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It was recently mentioned to me that it might be helpful to look into the realms of ASD with regards to my behaviours, and general mindset, not to mention the symptoms I have commonly discussed on this blog and with others. Fair to say this is not the first time it has been mentioned, and has been the topic of quite a few conversations with certain friends of late. Obviously we know I struggle with anxiety in general. But is that the condition itself, or simply a symptom of a bigger issue? That is the question for today.

Before I dive into that, I wanted to make note here that today in general has been a pretty shitty day. No particular reason, just generally started out on a low, and for a while went deeper and deeper into it.  Snappy, struggling to focus and keep my cool, and VERY irritable. Nothing particularly on my mind, but just had no tolerance for anything at all. Noises especially today have really wound me up.  I had a nice walk in the sun with Ann before work, try and get some of those endorphins flowing, then came home to relax before work. Nope, not happening, just getting wound up tighter. 

After another conversation with another couple of friends, I thought I would re-run an ASD screening test I have done before. Recalling the score, I thought it would be interesting to see where I scored now. As I went through the questions, it is incredible how many things you realise "trigger" you. Reading scenarios, then taking a moment to honestly answer the question. Not the "yeah yeah I am fine", but really being honest with myself. As I said before it is nice to pretend that you can do anything, but "coping" with something is not the same as being able to simply do something. 

Similar to being asked by the GP yesterday if I could go to the shops OK, and first saying "well yes", then realising I shop at off peak times, generally prefer smaller stores, always use self checkout to avoid interaction and so on... So, nope, I CAN go to the shops, but it is NOT easy. So today answering the questions on the assessment I thought I would allow the same thought process to take place. I learned something for sure! I am NOT OK !

By the end of the test, I scored quite highly, well into the "severe" score range, and displayed multiple strong signs of ASD. Then to the "what next" section. Well of course this was done on a private companies website, so there were places to enquire, but also some helpful pointers on who to speak to and where to find help. Like I say, this is not the first time considering ASD, so I have some ideas of what is out there. The wait for the NHS last time I checked was somewhere in the region of two years for assessment. While private clinics such as this one have much shorter waiting lists, but come with a price tag of around £2,000.

So now I am left wondering what to do next. The idea of ASD is not a simple and convenient one for me. But as I have said to others in the past, the more I have learned about it, and the more I look back over my life, the more it would make sense. Will it change anything, not really. I am not looking to "cure" my anxiety as such, not turn my life around. I like who I am, and how I live, label or not. But it would answer some questions I have asked myself, especially about my upbringing and earlier years. It would help me convey to others what I struggle to do, why, and what they can do to help me. And of course it would make me cool.... OK I am lying about that one, but there is nothing wrong with knowing what is going on inside the grey matter.

Like I say, it doesn't change anything fundamentally for me, life goes on. But it helps with the frustrations of life when you struggle being on a busy train, around strangers, or some days just want to be left alone for a bit.  Like today. Not to an extreme, but it has taken me a few hours of being at my desk working to start to feel balanced in any way. The first couple of hours, trying to do quite simple tasks of comparing data fields on documents, focusing on an issue to resolve it, or just typing in a phone number required exhausting amounts of concentration. To a point of "arrrgh I can't do this" and wanting to just call it a day. Moment like that are usually the catalyst to a much bigger and longer episode. But thankfully in the peace and quiet of an office, on my own, I was able to work my way through it, and feel much better in my mind this evening. There is hope! 

Using today as an example, this is what I was trying to touch on yesterday. An anxiety disorder, triggered by stressful situations, being in an uncomfortable environment is one thing. However today was not triggered in any way. I slept OK, and simply woke up feeling like I needed space, fresh air, and some time out. So there probably is more to it than straight forward socially triggered anxiety. And with that in mind, that is why I was so torn about starting the medication straight away, or waiting for some more questions to be answered, and more things to become apparent. If I had started the meds yesterday, one of the side effects is heightened anxiety for a while, and today would simply have been put down to that, and nothing else. 

Instead, I have had the head-space to consider opinions of others. And that is actually quite important. To have the honest and frank opinions of others, as it is so hard to see sometimes how your behaviours actually appear. From time to time I will catch myself acting differently due to how I am feeling, but most of the time it is more likely others can tell you more about your behaviours than you can yourself. So I am very grateful to have such people around me, and encourage anyone who thinks they have something of benefit to say to let me know. No offence will be taken I promise. Unless you are being a bit of a twat, in which case, expect as good as you gave. 

So now with the test results, the comments and opinions of others around me, some of whom are in a very educated position to form such opinions, when I see the doctor next I can raise the question of ASD screening, without feeling like I am clutching at straws, searching for a label, or just trying to find more and more excuses as to why I should continue to work from home.  Where it goes from there, who knows. I am sure there is a long long waiting list, and one which will not be in my favour with work related matters. However at least having had the conversation and been referred for screening, or indeed considering paying to go the private route may help in all walks of life. Time will tell. 

