the chest pains and the crazy thoughts

starry sky over mountains
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It starts with the chest constricting,

Pulling in tight til the air’s squeezed out,

And then come the thoughts, pouring on in,

Like water that swirls round the hole of the plug,

Faster and faster, tighter and tighter,

Until madness has gripped and there’s no turning back

As I sink down the hole with the ugliest slurp.

I woke up with chest pains this morning. I get them when I’m stressed and they can be pretty scary at times. I haven’t had them for quite some time so it has made me feel uneasy that they are creeping back into my life.

I know how important it is to stay calm right at this point. This is the point where things can go wrong and this time around they will not. Because the point where I get sucked into that plughole is a desperate one and you can’t come back from it.

This time around there is a teacher that is a bit aggressive and I worry that she is going to start slating me. And the more nervous I get, the more mistakes I make and then these strong characters have something to jump on to.

But I’m learning that these people are just that; they are strong characters. They don’t really mean any harm, they just say things a little more harshly than my tender little mind can handle. They probably like me (although they probably also think I’m a bit of a wet blanket).

The point is, I must not tell myself that these people hate me and are out to get me. They just have a personality that is different to mine. And it’s just as much my job to be understanding of them as it is for them to be understanding of me.

I will not spend the next four weeks worrying that they want me dead or that they’re plotting to get me arrested (both of which have been real worries of mine in the past). Instead, I will take deep breaths and just do the best I can.

The worst that can happen is that I fail, nobody employs me and I end up back at the petrol station. It’s not the ending I want but we are all put on our own paths for very special reasons. It’ll just be interesting to see what my path will ultimately be.

Much Love

Rachel xx

i may well be catastrophizing

fire hell inferno flame
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It’s one huge ball of fire

That’s burnt up in my face,

Singeing eyebrows, burning noses,

Warning me to stay away.

And yet I’ll wade right in.

I have no choice,

Despite the heat that pushes back.

I have my first official observation tomorrow and I’ve suddenly come over all funny. I literally feel like I’m watching myself on a TV screen, the nerves have become so severe.

I have always had this problem. When I was a kid and I swam competitively, I used to vomit with fear. I doubt I’ll vomit tomorrow, but I worry that I’ll freeze, which is the thing that seems to happen in my adult life.

I know that the students I teach will be great and I have enough material to keep me going for the entire lesson, so what can go wrong?

I need to calm the fuck down.

I’ll probably be writing that it all went great and I’m feeling on top of the world by tomorrow evening. But for now, I’ll revel in my own misery and make myself feel like the sky is about to fall in on me.

I hope you have a lovely evening, because mine’s going to be a little bit crap.

Much Love

Rachel xx

today i boiled 62 kettles and now i feel like a monster

a pot on a portable gas burner stove
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Attenborough’s warned us, time and time again,

About the ice caps melting into seas

And animals are vanishing with terrifying ease.

But am I doing anything to help?

Or am I just a drain on oil and air?

Or am I just too worried for

A future I can’t help or change?

I was told the other day that Googling one question wakes up so many servers around the world that I am effectively using the same amount of energy that I would use if I were to boil six kettles. I don’t know how true that is, but it rings true and it’s terrified me.

I’m one of those worriers that tries to ride her bike when she can, I turn off the heating in the afternoon and I turn off lights when I leave the room. It’s all very little things but it’s because I really do care about what state the planet will be in when I hand it over to the next generation.

I am also a worrier in the very worst sense. I worry that the NHS is going to collapse, so I try not to go to the doctor. I worry that my boss doesn’t like me so I won’t complain about the shift I have been given. I worry that I’ll get arrested if a policeman looks into my eyes and sees how horrible I am, so I keep my eyes down.

It’s all very paranoid behaviour, but I’ve lived like this for so long that it’s quite hard to stop it. And now, thanks to the numpty that told me that stupid fact, I’m feeling too scared to Google the symptoms that I’m too scared to go to the doctor about.

Anyone else a chronic worrier? Sorry if I’ve now made you panic about your internet use. I guess we’re all going to have to cycle to the library so that we can use those things called books.

Much Love

Rachel xx

it doesn’t always work out that way

woman in bath tub
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I love to watch the Cinderella ending

Where the villain dies and the princess lives

A charmed and magic life

But I’m not quite so sure it works that way,

The happy ending is so rare,

And half the time there’s always someone there

To ensure that I will slither down

That hole into a burning hell.

I’m watching the Sheridan Smith documentary at the moment. For those not in the UK she is a brilliantly talented actress who has had mental health problems and she has made this documentary about becoming a mum.

It’s so sad to watch somebody with such talent struggling. We look at those successful people and think that they are living the charmed life, so it’s good for everyone to see that’s not the case.

