Lessons learned from holidays…

I’ve just got back from my first holiday in 6 years. I actually feel like I need another holiday because what I discovered was that I’m not very good at having a holiday. I feel like I need to make sure I DON’T MISS ANYTHING.

I’m aware of my privilege. 3 years of jobs where you weren’t sure if you’d have enough money to feed and clothe yourself never mind do something frivilous like go to the cinema, the pub never mind go on a holiday and no annual leave to take a holiday anyway leaves a mark. I felt hugely guilty about taking annual leave, and it required encouragement from my line manager and my wonderful colleagues who have learned how incredibly anxious I get to reassure me that taking a holiday was something I could and should do.

The first lesson I learned was that you need to take time to organise your holiday so you don’t end up in such a state by the time the day comes you’re getting so stressed out you end up in bed with a migraine.

The second lesson I learned was that years of having no money meant that I felt that if I was spending all this money on accommodation and petrol I needed to see AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. In hindsight, I should really have taken time to not feel guilty about just spending my half my day in ONE place and just enjoyed doing not much at all. My anxious and fidgety tendencies meant that any time I got somewhere I immediately felt like I needed to move on to the next place.

The third lesson is research where you are going, and make sure there’s food you can eat. I stupidly assumed that staying in the UK meant this wouldn’t be an issue. Cue a close to tears increasingly emotional and hangry woman driving manically through Dorset trying to find town that would serve something other than pub food (which is generally not the koala friendliest).

The fourth lesson is that I stumbled across the most gorgeous, comfortable and friendliest bed and breakfast. If you are ever going to West Dorset (sans children) book a stay in Halsons B&B near Bridport. It is truly beautiful and in a historical moment I slept through the night in their comfortable bed on my first night there. That’s never happened anywhere before!

The fifth lesson I learned is that if you have a camera around your neck, people assume you are American.

The sixth lesson is I can’t poo in a portaloo.

And the final lesson? When you get woken before dawn by owls, can’t get back to sleep in the uncomfortable bed at B&B number 2… get up, put on your clothes, grab a fleecey blanket and go watch the sunrise from a clifftop.

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And then go back later to the next cove to watch the sunset.

 

 

 

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Why I’m doing the Kiltwalk this year…

It’s totally mad to believe, but I first started getting involved in youth work when I was 16 years old and became a volunteer trainee leader at a Guide unit in sunny Leith. I have now spent more years doing youth work than I have not doing youth work.

To put another way, MORE THAN HALF my life has been spent involved in youth work in some way or another.

Last year I got a dream job as a Young Women’s Worker at a youth project in a town where there is basically no services. It was shocking how many referrals we got simply because there was so much need and so little provision in the local authority area. One of my friends who is a GP not far from where I worked has spoken to me about the huge need in the area. My friend who is a social worker spoke of staff off sick with stress due to the strain on their services and massive budget cuts.

I had to give up the job in April, and it was heartbreaking. I really didn’t want to leave. The day I found out that I’d likely be leaving I took 13 young people on a residential weekend and it was amazing. It was one of those real breakthrough moments, except it was a weekend full of them. After helping my colleague resolve a flood in the project because the toilet cistern broke, I drove my car that was caked in mud home. When I parked at my home I sobbed knowing that soon I’d likely be leaving. I still follow what they are doing through the project’s social media and not long after I left I convinced 4 staff members to join me in doing the Edinburgh Kiltwalk. We are aiming to raise £2000 of much needed funding for the youth project, and so far I’ve only raised £35. 😦

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You can help me help the young people and give me incentive to actually go through with this crazy idea of walking for miles on concrete (last time I did this I walked less miles, I was 10 years younger, my knees worked and I couldn’t walk for 2 days after) by sponsoring me. Even if it’s just £1 it would still give us huge encouragement…!

You can click to reach my fundraising page here. The amazing thing is that whatever money we raise, a trust called The Hunter Foundation will match fund our total by 40%.

Please, please, please give if you can. And if you’d prefer to give me money in person I do have a good old fashioned sponsorship form!

Things that help keep me mentally healthy…

I want to stress that this post is just my own experiences, and the tips here are not a cure for mental illness. There have been times in my life that I needed professional help and treatments. However, I was at one time a student at University of Aberdeen’s Department of Public Health and I truly believe in being proactive to reduce risks of illness and disease. Everyone is going to be different because you are unique, but I know that I’ve discovered things that have helped me by trying out things that friends and lovely bloggers have shared about.

