Slipping through the cracks

I want to clarify something before we start: I don’t believe I should be entitled to anything. I know there are people far worse off than me and I have nothing but respect for them. The everyday stress of being on a limited income is awful no matter your circumstances. I’m not trying to compete with anyone. I simply wanted to share my story. I believe by sharing stories we learn of perspectives different to our own.

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There are holes in our safety nets. They’re shaped like educated, accomplished people who fall on hard times. They’re shaped like designers, writers, creative professionals who are too experienced for retail work. They’re shaped like people in loving and supportive relationships whose partners have worked hard to earn above minimum wage. They’re shaped like people with mental illnesses who need a little bit of wiggle room in their working lives.

Photo credit: JCD Kerwin
Photo credit: JCD Kerwin

I am not all of these things. But the holes in the net are still shaped like me. Continue reading



That little voice in your cubicle

I’ve been suffering from imposter syndrome lately, caught up in an erroneous belief that other people’s good perceptions of me are somehow mistaken. That I don’t deserve the praise I have been afforded. That I will let everyone down and they will discover I have no idea what I’m talking about.

But that’s all it really is, isn’t it? An erroneous self-perception. Unless you set out to knowingly deceive and manipulate others, unless you walk around deliberately proclaiming yourself knowledgable about things on which you are not, you’re never really an imposter. Not when other people, unprompted, compliment or reward you. Their perceptions are not based on the way you talked yourself up; their perceptions are based on your actions and ideas. Your skill. Your hard work. Their perceptions are the bits of yourself you don’t often see. And they’re more-than-likely right.

It took a conversation with a particularly lovely work colleague this week, and recollections of the faith my father has often shown in me, to remember that my failures to be given opportunities to prove myself do not define me. The fact that no one, despite my best efforts, ever handed me the work I love so much on a silver platter and said “can you do this, please” does not prove that I am not good at it. All it proves is that no one has taken the time to give me a chance.

Lately, I have been afforded those opportunities and I haven’t stopped smiling since I got the first. Is it stressful? Yes. Do I have doubts sometimes? Yes. Am I hella proud of myself? HELL YES! I made these chances by being true to myself and I will make the most of every single one.

I guess the point I am getting at is not to get down on yourself when you don’t get the chance to show off how awesome you are. And, conversely, don’t get down on yourself when you do! Shine like you were made to! Don’t hide your light under a bushel of self-doubt. You’ve got this x

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It gets better

Life can be painfully hard. I’ve written before about my struggles with mental illness and ADHD, losing people I love, bullying,  sickness, alopecia and autoimmune disorder, obesity and my physical health. I’ve even at times mentioned these concurrently, each overlapping and coinciding with one (or several) others. At my lowest point I was chin-deep in undiagnosed Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Depression, I was morbidly obese and unhealthy, my hair was falling out and I was being bullied at work. But that isn’t what I want to talk about today. I think we can all agree that at some point in their lives everyone will hit rock bottom.

What I want to talk about is how happy I am.

I don’t often go out of my way to discuss how wonderful my life is these days, not least because it’s so easy to get caught up in the stresses of day-to-day living. I also don’t want to brag. Every day people go through struggles I can’t comprehend; talking about how fortunate I am for the things I have seems tacky somehow.

But here’s the real deal: I’m happy. I love my life. It is full of wonderful people and amazing experience. Yes, sometimes stuff sucks. Sometimes stuff is hard. Sometimes I cry. But I am happy. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

The point I am trying to make is that dejection, loneliness, misery, heartache… These things aren’t permanent. They’re transient. They come and go like waves on the ocean and, like my life now, can co-exist with happiness, prosperity, pride and success. I still have alopecia and ADHD. I still have Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I. Still. Get. Sad. But there is light and hope and this is what I allow to define me.

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If you feel like you are in the dark, that there is nowhere to turn, that things will never improve then please speak to someone. A doctor, a friend, a family member, a compassionate stranger on the internet, Lifeline. Please ask for help. Asking for help is so hard it seems impossible but I promise you it is easier than carrying on alone. And it’s worth it. Always.

If you know someone who needs help please send this on. Ask them if they’re okay. Talk to them about Lifeline or seeking help. Listen to them. The suicide statistics in New Zealand are horrifying, especially among young people. If this post, or someone who reads this post, can help even one person then I have achieved everything I could hope for.

It will get better. It won’t always be this way. Kia kaha.



