For those who have read ‘About Moisy Swindell’, or ‘Why I am not a Sheeple’ (both posts available to read) you will know some of the background as to why we decided to leave our life in the UK and go on this adventure. Sick of being on the hamster wheel of life, working really hard but always seemed to be struggling from one day to the next. I have also touched on the fact that my career eventually made me ill.
This post is for some people that I know out there who are looking at their lives at the moment and struggling, mentally, with the life that they have. So I thought that I would use my blog to, hopefully, help anyone out there who are feeling as if their brains will no longer do what they want them to do, and explain what happened to me, and how I have learned to cope with it (most of the time but not all of the time.)
Three years ago I had a high flying career, I had been head hunted to go to work for a failing organisation, my role in a large organisation at that time had been successful but, when I look back, I was getting more and more work thrown my way because (as I was later told by my counsellor) I was what is called a ‘doer’.
A doer is someone who will always “get the job done”, no matter what. These people normally do this because they feel the need to prove themselves, and want to please, and yes after a rapid rise up the ladder I do (looking back now) think that this clearly applied to me. But the problem is ‘doers’ are taken advantage of and given more and more and what happened to me is common because it happens to most people who try to please, who always get the job done, when they reach their late forties or fifties they are, quite simply, burnt out.
Looking back I can see it was not only my job, I had split with my first husband when my son was five, and had a high flying career then, in addition to make ends meet I taught aerobics and keep fit for six sessions a week to make ends meet. I was young, thought that I could keep going forever, and then my mum died. I no longer had my rock, the person who looked after my son in the evening whilst I took my lessons, read him stories, put him to bed, was always there for me.
The year after that I left my job, I could not cope with the fact that I never seemed to see my son, but was so conscious of the fact that I could die tomorrow. In addition I was also sick of being the person at work who always sorted all the crap jobs out. (See the ‘doer’ was evident then!)
I tried various careers, met Rich, got married and eventually found my niche in the NHS. I worked my way up quickly and after a major ‘War’ between Rich and I ten years ago, I threw myself back into it wholeheartedly and rose the ladder from a band 4 to a band 7 in two years. But I did not realise at the time that I was back in the position of chief ‘doer’ picking up all the crap all of the time. I learnt to bite my tongue, listen to people who were (and probably still are) arseholes and never said a word. Watched people (and I hasten to add that there were wonderful people who supported me) who earnt a fortune dip in and out of jobs cream the money off the top and then move on to the next one; and guess who always ended up sorting out the mess? Yep, you guessed it, me!
I was strong at home, always made sure the house ran right, was the person ringing companies arguing about bills, or service we had received, worked out the accounts, in addition to running the house. I loved it, look at Moira she could cope; and then one day my brain said ‘NO! I am not doing this anymore!’
There were warning signs I had chosen to ignore, walking up to work from the train station when a voice in my head said “I can’t do this, I need to turn around an go home.” Did I listen? Of course I didn’t.
Or when I wrote in my journal that I felt as if I was standing on the brink of a black hole, did I listen? Of course I didn’t. I just kept going, because I could; because I felt that I had to hold it all together; because I saw it as a failing if I gave up.
I was not sleeping properly, would wake at two am in the morning and not be able go to back to sleep. In the March before the crap hit the fan the start of a sort of Narcolepsy kicked in; I had a week off work but was tired all the time, really tired could hardly keep my eyes open even though I had just got up. I would fall asleep sitting up, and be asleep for four hours on the sofa even though I was on holiday from work and Rich was on holiday with me. I was just miserable all the time. In fact when I fell asleep he could not wake me. I went to the doctor and they sent me for blood tests, but advised that if they came back clear I must take some time off work. Did I listen, of course I didn’t.
So one day I got sent home from work because I just kept crying. I thought I would be fine, would be back in work the following Monday. I told Rich not to worry because I had mechanisms in place, I kept a journal to reflect and unload, I would write that. But when I opened the page I could not write anything, there was nothing in my brain but a brick wall.
Then the anger kicked in, and that was when my ‘Incredible Hulk’ reared her head. I could feel the anger burning in me, even if I went for a walk, and I got banned from the local post office because I called the rude woman behind the counter a f*****g ****. But it was worse than that, I knew I could have hurt her, hurt anyone. Rich was seriously worried about me and he and my sister considered taking my car keys off me. They were right if anyone had pissed me off at that time I would have mounted the kerb and killed them.
My counsellor told me I would never be able to visit three or four different shops when I did my shopping, in fact she warned that I would not be able to do a ‘big shop’ for quite some time. I did not believe her at the time but she was right, and if I went into any large supermarket I would find that my brain just shut down and put me to sleep and Rich would have to leave me on a piece of furniture whilst he went and got the things we needed.
I did not realise at the time how ill I was; things like this just did not happen to me. But my brain had taken over the asylum and was running the show and I know now that I had to listen to what it said, because it was much more powerful than me.
