My mental health melt down is reducing my carbon footprint and here is why…

Being stuck in bed with a relapse is not ideal, nor fun. I have experienced a minor bump in the road….or is it a big fucking pothole! I don’t know yet and I won’t know I guess until I am a few more weeks into it, but hopefully, by then I will be out of it. Then yes I can call it a bump.

Having a relapse is not a very fun time. For me or for anyone else who supports me ie my husband and my mother. They have to get on with their normal working day. While they also take on board my health and wellbeing. It’s like having a child around the house. If my husband is on shift then he takes me to my mothers who works from home. That way she can keep an eye on me. Not really a lot to keep an eye on though when I don’t move far from the bed. Then when the husband has finished work he drops by we usually eat dinner together. So that is one less thing he has to take care of, cooking. Then he packs me into the car. He jokingly asks ‘how was daycare today?’ Then we go home to bed. Where on a good night I stare at the ceiling until my increased meds kick in. Or on a bad night get up and party around the house until 4 in the morning working on some amazing new idea I have just had.

It is times like these that I find the hardest to keep my sense of humour. Lots of really shitty thoughts try to break into my head like – you are such a burden to everyone, what your Mum and husband have to put up with is so unfair. Yada yada! I won’t go on I’m sure you get the point. There are plenty of other blogs out there you can read about the self-despair felt during a mental health relapse.

So this morning when I was having a shower (yes I am still showering so technically winning) I had a wee chuckle when I was able to convince myself that having a mental health relapse is actually helpful to the planet (remember I like to use humour when dealing with my mental health, and it’s my mental health right!? So I get to deal with how I see fit). That is right! My mental health meltdown is reducing my carbon footprint and here is why:

  1. I am currently not having to drive to work every day and so reducing the amount of petrol I am using.
  2. When I go to my Mum’s for so-called ‘daycare’ my husband takes me on his way to work therefore we are carpooling.
  3. No lunchtime shopping for me currently – a drastic reduction in buying unnecessary crap
  4. The amount of food I am consuming has reduced, so the amount of food being brought by us at the supermarket has also.
  5. We are eating together as a family. Therefore our food is made and cooked in bulk. Less wastage.

So there you have it! My mental illness might mean I am not doing so well at the moment but the environment is winning…well a little anyway.

Ultimately this is how I know I will be O.K. because I can still make something that is totally shitty mc shit shit a little funny.

 

Pity party for one? How to keep it ‘real’ and suffer from a mental illness at the same time!

Having a mental illness can make you a selfish shit, but it is not your fault. Those chemicals bouncing around your brain misfiring or not firing at all can lead us to become really focused on ourselves and our own doom and gloom. Pity parties aren’t a lot of fun. But they are definitely thrown in this house when things aren’t going so well. That is why when you are well enough to look outside of yourself and read the news (I avoid the news when I am really sick, as I don’t need to continually worry about what North Korea is up to) or reach out to your friends and find out what is going on in their lives. You will without a doubt find out that people are worse off than you. You can use this to reality check yourself and keep it real.

Today I read about a woman who has three children and has incurable brain cancer. Yep, I’d say she has it worse off than me. She has to contend with chemo, and radiation, brain surgery, and little people. I just have to take pills and try and get myself out of bed. Hands down she wins. This is of course not a competition but a really good opportunity to be able to reflect and be grateful for all the good stuff that you have in your life.

I am grateful for:

My husband who is my tower of strength and my rock.

Having a warm, dry, comfortable home to live in.

A stocked pantry.

Not having to worry about bombs exploding when I walk out my door.

That I keep reasonable physical health.

Having savings in my bank account.

The good friends I have who want to hang out with me when I am feeling well (nobody wants to hang with me when I am feeling like shit…I don’t even want to hang with me)!

A part-time job that works flexibly with my needs and thanks me for my hard work.

A loving family.

Just to be clear this is not a gratitude journal we all know how I feel about those and if you don’t you can read about it here. This is simply an activity that you can do when you are feeling well enough to look outside of what is happening in your head. It helps lift your spirits, and you can go back and read it when you really have your back up against the wall or have someone read it to you.

What are you grateful for?

 

Job hopping the curse of the multipotentialite….and mental illness, maybe?

One of the things that frustrates me beyond belief is my inability to stick with stuff. I get bored! Fast! But I also have an overwhelming interest in everything and I want to find out how it works…and then move on! This is also unfortunately how I approach my work. I have been like this ever since I was a kid.

