This week marks the end of the first year of my hiatus from the working world. I'd popped my keys and letter of notice in a small padded envelope (How appropriate) and let go. It had taken 8 years of trying to juggle work, parenting, being a wife, living the day to day with an intense desire to be well, only to realise that I cannot do it all. Of those 8 years I would say that I had spent approximately 40% in mental health relapse, off work and in crisis, and a further 40% partially recovered, struggling to get by and never being fully well. Being OK 20% of the time is a really crap way to live.
I negotiated with my husband for about 2 years before getting to a place where he supported and recognised that I couldn't carry on repeating the work, struggle, relapse, partially recover, go back to work too early etc etc. cycle. Me not working has ramifications, mostly financial, but an increased pressure on a sole parent providing income and security, his concerns about me missing out on a career or having something meaningful to do, and what would I actually do whilst being at home? It's very easy to assume that I would just sit on my arse watching DVD's and eating chocolates. My inner universe is like living in a snuff movie that noone else is privy to. Wouldn't you want to try and spend some time turning off the video player?
I feel eternally grateful to the family intervention CPN that helped us to navigate where we might end up and how this could benefit us both individually but also as a family. What I have to remember is that in July 2015 I spent 8 weeks planning on how I could hang myself without upsetting too many family plans, in a quiet place where I wouldn't be found or cause too much trouble. My illness is life threatening, even though most of the general populous do not grasp that reality. Thankfully I allayed the concerns of my husband in those sessions by explaining what my recovery plan was and that I could not get properly well without dedicating some time to it. It would take some time. And so it began.
A year on and things have completely improved, and now I can reflect on that process and our family members, I hope, can see that the supposed sacrifice of leaving work, was in fact, an investment in our future and my journey to wellness.
So what have I been doing:
Understanding and living with bipolar
Understanding and managing anxiety
Using comedy in the recovery from mental distress
Being asked to be a peer mentor for a new LPT course in the coming months
Representing recovery college in London for a mental health research project
Finishing off family intervention
Maladaptive schema sessions x3
Referred for psychotherapy (After an 8 year battle!)
Connected positively with my new psychiatrist
Lithium levels safe and working
Healing and wholeness course
Spiritual retreat twice with some spiritual direction
Focus on prayer and seer aspect of the prophetic gifting
Pastoral support to house group and commitment to prayer team
Amazing prayer session with elders focusing on release of the dark influence of others from my earlier life
Still not drinking, using, smoking....
I have lost a stone (To some that might not sound too much, but if I diet inappropriately, or over exercise and dehydrate I can actually poison myself very quickly with my medication!)
Got the compressed discs in my neck sorted (Then fell down the stairs oops!) However physio gave me the tools to help manage the condition better
The DWP farce of medical appointments and then forgetting to back pay me until I reminded them
Fighting for the correct psychiatric treatment in line with NICE guidelines
The bullying priest of my nightmares. Long live forgiveness and the tough life lessons that shape our integrity.
Rising above the judgement and ignorance of others in relation to mental health and also not having a job.
The murder next door, although this will have an enduring hangover in many guises. I don't think the kids will ever fully realise the lengths I went to, to protect them and what I was prepared to do in order to stop him coming through my door. When I say that out loud I get overwhelmed by how much I love my family but also how much I love being alive. I am also very lucky. Coming from a bipolar suicidal person that says a lot.
I have been able to do things in the last year that others take for granted, like picking up the kids from school and going to football matches or maths events. I have been emotionally engaged and available for them and my husband in a way that I haven't been able to in such a long time. I have genuinely enjoyed being on holiday, gardening and of course baking. I can dance in the kitchen and sing with a sense of joy and freedom. In the last 2 months I have been able to do housework for the first time in about 15 years without thinking I am going to drink the bleach or the fabric softener. I have laughed in a way that doesn't feel like I am some kind of disassociated marionette puppet, laughing mechanically as I am not connected at all to the world of the living and just going through the motions.
So as I move onward to year two, I will continue to explore ways of improving my wellness and recovery. I hope that I myself and my family will continue to benefit from the decision to take a step back from work.
I will continue to practise gratitude, kindness, compassion and fearlessness.