Unappreciated Work

When I was nearing the end of High School, I remember being advised that there were two ways to get yourself a good career. It was work your way up, or get yourself a degree at university. That sounds great. In theory.

Most of the people I went to school with, went to university, and got a good job in the field they aimed for. I attempted college, more than once, but fell apart every time. So, I worked. I have worked since I was 16, in the hope that one day, I would have enough experience to work my way up the ladder, and be suitable for better paying roles.

Unfortunately, that is not how things work.

I have been in my current role for 9 years. Longer than I was at High School for. I have tried numerous times to get into leadership roles, jobs with more money. But, every time I am turned down to lack of experience. I used to get confused by this, I have plenty of work experience. But, that’s not what they wanted, they wanted people who had degrees, a university education. I’d apply for jobs, only to have someone with no work experience,but a degree in Drama, get the job.

The excuse I get, is that by getting a degree, the applicant is ‘proving they can stick at something’. Like, they don’t even need a work history.

So, I sat on this information for a while. Wondered about what I could do. My option was, either stick it out at the bottom of the career ladder, or try and push myself towards a degree. Which is what I am doing. I am working through an IT and Computing degree, with the Open University. I seem to be doing okay with it so far, because the speed I need to go is slower than if I went full time. I do part time, and do it around work, and it is 100% remote learning. Which fits.

I wish it didn’t feel like I’ve wasted my life, working away. having a job shouldn’t feel like that.

Take Me To Ikea, I need more spoons.

If you suffer any kind of health problem, and you frequent the Internet, you’d be aware of the Spoon Theory. It’s a way to describe how a person uses energy throughout a day, the more energy something takes, the more spoons it cost.

I find it a very easy way to try and explain how difficult it can be for me to do the most basic of things. So I usually, if I have a day with moderate pain and okay mental health, I’ll have about 12 spoons to use throughout the day. I am very sore most mornings, so it might cost 3 spoons just to get out of bed. Another spoon to get myself ready, and one spoon to make my way to work. So before I start work 7.30am), I have already used almost half my daily spoons. I use a spoon for each part of my day, which is 3 parts, so 3 spoons. It takes me a spoon to walk up the stairs to leave work. Maybe another spoon to make my way home. So on a good day, I get home with 2 spoons. I still have to make dinner, and by this point, even watching tv costs more spoons. I don’t have enough.

Sometimes my joints are sore, and it might take anything where I have to walk or lift, double the amount of spoons. Where my brain is exhausted, because it’s working hard to find ‘work arounds’, to try and make the most basic thing easier. Sometimes, I am anxious, my mind telling me anything I do is actually wrong, and I’m stupid for even trying. This makes it harder. It takes so many spoons to push through that anxiety, that l have little left to push through any physical pain.

Days with no aim (otherwise known as weekends), seem to have less spoons than a work day. I lie in bed without the 3 spoon minimum to push myself out of bed. I isolate myself, because I spent too many spoons on other days, and I can’t deal with people, with tasks, with anything.

I mentioned about this to a work colleague the other week. Said, I was going to run out of spoons during the day, cause I was exhausted. He said he’d give me a spare spoon, but it’s a tea spoon, and ‘was that okay’. It actually made me laugh. Maybe other people can help, whether they give a teaspoon or a fork.

Stress Point

Today has been a bad day. A day filled with pain and panic attacks. One of these things on their own, would be bad enough, I am lucky enough to get both. As much as I tell myself that bad days happen, it doesn’t stop me wanting to go home and hide in my bed. Pretend that the real world does not exist. At least for a few hours.

But I am at work, which has the ability to help or hinder my bad day. At work, I have to speak to people, and I work with people who I can speak to. Which helps my brain calm down. I get to chip away at work, which helps my joints and arthritis. Most of the time. Sometimes, I know pretty quickly, that work isn’t the place to be. And those times, I have to leave. And try to explain to managers what’s wrong, without embarrassing myself.

What set me off today? Well, I’m sore, which happens all the time. I can function, but it takes a wee bit more energy to do things, than normal. I can usually make it through work, on an average day. But sometimes, my mental health sucks too, and because I am using all my energy to ‘push through the pain, I have nothing left to deal with the crap that my brain thinks up. Today, I got some feedback, that there was an issue with my productivity. My brain, thinks that I’m not doing my part, I am letting down people, and I am useless. I then start panicking, which ends up with me crying (because that’s what a panic attack looks like for me).

Unfortunately, whilst I might feel good enough to carry on with my job, I will probably be very teary for the rest of the day. Partly because I feel useless, partly because I am embarrassed that I cried in front of people. It’s quite honestly, exhausting. Luckily, people at work are great. Letting me talk crap, whilst panicking, and are kind enough not to mention the embarrassing tears. Telling people helps.

I will carry on today. Finish my shift, and end the day with the satisfaction that I was able to work all day. I allow myself to think of it as an achievement, as it gives me a positive feeling I can hold on to. Something, that will help me when I go home, and collapse on my bed in exhaustion.

Good Acting?

