The big decision…..(hospitality, it’s been a pleasure)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in food and I’ve always had this yearning to help others. Growing up, my earliest memories aren’t of childhood holidays, school or my best friends, but of the birthday cakes I had over the years, the recipes I used to write, the things I used to bake in school and with my grandparents. I’ve also always been extremely empathetic, thoughtful, selfless and caring; going out of my way to help others often when noone else would help, being hospitable when guests stayed, going out of my way to look after others and do good deeds and I remember the lengths I went to ensuring my mums German pen-pals enjoyed their stay in our back garden when I was a kid. Given all this it’s hardly surprising I’ve fallen into hospitality as a career.

It’s been a 12 year love affair. I can’t dismiss it completely; I’ve worked in some of the most gorgeous hotels with some incredible chefs and managers, eaten and drunk some amazing food, learnt a ridiculous amount, met some amazing people, grown in confidence and learnt a lot about myself. But, like a lot of love affairs, this too is ending with a bitter taste in the mouth. It’s often bad enough being in a one sided relationship and not getting anything back, and in the grand scheme of things a relationship is relatively easy to change in comparison to this. 12 long years I’ve given my heart and soul to this industry, an unfailing passion for looking after others, for food, drink and good service; but the industry hasn’t been kind and it hasn’t given anything back in return for my loyalty. Strong reliable honest and genuine people in this industry are hard to come by, particularly females dominated in a male orientated world and from today it will be lacking in one more.

12 years of long shifts, late nights, no breaks, no food, poor pay, misconceptions about bonuses and incentives, broken promises, lies, bullies, verbal abuse. I’ve missed birthdays, family occasions, Christmas’, New Years Eves, I’ve been reduced to tears on my own birthday by bridezillas, I left university to pursue this as a career (much to the dismay of my family who didn’t speak to me for quite some time), I’ve been made redundant, been accused of theft as an easy way to get rid of me as there was no other grounds to do so just so I could be replaced with a family member to the business, I’ve been taken advantage of in most ways you can think of, and most recently I’ve been sexually attacked. All for a job, putting plates of food in front of people.

On starting my new job in Manchester three weeks ago, I promised myself if this venue didn’t work out then I would call it a day and walk away from the hospitality industry; I just didn’t expect it to be so soon. With my health, the attack and other failed jobs my CV is in desperate need of stability (as am I for my own sanity). Just three weeks of working there was more than enough. It’s weird that on reflection I wasn’t as driven and motivated as I normally am when I start a new role; probably a sign my love for the industry has been tarnished by all my previous experiences. In all honesty, I’m impressed my optimism and passion lasted this long, testament to my resilience and determination to make this work. I was put onto a 60 hour contract without prior consent or consultation (a 48 hour contract with a signature to say you’re happy to work over that dependant on business needs is the norm) and I actually did not ever receive a contract to sign. Despite the 60 hour contract all 3 weeks of working at the venue I reached nearly 80 hours a week, with few breaks and even less food. On my 4th lock up shift in a row, finishing a 17 hour shift with no food or break I set to walk my 7 minutes home on my own at the ridiculous time of 4am. On my way home I was cornered by a group of 3 males who swiftly spread after I set off my rape alarm; I dread to think what would have happened had I not acted in such a way. After what had happened last november, I was inevitably shaken and couldn’t sleep. Once it hit 7am, wide awake, with my next shift due to start at 11am and sleep definitely not on the horizon I messaged the GM to tell him what had happened and I was in no fit state to work. What followed was not a response of concern, apology or care but of blackmail to bully me into going into work that night. Later that day handing my belongings back to the venue I was nearly blamed for the near attack and was told I should have got a taxi. (I’ve just put all of the last of my money on a flat 7 minutes walk away to eliminate the need for wasting money on taxis) In just three weeks of working there I’d lost weight, lost my boobs (the bee stings always go first!), lost my drive for hospitality, my care, and managed to get really poorly from the hours I was doing. It was then I knew what I had to do.