At high school I wanted to know how the people out the back of a fast food restaurant knew what burgers to make. So I got a job at Burger King. That didn’t last very long once I discovered the tills talked to screens out in the kitchen, big let down.  This was in the 90’s back when cellphones were still small bricks. So discovering that tills could talk to computers was a big deal! There was the time I wanted to find out how McCafe made their drinks so I got a job there only to leave after 3 months and get a job at Starbucks so I could compare.  Before my ‘professional life’ I was a waitress, a cleaner, a cafe worker. I once worked at a Museum checking people’s tickets for the special expos. That was definitely the most boring job I ever had. But we were allowed to read a book while waiting for customers so not all bad.

Once I graduated from Teacher’s College I wasn’t quite ready to settle down into a ‘real’ job so I decided to become a track guide. Turns out I hate walking in the rain and hills. Not ideal when you are having to walk up a mountain every other day. Then there was the stint as a singing chef (yes, don’t ask), the early childhood job, and then finally teaching. But I only ever managed to stay at one school for no more than 2 years and would move year levels each year just to keep things interesting. Then I worked in mental health (yes that is right I worked in it! Lol!), and then I was a library assistant, a relief manager at a motel, more recently a facilitator, oh and I did my post-grad, and now I work for a startup in a role that has three different roles attached.

I probably feel the most engaged in my current job because people who work in a startup have to be as mad as hell to do it. So I can relate to my peers and it is also a lot of fun. What happens though is that I achieve what I call proficient in a position and then I lose interest and start looking around me for something else to learn to do. Not ideal if you are an employer. So why the heck would anyone employ me? Well, you will just have to read why you should hire my crazy arse to find out.

I used to worry a lot about my job hopping and view it as a negative thing. Until I discovered  Emilie Wapnick’s TED talk on: Why some of us don’t have a true calling. Then I was like “I have found my people!!” Turns out there are a whole bunch of us and you don’t have to have a mental illness to be one! Although I am pretty sure that my job hopping is directly related to my mental illness. Sigh! It is the one thing in my life that I wish I had more control over. I have Googled the heck out of it and haven’t actually found a lot of information on this area. Actually, most articles relating to keeping down a job and having a mental illness are just really depressing. The future’s not looking bright for us my friends. But I am determined to buck the trend. So this is my first post where I don’t have all the answers and am asking you to give me some advice. If you have a mental illness and work. What do you do to stop yourself from job hopping?

 

Why I choose to use humour when discussing my mental illness.

It’s not to everyone’s taste and I can be serious if I need to be. When discussing other people’s mental health I always do it with respect. But when it comes to myself I choose to use humour and a little sarcasm. Why? Because that is what I am comfortable with. From my experience, I also find that it helps other people feel less awkward and they are more likely to feel comfortable about talking all things mental health-related with me. Would I crack a mental health joke about myself to anyone? Of course not. First of all, I would get to know you and make sure you can handle my approach. Then it’s game on!

My mental illness is with me for life. Yes, it is serious and my use of humour is in no way meant to minimise how serious it is. But by putting a funny spin on it I can see the silver lining. Somedays a silver lining is the only thing I have to hang on to.

My husband also uses humour when discussing my mental health. As he too finds it easier to cope this way. For example, maybe I have gone a night without sleep. He will ask me “were you working the night shift last night?” or maybe he will refer to my medicine as my “unihorn suppressants”. If I am having a particularly hard day he will console me with “it is hard work being a unicorn isn’t it?” I love the metaphors and similes we use to discuss my mental illness. It takes the hard edges off it. Suddenly it seems doable, even laughable.

My mental illness is very much a part of me it is what makes me quirky, why I see the world differently, why I am so creative. It is also why I sometimes can’t sleep, get out of bed, wash, why I can’t eat. With the good, there is also the bad. So with the seriousness, there has got to be some humour.

I find that when talking with others who have a mental illness the best way to approach it is to take their lead. If they want to be serious then be serious with them. If they want to talk about it lightheartedly then do that. Most importantly don’t shut them down. If someone who has a mental illness has been brave enough to talk to you about it. Listen, be receptive, ask questions, show you care.

 

Mental health in the workplace. If you think it is not your problem. Then you are mistaken.

It has been a tough week. I have had the blues bad and had a week off work. I work part-time so it is not entirely difficult to re-schedule my work. I also could see the warning signs. So I met all my deadlines the week before. Checked in with my boss and said I just needed a week to re-configure (I take this type of leave without pay). He was cool about it. Like I said my boss and his company are trying hard to meet the diverse needs of our employees.