I have been struggling a lot recently. I have been in a lot of pain when trying to move, which has been causing problems with the most basic activity. I still get up and manage to work, and try to focus on anything but pain. Putting a smile on my face, and try to live in the moment, where I am focused on what I am doing, rather than focus on how I am feeling. Which helps me get through every day, because if I don’t, the day would be unbearable. But, because I do try to do my best every day, people tend to not think I am struggling as much as I make out.

It makes me wonder, have I really got that good at pretending, or is it simply easier for people to not take someone seriously when it comes to health problems? I, of course, don’t want to think anyone would dismiss anyone’s health problems. But, it still comes to mind. I have been accused of making my health problems up. Like, because of my arthritis, I have bad grip, but sometimes my hands swell more some days. These days, I may have to approach my manager to do a different job, because of the pain (and the real risk that I could drop and break something). I have been accused of co-workers of making things up, because I don’t want to do a job. Which annoys the hell out of me, I would never dodge out of any work. But sometimes, I have to put my health first, and if something is too strenuous, I have to speak up.

Today has been a good day. Luckily for me. Where I am conscious things are still stiff and swollen, but I can work through the pain easily. It does happen. I could put on my jacket today, and pull on my socks with ease. Most days, however, this is not the case. And I struggle with the most basic task. People make jokes at work when I wear a baseball cap, when the truth is my arms couldn’t lift the brush high enough to sort my hair out. But I laugh with them, because I’d rather laugh at the oddity of the hat, rather than focus on the tears I had trying to get tugs out of my hair.

I guess, my point, in a roundabout way, is that you never know what anyone is going through. I am usually at my best when at work, because I am moving around, loosening my joints, and my mind is focused on what is in front of me. That is part the story of my health issues, but it is not the whole story. And, you will likely never know a person’s ‘whole story’, only what they decide to share. So, if they share something difficult, don’t assume it’s nonsense, because the side you see seems fine.

To find a niche?

I have been writing on many personal blogs over the years. They are places where I can write, a thing I love to do, but a thing I am incredibly subpar at. In spite of that, I have continued to use blogging to help relieve any stress I feel about my day to day life. Something that is beneficial to a person’s well-being. However, I have hit a rut over the last few years, due to finding it difficult to post, as I feel, like most people at the moment, that I complain about the same things. And, who wants to read that.

So, I search for advice on how to make things more exciting. Mostly, because I don’t want to bore the few people who do read this blog when I post. And, what is the advice? Find a niche, your audience. Make your site profitable. Honestly, I didn’t start this blog to make money, it never even popped into my mind. When I started up, I was studying digital design, and this blog was supposed to be a way for documenting my journey, as a designer. Something that went incredibly well, as my current job in a warehouse proves.

I think that is where I am different from a lot of people who keep blogs, especially these days. Everything some writers do is about making money. It’s about sponsored posts, how many clicks the links on your pages get, more than about the actual content. I have spoken to other creators, and when I tell them my blog is over 10 years old, they don’t understand why I’d do it for myself and not money. It has happened so often, that I find myself questioning if it is me who has the wrong grasp of things.

I like to write about myself. About my mental health problems. About things I like. About my arthritis. About experiences I have. It’s maybe not exciting enough to make me money, but it does my brain the world of good. Personally, I prefer to read blogs that are personal, ones that don’t feel like a constant advertisement for products no one needs. I like to follow someone’s journey through life. I’d like to think that my blog is like that. Well, at least a little bit, although it seems I am simply complaining all the time.

Doing well (not)

So, my plans to be productive have fallen by the wayside already. And we are only in the first week of February. Which, has me feeling pretty depressed about things. Not that it takes much.

But setting a plan should involve understanding that things aren’t concrete. Which is something that I am trying to learn. It is disappointing when you fail to achieve something, and sometimes it feels like complete failure. And sometimes, it feels like all you get in life is failure, after failure. Like, I try to do things, but just end up going round in circles.

It is something that is very frustrating. A big thing that is a problem, is that my attention lapses too soon. So I lay out tasks to do, and do them successfully for a few days, and then get bored. I have no further motivation to do the tasks I had planned on. And, I can’t seem to stop this from happening. Which is super frustrating.

So, I am trying to change how I think about plans and goals. I need to stop thinking of them as something that can’t be change. Any goals that I have should work with me, I shouldn’t have to constantly feel like I am drowning because my aims are too out of reach. I just maybe need to learn how to plan to my needs better.

Putting Me First

I am quite a helpful person. Or, I try to be, anyway. If someone comes to me, and needs help, I’ll do my best to help them. That’s the way I was brought up, assist those around you, as you never know when you may have to resort to the kindness of others.

The problem comes with, my anxiety. At work, about 6 months ago, I was asked to help with another department. A department I used to work in, but hadn’t done so in over a year. Processes had changed, and I felt like if there was 5 problems in front of me, I knew how to fix one. The supervisors all said it was okay. But, I don’t like when I don’t seem to be helping as much as I want to. I was okay during that shift. But afterwards, I felt awful. I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I just did a half-arsed job, and I was stupid for thinking I could actually help. It took the entire weekend, before I started to feel better.