I also want to be cautious about adding things that cost money. I’ve been reading a few blogs and books recently talking about lifestyle and emotional health. I follow a lot of lovely folks on instagram. And I know that loads of things they promote are simply not affordable options to the majority of the population.

Going for a walk outdoors
This is hugely important – not only because often it will wake me up, help me sleep better and clear my head. Though I will caveat this one with if I’m really down I need company to get me out the house and also because for reasons written about in previous posts, going for walks by myself when my mental state is not good can be unhelpful.

Letting it all out
A few years ago a uni friend reminded me of the time she and a friend were struggling so I took them out to a beach in the middle of the night, and we climbed to a top of a sand dune to shout, yell and scream. It was something I did a few times when I was overwhelmed. Sometimes I know a good cry is what I need so I have been known to watch stuff I know will make me cry (usually acceptance speeches or certain TV shows) to get the tears flowing. Afterwards there always seems to be a bit more clarity.

Going for a drive with the tunes blaring
Like the ‘letting it all out’ I always feel most at peace when I’m driving in my car down country roads or motorways. It’s just me and the tunes I love. I can sing. I can talk out loud to God*. I can even talk and give myself a good ol’ lecture. Now obviously in the name of the environment, if you can limit your drives to just making use of already necessary journeys that’s great. And also I realise that having a car is a huge privilege (one that I do not take for granted after many years of not being able to afford to own a car).

*and if I’m honest, sometimes I yell and scream in anger at God. He can take it.

Volunteering
My friend Holly wrote a piece a while ago about being empowered by volunteering. I’ve said many times that Girlguiding probably saved my life in the last few years – there were times that I was so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed all day, but the idea of letting down the girls got me out. It gave me purpose and a chance to keep my skills up when I wasn’t working.

Eating and Sleeping regularly
You can guarantee that my mental state will become poor extemely quickly when I start skipping meals or not getting sleep. I literally do not function and I’ll stop being able to string sentences together. I’ll start getting over emotional and over-react to everything. I know it’s often easier to drink and eat junk food, but oh goodness the difference when I’m drinking water, eating fruit and veg (and let’s be truthful chocolate and bread because I ain’t giving up carbs).

Consuming Art
Food, work, shelter they are requirements for survival. Art is a reason for living. It inspires and gives us hope and makes us look outside our own situations. It’s lovely to go to music gigs, the theatre, the cinema but if your financial situation doesn’t allow that there are art galleries and museums with free entry. Reading books, if you can’t afford to buy, public libraries give you them to borrow for free. And libraries don’t just have books, but also films and music too.

Feeling Fresh
I put this bit in cautiously because in no way do I want to promote vanity or an idea that looks are what’s important. But I can’t deny that at times when I’ve been feeling really rubbish – whether that’s from physical illness or mental illness – having a shower, bath, taking time to do my nails or shaving my legs so they feel all smooth helps me feel better. And actually as I’m basically a reptile and live in Scotland when I paint my toenails a cheerful colour or shave my legs the only person that sees is me! It’s too flippin’ cold to have go around with bare legs and flip flops most of the time here.

Photography
When I’m depressed I often struggle to write, but what I can do is find something beautiful or intriguing to take a photograph of. It also helps me feel more comfortable walking on my own because if I’m walking alone I get anxious that everyone who sees me thinks I’m sad person with no friends. Trying to get a different focus or angle somehow reminds me to keep trying to see the world from new perspectives. You don’t have to have the world’s best camera either, though I definitely don’t regret the two years of saving to buy my ‘fancy camera’.

Organising to meet up with friends
This is really tough if I’m in a bad place. And if the plans are woolly – forget it. My anxiety will get the best of me. Give me a time, place, details of what’s going to happen and I have a chance of getting there.

What are things that you find that help you to say physically and mentally healthy? Would love to hear what helps you, as it might just help someone else too! Please share in the comments…

The adventures of Gromit…

This time of year always brings back some memories thanks to Timehop and Facebooks ‘On this day’ algorithm. One of those was the photo below. It’s funny because I’d actually forgotten about Gromit until I saw him in May for the first time since this particular day in 2014. He lives with my friend Ruth (a fellow Wallace and Gromit fan). And it reminded me of how important good friends are that have your back.