Blogging Collab: Nobody is alone

Today, we have a guest post from the wonderful Dee of The Restless Empire. Dee and I have been working together to bring some much-needed attention to the normality and prevalence of mental health issues. Below is Dee’s piece on her own struggles. You will also find a list of questions to get you thinking about your own journeys. We encourage everyone to have a read and share their stories in the comments or on their own pages using the hashtags below.

If anyone feels they are struggling and can’t cope you can call Lifeline 24/7 on 0800 543 354. Help is always at hand.

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The first time the term depression related directly to me I was a 17-year-old high school student. I didn’t want to go to school, this was more than any normal high school student, I was panicked at the thought of going to school. The corridors felt vast and uncaring, I felt watched and alone. I was probably paranoid. I definitely felt like I wasn’t good enough.

I don’t know what happened to my self-confidence. It up and left well before I was 17. Nobody noticed but for a large portion of high school, whether or not it was cold, I wore my school jersey. My horrid itchy maroon school jumper was like a security blanket.

Impression depression” was all it said on my doctor’s notes and prescription. There wasn’t much decision but it was a difficult conversation nonetheless. In a jovially singsong tone he told me that he was prescribing Prozac “but don’t worry it’s totally safe, you could take the whole box and you won’t overdose… you’ll just feel really unwell”.

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I stuck with my medication for several years, and then decided by myself that I was fine and didn’t need to take it. I bumbled along for years without fluoxetine and moments with it. Between my first prescription when I was 17 and latest prescription at aged 30 I’d flitted between using fluoxetine and not, largely convincing myself that everything was fine.

Driving to work last year, in tears and eating my way through a packet of chocolate biscuits I realised things most definitely weren’t great. I was frightened and panicked about work, I was tired, I was worried and I had worked myself up into a state. I was going to need to have that conversation again; I was going to need to ask for help.

Asking for help, as an adult was much easier, yet at the same time more frightening. I felt I had more to lose if people knew but realised I had more to gain. My doctor was extremely understanding and so were my near and dear. Later when things slid from bad to worse, it was my GP who ordered me to take leave and look after myself. It was my GP who suggested I take stock and look at what’s important and it was my GP who organised for me to see a psychologist and it was my GP who has worked with me to get me to a better place.

Asking for help wasn’t easy.
Living each day nervous, worried, confused and tired also wasn’t easy.
Getting up each morning knowing I was only going to get more panicked wasn’t easy.
In the end asking for help was the easiest solution.

 

Age: 31
Location: Auckland

Day Job: Retail Marketing

Diagnoses: Depression & Anxiety, dialogised age 17.

Game plan: When I feel things are getting the better of me… I try to manage sleep, exercise and surround myself with good friends. 

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Dee
xoxo

 

Dee writes regularly on mental health and all other aspects of life at TheRestlessEmpire.com, a magazine-style blog, encouraging others to write too.



Happiness

Happiness is defined, universally, as the state of being happy. It is synonymous with contentment, pleasure and satisfaction. To most people it is a passing emotion, indistinct in the long-term from anger, sadness and confusion: something entirely at the mercy of the world at large. This is not how I define happiness.

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Happiness is a way of living, a religion. It is the active pursuit, on a regular basis, of things that make one smile, laugh, pause, feel warm and fuzzy or generally content. It is prioritising moments of simple pleasure above other commitments. It is making time purely for the gratification of oneself each and every day.

My mother always taught me to look for the little things that make you smile. This was her tried and true way of working against, and keeping at bay, the circling dogs. Her pleasures were small: exercise achieved, a meal well made). Sometimes they were so small they seemed insignificant, like a pretty flower or a bird playing in the sun. No matter what they were, they always made her smile and reminded her of the light that surround the darkness.

Recently, I have found life overwhelming. Christmas is expensive, work has been tiring, and the lives of several people I care deeply about have suffered some rather cumbersome complications. Each night I wind down by having a shower, a moment of pleasure in itself, then listening to music in the dark. I light a candle, play on my phone, read a book, or simply lie in bed absorbing the melodies. This simple nightly routine eases my stress and provides a feeling of warmth and contentment. There is safety and respite each day in the knowledge that my shower and bedroom are waiting for me at home no matter how tense my day may be. In those moments, the world melts away and I am and alone and happy. Equally as gratifying is the unadulterated joy exhibited by my dogs when presented with a new toy. So this year, I prioritised gifts for them over other things for me. Their pleasure will more than compensate for my sacrifices. And later, when I am sad, I will be able to remember their joy and it will make me smile. And I will remember that life is never as awful as it can feel.