Crying

Last night I got into a state and started crying and sobbing uncontrollably and asked my boyfriend what it is about me that makes people want to treat me like s***.

The reason for my upset was I logged on to Twitter (I am an infrequent Tweeter) and noticed that a friend of mine, someone I used to work with, someone I would consider myself to be close to and even one of my best friends in my town, had tweeted that he had moved to London.

He had moved to a different country without telling me.

He had moved without giving back the books I had lent him.

There is a chance I had misinterpreted what his tweet said (there I go giving people the benefit of the doubt again) but surely it’s not just me who thinks when you move to a different city you 1) tell your friends you are moving and 2) give them back their property?

I don’t know how many of you are avid, passionate readers, but my books are precious to me. And I can’t afford to replace them, I also can’t replace them, at least not until 2018 when I can ‘buy’ again.

I will be honest and say I am unsure what I am more hurt by, him leaving and not telling me, or him not returning my books.

So this led me to start crying. When I get in a state like this I feel like I want to tear my skin off. I feel like I’m on fire with rage, and stress and despair.

I try to be a good friend to people. As a result I can be too trusting, too forgiving, too accommodating and too ‘nice’.

One of my friends who reads this sent me a message recently advising me to stop giving a f*** about what people think (to be truthful the message actually said duck not f*** but I assume that was auto correct)

I guess being nice has won me some true friends, but it has also gained me some complete dickheads in my life as well.

Cut the crap, focus on the good.

All About My Mother (Pretty Fragile)

I have been in a bit of a state of anxiety about my mother recently.

I will put this in context. My mother is/was an alcoholic.

I say is/was because some say if you are an addict you will always be an addict (even if you are clean for the rest of your life) and therefore the correct term is is.

I prefer to focus on the many things that make my mum who she is. Her alcoholism is very much a part of her, and was a part of her life and the life of me and my family. But she is also many good things as well.

So I prefer was on the basis she has not touched alcohol for over a decade.

Last Tuesday (Valentines Day) I tried to call her as it had been about a week since I last spoke to her and she, like me, is prone to anxiety. I

The call went straight to voicemail.

This was worrying.

I tried again on Thursday, which is when the bad news had affected my family, and it was straight to voicemail again, but at least now I knew why she was upset.

My mum is very close to her father and almost idolises him. This I can understand as he is one of my dearest and most beloved living relatives, and his love story with my now deceased Grannie is a love story I can only hope to aspire to.

I tried ringing my mum everyday between last Thursday and this week, all the time going to voicemail, leaving messages, not asking her to call me (I don’t want to put any pressure on her) but saying that I am thinking of her and will be there for her when she is ready.

On Monday I finally got a brief response, a small text saying thank you for the kind thoughts, and that she would be in contact when she was able to talk.

My Mum takes bad news worse than I do, which is really saying something.

To be fair the last few years have been cruel to her family, and many lives of those I love the most have been affected.

We have had too many deaths. One happened on the same day as the funeral for a relative.

I trust my mum to make the right choices, but it is not far from the mind of me and I’m sure my brothers and her Twin sister that she could succumb to alcoholism again, or that her mental health (pretty fragile) might lead her to make the wrong choices.

It is not often that I am the mentally strong one in the family.

So this is something that has been praying on my mind the last week and a half, and may be the reason behind me seeking more medical advice and feeling the strain a bit more.

More than a feeling

I can cope to a certain degree with social interactions. It is when there are ‘extra’ interactions that I start to panic.

I so far have been able to cope with each time I am in the customer service role part of my job because that is for a set period of time, so I know my ‘torture’ will only last 90 minutes and then I will be ‘free’, if even for just a little bit.

When the colleague who takes over from me on the front desk is late to do so-like today-even if it is for just a few minutes my already fragile composure starts to crumble.

Like Dante Hicks in Kevin Smith’s film ‘Clerks’  I just want to scream  ‘I’m not even supposed to be here….’

The sad thing is I used to volunteer at a local arts centre in my town, a place I used to work at, and I haven’t done a shift there since mid December, and I won’t be doing another shift for the foreseeable future.

All I have to do is take tickets on the door for the performance, whether it is a film or a play, and maybe make sure no one collapses in the audience (this did once happen to me) and yet I am currently incapable of doing this.

Because they talk to me.

The customers, they make conversation with me.

And I can’t talk to them.