Thanks as always for reading a long ramble, and a special thanks to those who have taken the time to reach out, share their thoughts and opinions, and give me a little bit of hope and direction.

 

Til next time...

Not my first rodeo with anti anxiety, anti depressant meds, so that is not an issue as such for me. When the time is right, needs must, and I have no issue with taking such medications to help. But is that time now?

I am getting ahead of myself here, the last thing I said was I was going to speak to the doctors. Well, that appointment has come and gone. Much to my delight the conversation was relaxed and open, and I felt I was able to express myself clearly. More importantly I felt I was listened to throughout, and the doctor understood where I was coming from. Ironically 2 hours before the appointment I received a call from the surgery informing me that the appointment would now be on the phone as the doctor was working from home! Alright for some eh. 

I discussed how I have been anxiety "free" for a long while now, and how Covid times have shown me there is a way to do my job, and be in a good place mentally too. And that even starting to process returning to an office environment has thrown me into a tailspin, and it is affecting me. I said I have always been bad in public spaces, or crowded environments, and do much better alone or in controllable spaces. From there we moved onto the more general aspect of the issue, and the social anxiety.

Her feelings on the matter were two fold. Firstly recognising that this new episode is triggered by the fear of being back in a space I can't control, and that this has until now been avoidable with no impact to my ability to do my job, or work for a living in general. And that secondly she would like to try and improve my general wellbeing in all walks of life, by getting me help for my "anxiety disorder". Her suggestions being using medication to control the anxiety, and counselling to address the social aspect of it, and help me find ways of improving my state of mind in such settings.

We also discussed moving forward with matters at work, and how I can go about addressing my anxiousness about being in an office again. Going back over how things were before Covid, and how I have over the years learned ways to "cope" with the anxiety it caused me, rather than overcome it and feel normal at the end of a working day. Touching on how mentally exhausted I get when in uncomfortable situations. Using all my mental energy to appear and function as "normal", and when the curtain falls, just crashing and being left exhausted, and totally drained. Not to mention feeling edgy and in a foul mood. Repeat that on a daily basis, and the cycle is, wake up OK, interact with partner and friends, go to work, be drained of all your will to live, come home and be an utter arsehole until you go to sleep....Repeat...

Some would say I am not that bad, or too cranky etc, but even that alone takes all my reserves to maintain. Being aware that you are behaving like a bit of an arse is really upsetting. So you are then left with two options. Hide away, or draw on your final reserve of mental strength to at least be likable. It is a really hard one to explain, everything feels so fake. Oh look, its people, slap that smile on, crack a joke or two and reply to "how are you" with a very plastic "yeah yeah good thanks". Rather than, "well to be honest dying inside right now, this is exhausting the shit out of me".

Having spent so many years with multiple personas (not split personality), switching at will to suit the audience, I have become very self aware, and know the second I am starting to be "fake" . And let me tell you, being fake has an energy burn 10x higher than just ticking along being me. To put it in physical terms, as some people only understand those, think of the difference you feel between walking at a nice sedate pace, and running flat out as fast as you can. Heart rate rises, body temp sky rockets, muscles tense, and energy rapidly drains from your body. Now imagine feeling like that, while still just walking along. It would be alarming right? Welcome to my anxiety mind!

So, here we are, post appointment. Diagnosis "Anxiety disorder", treatment, counselling and medication, prognosis hopeful but too soon to tell. I have sent off my referral to the Mental Health service providers locally, and await to hear back with any sort of waiting time, and suggestion of treatment. I have informed my work of the outcome, and await hearing if there is any intervention at this stage, and I have collected my medication from the pharmacy.

The last two are the important factors here. Work, I am sure there is no need for any intervention at this point for a number of reasons. Firstly there is no official 30 day notice period given to return to the office yet. Just the pre-notice notice, if that makes sense. In the meantime we all await to hear if there is a chance of overturning the decision to end WFH. And secondly, at this point the anxiety has not affected my work. While working from home I am still able to function OK, but can honestly say that my focus and concentration has taken a huge hit, as I have touched on before.  If and when work are to do anything, it will be a referral to the Occupational Health service, to assess my ability to carry out my job, and see if they agree with the GP. The GP has said they are more than happy to work with the OH to make sure the best and most suitable arrangements are made, to allow me to work, while managing my well-being. 

The second factor being the medication, and the point of this blog entry. So the deciding factors here are a bit of a mess, hence blogging to try and make sense of it. Bear with me here. 