Right now I’m feeling extremes of two things. Immense relief and immense heartbreak. I’ve dedicated and sacrificed so much of my life to hospitality, but it hasn’t treated me kindly at all and much like a long term abusive relationship enough is enough. I have to walk away. Admitting that is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. But at the same time, I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Ironically, whilst working in hospitality I’ve struggled to attend food events and markets as they’re always on a weekend which I will now be able to attend. I’ll be able to have the work/life balance I’ve been craving; the ability to work and have an active social life not just sleep on my days off. I’ll be able to see my friends and family, go to gigs and festivals, go on holiday, go to supper clubs and special dining events; I’ll actually be able to explore my passions!! I’ve found in my last few roles, because I’ve been so aware for the need of stability and longevity on my cv and my personal life, I’ve become extremely paranoid about anything going wrong and as such I’ve been making silly mistakes through being over cautious; I’ve been on edge constantly and that’s not the way to be when you apparently love something.

Whilst I am bloody terrified about what the future holds and the prospect of potentially becoming a 9-5 computer monkey, I am excited for finally having full control over my life and not having the powers of a relentless and unforgiving industry control it for me. I am sad to be leaving it in this way, but I think it’s for the best. All things about the hospitality industry are probably the worst things a female of my age with depression and anxiety, who’s just been attacked should be doing. I’m not saying never again, just right now I need a bit of structure, stability and time to do my own thing. I’m hoping to extend my empathy and customer based qualities into a role working for a charity; it may not be as good money starting at the bottom again but to me job satisfaction, stability and work life balance are far more important

Hospitality, the pleasure’s been all mine. Here’s to the new chapter of my life.

Keeping in control

A lot of things have taken hold of my life, turned it upside down that I have had very little or no control of; from redundancies, housemates stealing off me, bad friends, bad relationships, bad jobs, being attacked…all of which have had a negative impact on my mental health and left me repeatedly “getting back on my feet”.  With yet another “fresh start” (most overused and underrated phrase in my life!) looming, a new job and a move back to a city I love, I am doing everything possible to claw back control over my own life and hopefully steadfast me into keeping it that way…..not letting it loose again so easily!  The last thing I need right now is any form of my anxiety or depression to start flickering.

First off the job and the move itself is something I have been in control of.  All too often over the past couple of years, I’ve made career moves I’ve not been 100% happy with but have had to take because it’s been the only offer on the table at the time and I unfortunately don’t have the privilege of being able to afford being unemployed.  This time round I chose the best option for both my career, my personal/social life and my finances from a range of different options; dismissing some very early on in the hope that I’d find something that would perfectly fit…and I have! It’s a brilliant opportunity and driving home from my interview and trial shift the other night I had a silly grin on my face like the kind you get on a giddy loved up first date (you know the one!)  I also know this move will be good – city I have lived in before and feel comfortable in, where I have a lot of friends both in and out of my line of work as well as it only being 40 mins from my folks if I want to come home.  Ticks all the boxes!

Next on the list is being in control of whats going in my body.  Over the years I’ve been prescribed numerous anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, beta-blockers, sedatives, contraceptives, as well as the anti hepatitis and AIDS tablets I was given in November (which made me feel worse than any anti-depressant).  Each one of these has come with their own side affects and left my body confused as to whats going on.  I’ve taken a stance to as much as possible not put any synthetic chemicals into my body.  No painkillers, no anti-depressants (despite the doctors recommendation), and no hormonal based contraception (now using the IUD).  I’m also where possible eating no junk food, processed food or take aways.  Trying to drink as much water, green tea and eat as much fruit and veg as possible.  I’m a lot more aware of where things are coming from and trying my best to buy free range/organic produce across the board.  It’s tough but already I’m feeling such a difference.  I’m also trying my hardest to source natural skincare and make up products too, may as well!

On the theme of being in control of what I’m doing to my body, I’m really trying to exercise.  Even just taking the dogs for a walk and getting some fresh air is really making a difference to my mentality. I’ve downloaded a fab app called Track Yoga which has easy to follow routines and allows me to be competitive with myself.  I’m also about to renew my Headspace app which I’m finding difficult to stick to but I can see is having some benefits to my focus and motivation.  I’ll be more able to develop these areas once I’m in the routine of my new job and settled in my new living space.  I’m also really trying to get back into my reading.  I seem to keep buying a lot of books but not doing a lot with them.