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I’d just been made redundant from a job I’d held for over 7 years. It was a pretty yucky time and to this day I’ve never opened the cards my volunteers gave me on the last day. They are still in the bag I took them home in. It was just too painful. The weekend after I found out I was home alone, and I started going into a depressive state. One of my school friends skyped me from her home in Spain, and demanded that I get out the house and go for a walk. She knew it would help me, and I knew she was right. So I reluctantly left the house and walked into the main ‘village’ where I live. In one of the charity shops I passed Gromit was in the window. I saw him, went in and bought him with the plan of posting him to Ruth because I thought she’d find it funny. The next day was our Soul Surfers community beach day – we used to do them on the first Sunday of every month. I took Gromit to get silly pictures of him doing stuff at the beach. What I didn’t expect was the dognapping that happened. A 4 year old Mini Kahuna did not want to let Gromit go, as shown by his protective hugging…

MK and Gromit

My friends’ son didn’t want to let him go, and my friends were like “You have to give him back”. But I ended up making a deal instead. I knew my friends were headed to the Christians Surfers UK gathering a couple of weeks later, and attending would be a couple of folks from Ruth’s church. So why not let their kids take Gromit on a few adventures first? I told them Gromit was far more likely to have fun with them, than with me as I set to close up the charity I’d given so much of my time to for the past 7 years.

Their daughter took on the mission admirably. Gromit went to watch her fellow Brownies make their promise, went to a birthday tea, the dentist, walks in the rain before he went down to Cornwall where he was passed onto one of the CS UK staff who took him home to Ruth. The pictures I got sent made me smile!

It was something so simple, but I’m so glad on that Saturday that my friend checked in with me, and didn’t give up. She knew that I needed the push and accountability to get out the house because the more I stayed in, the more miserable I was becoming.

On a week where we have had two more famous people leave this earth because of suicide, what a reminder to just check in with friends.

I am in a much better place now than I was this time last year, but still have days where anxiety and depression overwhelm me. I’m grateful for the friends that have continued to be understanding and stuck with me even when depression makes me a really crappy friend.

 

Searching for doors that are open…

First of all, thank you to everyone who read my blog post – especially anyone who shared/commented/messaged me. Writing is definitely easier with feedback, because you can only know if you’ve communicated something well or worth sharing if people communicate back. Definitely twitter, instagram and the rest have killed that key part of blogging community in the last decade.

I feel strongly about getting more disciplined in writing more and finding ways to improve my writing.

This past week marked an anniversary of the day I got offered two dream jobs in one day. You might think ‘lucky you!’ and you’d be right. I know exactly how lucky I am. There had been a lot of applying and rejection for many years before that. A lot of envy. A lot of friendships lost because it was no fun being friends with me.

The last year has had a lot of change. It’s been positive mostly, but any change requires adjusting your life accordingly. It wasn’t an easy ride. Worth it? Yes. Easy? No.

However, summer is here, I’m now able to focus on one job. For the first time in my life I’m working 9-5. I still go away or work the occasional weekend (ok, at the moment because it’s marathon and sponsored walk season…there’s a lot of weekend work!) but I’m no longer working lots of evenings.

It’s a new era in the life of brunette koala, and I’m trying to navigate how to use this time. It would be very easy to sign up to do lots of things I’m being asked to do by church and Girlguiding. Some of them I will do. Some of them I won’t.

Is it selfish or is it what God wants to also use this time to pursue things I’ve always wanted to do? Like creative writing, dancing, surfing, photography and learning languages?

Last year, a few days after I got the phone call to invite me for an interview with the organisation I now work for, I snapped the above picture in Pressmennan Woods. A door that said ‘Open Me’. I saw it and felt the need to capture it, hoping with all my being that the door I had knocked on that seemed to be opening a crack would open fully this time. Rather than slamming it back in my face as so many doors I’d knocked had in the previous 3 years.

There are many more doors out there.

And I feel now is the time to search for them…and open them to see what’s on the other side.