My need to go down this whole road, to me at least, has been the anxiety triggered by the knowledge of the request to return to the office coming. Until that point I have felt better than I have ever been before. Sure there have been moments of avoidance and struggling with socialising away from work. That is something I have always lived with, and chosen my battles carefully. Risk vs reward so to speak. Is the end goal worth the use of all my mental energy, feeling exhausted and edgy for the next day or two? As you can imagine there are not too many scenarios which warrant that result. The GP wants to tackle this aspect too, so the medication and counselling is to help with all walks of anxious life. OK, great.

Or is it? In general, I don't like being around a lot of people, fake people, talking shit, all in the name of looking good. No thanks, I will stick with the genuine people I actually like, people who know ME and not one of my personas, and that I can actually communicate with, without becoming exhausted. There is no denying that there is social anxiety for me in both settings, but one is far more manageable than the other. Do I feel the anxiety in the calmer setting needs addressing? Maybe! It would be nice to spend more time with people I like in a wider range of settings and environments, but do I want to medicate to do that? THAT is the question here.

The other half of the question, am I happy to medicate, and have to attend counselling to learn coping mechanisms to return to an office, to do a job I have done without fault for the past two and a half years from home? Well............... errm, no, not really! I appreciate I did it from an office before, but that was before WFH was even accepted as possible for my team, and before it necessitated us being at home to do our jobs, to enable the company to keep functioning through Covid. A change I was willing to make for my employer, at very short notice. A change which proved itself to be beneficial to the company on a number of fronts, and one which showed me that my mental health was SO much better away from an office environment. All very accidental. But when you discover a better method by accident, or through circumstances, do you change back because the old normal is the only right way?

If you commute to work by car and the main road you use is closed, and a diversion is set up. If the diversion it turns out it's a quicker route. When the main road opens again, do you go back to your old route? See where I am going with this? There is a new, proven route / work method, why deviate from it for the same of going back to the "good old ways"?

So now, while I wait to hear about the official line on WFH, if any appeal has been successful, or if indeed we will get our 30 days notice to return. Do I start the medication now, to primarily treat the anxiety caused by the news. Tolerate the side effects as the levels build up in my body, and possibly trigger worse anxiety in the short term, and maybe the need to take time off work anyway. Or do I wait for the outcome, and if it us unfavourable, and the notice is given, THEN start the process of taking the medication, at which point I feel it would be more than needed, as my anxiety will blow up? Feel free to share your thoughts.

I know the idea of the meds is to help with my social anxiety too, but right now, I don't want to take meds, and feel like I have been forced into this by matters at work. Which are the primary reason I am in this situation, and had this conversation with my GP in the first place.

Phew, that was a lot to get out of my little head. Thanks for reading. 

 

That paradoxical moment when you realise how anxious you are getting about seeing your GP about your anxiety! Seeking help about a debilitating condition, but feeling almost incapable of having that conversation with the person who can actually help you. In fear of the reaction and response you will get from that person.  You really couldn't make this up. But thankfully it is not the first time feeling this way.

I know good trumps bad here, and that ultimately the doctor is there to help and guide me through this time. They have done it before and can do it again. Having run through this exact scenario at the RCGP many times in aid of helping students learn, you would think I would be well practised. Well in that regard I am, but it doesn't make doing for real any easier. 

There have been a couple of times over the last decade where I have felt that the GP and I didn't connect in the way necessary to build trust. I didn't feel comfortable enough explaining to the GP what I was honestly feeling, started to feel stupid, so popped the cork back in the bottle of emotions. That can really set me back. But fingers crossed this wont be the case today. 

The second part is when the GP asks you what YOU want them to do and help with. When doing this in scenarios, it almost felt stupid to be asked what you wanted. Especially if this was your first time feeling this way, you would not have a clue what you were going through, and what was wrong, let alone what was available to help you. But I get it... Once you understand that they don't all want to force meds or treatments on you, and are asking how you would like to tackle the issue, it makes more sense. If only there were an easier way of going about it. Maybe running options by you, expressing their preference and then asking if you would rather go a different way?

But here I go, already 3 steps ahead of the whole process, and I am not going for another 2 hours! I just want to relax a bit, and stop running doom scenarios, and stressing myself out more. But, if it were that easy, I would not need to see the doctor in the first place eh. 

What I want from today is to create a safety net, if things slip further, to have options and a plan in place. For when my mind can't quite do these things as well anymore. If I really start to spiral, to have considered that meds are the right way to go. If I need to take a time out, and take time off, so be it, and whatever happens after that be prearranged by me in a state of sound mind, so none of the decisions are knee jerk or irrational.

In my head I have thought through and discussed with myself the worst case scenarios re work. I know if it all goes wrong and gets too much, leaving IS an option, and not an irrational one. There is a plan there of what I would do next, how I would get by etc. More importantly though, there is a bigger more hopeful plan in place to not reach that stage. To find a way to move forwards, and not have any dramatic changes. Compromise can be found if both parties are willing. And seeing the GP today is the beginning, and works fine in either scenario.