I’ve noticed historically, when I’ve felt like I’ve been losing control on my life, I seem to have gained a piercing or tattoo.  These past few weeks it’s been a very near thing adding my collection of metal bars but as of yet I’ve managed to steer clear of this.  Given I’m technically unemployed still, I’m soon to be commuting 100 miles a day, my car is pretty much illegal and don’t quite know when my next wages will be, I’ve probably got better things to be spending my money on.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so sensible and grown up in my life!  I’m going to start seeing these things as treats rather special-Jen coping mechanisms.  Next wage packet I get, I’ll be heading straight to a piercing shop!

Finally, as mentioned in my previous post I’m having problems with counselling (surprise surprise!) and that my current form of therapy is making the most of the amazing supportive friends I have.  Unfortunately, over the past few months in all the drama that’s gone on a few have fallen by the way side but I think that’s to be expected.  Amazingly though an awful lot of people I’ve not spoken to for years have got in touch which is incredible! As I currently can’t get counselling I’m going to promise myself to make more of an effort with the wonderful people in my life and not just in supporting me but I’m really being as pro-active as possible in helping them in their lives as well.  It’s very easy when you’re going through a tough time to become self absorbed (something I’ve definitely been guilty of before) and I find I’m always very good at letting the black dog talk me out of seeing plans through, so I’m making a stance with myself and vowing to always stick to plans and try to start giving something back to the people I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life.  Why have one counsellor that I pay when I have a lot for the price of a brew and a cake!

While all of the above are just little simple changes, and a lot of them make common sense, for me it’s not necessarily the changes that I value but the control I’m now having my own life.  It’s made such a difference.  While some things are still very much out of my control, are weighing on my mind and probably will be until the court case is all done and dusted, at least I’ve got the mechanisms in place to hopefully stop my head spinning out.

J x

Keep your head up, keep your heart strong ❤

One of my favourite songs and a big dog walk is what was needed today. Heads been in a bit of a funk and I could have easily hidden under my duvet all day, riddled with anxiety and “the fear” but I’m so pleased I got out. 3 tired dogs, one tired jen, one clearer head.

Definitely earned my brew, packet of biscuits and my book

It’s the little things that make a big difference

J x

Confused Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault? Ask Kesha.

Very topical at the minute with the kesha case

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/kesha-sexual-assault-why-women-dont-come-forward_us_56c77579e4b0928f5a6bcd51

I’ve been prepared by my support officials that in England only half of cases reported make it to court, despite how much its certain something happened it all boils down to evidence. From there only a tiny percentage are actually convicted. At the end of the day its one persons word against another’s.  Despite how horrible it has been reliving the story to so many strangers, going through all the physical examinations, tests, post-attack medication you have to take (that makes you really ill), it’ll all be worth it if a conviction can be made. I wouldn’t be doing all of this if it wasn’t true, all of the humiliation and judgement. I’ve been paranoid about it for months. But the people who commit these horrid crimes cannot be allowed to just walk free. We have to at least try. It’s the least we deserve to retain a bit of self respect and dignity.

J x

The stigma & best form of therapy

I was hoping to do a post about my counselling assessment on Thursday – what would have been my second one because nothings ever easy with me.  I had one in January with a group called “Victim Support” arranged through the police.  While it was positive and they said I’d be bumped up to the top of the waiting list due to my lack of emotional support in the Lakes expecting to hear from them in a few days, I didn’t hear from them for weeks by which time my head had melted and I was back living at my folks.  So I had to start the process again with a different group in Chester.  9am appointment and at 7.30am I had an awkward one line apology email that the counsellor was sick and we’d have to rearrange when she was back.  These things happen, but given its now been 4 months since the incident I’m eager to put some demons to bed and talk it out with professionals.  This is all feeling very reminiscent of when I was running along the conveyer belt trying to get my CBT sorted a few years ago.  Due to lack of funding and support where people need it the most urgently and desperately it’s actually doing more harm than good.  I’ve vowed to myself that when I’m back on my feet I’m going to invest in some private counselling then I know I won’t have these problems (hopefully!)