It could be something as simple as ‘do you know where the toilets are?’ and I can respond and do a good impression of a ‘normal’ person but inside my heart rate is elevated and I wish I hadn’t just had that exchange.

I used to love volunteering there. I used to do multiple shifts in one day. I used to come in day after day to help out.

And now I don’t know when, or if, I’ll return.

I can feel my career aspirations and goals become smaller and smaller until at the moment my dream job is one that involves sitting in a room, maybe analysing spreadsheets and never talking to customers or answering the phone.

This isn’t normal.

To be honest I didn’t pick up on my social anxiety until quite recently. I knew I had an aversion to people, but I assumed that was due to shyness. I’ve always been quiet. I am an introvert. I prefer to be on my own then to make stilted small talk with someone. I have always panicked about talking to people, but put that down to insecurity. I have always loathed teachers who tried to force me into talking in class. I have always wondered what the big deal is about coming out of your shell.

I once referred to it as social anxiety but felt like I was over embellishing it, like when you say ‘I’m starving to death’ when really you are a bit peckish. I thought labelling it as social anxiety would make me seem like I was looking for attention.

I could talk to strangers, I just preferred not to. I went out of my way to not talk to people on the phone. In fact I talk to people on the phone so infrequently that on my phone one of my ‘favourite’ contacts is my Dentist!

My name is Flo, and I am anxious.

 

 

I’m so tired

I don’t know if it is a side effect of my new pills but I have been exhausted today.

I woke up at 5:25am, a time that isn’t too unusual for me, yet I fell asleep on the sofa and was rescued from the ‘Missing my train’ doom by my boyfriend.

I slept on the train to work and wanted to scream from tiredness as I walked into work.

I struggled through the day trying to give myself some energy by snacking on high calorie biscuits and coffee.

I decided to use some of my flexi time to leave at 4 and slept the whole train journey back and woke up a minute before my stop with a foul taste in my mouth.

I was so tired that when I got home I was unable to speak normally to my boyfriend (but then I could have just been frozen from the bad weather).

2 Cokes later and I feel a bit more normal but it is safe to say I am dreaming of sleep.

Except Wednesday is WWE Smackdown night, but at least this show is slightly shorter than WWE Raw. (Before I get inundated with cries of ‘Smackdown is on Tuesdays fool’ I will explain that on account of living in the UK my boy and I watch WWE shows the day after they have aired).

I fall asleep so easily that once a friend legitimately thought I was a narcoleptic.

My mental health suffers when I am tired so I will bid you adieu so I can get an early night.

After Smackdown of course.

 

Welcome to Flo 2:0

After some pretty bad experiences last week regarding my anxiety, I decided that enough was enough and that I was going to seek medical help.

I took some time off work on Monday afternoon and went to my doctors.

The doctor has seen me through everything, my IBS, my depression, my stress, I expect they are sick of me.

I explained things as best as I could. That in many ways I am the happiest I have ever been, that I feel happy and my depression is basically non existent.

But I have crippling social anxiety.

I explained that just an hour of front line customer service can leave me a quivering mess. That I hate all social interactions, even good ones. That I am becoming more and more withdrawn from people.

My doctor went through my options. My number choice is counselling.

I cannot afford counselling, either time wise or financially. And I don’t mean in the sense that having counselling will eat into my buying of Faberge eggs hobby, I mean it would probably be more a month then my ‘disposable income’ is.

So number 2 choice is medication.

First option, increase the dosage of meds I am already one. I was reluctant to do this. Second option was better, be prescribed a small prescription of medication to try out, a pill that fights the physical sensations of anxiety and that can be taken as and when needed up to three times a day.

So I have a 28 pack of this new pill to see if it works.

I took one today before I went on my customer service desk. To be fair the shift I was doing is the quietest shift, but still I ‘survived’ it better than usual.

I could put that down to being a fluke, or a placebo affect, but there were a few more things I noticed.

I was helping some colleagues in another customer facing role, with staff members from different departments.

It was only afterwards that I realised I had been contributing to the conversation easily with none of my usual ‘HIDE UNDER THE DESK’ feelings I normally experience.

And the other major difference was when I finished for the day, I said goodbye to people as I left.

You are probably confused now, and I’ll explain. When I am at work, or at a social gathering, I try to leave as discretely and as quietly as possible, to the point that I am barely noticeable. I also have a hard time saying goodbye to people, which to many (normal) people is just common manners.

