Crack in the screen… does it mean I’m cracking the screen?

One of my roles at school is managing collective worship, and part of this includes providing themes and thoughts for the week. This term we have been looking at key characteristics for good relationships, and this week specifically the importance of communication. Our thought came from Charles Dickens who said

“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true”

Don’t worry I’m not going to start giving an assembly about this but after having heard 3 talks on the theme, yesterday I was starting to think whether this may be a key for me at the moment.

It’s been a tough week, shock horror I know. There have been a LOT of tears, I have felt ridiculously low, there have been numerous times when I should have been feeling over the moon but I just haven’t felt anything. I’ve gone in to my automatic mode of hibernation. The teaching, planning, marking etc has been fine but every other aspect… well… my screen was well and truly up. There’s the screen that’s playing when I’m teaching and then it’s blank to everyone else!

Yesterday morning my head was in a real mess, I was on my final stretch of the walk to school when my phone started ringing and it was E. We ended up speaking for about 25 minutes, it wasn’t really about anything in particular but speaking, no screen. She knows what to ask, when to stop, when to talk about her own stuff etc… I didn’t realise it but she’d made a crack in my screen it was effortless. About 8:15 I made hot drinks and took one up to my colleague, another crack, I went to the pub after work, another crack.

I’m paying for it today, I’m worn out, but have no plans until this evening so it’s all good.

I think the first crack was actually on Thursday on evening, when I sent an email to a group of ladies who pray for me. I hadn’t emailed them for ages, this wasn’t a long email but I felt it was a necessary one.

Why hibernation? I’m not sure… there’s two parts to it, I am an introvert and I value my own space, and at the moment other people can be daunting for me. But secondly I think there is also an element of I feel it’s the same old story, I don’t want to bring other people down so I won’t email them, I’ll just stick to myself because I know how rubbish I am at the minute.

BUT… by being honest with my friends, they were able to offer support and prayer even if they didn’t know what to suggest, by talking to E it didn’t need to be about the rubbishness, similarly with the coffee and the pub.

It was about communication, without a screen. Is this the answer at the moment? I’m not sure… there have been other moments this week where I have had to leave groups of people because it has been too overwhelming and pressurised. Those events have then led to some of the additional anxiety of the week. I am also wiped out this morning from socialness yesterday, and a highly stressful week.

Maybe it’s small steps? Allowing small cracks in the screen with people I trust and feel safe with, and over time that may allow me to take the screen down entirely? Who knows? Not me!


It was like a shot to the stomach. I was standing outside chatting to my friend when she said ‘it’s so lovely to be spending time with the real H’.

All of my fears had been realised in that one sentence… I was no longer the real me.

Following my reaction to the statement she retracted the statement rapidly and tried to justify what she had said. But that one sentence really did clarify everything that I had been thinking.

I don’t feel like ‘me’ the majority of the time. I don’t even feel like a reflection of me. I worry that I’m not the person that people may expect me to be, because they have known me for some time.

Deep down I know that this is the real me at this moment in time, on this course I guess you could say (following on from yesterday’s blog Different course… different par…) but that doesn’t mean that it stops me from feeling that it’s not the real me.

But I’m also not sure if I’m fully willing to embrace or accept the real me yet. If I’m not, then can I expect others to? Most days I will see things about mental health on Facebook, and I do realise that that relates to me at present but it wasn’t until I was with my friend that I realised I hadn’t necessarily fully accepted the reality of it.

Whilst we were chatting and she was trying to retract the statement, another friend was trying to build me up, and started calling me a lioness (there may have been some alcohol consumed). There was some relation to courage and strength but also to my hair! Once my hair was mentioned I said to my friend again ‘if you see me around school can you remind me to take my hair from behind my ear’.

What’s my hair got to do with mental health? I scratch my face. I don’t know that I do it, it is often through anxiety, but it can become a bit of a mess. My hair, because of the thick curly mane that it is covers it up – unless I tuck it behind my ear because I’m not thinking!

The thing is… I’ve just spent a couple of weeks telling all of my new classes about my epilepsy. What to do if I have seizure, what causes it, what I look like, the damage I’ve done to myself etc… I’m brutally honest about it – there’s no point in hiding. If they have questions I will answer them – including two new ones this week from year 10 boys of ‘can you die from it?’ And ‘would you say yours is low medium or high level epilepsy?’