So I guess what I am saying is, this is a necessary evil that I have to go through, and a conversation I am dreading, but must happen. The only unknown now, for the next 2 hours at least, is which doctor I will see, and what their attitude to mental health is.

If you are reading this after 14.30 on 27/07/22 then I have seen the GP now.

I am sure there will be another entry a bit later on, maybe today, maybe in a few days, depending what state of mind I leave the doctors in. 

Thanks for reading.

It has been a few days, and as the mood continues to dip, so do the energy levels. Earlier in the week I put the lethargy down to the high temperatures, but as the weather has returned to normal, and my sleep periods extended, the tiredness has really taken a hold. Lack of interest in getting up in the mornings, seemingly slipping towards the "just another half hour" of the days of depression. And even once up, unless I am fully engaged doing something, I quickly feel ready to sleep.

Another thing I have noticed is a long background headache. The past couple of days now, its just there nagging away, threatening to get worse. It's not dehydration, caffeine deficiency or anything like that. As usual my fluid levels are sky high, and my caffeine intake has not differed. It is more like a stress/ tension headache, which just doesn't want to give up. 

Speaking of tension, the lower back muscle tightness and pain still doesn't seem to want to ease up in any way, and it spreading into my shoulder and neck. Just feels like I am turning into a big ball of stress right now. Which in some respects is hardly surprising. The discomfort, combined with the tiredness I have been feeling are starting to leave me less and less able to focus on tasks. Instead becoming distracted by either symptoms, or starting to put things together in my head, and worry myself into a deeper state of stress and anxiety. 

I have the doctors in a couple of days time, and already that is starting to worry me too. Going over the consultation in my head over and over. What do I say, how do I explain why I think I am feeling this way. Will I sound bone idle and like I am trying to pull a fast one. What is deemed a "disability"? Dare I even utter those words? It just seems such a crass thing to say, when others around me suffer much more in different ways all the time. 

In reality, I am hoping I will see a decent doctor, who I will feel comfortable explaining my symptoms and situation to. Hopefully I will be able to discuss the past 15 or so years, and how I have slowly learned what I can and can't do. Periods on medication, total periods of depression and anxiety on record. And somehow get across how different the past two years have really been for me, until now anyway. 

In the meantime I am trying to keep up with my exercise, and stay active, to at least get a mental boost that way. But I can't deny being distracted while I exercise now. Morning runs and rides are thwarted with thoughts of "I might not be able to do this soon", which really kills the mood I have to say. Not to mention the back pain too, which kinda makes riding and running that bit more difficult. A 40 odd mile ride yesterday wasn't too bad, and thankfully I managed to lose myself for a bit. But by the end I was truly exhausted. A run this morning, first in a while was uncomfortable to say the least, pressure around the hips and pelvis from the muscle tension made it a bit miserable. 

One thing the ride yesterday helped me with though was reminding myself of the difference between mental and physical exhaustion. Are highlighting that what I am feeling at the moment, during a working day is mental exhaustion. My brain absolutely running at full speed, some on day to day work stuff, and the rest seems to be preoccupied and bunged up with worry and overthinking about what is going on, and what lays ahead. 

Boy oh boy, I am getting tired just thinking about it all to write this, so I am gonna go and write myself a list to take to the doctors with me on Wed. Part of me is hoping they don't suggest meds right now, but the other part realises that at times like this, I am not great at judging my own state of well-being, and have turned to a doctor for a reason. I think I would like to stay off meds at least until any discussion between my line manager, HR, and the seniors has taken place, but who am I to judge. 

Right now I am 99.9% positive it is the news of the return to the office that is the cause of this. Over 15-20 years of mental health issues, there have only been a handful of times I feel I can put my finger on the trigger. It always amused me before when I was asked by doctors, and I had no answer. On this occasion, I am pretty darn sure of it. Now I just have to wait and see what everyones opinions of my thoughts are, and how it is treated.


*sigh* Right, back to the real world. Thanks for reading. 

3

It's been over 2 years in the making, a long time sitting in the back of my mind, but the day is upon me.. Today I have a meeting regarding returning to the office. The company has been great up to this point. But apparently after a long process, the groups who will remain working from home, those who will have hybrid arrangements, and those who must now start planning to return to an office. 

Sadly, for some reason, as of yet unknown to me, it has been decided that my workgroup is NOT compatible with a WFH or hybrid arrangement, and we must therefore return to the office. To say this has wobbled me would be an understatement. 

On hearing the news, I can honestly say my mental and physical health has taken a massive hit. Sleep has gone out of the window, stress through the roof and my anxiety is at a level I can't remember having for a long time now. All because for some reason, after almost 2 and a half years, suddenly its not possible for us to do our jobs from anywhere else but a shared office space. 