 

 

The story I don’t talk about so often…

When I first started blogging 11 years ago, it started as a journal. I was in my early twenties and the world was my oyster. I had healed from so many things during my years in Aberdeen and then all of a sudden all of that came undone. It made so little sense, and writing was the way I was able to talk about it, process it and unexpectedly found community in doing that.

A lot of my blogging was very personal, and I’ve always been an oversharer. I think it’s rebellion against my grandfathers who were all masons. I don’t like secrets. Secrets have a way of eating away and letting things fester and rot.

I used to share a lot on my blog about my faith too. I stopped doing that over the years, because I became a little ashamed about the church and how it treated people. I didn’t want people to make the assumption that because I held a belief in God that I would also follow very prejudice views that have hurt so many and therefore feel I should be avoided for fear of me judging or rejecting them.

A lot of my lovely friends that I made through blogging don’t share my belief in God, and yet they’ve all been very open to hearing about my experiences. They haven’t been weirded out when I’ve wrestled and questioned my beliefs. Or talked about some of the wackier moments like the day I was lying on a floor of a warehouse and got a vision of a woman in South Africa. Or how I came to work in a pregnancy crisis centre. Or the time God told me to pull off a motorway to drive to my Dad’s house before I even got a call saying he was being rushed to hospital. Or when God woke me up at 7 a.m. and told me to get baptised the following week.

Yep they’ve heard them all.

I’ve been a Christian (whatever that means) for 16 years. It’s now so every day that people just assume I grew up with a family that took me to church. Nope. Over those 16 years people ask how I ‘became’ a Christian. I will talk about how I went to university, met my friend who had been praying for an opportunity to share about her beliefs with her fellow residents and I provided that opportunity on a platter. I’ll talk about meeting other Christians, my friend from high school who was a Christian and going to an Alpha course.

I never talk about what I think was probably my first encounter with God. Not that I would have dared acknowledged it as that at the time.

But this is mental health awareness week. And maybe the time has come to take a big gulp and be open about it.

Knowing that after reading it you might think I’m ‘crazy’ or ‘deluded’ or ‘mad’.

Knowing that sharing this on a public forum could risk people I work with reading it.

Knowing that my family may read this, and most of them likely had no idea this event had even happened.

But I believe that the only way we can reduce stigma is by sticking our neck out and saying: “Hi. I’m BrunetteKoala, and this has happened to me…and I’m still here.”

And honestly? I don’t know if it’s scarier talking and no one reading or knowing that anyone could read it…

2018 so far…

There’s a lot been going on lately, and have to confess that my laptop playing up, the screen cracking and my iCloud having a wee life of it’s own, I’ve not been able to share life as much as usually do. Life over the last year has been incredibly busy, and last week marked a year since I got the call to invite me for an interview that has caused life to do the complete 180 I had been waiting for so long.

Please don’t misread that last sentence. I don’t believe the idea that life is all about luck. I wasn’t sitting on my butt waiting for something to come along. I was going to work, I was applying for jobs and at times I tried to keep studying…but I had so much rejection and it really takes it’s toll. As does living hand to mouth and never knowing how many hours work you are going to get, knowing if you take a holiday you are losing out on pay, being afraid of going to the optician, the dentist, not being able to pay a mortgage, losing friends because you can’t afford to socialise in the way they choose to. Knowing that every month you are away from the career you worked for is making it even tougher to get re-employed back into it.

There’s a lot of lucky people in the media who like to give inspirational interviews saying how they’ve worked hard and it’s not about luck. Well, quite frankly my experience tells me you need both.

The last 10 months I’ve worked in two jobs that I felt hugely passionate about. It’s not been all rainbows and kittens. First of all there’s the guilt of feeling like giving 100% to one is taking away from the other. Second is the exhaustion of trying to work flexibly to do both well. I naively thought that working full-time would give me my life back. It has to an extent, but actually there’s parts of the previous 10 years that I probably took for granted.

If you look at the friendships I have made in the last 10 years, a lot of people my own age and life stage aren’t a huge part of my life anymore. Mainly because I couldn’t go on big group holidays, go drinking at weekends and all the rest. For the last 3 years I worked pretty much every single weekend. The people who were around when I wasn’t working were people who were free daytime on weekdays. And they tend to be folks who are retired or stay at home parents. Hence, all the kids in my life.

