Stepping back into the light

I’ve been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks now. Not sure what to say or how to say it. Searching for the words to describe the last year or more honestly, without sounding like I’m grasping at the sympathy vote. Before COVID was a familiar talking point, before lockdowns were a thing, before facemasks were commonplace, I was already heading into isolation. I knew it was coming, I could feel it creeping up on me. The stress, the anxiety, the fear, the weight of perceived responsibility, the exhaustion, the disappointment in myself and worst of all, the distance between myself and God.

I cannot find who posted this but I give full credit to whoever it is. Sums it up perfectly.

At the end of December 2019, I shoved it all in a corner of my brain and we went to Ireland for Christmas. I had a fantastic time with my Irish family. I forgot about (well, ignored) my endless to do list, my inability to do my job properly and my lack of enthusiasm for church life. I was home and free and happy. But by the end of that trip I was ill; my usual winter lurgy, I thought. After we came home, I fell down a couple of steps hurting my already injured ribs. I went back to work for a few days, but after starting to cry when my boss asked me, “How are you doing?” I went home and rang the doctor’s surgery. In her treatment room I poured it all out. Sickness and pain, both inner and outer, which left me with no ability to pick up the load I had laid down before Christmas. The GP’s advice was to forget about even trying to go back to that life.
“For how long?” I asked. “I’ve loads to do.”
“You’ll know when you’re ready,” was her reply. I went home with my sick note, a prescription for the pain (both inner and outer), and sat down in an armchair. I sat in that chair every day for weeks. I didn’t cry again. I wasn’t pining for home. I didn’t want to binge eat. I wasn’t even sad. It didn’t feel like depression should feel. It didn’t feel like how it felt the last time. I was just empty.

It was clear that I could not return to the job I’d been doing, and should not return to all of the many calls on my time. It had never occurred to me that I could change things. I thought I was being lazy and selfish; a bad Christian and a BAD pastor’s WIFE (not a BAD PASTOR’S wife, you understand). But the doctor, and the pastor, and others I spoke to assured me that it was not only possible, but essential. I decided to give myself permission to only do what I could. I wanted to start running again but was worried colleagues might see me in the the park and think, she’s off sick, how comes she’s doing laps of the duck pond?

The Occupational Health doctor my employers put me in touch with, said I should get out there. He told me he’d prescribe it if he could. In his opinion, getting out doors and moving again is better than any pill he could give me. So I started an online couch to 2k, which went on to a 2 to 5k. I was running again and making good progress. This is me having just finished my first non-stop 5k. The elation I felt did indeed do more for me than the pills I’ve been taking (grateful as I am for them).

I’m officially finished work, but ‘under the doctor’ as they say in Wales. All this is just the start of my way back. I’m in no fit state to go job hunting. This is a time to reenergise, get my eating back on track, keep active, edit my book, and as from four weeks ago, venture back into church life. The irony is not lost on me, that I now wear an actual mask to church, at a time when I’m finally able to take the emotional one off.

I’m doing so so much better these days. Still have a way to go. But by God’s grace and love, I’m getting there.

Thanks for reading.
More soon. A x

Motorway Meltdown!

So today is World Mental Health Day.

I’m writing this after a really difficult week. I’ve been very stressed and emotional this week, due to work and personal stuff that’s going on. It culminated in a total meltdown while driving on Thursday. I came off the motorway on to a multi-junction roundabout, took the wrong exit and ended up on the motorway again, going back the way I came. And I lost it – TOTALLY lost it. I was stuck in the traffic, crawling up the motorway, crying hysterically, shouting at God.

It wasn’t pretty.

On calmer reflection, I know that I had a massive over reaction to taking the wrong exit on a roundabout. By that stage I had moved into straw and camel’s backs territory, and I think that is because I didn’t manage the stress as it built. I was out or busy every night this past week. I’d left some writing deadlines to the last minute (plus 48 hours in one case), and I hadn’t had enough sleep. There were other things during the week that I had no control over, but I hadn’t handled the things I could control.

I’m not beating myself up, I’m just trying to analyse the week in a productive way, so I can avoid the future risk of a charge of ‘driving without due care and attention’.

What concerned me as I thought about it after, is how easy it was to pass the tipping point. How quickly I found that there was nothing left; nothing spare that I could harness to deal with my angst. So, I came home from work last night and decided not to go to an event I’d planned to. I had already decided not to go to to a meeting today – even though I REALLY wanted to go.

I know I need to look after myself better; last week was a clear sign of that. And I think I got the answer to all the, “why, why, why” I gave to God as I drove up the road. It’s because I was so tired and brain-addled that I couldn’t even think straight to negotiate a roundabout! That needs sorting.

So, as I am doing, I would just encourage you to think about your day and your week. Take today – to think about your mental health. Make a list of the week ahead and see if there is anything that can be crossed off. Reach out if you need help with the stuff that can’t be changed. If you’ve ever been tempted to pray to God, then do it; prayer is powerful and restful.

And take good care of yourself – especially if I’m on the roads!

A x