggs across the road could be too rich for my blood some days. I felt much closer to the people on the other end of the phone and it was hard on me to work there, even though I knew that doing so was the only thing that kept me and Andrew from getting calls from people like them.

Lots of things have changed and as much as I enjoy the feeling that the work I do is “worthy,” as much as I like my flexible schedule with its lie-ins and early finishes and random days off during the week, there’s a lot about it that I don’t like, that’s driven me to curl up and cry when I thought about going to work on Monday. Compared to this the very idea of a low-stress job is an oasis in the sad empty desert, and the less I have to use my brain the better. I still remember a line I stole from [livejournal.com profile] quuf: drudgery becomes me. I helped stick address labels on a bunch of leaflets for some LibDem thing a couple of weeks ago and worked away happily, thinking of that office job I used to have; on the days the computers weren’t working for me I’d stuff envelopes, a task I found much more to my liking than staring at a screen for umpteen hours a day anyway, filling in hellish little boxes on a database. To work with my hands, even if all I have to show at the end of it is a stack of letters imperfectly folded into envelopes, fingers sticky from the glue, brain wandering gently.

I just have no ambition at all. I don’t resent work like that. I am happy to be given something easy to do and be left alone, unconcerned with failure or success.


For the last couple of months Andrew has been pushing for me to think about going back to university. he’s enlisted my parents and some of his family in this, as if I’d need persuading. I liked school, and even when I didn’t I understood school; I belonged there. And to have left the way I did, to have run out of money and sanity while all my friends were graduating, to know that I’d need at least another year to make up for all the classes I failed and to have no interest in that because I had no resources for it and all I’d learned that year was that I was stuck with the wrong degree... it remains a big ugly blotch on my life, both a cause and effect of all the depression and anxiety that has landed me where I am now, in my pajamas writing this when I am meant to be at work for another 41 minutes tonight, meant to be at the end of another week looking forward to tomorrow as my day off.

So while obviously I’d rather that not be my abiding impression of formal education, it’s just as obvious that I’m not sure I’m any better able to tackle it now than I was then (especially with how atrociously I’ve failed in my OU courses these last two years).

Also, it’d mean I was much more dependent on Andrew’s income even than I am now when he makes twice as much as me. He’s more than happy to support me, it’s me that’s not entirely comfortable with the idea. Among other things, it’s taken me so long to attain any kind of independence (and even longer to decide that I really wanted it!) that I’m loath to give that up again already.

Going back to university is attractively less structured than work... but I also remember the relief it was for me to start working, to just work, and how long it took to stop feeling guilty when I was just sitting around or having fun. For months after I left school I was looking over my metaphorical shoulder and feeling the stress of books I hadn’t read and essays I wasn’t writing even when there weren’t any of those any more. Perhaps as amputees scratch phantom limbs, humanities students stress about phantom essays.

So I’m wary of inviting that demanding on-duty-24/7 feeling back into my life... but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that university also holds some appeal for me. I’ve been watching [livejournal.com profile] taimatsu‘s dissertation take shape over the past couple of weeks, both admiring of her prose style and her complex thoughts on her subject, fondly (or not) reminiscing about my own big essays, and being utterly grateful that I’m not in her position even now because I know I couldn’t handle it. And a lot of it I don’t miss; English literature never suited me as it does her.

And what would then? It’s all fine and good to want to go back to uni but what for, Holly? I have no answer.

But it’s got me thinking (and talking to poor [livejournal.com profile] shinydan, repeatedly) about word-choices in Old English riddles and other things so arcane you have to be an English major to even know they’re there, much less have opinions about them.

As always I’m susceptible to stories, and I think the one I want to tell here is about some dormant part of myself coming back to life, and of course about the intoxicating high of another fresh start.

I take these three ideas -- less work, new job, university -- out and play with them. I pretend they are a deck of cards and have a game of solitaire with them, turning over one and then another and wondering how they go together. I shuffle them around and put them away. They feel like old ideas already, the edges soft and creases worked into them. Feeling helpless to choose any one over another (or to just go along with things as they are, of course) was one of the things that drove me to despair and got me this time off work; a few days later I feel no closer to an answer but at least able to more calmly think about the question.


hollymath: (Default)

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