I can’t really explain the reasons for this, other than my fear is I will call out ‘Goodbye’ to my friends, or colleagues, and there will be silence. I am scared to say goodbye to people in case I am ignored and then I have to live with the fact that no one cares.

It will hardly surprise you that when I said goodbye nearly everyone in the office said it back. So once again I had been a twat.

It’s early days, it could be a placebo affect, but at the moment I feel good and maybe like I can face the world.

My Worst Moments of Anxiety #1 Newport State of Mind (Part 1)

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Part 1

Newport State of Mind

Newport, South Wales, UK 2011-2013

My worst moment of anxiety, unlike the previous four posts, did not take place on one day.

It took place over a 20 month stretch of my life, the first 20 months I had as a Graduate from University. It was perhaps one of the darkest times of my life, and my mental health suffered so much that for the first time I had to seek medical attention for it, and it was when I first went on medication.

But to tell the story I have to go back to April 2010.

In April 2010 I started my second ever job, my first as a University student. And it couldn’t have been more convenient, it was at my University!

I started working in the canteen at my University as a catering assistant. Not the sexiest job ever, quite frankly between the catering hat, the apron and the steel toe shoes it couldn’t have been less sexy. I would stink of chip fat at the end of a shift. But I was earning much needed money and the hours were flexible and for the most part social and I got fed on the job. It paid above minimum wage, all in all it was a pretty sweet job to have as a student.

I was so happy to be earning money that I actually stayed in my University town over the summer between my second and final year at University, I liked being independent though it was financially more of a struggle then I thought.

The trouble started when I graduated.

I had decided that I would move to Cardiff, just a short trip on the train from Newport, with my boyfriend (the one I am with today) as he was working closer to Cardiff than he was Newport and I was doing Roller Derby in Cardiff so it seemed to make sense. At this point in time there was no reason for me to leave my job at the University as it was a guaranteed income to help us set up our new lives, and they let me come back after a summer away.

The summer between finishing my final year and graduating in September 2011 I went to Los Angeles for two months.

Whilst there, and there is no way to sugar coat it, I put on a bit of weight. Enough for it to be noticeable (I had been a healthy/slim size at University).

When I started my job again at the University I began to notice the cracks appearing.

First of all there was a colleague who, whilst not being a dissimilar size to me, began making fun of my weight. Even after I lost a lot of it and was hardly fat (to be honest I wasn’t even that huge after I did return from L.A.).

She also asked me on pretty much a daily basis if I had found a job.

This confused me as, well, I had a job. I was working with her.

I think she meant had I found a permanent job, as I was on a casual zero hour contract at the University, or had I found one relevant to my degree, which was in film.

This was right in the midst of the recession that had affected the entire world, so even the most simple of jobs was still highly sought after, and I didn’t think it was unusual to be working there after graduating and living independently rather than so many of my friends who had returned to the family homes.

Getting asked on a daily basis whether I had found a job was very demoralising, as it made me wonder why she was so insistent on it and why if this job was fine for her it wasn’t ok for me.

This was just one element of what happened.

What also happened is I had almost immediately gone from having a fair level of responsibility at work to having none. I was almost exclusively relegated to the dish washing area, which had no interaction with customers, or really any other members of staff.

I was rarely working front line service after graduating.

They turned the dish wash job into a permanent position, which I didn’t apply for as I wanted out of the dish wash area and back with responsibility. What happened was they hired two new people to work in the dish wash area and I either had my shifts cancelled as they no longer needed me, or I was the back up dish wash person.

I also once found a critical note about me.

I was not allowed into the staff meetings.

I know this is one person’s word against another, but I think it was safe to say I was being bullied. In fact after the note incident I went to my manager about what was happening and asked for things to be done so that I could gain more respect and kindness from the colleagues who didn’t seem to feel the same about me (I am happy to admit that I wasn’t being bullied by all the colleagues).

I was barely 23, and to be honest I did lack the emotional maturity to handle what was happening to me. But I ask you if you were that age and you were suddenly being ill treated by your colleagues, and you had mental health difficulties would you have acted in the best way?

I became miserable. I became so utterly depressed and anxious that I stopped doing Roller Derby as my anxiety had eaten it’s way into every area of my life. I couldn’t leave the house. I would go to bed at 8pm as I found living so exhausting and unbearable. This did mean that all I did was work and sleep, meaning I seemed to spend the majority of my waking hours in a job from hell.