So confused right now, as the group has worked better in that time than ever before. Sickness is almost non existent, and productivity and flexibility is much higher than it has ever been. Yet somehow this is NOT good enough. 

I have a meeting in a few hours time, where I will get to raise my concerns about this decision. So to try and keep my brain under control til then, as well as writing this entry, I have written a huge list of issues I have with the decisions, and questions I would like answering before agreeing to anything. 

Ultimately it is the companys decision, and if I want to remain working there, unless a compromise can be found, I don't really have a choice. But that's the problem, I kinda do have one choice, and that is to resign. 

The question that poses though is, if I resign because my employer has been unable to negotiate and compromise with me, to a point where I can still work without it causing me excessive stress and anxiety, and triggering an MH episode, then is that "legal"? Given the past 30 months have demonstrated that I can do my job effectively from a separate office environment, and that nothing has significantly changed to require anything different from me, I struggle to see the "fairness" in this. 

I know some reading will say I'm being precious, that I managed before, Covid, and am just being unreasonable. But then I would argue that you have never made a change for the better in your life, and subsequently realised how bad things were before you changed them. Just because you can and have done something one way for a long time, doesn't make it the right way, the best way etc. It just means that you have not explored other ways. 

So now I get ready for the meeting, try and get my point across, and then start the ball rolling for other options. As much as I know the rest of my team would also remain working from home, this meeting and subsequent moves are very personal, and I shall be making MY case, and no one else's. 

Watch this space, and keep your fingers crossed for me eh. 

It is amazing how fragile the status quo of the mind can be. One minute you are whistling along, all is fine and dandy, and the next... Well, in a flash you are where I am right now.  Overwhelmed, irritated, stressed, over-thinking etc. You name it, that is what's going on in my head right now. 

I have no idea what is going on, just know that since this morning I have felt incredibly low and stressed, and as the day has drawn on it has just spiraled. To the point, the smallest of things are weighing heavy on me. I am obsessing over trivial things, and having doom filled conversations with myself.

Fresh back from a week away in Svalbard, it is only natural to hit the ground with a bump. That said, Monday and Tuesday felt OK with being back at work. The break was nice, but getting home and back to normality has always been a nice thing too. 

As the years have gone by I have gotten better and better at picking up on the little signs that things are starting to wobble a bit, and right now I think that is where I am at. It's not rock bottom, in fact it is far from it, in general things are good. It is just the amount of anxiety I am feeling over nothings. Out running earlier, and walking just now, the people around me felt like they were getting close for no reason other than to wind me up. The familiar "what are people thinking about me" is back too, although not too badly at the moment.

So many external things out of my control, so many little things that are getting to me for no good reason, and of course my old favourite, the self loathing, and doubting.  All signs that things are not right, and time is of the essence. So it is time to jump off social media for a bit. At least the parts which I engage with others, at least for now. Maybe hang on to Insta to share a few bits for a while. But for now, this is me time. 

Not a cry for help, not a pity me, just a me me me. If I need to talk to anyone, rest assured I will as ever reach out to those I know and trust. In the meantime, enjoy the peace and quiet from me. 

 

2

Since around Xmas time, the same question has been on my mind, and as the weeks go by it is frustrating me more and more. 

Without beating around the bush, it's a simple one. Do I continue to do the RCGP sessions? If you don't know, I work with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) a few times a year, doing sessions with med students who are learning to work in the GP environment. Doing staged consultations, as an expert patient, presenting with symptoms I am familiar with, i.e Depression and Anxiety. I have done this for a few years now, and while I find it pretty bloody stressful, I also take some comfort from the fact that I am helping others to understand the conditions, and maybe help them be in a better position in the future to help future patients. 

I have said time and again, I find the sessions exhausting, more mentally than physically, and sometimes it can trigger a bit of a wobble for me. However, I really love the engagement with the students, being able to talk about bouts of depression, and dealing with day to day life with severe bouts of anxiety. So you can see where I am going with this. There are genuine pros and cons. 

Each session I do requires me to take a day off work, for the physical sessions which are now returning, I also need to travel to Central London for the day, and pay for transport or parking. In return I get to stretch myself outside comfort zone a little, engage with the next generation of GP's (some of them anyway), and explain from a first person POV what it is like trying to live when things are bad. I don't for one second think this is an unfair balance. I also get an Amazon voucher for my time, so I am very grateful for that.

A couple of months back, I was approached by one of the teams at Kings College London (KCL) about the possibility of doing some sessions for them too. At the time I was in one of my more positive frames of mind, and really keen to get back to doing what I could for the cause, and was happy to talk to more people about living with depression and anxiety. I have to say the first couple of experiences were a little daunting. New people, new procedures, and the likelihood of becoming a lead in a session of my own at some point. For someone with anxiety, that's a big change and ask. But looking back, I went through the same when I started working with the RCGP too. 