But a lot of these shows urge people to talk about their mental health problems because then they will be supported if they have a wobble. I think that is beautiful advice when it works but I wish they would also tell everyone to be cautious.

There are some horrible people out there and if you are too free and easy with all of the details about your mental health and what can trigger you, you are opening yourself up attacks.

When I first got sober it was a massive mental health crisis that encouraged me to get on that road, and it was a management team that made the whole situation worse. I was very trusting and told them what was causing my anxiety and they went out of their way to put me in those situations.

There are people out there who find this kind of thing funny and I really wish that young people were warned about this. I ended up in hospital in the end and I wouldn’t tell an employer about my anxiety ever again.

Don’t mean to be a Negative Nancy but I just think that sometimes these documentaries paint a very rosy picture of the help and support you’ll get when you open up. I’m sure most people are lovely and supportive, but be careful…..

Much Love

Rachel xx

why does it always rain on me?

rain drops

Why does it always rain on me?

I’ve stolen the line straight from a song

But it rings true every time

I feel like the world is starting to cave

And I wonder why God has it in for me.

I wish I was lucky like that girl over there

And not left sulking under a darkening cloud

That’s threatening thunder and chaos for me.

So, I’m having a really good time at the moment but even in the good times I can feel like I’m buckling under pressure. And when I reach these little pressure points, I can sometimes feel like the world is against me.

Tomorrow I’m going to Alton Towers with Noah and although it’s going to be fun, I have to drive further than I’ve ever driven before and then find the hotel after a full day at the park. I know that these are real first world problems, but what can I do?

Anyway, I can sometimes feel myself reaching that point where I think that I’m going to just have to curl up in a ball and give up and when this happens it’s like I’m counting all the things that can possibly go wrong.

And as a runner, I’m finding that I am literally asking the question, ‘why does it always rain on me?’ I swear on my life that every time I have gone for a run over the past few days, the heavens have opened and I have got soaked.

Really, it’s just bad luck, but because I’m stressed I’m telling myself it’s because the world is against me. But I’m really making an effort this time to tell myself it’s all crap that I’m making up.

Now, I’m trying to spin it. Not only is it not the world against me, but it could be a good thing? Maybe cutting my run short has saved me from injury? Or maybe I should keep running and enjoy feeling the cooling effect of the rain?

I’m learning and it’s hard, but I’m trying. It’s not always raining on me and I don’t have my own personal thunder cloud following me around. I hope that you can spin some positives in your life today too.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the mental health plague

Do you want to know why we don’t tell a soul?

Do you want to know why it is kept under lock?

Do you want to know why we scuttle through shadows,

Licking our wounds and patching up gashes,

With dirty, torn rags and useless, worn plasters?

It’s because we’re ashamed and it’s all down to you,

Making us feel like we’re meant for the corner

With the rats and the vermin,

The creatures that nobody wishes to see.

Because you are worried that we may infect,

That our weakness will claw at your shell that is cracking.

And once the disease is inside the body,

There’s no fighting the symptoms with rainbows and smiles

And all of the things you suggest all day long.

Better to turn a blind eye to the darkness,

Or maybe just shout at it, bully it out?

Because you are respectable and can’t have our kind

Clouding your doorways and draining your bank.

You are rich and above all this death and disease,

But herbs and spices stuffed in your nose cone

Will do nothing to help when the fear comes a-knocking.

It knows not the difference between master and slave.

So you’d better be kind while you still have the chance.

To take part in this deathly and gruesome last dance.

There is a lot of shame involve in telling your boss that you have a mental illness and many people choose to not divulge that information. Unfortunately a lot of people have had bad experiences and it is really sad that this means that they are then scared to get the support they need in the future.

I’m guessing that the reason some bosses are so unsupportive is because they don’t understand mental illness. They think that because somebody has anxiety or depression, they may be taking time off constantly and costing the business as a result. But many people who suffer are really hard and conscientious workers and it’s just cruel to treat them in a way that’s so disrespectful.

When I see managers treating their staff poorly because they have a mental illness, it makes me think of the illness as being a bit like the black death. I imagine these people being frightened of getting infected themselves and shunning the sufferers. I imagine them tucked away in their ivory towers thinking that they’re safe because they have money and power and status.

But the truth is that we are all vulnerable and it only takes one traumatic experience or a bad run of luck for a few weeks and we can all find ourselves on that slippery slope downwards. So if you are in a management position, show some compassion. Don’t just try and bully out the weakest link, because sometimes that ‘weakest link’ can be the one that is brimming with the best ideas if you just give them a chance and a bit of support when times are hard.

And if you are struggling at the hands of someone who is bullying you at work because they know you are weak, stay strong. You have nothing to be ashamed of and you never deserve to be put in the corner if you are feeling sad or anxious. I’ll say a little prayer for you today and I hope that some of that positivity reaches you in some way, shape or form.