I had to psyche myself up to get to work. I would often get into work about an hour before my shift and hide somewhere at the University (like the library) to work up the courage to work.

I was in a state of panic or had a panic attack before every shift. Every single shift.

This is when my stress induced Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms started rearing their ugly head and I suffered pretty badly and started vomiting and having other gastrointestinal problems.

This meant I would have to miss more work because of the health and safety policy around working in catering and illness incidences relating to that type of symptom.

All in all, and I will be honest, I missed a lot of work. A lot.

I went to the local mental health clinic in my town in Autumn/Winter 2012 and this is when I first went on medication for my mental health. I had never been on medication before for that.

It’s about to get worse.

In early 2013 I went on a holiday with my boyfriend’s family. As a result of recently having my trial of the medication end, and my despair over working a terrible, terrible job my mental health took a nose dive into a black abyss.

I was in such a state on that holiday that I pretty much ruined it. I barely spoke and would spend whatever spare second I had to myself staring into space on my bed.

I’m not sure if it is fair to say I was suicidal, but I definitely felt very clearly that my life had no meaning, my situation would never improve, that my life had no value and suicide would be a release from my pain.

Ok, that is pretty much the definition of suicidal.

You might be at this point thinking ‘Why didn’t you get another job?’

I tried.

But I lacked all confidence and felt so bad about my life that I didn’t believe any other job would be any different, that all jobs would bully me and destroy me.

And whilst I have never, and will never judge a single person on benefits of any description, I didn’t feel leaving my job and being on job seekers allowance was an option for me.

In a perverse way maybe I was too scared to leave my job because it may have been hell, but it was a hell I knew, and my fear that another job would be worse was over powering me.

I quickly went back on medication.

I was still depressed and anxious.

Then I made a mistake at work. It was a mistake, I wasn’t even disciplined, we just had a chat about it, but I felt like I could never return.

I told you I lacked emotional maturity.

I pretty much went on sick leave almost immediately after that until eventually I officially handed in my notice explaining everything.

I thought that was it.

I thought I was free.

I found another job after that, and in September 2013 I began my first and at this point only permanent job.

But that is not where the story ends.

It’s about to get a whole lot worse.

 

Potato (and carrot) Peel Soup for One

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In true ‘Money Saving Fashion’ I take books out of the library in my city and one book I took out recently (and am gutted I had to return) was River Cottage Love Your Leftovers.

There was a recipe that really intrigued me, which was Potato Peel Soup where the main ingredients is Potato Peels (no prizes for guessing that correctly).

Today my boy and I were having our traditional Sunday Pie and Veg meal, and I looked at the little pile of potato peels from our roast potatoes and decided to put them to good use.

I am going to give you the recipe for what I made, which was inspired by but varied greatly from the River Cottage recipe.

The River Cottage recipe used whole milk and solely potato peels, whereas I didn’t want my lovely carrot peelings to go to waste.

Potato and Carrot Peel Soup For One

Ingredients

Peels from 3 medium potatoes and 2 medium carrots (I had 80g potato peels and 40g carrot peels, also I hope I don’t have to tell you this but do scrub your potatoes/carrots well but generally the peel is safe to eat and is good for you as most of the fibre is in the peel)

2 tsp of vegetable stock powder made up with 300ml boiling water (I like my food salty, you may wish to adjust to your own tastes)

About 50g frozen onion (you can use fresh, and again adjust to your tastes)

Parsley, dried or fresh (optional and I used dried)

A lump of butter (approx 30g is what I used)

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Method

Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onion, cook on a low heat just to get some colour or if using frozen onion to just cook it a little.

Add the peelings and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking/burning.

Make up the stock, adjusting to your own personal tastes, and add to the vegetables. (300ml is not a lot of stock, it just about covers the veg, this is because I like my soups thick and strong. As I have said, adjust to your tastes)

Cook for around 10 minutes.

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Add to a blender/food processor or use a hand blender to blend the soup.

Voila, soup!

It is currently waiting for me in my takeaway soup cup for my lunch tomorrow.

I am not going to work out an exact cost, but it was probably less than 50p, and true to my beliefs it meant that from my boy and my’s evening dinner the only food that went in the food bin was the tip and top of the 2 carrots.

It has a very earthy taste (maybe I didn’t clean the potatoes well enough, haha) and apparently the River Cottage version takes a bit like mushrooms (Food heaven for me, Food hell for my boy)

I am very happy about this little dish, and it only took about 15 minutes to make.