Cue last summer, when all of a sudden I was only free on weekends. Add to that a late finish on a Friday night so would often be peeling myself out of bed on a Saturday. Sometimes if it had been an eventful shift that would still be playing on my mind and I wouldn’t have slept much. So Saturday was all about recovery! There’s been no play dates over breakfast or lunch. There’s been no meetings at the Zoo when my friend and I have been excited at opening the curtains to discover it’s not freezing/windy/bucketing rain. I miss it. I’ve been so lucky to have that time with my friends’ kids watching them grow up.

However, in January, I started getting my act together and booking in time with friends further afield. In February I decided to book an extra night in London to see my friend Judith and we discovered that Robert Pattinson actually lived 100 years or more and was painted by one of the Impressionists and was featured in an exhibition at the Tate Britain.

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And though we booked it a year and half ago, I also decided to take my time in London again when Ruth and I finally got to see Hamilton.

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This experience really needs a post all of it’s own. I’ll pop that on my to-do list. In fact today I’m with Ruth at her home in the West Midlands today because we accidentally ended up with two sets of tickets, so we’re going to see it for a second time this week. This time her friend Claire is coming with us. 🙂

And I followed this up with a couple of days with Nicola, Ben and their incredible son (my second godson). Unbelievably littlest godson is walking and talking. We went on a train, he introduced me to ‘Foffle’ (Waffle the Wonder dog), his “chuck” (toy kitchen) and I’ll be forever known as ‘Yaa-Yaa’.  They also introduced me to this amazing restaurant called Bill’s in Marlow when we were on a wee day trip. I was craving one the other day so badly I almost hopped in my car to drive all the way down there.

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Though I’m still nervous to book annual leave and take holidays as I feel horrific guilt and anxiety when I’m not working, I have booked to take a week off to do Surf Camp again. I’m hugely happy to have my friend Craig back this year and not only will be leading worship we’re also going to be archery instructors (!). I managed with a little bit of difficulty to pull myself out of bed on a Saturday to drive us up to the SU centre in Kinross where we were trained by a coach from Scottish Archery. We aren’t quite at the level of Merida yet, but by the end of the day we were at least hitting the circles on the target. I’m also hugely grateful that I got the chance to do this with the young people at my work when I took them on a residential weekend – so have got lots of ideas for games to use from the instructors at Rock UK! I’m hoping the rest of Craig’s clan are able to visit as they are another bunch of friends I’m missing since working full time.

I became a member of Stenhouse Baptist Church.

And haven’t been back to church since that happened due to being away for work (and struggling a bit with endo/IBS symptoms). I’ll hopefully be back next weekend though.

I’m also getting better at dragging myself out of my hotel room when I’m in London for work. And when you’ve got pals like Judith who have such great knowledge of the cheapest things to do in London, which lead to seeing views like this…

…you realise that you are so incredibly blessed.

There’s one last bit of news. I’ve actually left one of my jobs. It was a decision that fell into place, happened very quickly but was totally gut wrenching at the same time.

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I’m now full-time in the other job and very happy with that, but it doesn’t mean I’m not missing youth work hugely. I sat on Tuesday afternoon almost waiting for young people to wander into my office room as they usually do when I am in the youth work office on Tuesdays. Last week has been hard getting used to working from home all the time, and it’s going to take some readjusting and getting used to. However, I’m also really happy to have some long-term stability for the first time since I was at university really.

And so that’s you all caught up on the BrunetteKoala life.

The one where I try to write a blog again…

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It’s been a while since I blogged, and the main reason for that is that my laptop screen is bust. I have been pushing through but as time goes on the damage spreads across my screen and so writing, editing photos and so on is becoming increasingly challenging/impossible. So if you see any ridiculous spelling and grammar errors, it’s likely I’ve not spotted them as they’ve been covered by the balck lines of doom.

Why not get the screen fixed?

Well, today I took it to the computer repair shop, and to do that will cost me £400 as there are currently no refurbished parts in stock for my model. (If I’d bought my laptop a year earlier it would be a bargain of £290 to fix). Then there’s also the ridiculousness of Apple and their desire to make you spend as much as possible on new laptops and extra parts which take up so much more space on your desk (or a train table!).

So decisions, decisions….

It may be time to ditch laptops and go back to old school DESKTOP COMPUTER. As these seem to be the only ones with all the handy connections for USB cables and SD memory cards as part of the computer!