When I had bruises and cuts all over my face last year from the face first plant into the concrete step whilst having a seizure – no problem in explaining. Similarly when I had the sewn up lip and teeth missing. But when they ask about the scratches on my face, which a couple have this week, heaven forbid I should be honest. I automatically put the defences up ‘what’s it got to do with you?’ Or something along those lines.

What example is that setting to the amazing young people I’m working with. They are awesome when I tell them about the epilepsy, which I always used to be scared about, why would this be any different?

I may get upset about not being the real H, especially if those fears are confirmed by a slightly inebriated friend, but I also need to fully accept the reality of where I am and who I am at this moment. If I can’t accept it then how can I expect others to?

Different course… different par…

I’ve never played golf, unless you count crazy golf, or golf games on the computer, so you are going to have to excuse any mistakes I make in my analogy here.

Yesterday was a rare day but it has taken me a long time to come to that realisation. Why? Because yesterday I felt good, there was a spring in my step, I had energy, I felt normal.

That’s the problem and that’s the realisation. Days like yesterday are not the normal at the moment.

I have been using the term ‘par for the course’ a lot recently as people have asked me how I am. I have responded often using Ok! Or not great, followed but that’s just par for the course at the moment.

I may have been using the term lightly, to almost make an excuse but actually it’s true. My understanding is that different holes on different courses have different pars – the amount of shots the player is expected to take to get the ball in the hole. There is a realisation that because of the terrain and the obstacles some holes will take more, or less shots.

I need to change my par for the course I’m on at the moment. I have been expecting to be meeting the same par as when I was at my healthiest I’ve ever been, and that is just not possible at the moment. Not through any fault of my own but because of the course, the terrain, the obstacles. There will be days when I’m under par, and feeling good, and I should rejoice in those.

BUT… it’s a whole course not just one hole! For golfers it’s the overall shots taken not just how they did on one particular hole.

Yesterday I took advantage I’ve feeling good and went out with some colleagues to socialise after work – something most days would fill me with dread. However, I was also aware that if I wasn’t careful, I would be paying for it. So I didn’t stay out as long as I could have done.

We all play different courses in our lives, you can’t expect to be meeting the same targets or playing the same way in all the different circumstances – not a lecture just a sentence I need to hear!

Watching over me

It is going to come as no shock to regular readers that things have been rather tough of late, and this week has been no different… or has it?

On Tuesday I was walking around the school completing a variety of errands that I needed to complete when I saw someone in an area of the school I don’t often go to. She’s not a regular member of staff, but I’ve seen her at a few things before where I’ve had to give presentations so I said hello. She asked how I was, as she knew I hadn’t been too well, and we had a really nice conversation. In fact it was more than nice, as we needed up talking about faith and she was quoting a verse which had been in my Bible readings this week. It was really encouraging.

On Wednesday evening I received a message from a friend from church asking how I was – simple I know – but so effective. I’m often an initiator when it comes to messaging/catching up with friends so it meant a lot and it was perfect timing. Plus the Harry Potter memes put a smile on my face (rare indeed)

On Thursday a friend came in to collect something from work and we ended up having a long conversation by the car. During which time he said such encouraging things which nearly brought a tear to my eye, in the positive sense.

Friday morning I received an email from a friend, just checking in on how the first couple of weeks of term had gone android let me know that she was praying for me. So I told her honestly, but also thanked her for the email saying ‘you’re the fourth person who has been in touch or encouraged me this week – it’s almost as if I have a loving father watching over me’

I believe I do have a loving father watching over me, it doesn’t mean that everything is going to be swimmingly wonderful all the time but there will also be people along the way to support me.

Each week at church we have a part of the service called ‘moment of the week’ where we share stories of what God has done in our lives. Last week I shared that I had felt that God placed a couple of people on my heart and when I contacted them things were a bit manic and they appreciated the prayer. This week will be that people encouraged me when I needed it. It’s not been an easy week, but it’s been made easier with the reminder that I’m not alone, I’ve got a loving father, and support from friends.

On the surface…

Two weeks ago a friend said it was good to see me so positive and looking so well, he then leant in a bit closer and asked if that was the swan on the surface.

He’s a good a friend who knows that I’ve been struggling, so I wasn’t taken aback. On that day I was honestly able to say that ‘it’s a good day’ which, as I said in a post following that good day, is a rarity. This first week back I have felt a bit like a swan on the surface, it’s not that I’ve been manically paddling under the surface, but the persona on the surface, in the classroom is definitely a mask.