In the meantime; one thing that has helped me out incredibly is the amount of support I’ve had from friends; close ones who I cannot thank enough for being there every step of the way and others I’ve not spoken to for years.  Just the knowledge that people care; some people I’ve not spoken to for years giving me their phone numbers and offering a chat or a brew, honestly it’s been pretty overwhelming.  In a world where there is so little faith in humanity, especially after an incident such as this has shaken up my trust in people it’s nice to know there’s some gooduns still out there and I can keep that faith.  The people in my life the past few months have been bloody awesome.  Knowing I can speak about things, or not speak about them at all just have a laugh and a joke with people has been incredible help; laughter and friendship really is the best form of therapy.

Now the term “victim support” is something that’s not sat well with me since I was first put in touch with them.  Victim is such a harsh, degrading and demeaning word; as if we’re the ones in the wrong.  It’d be like calling a cancer charity “sufferer support” or “diseased support”.  Chatting about it to one of my friends, he suggested “Survivor support” would be much more appropriate; empowering and liberating the people its meant for and that is what we are, we’re all survivors!  Feels wrong that an institution in place to help people has a name that stigmatises those it’s supposed to be supporting.

One thing I have noticed is the level of stigma and taboo still surrounding sexual attacks.  I’m fairly sure if any of my friends had been attacked in just a violent manner, or had been mugged then it would spoken about quite liberally on social media.  Yet, for some reason this added element changing the nature of the attack is very much avoided; like people are ashamed of what has happened to them.  Something following on from my blog and being so open about my own experiences is an overwhelming amount of people have been in touch with me opening up about their own stories; some people I know and some complete strangers saying it’s given them the courage to talk.  Whilst this is amazing they’ve felt comfortable enough to open up to me, it’s a shame they don’t feel able to talk about it more freely.  Given, I know it’s not the thing to go shouting off the rooftops, but I’m fairly sure if someone had been beaten up by a stranger there would be a campaign to try and find who’d done the damage, pictures of the attack would appear on social media and everyone would rally round their support.  I’m hoping that me talking about things so openly and candidly about my own experience might help others do the same and in turn help break down this stigma surrounding something so awful but so desperately important for people to talk about.  It’s by talking about things, people who’ve experienced this find peace and understanding and is a way for others to offer support maybe in times where professional help is limited.

J x

 

 

Baps, flaps and scars

Given the experience I shared in my second to last post, it’d be pretty ridiculous if I now told you that I’ve just done my first ever nude photo shoot right? Well, it is, and I did.

Now, let me set the scene; I’ve not just marched into a random studio and got my kit off with some babestation style poses being pulled off.  A very good friend and absolute hero of mine, Lord (yes Lord) Damian McGillicuddy who used to arrange photoshoots and workshops at a hotel I used to work at and for years we’ve been meaning to get together to do a “shoot”.  We recently got back in touch following my move home and he invited me on a roadshow to Ireland for 4 days where I’d be modelling in his seminars and if I wanted to, we could experiment with a private shoot.  The prospect of a few days away, getting some headspace and speaking to no-one who knows about my situation was extremely inviting!

So, before the final seminar I bared all – scars both physical and mental on full vulnerable display – and we experimented with some sexy natural looking shots; 50s style, black and white, boyfriend shirt, with a vibe that I didn’t even know the camera was in the room at all.

Yes, I completely agree what I’ve done probably seems completely mental given everything that’s gone on recently.  Most “normal” people wouldn’t go getting their baps and flaps out so liberally after an attack, but I’ll tell you why for me it kind of makes sense.

Some psychologists use exposure as a means of therapy for phobias i.e. fear of heights gets treats with visits to high places, fear of spiders a trip to the zoo, fear of jam go to tea room etc. Now the feelings I’ve been having haven’t necessarily been a fear but they’ve been a feeling of distance between my mind and my body; almost detached.  There’s also the elements of knocked confidence, anxiety and loss of control on my own life.  Like I said, I’ve known Damian for years and we’ve been meaning to do a photo shoot together for the past 4 years.  I’d feel pretty shit if after all this time, I was offered this opportunity and I had to turn it down because of the incident that happened in November.  That’d be another way for said incident to be affecting my life and another point to him.  What better way to stick two fingers up to the situation, grow some big girl balls and regain control of my life?! Plus I’ve never exactly been shy in a bit of nudity – boobs are boobs and a foof’s a foof. I’d hate for any more of my personality to be reserved and restricted because of what’s gone on. So….the little jelly tots came out!