Where has that left me? I did manage to get the incredible hulk under control, but I am acutely aware that she is alive and well inside me and that she can come out if I am really pushed. So I don’t allow myself to be really pushed, I don’t put up with crap off of anyone, but my approach is different and I have learned to put a stop to things before my anger kicks in.
I have accepted that there are some people who I cannot be around, and I now have a mini bus analogy in my mind with only a limited number of seats for people who I want in my life. I have learned that I should stop trying to keep everyone happy and only concentrate on the ones who matter.
I stopped watching the news! Bibble, babble, bibble, babble, all the time; bombarding you with negatives ALL the time. Take a step back from it, it is like a soap opera if you put it on a week later it will still be the same, and it is essential if you are struggling because it will bring you down.
I went and sat by the sea, looking out at infinity and realised that all the shit I was being told was important just wasn’t important at all!
I stopped competing with others, I don’t feel the need.
I have had to accept that I will never be the same person again. I have to remind myself constantly to stop being a ‘doer’ and look after me, because if I don’t then there won’t be a me here.
I have had to have more integrity for myself and, sometimes, less for others.
I listened to my counsellor when she said that I constantly set myself targets and that I needed to stop doing that. When I first visited her and she asked me what I was going to do to relax I said “Paint the outside of the house so we can put it up for sale.” She looked at me aghast and said “No you are not going to paint the house, you are going home to sleep.” So now I recognise when I am setting my targets too high and I lower my expectations of myself, which is a difficult thing to do if you are a ‘doer’.
I still have moments, when I have not given myself time to think (the doer is still alive she just has to be slapped down sometimes!) when my Narcolepsy kicks in and my brain just starts to shut down and now I listen and I go to sleep for an hour which allows my bring to reboot.
Sometimes I write a list of all of the things I have done for the day, because I never counted pegging the washing out, or emptying the dishwasher as jobs, and my counsellor made me write down everything I did to show myself what I achieved each day, and when I did it shocked me. So now i make myself acknowledge what I have done not what I have not done.
I correct myself when I hear myself say “I must” or “I have to”. Why do I? I stop Rich doing this as well because you could drive yourself nuts constantly telling yourself what you have to do, as I just said how often do you tell yourself what you have actually done?
When I was able to (and my brain could not cope with any reading other than easy read books, chit lit, that kind of thing.) I finished reading ‘The Road Less Travelled.’ It is one of the books I refer to now in my life, and I have progressed to reading the Tao.
But I can only do these things because the main thing I had to recognise was that something had to give. I could not carry on with the life I had, even though I was earning good money, had a beautiful house they were not making me happy, they were making me ill.
I went back to writing my journal, and being honest with myself about my failings and how I interact with others, but importantly how others interact with me and whether I want to live with that.
When depression then hit after my bout of stress I knew that it was time to leave my job and change the way I lived my life.
So I moved to France, I have no mortgage but the bastards still get you with taxes and all the other shit! So we keep our life simple and are less stressed now than when we lived in the UK with good careers.
There is no more buying clothes on a whim (although I look back now and I can see that we only did that to make ourselves feel better about our lives; material things are just a quick fix.) I look at the costume jewelry that I would buy myself every week as a reward for working so hard, and what good is it to me now? I would look very strange in the garden with sparkly bracelets and long dangly earings! Even at the supermarche I would look a tad overdressed!
I no longer feel the need to compete with others, they are they are and I am who I am. If they don’t like me ce la vie!
What I realised was that I could not have it all, no more holidays, no money to replace our roof, but I know that even if we had wonderful jobs and we could do those things something else would be crap.
So I am saying to all of you respect your brain and listen to what it is telling you, do not listen to your conscious when it says “what about the bills? ……You have worked so hard in your career. …….People will think you are a failure……… Look at what others have why do you have so little, you have to keep doing what they are doing.” You don’t.
Look at all of the good things you have achieved, but it may be time for change, whether you think it is or not, the mind is a powerful thing and it will let you know if you are abusing it. So it may mean making hard decisions, giving things up, because it will probably mean having a simpler, more rewarding life.
You have to decide what life you want, and if you find you are where I was (or even near) then please, listen.
I hope that sharing with you has helped some of you. You have one life and if you are not there yet trust me it is really frightening when you go to a shop to buy something and find yourself talking to yourself like a mad woman (or man) in the aisles, and yes that happened to me!
So here are a couple of thoughts for the weekend
“The master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone,
The ordinary man is always doing things.
yet many more are left to be done.”
Excerpt from the 38th Verse of the Tao
“We must come to terms with the reality of change, which requires continual adjustments in the way we think and behave – and particularly when we have become the most comfortable with where we are…..”
The road Less Travelled and Beyond
M. Scott Peck
And just one more thing, these are the things that give me pleasure, you can see them anywhere if you look, always reminds me I am just a blip on this earth! The view from our window last night as the sunset across the valley….
Have a good weekend, and give yourself time to think.
Have a good Easter, and don’t buy anything, just enjoy the simple things.