There has been much to write about lately. Life has been busy with work, work and more work! I love my jobs so I don’t mind all the work, but the downside is that it leaves me with little energy in the spare time away from work that I have. I’m about to be ‘welcomed into membership’ at the small baptist church I’ve been going to since last summer, and I’m trying desperately to keep volunteering with Girlguiding. Our Guide unit continues to grow, and what has been so lovely is some members of the Senior Section who have been trickling back since I closed the Ranger unit in December interested in coming back as adult volunteers or doing Chief Guide and Queens Guide award schemes.

I sense more change ahead. The challenge is to work out what is simply stuff I’d love to do and what is meant for me to do.

I know that I want to continue doing youth work, to build community and to write more. And maybe sing a bit more often too. I got such a wonderful opportunity to sing with my friend Craig last month at an open mic afternoon run monthly at a local café. We had no time to practise, but we’ve led worship together at two surf camps and numerous church services over the years. I didn’t realise until we were standing in the café and the words came out (hopefully in tune) the freedom in simply singing a song that means a lot to us and our friends. Selfishly, I miss singing because often it’s the time I feel unburdened, empowered and content.

It’s been 9 months now since life changed drastically for the better. I’m still navigating new routines and trying to have a good work-life balance. I’m trying to reconnect with friends who due to circumstances I was rarely able to see. Now I have the means, but finding the time and energy* is the new obstacle

*I don’t mean this to sound negative, it’s simply a reality that often when I’m not working, I’m literally peeling myself out of bed because I’m so exhausted. I know that the best way for me to stay healthy is to sleep off any sign off illness. Bearing in mind it’s been 10 years since I last worked full-time and when I did I was constantly ill because my immune system sucked so bad! The fact that I’ve only had 1 day off sick in the last 9 months is a flippin’ miracle (especially if you know how many nasty bugs have been going around flooring my colleagues, friends and family left, right and centre).

And so I can’t promise that this blog means that i’m going to be back here writing and sharing more regularly like before. But it is a sign that maybe I will. It’s especially lovely to see some friends coming back to the blogosphere. Like Grace (and Ailsa), Holly, Vicky and Brian. I definitely miss the conversations that used to happen on blogs.

Hopefully see you around here soon…and if not, I’m always on twitter and instagram!

The story of my Christmas tree…

So, I put a Christmas tree for the first time since 2013. Every year people have asked to see my tree covered in hats, or what happened to the ‘Elmo Slippers’ after the pregnancy centre closed down. (The elmo slippers became sort of office mascots, and we put them on the office tree every year). I decided that they should be added to my tree this year. They do such a good job of being co-tree angels. For those of you who aren’t aware of the history of my quirky hat covered tree, the story is on an old blog post underneath this photo…

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Originally posted on December 7th 2011…

The first year in my flat, I didn’t have a Christmas tree, as I wasn’t a big fan of Christmas – mainly I think because of my struggles with SAD each winter. However, in 2005 I was much stronger and decided to get a small tree to put up in the living room. I was a student at the time – in my Honours year – and the one I bought was a 3ft faux tree from Tesco for £2.97. In 2006, I discovered the Supergran campaign, and the wooly hats on my tree became a quirky tradition of mine…

Supergran 2006 Christmas tree

When I moved back to Edinburgh in 2007, that tree came with me on all 5 house moves and featured again in my flat in Leith. I guess it was that year that the Pooh bear dressed as Rudolph came to join the fun. I can’t remember who gave me him as a Christmas pressie!

Big Knit 2007 Christmas Tree

In 2008, my Mum refused to put up decorations as we were spending Christmas just the two of us, and she was heading to Oklahoma on Boxing Day so wouldn’t be here to take them down (she didn’t trust me to do it ‘properly’). So my tree got prominent place in her living room.

Big Knit 2008 Christmas Tree

In 2009, my tree was banished to the attic. Because of the sloping roofs it had to go in my brothers’ room…

Big Knit 2009 Christmas tree

In 2010, I’d moved the room around and basically decided that the tree would cheer me up. My photos got relegated to my brothers’ room and the tree went in their place. The Poohbears & Tigger went on my window sill that year. I only got 2 more hats because of the snow, but I sadly began to realise that I had so many hats they didn’t all fit on my wee tree anymore…

Big Knit 2010 Christmas tree

…so this year, I had to upgrade to a 4ft tree. Especially as I got 8 new hats. The new tree JUST fits, but my star won’t stay on top. Pooh bears and Rudolph are on my chest of drawers next to the tree.