Over Xmas and the New Year, I had a bit of a wobble, and my head went a bit funny, and I started doubting myself. Not only taking on work with KCL, but also questioning my continued work with the RCGP too. A technical error on the last KCL session left me unable to participate, and in that moment I panicked a little about what the hell I was doing. I was out of my depth, completely out of my comfort zone, and floundering. I made my apologies and bowed out quickly, then spent the next few weeks contemplating. So, here I am!

To compound things more, I contracted Covid a couple of weeks back, which coincided with the first RCGP session of 2022, so I missed that too. The longer I have been away, the more I have doubted myself. I have always said as soon as you start to have doubts and questions about something, it is time to get out. But it just doesn't sit right with me. 

I am not irreplaceable, I am sure there are plenty more people who could and would do the sessions in my place. I don't think it is about ego and having some sort of bragging rights either. To me, when feeling positive about things, I love the idea that I am able to help people understand what others are going through. Be it blogging to let others struggling know they are not alone, or explaining to someone, whilst in a rational state of mind, what it is like to be in that situation, and how doctors and the medical world can best help those struggling.  

It is ironic that something that I do to help with mental health has caused me sleepless nights, hours and hours of painful contemplation, and yet still it isn't a simple "I'm done" in my head. I need to be sure of what I do next.

  • Pros     Rewarding, enlightening, educational for others
  • Cons   Tiring, uses annual leave, travel stress

I know I have made an impression on some of the students in the time I have been doing this. I know deep down inside I want to continue to help anyone in any way I can. Teaching, counselling, sharing. But I would be lying if I said it doesn't come at a cost. So I am stuck!

I am away in Svalbard for a week mid Feb, so think I will take that time in the arctic to weigh it all up, without any other pressures, and go from there. But am always interested to know what others would do in a similar situation. I'm not a martyr, not a hero or a saint, but I know I make a tiny bit of a difference, and like a dirt devil in the desert, I know from small things, big changes can come. 

So.... WHAT DO I DO ???

I guess it's just the time of year more than anything, but my head is getting into a funk, more and more each day. Looking back I can see a pattern, winter, darker, gloomier days, and the mood to suit. Perfectly normal really, many of us are in the same predicament I am sure. Difference for me is, it is the catalyst for spiraling down into the doom and gloom of my mind. 

For years now this time of year has been horrible for me, going right back to losing contact with my daughter, and completely losing the Xmas spirit that goes with parenthood. So I am not sure if it stems from that, or just part of my normal mood swings these days. It was around Xmas of '98 I lost touch, so it seems obvious to me that Xmas would bring feelings of bitterness in general. But as the years have gone by, and I have enjoyed it less and less, there also seem to be parallels to the fakeness of the whole season. 

Commercialised rubbish, people feeling duty bound to say festive things, and be even more fake than usual. Having family, friends and relatives that you spend the whole year avoiding, thrust into your face. I struggle with people at the best of times, but at least when I do engage, it is with genuine people for good wholesome conversation and company. 

So here I am, the 2021 slump is here. The past few weeks, I have slowly lost a lot of my usual drive and motivations. Exercise is still alive and well, but I noticed last week I was pushing maybe a little too hard, so made an effort to back off a bit this week. Distraction is fine, destruction less so. I am at the point at the moment of stalling with the motivation to get going. This morning for example, I was meant to be observing a session with KCL, but the slightest opportunity to back out of it was enough of a temptation to cancel that. Instead opting for a run.

I haven't run as frequently as I have been of late, partially down to aches and pains, a little exhaustion, and mainly the change in the weather and mood. The idea of being out there puts me off. Although as I write this I realise it's not the weather at all. I have been running at about 7.30-8am recently, and that is school run and commute time. This means lots of people, which in my head equates to over thinking and over reacting, much as my last blog said.  So maybe, just maybe I need to get out earlier?

This time last year my sleep was terrible and I was out running at midnight, so I went into winter conscious of this, and keen to avoid disrupted sleep again, which is why I aimed for later. Hmmph, maybe 6am is a better idea? I think I need to experiment a little with timings. 

So that is one part of the issue I guess, the other is my head in general. Little patience, short tempered, easily distracted, lack of focus, the list goes on. Recently I have looked into what other than anxiety and depression could be contributing towards my state of mind. It's not a temporary thing, it is very much all year around, but sometimes exacerbated by external influences, such as time of year. The findings have been interesting to say the least, and the outcome of some of the tests equally interesting. I am not looking for a label, to belong, to fit in, nor an excuse for being the short tempered introvert I sometimes am. Just some understanding of it all, and to see if there are things I can do to try and make life a little easier for myself at times like this. 

