Just different

This morning I sent a message to E saying ‘I need to stop reading old blog posts’. The book of face sends me reminders, and today I was reminded of a blog I’d written a couple of years ago about how fantastic I was feeling at the end of term, how much I’d accomplished, etc… it was a tough read, especially at the moment.

E responded saying ‘not always helpful but remember different isn’t always bad it’s just different’! I probably could have guessed she would respond with something like that, there’s seeing the world like a glass half full and then there’s seeing the world through E’s eyes!!!!!!!

As difficult as it may be for me to try to get my head around at the moment, in terms of practicalities it’s not been a bad term. There has been a lot that has been achieved in the face of some considerable adversity. And actually when I look back at the blog post from two years ago, the biggest difference is actually me, my outlook, my health, which I probably could have told you anyway.

I may not be going out running regularly, or meeting up with lots of people on a regular basis BUT I’ve made it through a term at school when numerous people seemed to think I probably wouldn’t, and I’m still trying to walk when I can. I think actually it probably is an achievement that I’ve made, just a different achievement to the one two years ago, and I imagine in two years time it will be different again!

Fed up feeling lost

On the last Friday before the October holiday the entire school goes down to Canterbury Cathedral for the dedication service. I organise the service and it is one of my highlights of the year – it’s not lost on me what an absolute privilege it is to be able to worship in Canterbury Cathedral let alone be able to organise a service there.

Yesterday was different, and this is when I realised how ‘lost’ I am at the moment. The service happened, and I have been told by numerous people that it was a lovely service, but I couldn’t have told you that. I was there but I honestly don’t feel like I was there. People kept asking me questions about arrangements, things I’ve been sorting for years, and I didn’t know the answer. The head had to remind me that he and I usually walked in with the clergy – I’d completely forgotten! It’s not even as if it was an out of body experience.

There’s part of me thinking I should just be used to this now… but that’s it… I don’t want to be used to it. I still find I’m apologising to people for being seemingly rude – I often get told off for apologising, and not to worry. But I worry because it feels so alien to me and to the me that I expect.

I have seen my specialist this week, and medication is a changing. Hopefully this is going to have the necessary effect on other aspects of my life. On Friday whilst waiting at the cathedral I saw my spiritual director who works there some times, and as I was able to fill her in on my appointment she said “well I’m pleased to hear that, but you’re looking really well anyway’ to which I responded “it’s amazing what a dress and some lipstick can do, I’m also very good at putting on the show”. That’s what I’ve mastered this term at school, the show! Confidence and mastery and joy in front of the pupils… utter bemusement, loss, confusion, upset and often misery the rest of the time. Like the picture above, the public show is from a distance quite pretty, but up close and personal… a load of weeds that are being taken over!

Hopefully, with a break, and some new med changes some weeding may be able to take place and I may be able to find some focus again… Hopefully?

Glass half full – wanting to rejoice

It could have been seen as a miracle. I had four days in a row when I was feeling OK, I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say they were good days, but they were OK. This is the longest period of time that I have been OK for in ages. What do I mean by OK? I wasn’t feeling constantly low, the tears weren’t coming for no apparent reason, and I was actively seeking out people to talk to and catch up with – not avoiding other adults like the plague!

BUT then the cloud came and covered over again, and the last 3 days have possibly been worse than previously. There have been two occasions, late at night, when I’ve turned down lifts because I couldn’t be with other people, I couldn’t be polite I just wanted to cry and scream and hoped a long walk home might allow me to get it out of my system.

E is most definitely a glass half full kinda lady, and this can get frustrating, but it does also rub off on me as well.

I want to be able to rejoice that I had a streak of 4 days of feeling OK, a break in the cloud. But now that I’m encompassed by the cloud again, that is what has taken over and I don’t seem to be able to see the light. A friend said that she was praying that I would move to ‘good’ days not just ‘ok’ ones. But at the moment I can only think that the OK ones were a freakish accident, and this current state is what it’s meant to be.

There’s also part of me that worries that if I focus on the streak of OK, either I will put pressure on myself to be like that all the time, or I will be desperately disappointed that I’m not.

I suppose the fact that I’m writing about it is rejoicing in some way, but for now, that is all it can be.

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!

Real?

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.