The experience itself was incredible.  A lot more natural than I thought it would be, it didn’t feel weird and I didn’t feel awkward or vulnerable.  It’s not like plenty of people haven’t seen me and my bits in all their glory over the past few months anyway with all the doctors and nurses and police that have had a look.  Honestly, if I wanted this many people to see my bits I should have become a stripper! (you have to try and find light in a situation somewhere!) In all seriousness, after the shoot I felt liberated, empowered, extremely sexy and very emotional; something I’ve lost touch with recently.

Now I’m not advocating everyone in my situation runs to the nearest photographer and gets their bits out.  But I am a firm believer in there not being a rule book for dealing with any form of trauma or mental health issues.  To do whatever feels comfortable for you and whatever helps.

You’ll all be glad to know I won’t be posting the pictures on my blog – no-one needs to see my kipper and pancakes! I’ll be keeping the pictures for myself as a reminder of the strength I’ve had to do them when I’m struggling and probably show them to everyone I meet when I’m 90 – what I looked like “back in the day”.

One thing I will share with you though is a wonderful quote which I’ve picked up from Lord McGillicuddy himself as his favourite quote and was actually featured at the end of his seminars this week.  Something very relevant to how I feel and has been resonant with me since I first heard it – think it’ll stick with me for a while

On a serious note, I’d like to thank the Damian and his team for the opportunity to go to Ireland.  I found strength in me I didn’t know I had.  Damian’s an incredibly honest, wonderful, supportive gentleman; proper salt of the earth and I’m very lucky to be able to call him a friend. The past few days away has done me the world of good and given me a new perspective on moving forward.  Check out his other INCREDIBLE photography which is significantly better without my mug in……https://www.damianmcgillicuddy.com/

J x

rocky

 

 

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this”

Just a weird observation, could be purely coincidental or it could be my brain has been trying to tell me something all along.

Travelling up to the lakes in november, I had an old favourite song from my emo days stuck in my head – the most prolific lyric being “i’ve got a bad feeling about this”.  That lyric then twirled round my head for the following few weeks, even with me when I went back to the hotel for the third and final time.  Just noticed now I’m home, it’s gone.

They do say once an emo kid, always an emo kid

So here we are…

So here we are. 9 months since my last post and I’m back.  Things were going so well.  Since my last post I’ve been doing amazingly off the medication, I became single (turns out the relationship was a significant stem of my depression), moved out of my parents into a cute little flat on my own, promoted to restaurant manager, even took myself on a jaunt on my own to Edinburgh to fulfil a bucket list dream in seeing the Foo Fighters (I’m not going to lie…I cried when they opened their set!).  Back when I wrote my last post, if someone had told me all of this would be happening in the following few months and my mental health would be steady and controlled, I would have bet a significant sum against it becoming reality.  How wrong I was!  Life was going well and I was the happiest and most content I’d been in as long as I could remember.

October I left the job I had and was offered the role of a lifetime up in the Lake District.  Beautiful hotel, even more beautiful views, restaurant manager of a michelin star restaurant, working alongside an old manager who I have always admired and dreamed of working with again.  Good salary with free live in accommodation allowing me to sort out my finances for good, and the perfect opportunity which would make my career for life, allow me to stick two fingers up at a lot of people and give me the stability I’ve been craving.  Anyone would have been stupid to even hesitate answering the offer.  In hindsight, I had a weird uneasy gut feeling in accepting which I just put down to nerves but is probably something I should have listened to more closely. It was quite daunting how good an opportunity it was; a lot of pressure to enjoy it and equally make sure I didn’t mess it up – people would kill for that kind of opportunity, so I ignored the alarm bells.