Today for example, after avoiding the meeting, and going for a run, I thought I would come home, have a lay down and relax for a bit. So I hopped back in bed for half an hour. However, 5 mins into this half hour of rest, I decided I needed to wash my running gear, so got up and put a wash on. Then went to slump in front of the TV for a bit. But was distracted by dust on the cabinet, so got up and cleaned it. Returning to the sofa I decided the floor needed cleaning too so grabbed the hoover. While I have the hoover I might as well do the rest of the house, so I did. Returning to the sofa, now the dog hair on the throw was bothering me, so I took it to the garden to shake it off a bit. On the way back to the front room I thought, "sod it I might as well give it a wash". So stopped off in the kitchen, put my running gear on to dry, and the throw in for a wash... An hour later, and I managed to finish watching what I was watching, and have now put the 3rd load of washing on for the day.

Can you see the pattern I can? Obsessive behaviour created by the inability to focus and relax for 5 mins, in the fear of being left alone with my thoughts. Finally, I get to sit down, because it is time to work. Paid to be distracted for the afternoon, it almost feels like respite! 

It is this cycle (not the wash cycle) I am trying to learn to avoid, and train myself to spot early on. My anxiety is not always about being around people, but sometimes it's about being alone with my thoughts. My own mind is probably the most damaging thing to my mental state, and its own creations are usually my downfall. Whether it be spiraling out of control with premature anxiety about something that has not even happened yet, or dwelling and over thinking something that has already happened, and no amount of thought can change the outcome, my mind can do it all, and it is crippling.

I still to this day get caught up over thinking a situation that happened in 2016. Something I still to this day do not understand the reasoning for. No idea what I did wrong, but know the outcome and exclusion upset me to such an extent I can't let it go. Worse still is the thought of confronting the situation, and the subsequent discussion being even more damaging, and adding to the distress it already causes. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. There are many more things like this that I can't get my head around, but can't let go of either. 

In a rather cold way, I guess that is one of the reasons I have always been so "at ease" with death. It happens, it's final, you can't change it. Sure you never get to speak to that person again, but you know why, and you know you can't change it, end of. It seems such a crass thing to say I know, and realise it affects people so deeply at times, but maybe it is a blessing in disguise that I process it that way?

Every year I write blog entries like this, desperate to find an escape from myself, and every year I realise it is not going to happen. Am I depressed? By my definition, no. Certainly not to the extent and depths I know I can fall to anyway. So I try to see it from the normal perspective that it is cold out, not a lot of daylight, and normal activities are harder to do. So find other things to do, new things to focus on, and other more productive and healthy things to keep my mind occupied.

I guess what is present is anxiety. Anxious about my inability to cope with the simplest of things. Becoming overwhelmed at the drop of a hat, and at such insignificant things. Routine to me is everything. It is what keeps me functioning day to day. Breaks from that routine, even the slightest change can cause my day to crash and burn in a flash. Positive one moment, then dwelling the next about why I was not able to do what I wanted and had planned. My day off the other day a great example of this. I had planned to do a ride, but the weather said otherwise, therefore I had nothing to do, but sit at home with my thoughts, and from there it cascades like an avalanche. 

What I need to do is plan ahead, know what I am going to do when the seasons change in advance. Have a back up plan for my plans for days off, just in case. With that said, I have been thinking about getting a rowing machine for a while now, to mix up my training plan a bit, and work on the core a bit more. But as usual the world conspires against me (I joke, although it feels that way some times), and the prices have gone up, and availability gone away, so that has upset the balance for me too. My thinking is a rower is something to distract me, lower impact so I won't destroy myself on it, and will be a perfect option for breaking up the fitness routine, especially when the weather isn't playing ball.

Meh, this is dragging on isn't it? But as usual writing and thinking about what to write has answered some of my own questions to myself. Still I am left with many more. One day I will understand myself a little better, and hopefully a few days break over the Xmas period I hate so much will do me a little bit of good. Relax the mind, get some fresh air, and hit the reset button. Here's hoping anyway. 

Thanks for reading as ever, I am going off to think deeply again now, and hopefully get myself out of this funk a little bit. 

Hurrah for summer, it has finally arrived, after a long wait. Unlike last year, when summer sprung itself upon us early in the year. The wait this year has been torture. But now it is here, it brings with it a few things.

The temperature went from 6c daily average to mid 20's in what seemed like a day. Hot, sweaty, and irritable, summer me is here too! Unfortunately, the weather and date also brings with is uncertainty, anxiety and stress. More people back out and about, restless nights, and decision time.  Like my head needs much more to get in a knot about right now. Morning runs are hectic, with lots of people out and about, so today I decided on a much earlier run. Quieter roads, but less sleep. Moan, moan, moan, I know!