Much Love,

Rachel xx

On being a single parent; don’t become the victim (a poem)

A poem about the feelings that go along with becoming a single parent. It’s painful and heartbreaking but everybody comes back from it. You have no choice.

The father left quite early on,

One day he’s there, the next he’s gone.

It caused a huge amount of pain,

And the feelings took so long to wane.

He packed his bags and left so quick,

It felt like just a heartless trick.

But he was not to come back home,

He felt that he was free to roam.

To play the field and sow his seed,

To live a life of selfish greed.

And into darkness I would fall,

I lost the battle to stand tall.

Depressing thoughts were all I knew,

And happy days were far and few.

But soon I found I needed light,

And so I put up quite the fight.

I had to do it for my child,

I couldn’t be so meek and mild.

I got a job and found some friends,

And to my heart I made amends.

I learnt to love myself once more,

And what my life was really for.

I mustn’t dwell on all the bad,

And spend my time so glum and sad.

I have a child I must adore,

And goals to set and to explore.

My life is worth more than that guy,

And now I’m ready to go and fly.

I became a single parent when my son was just nine months old and I was absolutely crushed. I loved my husband and I was devastated when I found out about the affair. But I had to pick myself up and carry on. I limped along as an alcoholic for a decade and only recently have I started to sort my life out. I hope that this poem can give you a little bit of hope if you are going through the same thing. Don’t go down the same path that I did. Life is a gift and you mustn’t waste it. The little ones grow so quickly and you don’t know when it could all come to an end. So find something that you’re passionate about and make every day count.

Much Love

Rachel xx

Drunk Dial (a poem)

When I was in active alcoholism, the drunk dial was the bane of my life. I would wake up in the early hours of the morning feeling like I’d licked a carpet and having to reach for my phone immediately. My first thought was always about how terrified I was that I had texted a guy or emailed my boss. It was a humiliating and scary time.

But these days I am free of that and I’m really keen to help others who are struggling with the same issues that I did. It is a big part of the reason why I started this blog and I hope that it will also motivate me to stay on the straight and narrow. It’s a serious illness and it needs to be treated like one.

However, the drunk dial does have some comedy value and I think that everybody needs some fun in their lives so this is my take on a subject that used to bring me out in cold sweats.

I didn’t mean to grab the phone,

I heard the sound of that ominous tone,

But I won’t recall this when I wake,

I’ll forget the mess that I can make,

After one too many pints of beer,

When life’s all rosy and full of cheer.

I won’t remember that awful text,

Or the old flame that I rang next.

I’ll see it there upon the screen,

The words I wrote that were so mean.

The dawn will bring an awful pain,

And towards myself I’ll feel disdain.

I’ll wish that I could take it back,

And I know that I will get some flack,

For what I said when I’d had some wine,

and thought that texting would be fine.

How to worry less in social situations (particularly when you’re an introvert)

Because let’s face it, introverts do spend about 90% of their time worrying about stuff. It stems from the fact that being around people drains us and with lack of energy comes that nagging self doubt that tends to plague us wherever we go. Did I just say the wrong thing? Is that person looking at me funny? Does everyone in the room hate me? Did I pick the wrong colour socks to wear this morning? It goes on and on and on. BUT, there are several really easy steps you can take to help yourself calm down and remember how flipping fabulous you really are.

So here are five of the first things that I go to when I can feel the panic beginning to set in.

Breathing

Taking deep breaths seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but when you are starting to panic it is the first thing that goes out of the window. It will help to fill the body with oxygen and clear the mind of the racing thoughts that go along with being anxious.

Smokers do get most of their relief in anxiety filled situations from the nicotine in their cigarettes, but they also calm down because of the style of breathing that is involved with inhaling and exhaling the smoke. It is absolutely ideal for calming the nerves. Now I’m not telling you to run out and buy a packet of cigarettes, but try and picture the way a smoker holds in their breath when you are next feeling the nerves. A good rule of thumb is to breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and exhale for 8. Repeat this for a couple of minutes and you will normally see a difference.

It’s sometimes good to do this before you even go to an event that’s likely to stress you out. It’s like meditating in order to prevent the panic attack before it even happens. If not, it’s quite OK to just quietly excuse yourself and wander off to a quiet corner of the room, or to the bathroom to do this technique.

Removing yourself from the situation

That leads me nicely onto this point, and that is that it is perfectly OK to leave. If you are about to pass out with anxiety, nobody in their right mind would expect you to stay put. And you can either leave for a few minutes to practice that breath work, or you can disappear completely!

The ideal would be to train yourself to get to a point where you can talk yourself down and not let anxiety get you to the point where you have to leave any event, but in the meantime, leaving an event is not a crime.