But what I discovered today is we still have a long way to go…

After a week of ups and downs, I still haven’t come a complete 100% but that is a rarity and so planned to return to work next week nonetheless. What I wasn’t expecting was to find out a fellow employee attempted to commit suicide last week. Nobody had informed me until today. It has been a week. I was gutted!

Due to the sensitive nature of this subject and wanting to protect the privacy of this employee I won’t go into further details of their situation. But what I will say is that when a fellow employee suffers from mental illness or distress it is everybody responsibility in the workplace to be supportive. To do this a culture of care needs to be developed. A culture where we are not afraid to discuss mental health in the workplace, where it is ok to say I am not coping, and it is not seen as a weakness. Only then will we have workplaces where all employees can move from just surviving to thriving in the workplace.

Our company is just a baby we haven’t been around for a long time. We don’t have all the answers, clearly! But we are open to learning and being better employers. Can you say the same about your workplace? Can you say the same about how you behave towards colleagues in your workplace?

You don’t have to be in management to create a change. It can start with a simple, ‘are you ok?’ To a fellow work mate. If the answer is no. Then ask ‘how can I help?’ and then follow through. It can be shutting down idle gossip in the staffroom about a colleagues mental state. It can be through meeting comments that are discriminatory or stigmatizing to mental illness with a steely gaze. All of these supportive actions create ripples, and we know that ripples can make waves.

I am thankful, so thankful that my fellow colleague was not successful in their attempt. That they did reach out for help, that they are safe with family now. I will be making sure that our company does everything that we possibly can to support them emotionally and help their return back to work be as comfortable for them as possible.

The saying goes…be the change you want to see.
NOTE:

If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757

These are New Zealand help numbers if you live overseas please Google your helpline number.

 

 

Why I won’t be starting a gratitude journal this Thanksgiving…or Christmas…or probably ever. Just saying!

I went to the doctors the other month…you don’t say! Yes well, the doctors and I are quite well acquainted. It’s like a bad relationship I just can’t break. I go along not really wanting to be there. The conversation is pretty average, and then I have to pick up the bill at the end.

But this particular trip to the doctors stood out to me in a way that was like watching someone pick their nose in public. It was just awkward. I went because I had been suffering pain in my chest. Now I know that this could very well be related to anxiety. So that is why I left it a few weeks. Tried some relaxation techniques, the usual jazz. But on a short walk with the dog one day it was so severe I thought – shit I should just get this checked out because I don’t want to actually die because I was too anxious that the doctor might think I was a hypochondriac.

We get a lot of locums where I live so I never see the same doctor twice. Not ideal when you have 20 minutes to explain a bit of back history. I try very hard just to stick to the symptoms and not go into any mental health backlog. It seems like if I do I am opening Pandora’s box and suddenly everything and anything is mental health related. I have been a mental health consumer since I was a child. I have been to an extensive amount of therapy and researched a lot about my condition. I actively manage it and in most parts am thriving even though I still have a so-called illness.

This is why it was so disheartening when the doctor read my notes briefly. Latched on to the fact I was on medication that is used for treating mental illness and decided to prescribe me ….a gratitude journal. Yes! That is right. I sat there while a doctor explained to me that maybe my symptoms would be eased by writing in a gratitude journal every night. ‘Holy shit!’ I thought checking myself ‘Did I forget to take my meds this morning and am I tripping? Is this the doctors or a spiritual centre?’ O.K. I don’t mean to be overly critical. I get it that doctors are working in a more holistic way these days. I don’t have anything against gratitude journals. They can be great. I have used them before. But seriously… do me a favour and just check my heart to make sure I am not suffering from some kind of rare heart condition and I will be out of your hair!

I had to bite my lip to stop tears from welling up. I felt like I was 10 years old again. That was the first time my Mum took me to see the family doctor because she was worried about my mental health. He asked me if I thought I was crazy…and my heart just fell out of my chest….that and I also thought ‘I hope not because I babysit your kids’. Now that I am older though I realise that crazy people have just as much right to babysit than non-crazy people and it would be discrimination to not hire someone based on their mental illness. So there!

Anyway back to the gratitude journal prescription. What I am trying to say is that even though people’s intentions are good. Never assume that a mental health sufferer isn’t aware of coping strategies, and hasn’t tried multiple ways of coping. I already have several great routines in place and I didn’t need to add another one to the mix. There is only so much time in the day and at some point, you have to do things like go to work.

How did this story end for me? Well, I politely listened to her advice. Went home waited two weeks and saw another locum who checked me over properly and gave me the all clear. Not one gratitude journal was needed.

So this Thanksgiving I am grateful for people who use their brains before engaging with a fellow sufferer by not assuming they have the cure for us.