The Big Knit 2011 new Christmas tree

I was sad to have my faithful little tree still in its box. Until Sarah mentioned she didn’t have a Christmas tree. So yesterday, when I took back a ton of fundraising event stuff back into the centre, I took in my tree and asked Sarah if she wanted to take care of it for me. It gave me such pleasure to see that my little tree is still bringing Christmassy joy in another new home…

photo taken by Sarah that I downloaded from her FB page!

Thanks Sarah for letting my little tree live on!! 🙂

The reality of the Christmas season…

It’s dark, the rain is splattering against my bedroom window, and I’m once again wrapped in blankets with an unhappy stomach. On my bed there are chord sheets of Christmas carols, some lush products, craft stuff for Guides, Paddy the iPad, my phone, while on the floor are three bags filled with shopping from today and throughout the past year that will be Christmas presents.

I haven’t written on here for a long while because I didn’t really know how to articulate everything.

In October, I had a breakdown. There were a lot of triggers in a short space of time and I think with stress of one of my jobs and not having friends around much it just escalated quickly and suddenly. I came off facebook and one day just got in my car and drove for hours. I didn’t really eat for several days.

Since then, I’ve been better, but still struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. I’ve not been able to be involved much with church partly because of the panic attacks, and partly because of work.

There have been a lot of things going on. I have two incredible jobs which I’ve dreamed of and had given up on hope of finding. I have been truly blessed this past summer, and I’ve now passed probation of one of them. I really, really hope that it will work out so I can stay after my contract is up because I love it so much there. The other job I’m still on probation, and it was a tough start for a lot of reasons. It’s still tough, but I hoping it’s going to be rewarding. And then there is volunteering. That’s been hard. I’m exhausted, and we are still short on volunteers which means I haven’t been able to take the steps back I wanted to.

So I’m doing lots of great stuff, and it’s all good. But it means from Monday-Friday I have no social life. Free evenings are rare. By the weekend, I’m exhausted. And everyone (including me) is busy. Most people have families they want to do stuff with at weekends. I don’t have that, so weekends have been incredibly lonely. I think I had this ridiculous dream after 3 years working pretty much every weekend of having friends who would want to go on walks, cinema trips and music gigs because that’s what it used to be like. Now I truly am that tragic spinster. I really need to get some cats.

The other thing that’s been going on is that my Dad has had some health issues. If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you’ll know that my Dad and I don’t have the easiest relationship. We have had months of trying to get him to a specialist here in the UK, tests and consultations and waiting. So much waiting.

The events of the last couple of months have really shown me how much I’m lacking in friends. The friends that have ‘been there’ – the ones that have checked in, who have text back when they see a missed call – they’ve all been people who are too far away to be able to do anything. However you know you have a good friend when despite being on a whole other continent they are texting you almost daily to check in.

And I get the “FOMO” thing. It is so hard at this time of year to see people happy and with friends and family. You know you’ve been replaced and forgotten when it’s there to see on social media. On the days when the anxiety and depression has really peaked, it’s just like twisting a knife in a wound to see. It makes it so abundantly clear that you are all alone, and if you weren’t here – life would go on perfectly fine without you, because it already is. It’s a really horrible thing when you feel so resentful of people that you love.

And do you know what, I know that in the past, people have contacted me saying how jealous they are of me when I’ve posted stuff on my blog and social media. It is really easy to portray this whitewashed version of our lives.

So though this post has been sitting in my drafts for a week, I am going to publish it for that reason. Because I want you to know, just in case you are feeling crappy too that you are not the only one. If you have a family that have mostly stopped speaking to each other and you only see at funerals. Solidarity with you – I’m in that place too. If you are living with mental health illness. Solidarity with you – I can empathise. If you are single and trying to navigate what life looks like when you are alone – I’d love some advice on how you deal with that.

Oh, and although I won’t be alone on Christmas Day, I will be on twitter as much as I can be to provide some company to those who are. I’ve been doing #JoinIn since Sarah Millican started it, and I can see how much it is needed more than ever this year.