Remembering that you are not bad

My problems always started with something small and by the time I reached the thought that I was evil and everything bad in my life was as a result of that, it was game over. It took a lot of therapy to understand where those feelings came from and now that I am more aware, it is far easier to stop those thoughts in their tracks. However, even if you don’t know where they come from, the chances are that they are a load of bull crap.

Repeat the mantra ‘I am a good person’ if you have to. Because you are. Even if you’ve done bad things in the past (I mean, come on, who hasn’t?) you can always turn over a new leaf and start afresh any day of your life. You deserve an amazing life and it’s awful to think that you might hold yourself back because of a lie that only you believe.

People just aren’t thinking about you all that much

One of the things that I have to regularly remind myself of when I’m anxious is the fact that everybody else has all their own crap to deal with, and actually, I don’t rate too high on their list of important things to worry about. We are each the centre of our own universe and it’s easy to think that people care but sadly (or gladly as the case may be) they don’t. In a way this is bad, because it means that we all have massive egos and a lot of people are willing to step all over you to get to where they want to go. But on the other hand, it’s very freeing to know that that stupid thing you did one Monday back in 2009 is all but forgotten about by 99.9% of people. Hooray for that!!

So really this one is all about looking at it from a different perspective. Worry can magnify everything intensely and distort the truth, so try telling yourself that a lot of it is just lies that you are telling yourself and you should start to notice that people really aren’t looking at you at all.

Stop trying to be perfect

Nobody is perfect and nobody really expects it. Not really. We may pretend that we’re perfect and that that’s what we want but none of it is real. The Instagram and Facebook accounts with thousands of perfectly filtered pictures are hiding the blazing rows with husbands and the kids that are disrespectful and throw regular tantrums. The old school friend who you recently found out has a CEO position in the city goes home to an empty flat and cries herself to sleep. Everything is an illusion to a certain extent. The trick is to focus on the good bits that you have in your life and stop trying to aim for what the next person has.

Trying to be perfect also puts a huge amount of pressure on you in your day to day life. Even if you just want to do everything in your crappy, low paid job absolutely perfectly, you are still heaping a load of unnecessary pressure onto yourself. And guess what? You’ll probably make yourself even more worried and make even more mistakes than you would if you just relaxed and accepted that sometimes you’re going to do things wrong.

If you make the teas for all the people in an office and you worry excessively about getting somebody’s order wrong, the chances are you will get an order wrong. The nerves will get the better of you and you’ll put two sugars in Gary’s coffee instead of one. But, if you relax and have a laugh with Gary he’ll remember you as the funny one who makes his tea rather than the one who got it wrong.

I hope that some of these can be of use to you. I find myself using them all of the time and although I’ve also had therapy for a couple of years, they really do help. I’d love to hear in the comments if you have any others that could be useful too.

Reframing: overcoming blogging issues (and any other problem in life)

So I’m not the most technically minded person in the world and to be a really good blogger I have found that being a bit computer savvy is definitely advantageous. I’m also writing this blog because of my sensitivity and I want people who are like me to feel that the world is a little bit safer and easier to navigate. But sensitivity and computer problems don’t go together very well. In fact, they are probably the worst mix in the world because just a minor hitch in my plans can make me feel like my whole world is ending!

Therefore, the point of this post is to explore how people can make scary or crappy situations seem just a little bit more manageable. It is not just sensitive people that will struggle with this, but I do often wonder how some people seem to make everything look like it’s water off a duck’s back.

One of the best ways that I have found over the past few years of working on myself, is to reframe the problem, and I am pretty sure this is what all those really resilient people are doing even if they are doing it subconsciously.

What this involves is taking the problem (in this case it was my flipping computer not working) and reframing it so that it is less huge or just different in some way. Here I just had to look at it on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being my life being in danger and 1 being a minor annoyance. When you look at it in this way you suddenly see that it’s only about a 2 at the very most and it immediately diminishes the level of anxiety. This is because life is all about survival and when you see where you are on the scale of survival needs, everything can be put into better perspective.

The other way of reframing is to just look at something differently. I’m having a lot of problems with my mother at the moment. She is being very difficult and the situation was becoming overwhelming. With the help of a therapist, what I have been doing is looking at the problem as though it is a puzzle. I love doing books of sudoku and so likening it to solving a puzzle or just moving on to the next has just made it all feel a little more trivial. The problem is still there and it’s still serious, but I’ve given my brain some relief from the stress that’s been flooding it. This means that I can get on with other things in my life and have some moments to actually enjoy life.

Now I’m not a counsellor or psychiatrist so I’m just telling you these techniques because they have helped me. If you have any serious issues that are causing you distress I can’t urge you enough to go and seek help. There are resources out there that you can use and a lot of them are completely free. Your GP is a good starting place.

I hope that this can help one or two people and together we can make the world just a little bit happier, more patient and more kind.

Much Love

Rachel xx