#ThingsILearnedtoAccept

The above hashtag has been trending on Twitter today. I soon as I saw it I knew that I just had to contribute. The differences between how I think and feel about my disability, and perhaps more importantly, how I thought others think and felt abut my cerebral palsy, have changed drastically over the past two years since I started filming Employable Me.

It’s been a year since the series aired now (yes, really) and people still stop me in the street to tell me how watching my journey impacted them. Yes, the series ultimately led to me getting a job, but it changed my life in so many other vital ways that there is no way I could do them justice in a single tweet, so I thought I’d blog about them instead.

The only person who expected me to be at my physical best all the time was myself

Perhaps the most important thing I learned was that no one expected me to have my ‘best days’ every day. People know that there are some days that I might need to move around less than others, or stretch more. They are okay with that. I was the person who wasn’t. And by trying to keep my pain to myself; to struggle doing things on my own just because I can usually, was just making my life more difficult unnecessarily.

No one actually minds if I take stretch breaks in the office

I used to worry that people would think I was being lazy or weak if I took a stretch break in the office. No one does. They prefer it because then I can concentrate better and actually perform better because of it.

Asking for help with the little things whenever I can actually makes life easier

Guess who actually asks bus drivers to get the ramps down on the bus if they don’t offer themselves? This girl! Guess who doesn’t feel guilty about it? Me again! And, best of all, guess who can actually admit that it annoys her if they don’t automatically ask me?

I know this sounds utterly bonkers now, but I never used to feel like it was acceptable to feel annoyed when things like this happen, or when a building doesn’t have and lift or ramp, or when there isn’t a dropped-kerb on the road so I can cross without having to lift my walking frame.

I used to feel like there was pressure to just accept these things without complaint. It turns out that vocalising these feelings in a polite way actually helps people understand the challenges I face in day-to-day life and the help I, and a lot of other people in similar situations, need.

My anxiety is something I’ll have to manage for the rest of my life, and that’s okay

I’ve struggled with anxiety, that often manifests itself as being afraid of germs, since I was about eight years-old. I’ve been in and out of therapy for it since I was about 10. I used to get incredibly frustrated that it was something that I couldn’t get away from, or ‘cure’ myself of completely.

Just when I thought things were simmering down, something would happen to trigger it again, which in turn would make me even more anxious to the point where even sitting still became impossible and I’d just pace the house muttering to myself and crying because I was worrying about so many things it was the only way I could focus on one thought at a time.

Accepting that flare ups are just going to be something that happens to me every now and then takes away that extra layer of anxiety, and ultimately, makes me it easier for me to manage my mental health the rest of the time.

There are so many more that I could mention, but I think this post is long enough for now, don’t you?

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2019: A new year, a new job and a new wheelchair on the way

Hello everyone, and Happy New Year. I actually meant to write this post way before now, but those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a few years will know that New Year is a massive anxiety trigger for me, what the all the pressure to become a better person, achieve more, eat less chocolate, blah, blah, blah; so I decided to lie low on social media until all the fuss had died down.

Anyway!

Things have been pretty busy in Nicland over the last couple of weeks. My family and I made it through the festive season without any arguments, I finished in one role at work and started another, I officially got another year older (happy birthday to me) and I have a new wheelchair on order.

I’m not sure how long it will take for my new chair to actually arrive, but I’m already thinking of new names, and wheelchair services has give me new wheels and brakes on my current one to tide me over.

2018 was a busy one too, and in amongst it all I said goodbye to my walking frame Ivy and am now the proud owner of an identical one called Netta. It took me a long time to settle on a name for this one, but people at work helped me choose and now I’m pretty pleased with it. She moves so smoothly compared to Ivy, whose wheels were starting to hang by a thread, that I feel as though I have to practically jog to keep up with her.

In other news, I’ve also renewed the domain name and re-mapping on this blog too, so it looks as though I’m sticking around for a while longer yet!

1am

It’s 1am and here I am, unable to sleep for what must be the third time this week.

I have no idea what’s keeping me awake tonight. One night, it was feelings of ‘What am I doing with my life?’ another time it was because I wanted to write. Last night pain decided to climb into bed with me and make getting comfortable impossible, but today…
It’s been one of those weird days today, where I haven’t felt unwell exactly, but I’ve not been myself either. I could tell things would be like that as soon as I woke up because I felt anxious to my tummy. All churn-y and whatnot.
I’d already planned to work from home, which was probably a blessing. I sort of feel like I’ve been in a daze all day; not down the grey pit of depression, but not fully engaged with life either.
I suppose I’m probably just over tired. I think I should try sleep now. I hope i can. I’m sure things will feel better in the morning…

Taking annual leave for the first time

This week I did something for the first time: I took annual leave from work. It was…weird.