I have been mistakenly put down as an extrovert in the past. Now I’ve never actually done a Myers Briggs test but I know that I am not an extrovert. I can do public speaking, and I love being in the classroom but that is where I have a specific role to play, and possibly more importantly for me – where I am in control. What I’ve never been particularly good at is socialising… don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with other people but I’ve always struggled with it, and this seems to be heightened more at this point in my life. So much so that it is causing me to hibernate – after all why would anyone want to spend time with that.

So the swan for me this week has been the me in the classroom, full of the joys of spring having a laugh, smiling. Whilst under the surface, or away from a class to teach, I’m feeling low, don’t want to speak to anyone, there’s often tears, and I’m hiding away.

I’m pretty certain that hibernation is not the key, although this week I have gone into hibernation mode in two different ways and one was much better than the other. Thursday was a particularly bad day, I was struggling Wednesday evening, and woke on Thursday with a head completely clouded, I had a full day of teaching ahead of me, so figured the only way to get through the day was to solely focus on that. I got in to school earlier than usual to get photocopying done before anyone else arrived, I taught my lessons, I didn’t have my usual cuppa before school or at breaks with my friend, I didn’t even respond to messages from the husband or E (they both knew what was happening although the husband did say he would have liked confirmation I was alive). Possibly not a great choice, but I got through the day, as soon as my boss who I usually have a cuppa with came down in person at the end of the day I burst into tears! Whereas yesterday hibernation meant, I didn’t leave the house, I read a book, watched some TV and played the piano. I had a variety of text conversations with friends. There were also a few moments of tears. But it wasn’t as traumatic as Thursday.

As always I’m not really sure what the answer is, there’s part of me that questions if there is necessarily a problem if I’m still able to do my job and be the swan on the surface in the classroom. But I know a certain E would argue that’s not fair on me, and she’s not too convinced by my response well that’s just ‘par for the course’ for me at the moment. I’ve put all the preventative measures into place that I can think of – but again that is to be able to do my job. I probably do need to come up with better coping mechanisms but I just don’t know what they are!

Life lessons learnt from the printer!

It’s that time of year, preparing for the school year. For me, this year, that has included printing work booklets. One work booklet per year group, and one work booklet per pupil – so over 100 of each work booklet. There is an awesome printer which creates and staples the booklets, so I thought it would be a simple task. I would be able to set it off on the task and go off and do something else… hmmmmmmmmmm

Last week there was no end of issues, including paper jams, running out of paper, overheating etc… each time there was an issue, if I wasn’t there at the time of the issue it would cancel the job so I would have to count how many booklets it had produced to know how many were left to do.

Today I had one more year groups booklets to do, so I decided to do small batches at a time. Just 20-30 at a time. There were no paper jams, and it didn’t overheat. Inevitably it ran out of paper, but because I was only doing a small amount at a time it didn’t really matter too much if it cancelled the job as there were only ever a few booklets to count.

So what did I learn from the printer today? Small manageable steps. This doesn’t mean there won’t be problems, but just that the problems are more manageable. As regular readers will know I have a tendency to set high standards for myself with ridiculous expectations. This could well result in jamming, burning up, or running out – all of which have happened before.

I know that I need to put in preventative measures before the return and I think this is definitely going to have to be one – and by seeing the work booklets on a daily basis it should be a good reminder! HOPEFULLY!

THIS is the day

Yesterday I had a very strange experience when I woke up… my head felt clear and I was mildly excited for the day ahead. Why was this strange? Purely because this has not happened for so long.

This morning the head was fuzzy and it has been a bit of a struggle all day, if completely honest.

This had made me realise more than ever that I have to take each day as it comes. I can celebrate when the head is clearer, but I can’t necessarily expect that to be the norm.

I met up with E on Friday for the first time in ages (in person anyway) and although there were tears, there was also a lot of chatting and a lot of wisdom. Some people have suggested I should look back to what made me lose weight and get healthy 3 years ago. But the chat with E and the last couple of days has cemented that actually I just have to remind myself of Psalm 118:24 ‘this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it’.

I can but hope that I will have more days when I will wake up with a clearer head, and when I won’t want to run away and hide, or hope that shaking my head will clear everything up. But no matter what is going on, it is what it is, it isn’t the past, it isn’t the future, it is today.