Last week, the same request came in again. My supervisor asked me if I was able to go. I took a second, wondering if it was worth the stress I went through last time. When I say stress, no one did anything, it was my own brain causing me stress. I thought back to my last call with my doctor. He advised, that I need to learn to listen to my anxieties, and not put myself into situations which could make it worse.

So, I said no. I said that I hadn’t done the job properly for 18 months, and most of the processes had changed. He was fine with that, and I stayed in my normal department. Then I felt guilty, because I hadn’t helped out, and I felt I was horrible. To the point, I had to explain to both my supervisor, and the one from the other department, why I didn’t feel comfortable, and what had happened last time. They both agreed, that if something was going to stress me out so much, then it is good to not force myself.

And, that was it. No problems what so ever. And once I had spoken to the supervisors, I felt more comfortable that I had made the right decision. Which is difficult. Since I started suffering mental health problems as a teenager, I have always ‘pushed through’ what was going on in my head. And, whilst I got stuff done, it has left me completely unable to deal with my own mental health. Just pushing through, is like moving a brick around. The more you ignore, the more bricks you move. Eventually the one or two bricks, become a pile, a pile that is difficult to move. So it’s best to deal with the bricks one at a time.

That metaphor sucked.

But, I hope the message is clear. Dealing with mental health, is learning when you need to make choices to protect yourself. Don’t simply keep forcing through the same things, it just makes things worse. Be kind to yourself.

Life Ambitions

What do you want out of life? A new car, a family, out of debt, a home of your own… there is a lot you may want out of life. And, it can be daunting to know how to get what you want out of life.

I remember being at school and being told that I had to decided what I wanted to do then and there. My panicked brain jumped from journalist to teacher to Veterinary Nurse to an artist. It was a manic time, and I felt like I was running down the clock in a game of ‘pick the career’. My friends all knew what they wanted, I didn’t. I knew that I wanted to do something I liked, but I have never tested well. So a lot of decisions were made for me. I felt I had to jump straight into further education, when I already had a bad experience at school. I attended college, failed, attended another college, failed there too.

I’ll say one thing, it all didn’t help with my self esteem.

When my friends were finishing University, and starting meaningful careers, I worked in a call centre. With anxiety and depression running my life, rather than aspirations of a long term career. This sense of being an utter failure, made me lose confidence in everything. I felt like I had let down so many people. Even now, I work in a warehouse, whilst others do jobs they love, things they were good at. Like, I have no shot at progression, despite trying to get some. The feeling of not being good enough, is constant.

Sometimes I wish, school had managed expectations better. It would save me a lot of heartache, if working a job was just as important as having a career. Because, society need those lower paid jobs as much as the high flying careers. There is no failure in holding down a job. And schools still don’t say this. So kids work at McDonald’s feel like they have let down their families, which is so wrong. Education is amazing, but it shouldn’t be people’s first step in the real world.

I wish I could do something I was passionate about. Reading, writing, and art. At the moment, I can be as passionate as I want, I do not have the attention span for any of it. And, that is how my life goes. I feel like my life is like a rollercoaster. It has ups and downs, but ultimately I am just going round and round, not really going anywhere.

But still being here, in spite of everything, is a win better than any career. A lot of people aren’t that lucky.

Taking Time Out

It is important, that in this world that doesn’t seem to stop, that you take time for yourself. Time away from your computer. Time away from work. Time away from the routine that can grate on your nerves. It feels, since lockdown happened last year, that everything feels so much more intense. People are angry, as normality appears to be keeping socially distant from us. Folk are very intolerant to views that are not their own, and as a result, give out underserved abuse.

So, I had 2 weeks booked off work. A holiday which was supposed to be spent in Cyprus, with my family. But, was cancelled, like everything else, due to Coronavirus. I kept the time off booked, because I still needed to use those holidays. So, I didn’t plan anything. I was worried, as when my brain senses no plans, it seems to go into over drive, and my mental health is atrocious.

My main focus was to just relax. Take joy in watching tv, or going for a walk. Not to have a reason for anything. Previously, I would say I wanted to read so many books, create a certain number of artworks, and lose so much weight. This has ended up with my going back to work more stressed, than I was before. Which kind of defies the point of being off work in the first place.

So, I worked hard at doing nothing. I ordered too many take aways, drank too much alcohol, and got up around noon. It was good. Maybe not the healthiest for my body, but for the first time in a long time, my mind was able to recharge. For the first time, in a long time, I feel light. I feel so super relaxed. And ready to go back to work, tomorrow.

Forget Me Not

I have completely forgotten to post on here. I have no real excuses, just that time has got away from me. As it has the tendency to do, sometimes. I have committed to this blog for another year, as my payment for the domain has been made again. So, although I may be absent, I won’t be gone.

Thanks to my anxiety, I am very bad at relaxing. I always have to be doing something. When I am not busy, the negative thoughts can take over. I am trying to get used to being relaxed, without feeling any negativity about doing so. Which is easier said than done.

I have been on holiday this week. No work, no full week, just relaxing. Which has been hard. I have been doing some reading, learning some Gaelic, just taking things a bit slower. It has been nice. This has been my first proper time off in 2021. It was needed, because everything at work was getting on my nerves.

I am off work next week too, so I hope this relaxation can continue.