But front and centre of all of this is June21st. The date the UK Government has set for step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown. In turn, it is the final stage of the process before finding out what the masterplan is regarding Work From Home. Up until now, with things moving so slowly, it has been pretty bearable. However with the final step just weeks away, the dread and fear that work might say "back to the office" completely consumes my every waking moment. Or at least that is how it feels. 

There has been a lot of positive talk about a new approach to how our roles are carried out. If we need to be at a certain location to carry out our jobs effectively. If the new work/life balance that so many, including myself, have found, plays a part in the road ahead. Talk of flexible working, spending time between home and office, sounds delightful for the main part, and 18 months ago I would have ripped the hand off that offered that to me. However, now, well now is different. 

After 15-16 months or so of working from home, so many answers are clear. Can we operate effectively, yup, through a pandemic, through peak  service, and through so many other challenges. Working from home has not caused a single stumble. In fact, when the brown stuff has hit the fan, being close to my work PC, has actually benefited the company. With almost instant access to systems, to get stuck straight in. Communication between the workgroup has improved, with time now allocated on team catch ups, where as before things were less structured. And so many other positives to be found. 

I realise that is all well and good, however work are paying the wages, so get to make the decisions to best suit the business, I can't argue with that for a moment. Seeing how chalk and cheese the plans of many large companies are make me feel it could swing one of two ways, or of course just hang dead centre, and there be no change required. I say no change required, as I appreciate there are two sides to every story, and we all have our own stories of the pandemic to tell.  Some have dearly missed the contact and face to face communication of their workgroups. Feeling isolated and trapped at home, with no outlet for their thoughts. For others, working from home has posed huge challenges to the requirements of their role, making life so much more difficult. For those groups of people, I hope that the road ahead offers contact and respite from the pressures faced over the pandemic. 

But let's be real for a minute, this is my blog, and about my feelings and thoughts, so back to the nitty gritty. I simply don't want to go back to working in an office. This time of year, and the rise in temperatures just reminds me of the years gone by, squabbles over use of the aircon, too hot, too cold, windows open or closed.... Til the AC system just breaks (multiple times annually) and we are left wishing we had just agreed and left it be. Last summer and this summer so far, I open my window when I want, heating on when I want, AC on.... you get the picture. 

Although we have had lots of work done on the house in the past year, I have not had to take any time off for it, nor deliveries, and rarely for any medical appointments, as its all close to home, and can be worked into the working day. 

Anyway, enough procrastination, I think I have made my point. I am terrified that we will be told to return to the office. I have grown very comfortable with my own space, and environment, and the thought of sharing that with others again is dreadful. I am bad enough being around people I choose to be in the company of, let alone those I am squashed in with in the name of work. 

The next two weeks are going to be horrible. I am already sinking myself into a destructive cycle of running and cycling. Doing my best to enjoy myself, rather than damage myself. Sleep is getting worse, quiet moments of the day starting to be consumed by spiraling negative thoughts. The smallest thing now spins up the whirlpool of the mind, and turns it into something dreadful and scary, without even giving it a chance. 

Hopefully, in a couple of weeks time, we will at least have a solid idea of what happens next. Does the rumoured ultra flexible new system come into play? How much flexibility will there actually be? I guess time will tell now, and in the meantime all I can do is hold tight, and wait and see. 

It is good to know that some around me understand my fears, and that in general, line management are happy with work from home as it is, or at least that is how it seems. Keep your fingers crossed please, and lets hope that as much as possible, the road ahead offers everyone  what they need to keep them sane, and able to do their jobs to the best of their ability. 

Thinking back 24 hours, my head was in a totally different place. With the past couple of weeks taking their toll, and having no outlet, things were starting to boil over. Since writing that blog entry and clearing my head a little of all the issues that were weighing me down, things have been much nicer. 

Just getting into bed now, I feel lighter (if only I felt that way physically too!) with less weight in my shoulders, less pressure on my mind. I feel I am more able to relax. Work today was much easier, able to focus on things and, and multi-task where I needed to. It is truly amazing how much difference a little pressure makes our lives. 

I am already preparing my mind to unwind and let go of all the stresses of the day, so here's to a good night's sleep. 

On a side note, my hayfever has been a lot better today too, which also has tremendous bearing on my state of body and mind. Just going back through some data, and over the past week, my resting heart rate has increased by 1bpm per day. Today it went back down a couple. So again, a small contributing factor to the whole well being situation. 

I have chatted with some great people today, a bit of banter, a little in depth conversation, just the right balance to help see things from a valid perspective, rather than one of a heightened and stressed view. 

I know for sure I want to get out on a bike again soon. Maybe just a little solo spin to get my mono back. My anxiety is doing a great job of making me want to avoid the majority of the human race right now, so won't push that one too hard any time soon. 

So here goes, lights out, relaxing sounds turned on, and maybe the fan for some background notice and cool air. 

Night night. 

Oh, PS.. I haven't forgotten about weight. Work in progress.