I wasn’t originally planning on taking any leave this early into my six month contract; I didn’t feel like I’d really ‘earned’ any yet. However, the end of the financial year was approaching and I needed to use some up – so I booked a couple days off.

The act of requesting leave was an odd mixture of exciting and scary. I was expecting the former but not the latter. It was hard for me to reason with myself that having annual leave is an important part of working life. It isn’t all that surprising, considering that before this job came along, I had convinced myself that I would never, ever, get to call myself an employee.

I’ve adjusted my body clock to working hours; getting up on time and going to sleep early enough that I’ll still be able to function in the morning, but, to be honest, I’m still working on accepting that I’m worthy of a job. I had to fight the urge to check my work e-mails approximately every five minutes.

This weekend is Easter weekend. Here in the UK that means that we don’t work on Good Friday or Easter Monday. I feel completely different about this. The rest of my team are off work too. This feels okay. It feels like I’m ‘allowed’ (by my own standards) to relax this time. I was holding myself back before. I know that.

I also know I need to work on that. This is an important step in my working life. I hope there are more to come.

Weekends and mental health

When I was unemployed I looked forward to, and dreaded weekends.

I looked forward to them because all of my family and friends were employed, so weekends meant I could spend time with them. Plus, for two days a week it felt like it didn’t matter that my body clock was a mess because lots of other people would be staying up late and sleeping in. I felt like everyone else. For most of it.

The hardest day of the week for me it the five and a half years I was jobless wasn’t, as you might think, a Monday morning. By the end of it I’d reached the point where I mostly slept Monday morning (well, most mornings actually) away so that I wouldn’t be as lonely.

Sundays, especially the afternoons and evenings, sucked way more.

Everyone would spent it[ complaining that they didn’t want to go to work the next day and I couldn’t wait until I could say that sort of thing too, even if I didn’t mean it. I hated knowing that another Monday was about to go by without a shiny new job for me to go to.

Now, after two months of working, I look forward to weekends because I feel like I’ve earned them. Sundays don’t suck any more, and I haven’t quite reached the point where I have that ‘Oh poop, it’s Monday tomorrow’ feeling. I’m sure that will come in time though.

4 years on antidepressants

The other day while I was in the shower it hit me: February marked four years since I started taking antidepressants, and as well as wondering where the time had gone, I realised I wasn’t sure how I feel about this. I’m still not.

Before I go any further with this post, I want to make it clear that right from the first couple of weeks of taking my meds I knew I’d done the right thing. It’s actually the best thing I’ve ever done. I have no regrets.

But I still remember how I felt in my doctors appointment that day. I’d been offered meds before in the past and refused them, but this time I knew I’d do anything they suggested. At the time, my anxiety was more of an issue than depression, and, as dramatic as I know this sounds, I was genuinely scared by how bad things had become.

I couldn’t relax, couldn’t sit still, and my germ anxiety was so bad I changed my clothes every time went into the bathroom, even it is was just to scrub my face. I washed my hands before, during and after using the toilet.   I laugh about this last part now when I bring it up to show people how far I’ve come, but honestly, I don’t find it funny in the slightest. I find it terrifying.

Then the doctor told me that he’d like me to be on them ‘until I’m feeling a bit brighter, plus another six months’.

I felt like the bottom had just fallen out of my world. I wanted to take it back. I wanted to take it all back, even the CBT I’d agreed to try instead of counselling like I’d had several times before (I’ve actually had CBT since then too). I’d agreed to give over at least half a year of my life to taking these meds. That was way too long! I’d made a huge mistake! I couldn’t take it back because the prescription was already in my hand.

I got home and paced my room as I listened to Twenty One Pilots in my earphones as loudly as the volume would let. This, as trivial as it sounds,  is actually quite significant and proves how angry I was with myself. When someone bought me my very first tape walkman as a kid, I hardly used it because I was so afraid it would make me go deaf, and on the rare occasions I did use it, I would spend at least 10 minutes after I’d taken the headphones off repeating everything my parents said back to them so they (and I )  could check I hadn’t gone deaf. I had to do this for quite a while to prove that my ears were’t playing tricks on me for the first few sentences…

I’m over this particular worry now, but it’s always in the back of my mind whenever I use my earphones.

Anyway…

Fast-forward to 2018 and I’m taking antidepressants way, way, way more for depression than anxiety and I feel strangely okay about it. I’ve had so many ‘dips’ in this time that I know I’m not ready come off them yet. They’ve not been a magical cure, I’ve had to switch tablets once and raise my doseage more than once, but most of the time they keep me level enough that I can drag myself out of bed, even on my ‘bad’ days, and can actually distinguish one thought from another rather than being sucked into a rabbit hole of thoughts and worries.

I feel like I’ve hit rock bottom at least three times in the last four years, but I’ve found my way back every time. When all is said and done, that’s what’s important.