A glimmer of hope in a dark period

Sad black dog

I wonder how much people really know about mental health? And how you get there!

It certainly is not about people being mad or irrational or however they may be stereotyped.

A mental illness is real. You wake up with it and go to bed with it. For me, it manifests itself with low feelings I can’t control, or know where they come from or even when they are going to appear or go away. It is just the way you feel. During those times, I just want to be alone, I don’t want anyone to ask me any questions, talk to me or cuddle me. I choose to go and hide away from even my family. All it takes for me to cry is a mention of work, a situation on the television that I can associate with, or just some thoughts. These thoughts are mainly about how inadequate I feel, how useless I am (please don’t say to me “but you are useful” because I simply won’t believe you). I get sucked into a spiral of negativity that nothing and no one can bail me out of.

For a usually, fairly level-headed person like me, I have dropped low! I was the nucleus of the family; shopping, cooking, teaching, consoling, working, making sure I remembered to pay the bills, I was the ‘go to’ person for advice and strength. But for the past year or so, things have changed. I should be old enough, in my fifties, and experienced enough to cope with the pressures of life; but I can’t and I don’t understand why.

For me, work was so important because I have been there for 29 years. I had given it my all - with loyalty, dedication, creativity and care. Work had become an extension of my life. I was working from home and I did not differentiate home-life from work. If something needed doing, an email to be drafted, a report to be written, research to be done, a hand to be lent to someone who needed me, then it was all OK because I was feeling useful and my interventions mattered. This was until, my sector folded and I became surplus to requirements, placed in a unit where you take on assignments while continuing to look for a job. In principle it is great, but in practice, it didn’t work for me. Surplus I became for real.

I redid my CV, perfected it, did mock interviews, perfected those but as time went on, I started to forget what to say, I even put myself down in some interviews. I was physically sick, my heart would pound, my legs would feel like jelly, I doubted myself! I started wondering if I had lost all my knowledge, if I had become stupid, if I no longer was capable of providing the same level of support I have been giving in those 29 years. This was killing me.

Taking tablets is easy to make headaches or troubles go away, I can do that but what I can’t do is negotiate with myself and prove to myself that I am as worthy as I was 2 years ago. I am struggling to get up in the morning, to sleep at night and to care about anything.

Amongst all those negative thoughts and bad feelings, there has been a glimmer of hope in my life. Some people have lifted a massive weight off my shoulders by being there at the right time, by offering kindness, support, ideas and some coping mechanisms. I attended not only group sessions where discussions were guided by two experienced therapists (Dominic and Roxy) who explained, listened, offered suggestions, made me think and used compassion and care to make me feel like a real person again; but also Anita, my Twining Enterprise Employment Advisor, was there picking me up when I was down, making me reflect and think positively; she actually encouraged me to stand up, acknowledge that there are options to consider and when a door closes (seemingly), another one opens – all I needed to do is open my mind to possibilities and allow myself to dream, to have a goal and make some steps (one day at a time) to move closer to my objectives. The road is long but I have ‘good shoes’ with great support to take me up the hill again.

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