So, 13th November I relocated to start my new life.  New place, new job, new people; the perfect fresh start to really move on from the drama and stresses of the previous 18 months fighting the black dog.  It meant the world to me that this went well.

I can’t give too many details away about what happened next as there’s still a police investigation going on. But, what I can say is on my first night of this new venture I was taken out for dinner and drinks by a new colleague to welcome me to the hotel.  This led to me being spiked and later I was attacked in the room I was staying in at the hotel.    The following day I spent a very scared and very lonely 12 hours with the police – most of which were spent without a phone because my battery had died early that day.  Easily the longest and most terrifying day of my life; completely unknown to anyone trying to piece together what had happened, craving a hug and wondering how I was going to tell my friends and family.  I returned home to my parents house 14 hours after reporting it feeling lost, empty, numb and completely unable to cry.  Small blessings in this incident are I don’t remember a thing, and other than a few bruises I wasn’t hurt.

I took 3 weeks off until rather naively and stubbornly I returned to the hotel a mere 3 weeks after the incident.  It was too soon and definitely did more damage than good, but I’m impatient and just wanted to move on, not let this be the reason for the job of my dreams to fall apart before it had even begun.  Day 4 of the job and Storm Desmond hit the Lakes, leaving our hotel damaged and closed for the following 9 days.  I took that as an opportunity to return home, see some friends, family and finish packing up the last of my flat.  Returning home, everything I’d put off dealing with came flooding in and broke me.  Coupled with the timing of making my formal statement to the police and all the internal medical examinations, re-living the experience in graphic detail to strangers was one of the toughest things I’ve ever experienced.

I ended up getting signed off from work with stress and depression, and the doctors wanting me to go back on medication.  Deflated and defeated I stayed home over Christmas and tried to focus on spending time with friends, family and getting my head straight.  It was a lovely Christmas, but it all felt bittersweet – anyone in hospitality would love to have the festive time off work but for me I was desperate to be kept busy and feel back to some form of normality.

Brave or stupid, I can’t quite decide but I made another attempt to restart the job.  Third time lucky? Unfortunately, it was not to be.  The more time I spent there, the more difficult things got.  In order to return to the hotel, I’d bottled everything up relating to the incident but once I got there, I was bottling everything up.  I was quiet, reserved, numb, completely un-Jen.  I wasn’t showing myself in my true light personally or professionally.  I could see it was having an affect on my job, I wasn’t performing anywhere near as well as I wanted to.  Starting a new job, especially of that caliber you want to go in “balls deep”, full of motivation, passion and enthusiasm.  I was starting each day riddled with anxiety, dread and fear which in turn downward spiralled with the realisation I was struggling, really uncomfortable and needed help.  My anxiety was sky high every day, verging on panic attacks and I wasn’t sleeping well in staff accommodation at all.  This all with the constant triggers and little reminders of the offender and what had happened around……it was only a matter of time before I had to call it a day.  Heartbroken and devastated it had come to this; a week ago today was my last shift at the “dream job”.

As always with me, things are never straight forward.  Due to the location of the incident and my new job in relation to my parents house the support group I’d been referred to wouldn’t even put me on a waiting list until I was back up north.  I saw an assessor who said I’d be fast-tracked due to my lack of emotional support up there.  3 weeks passed and I heard nothing, now I’m back at home trying to piece things together and I’ve had to start the whole counselling process again from scratch.

In all of this, I’ve still not properly cried.  I’ve blubbed and sobbed but not a proper reaction.  I really feel like there’s something deep inside me, building and dying to get out.  I think being so isolated and lonely when it happened and then going back up there not knowing anyone has made me bury all of my emotions pretty deep.

I keep getting told I’m strong, I’ve got through so much over the past few years I’ll be able to get through this etc….I wish I had as much faith.  I’m doing OK, but I’m not great.  I can feel chinks in this armour I’ve put on starting to show.  There’s only so many times something can be broken and put back together before it no longer resembles its original form; I feel like I’m starting to get that way.  It’s tough, really fucking tough.  I feel like I can’t trust my judgement or decision making.  I’m feeling incredibly unsettled, fed up that nothing seems to go right, fed up at constantly moving house, fed up it feels like the world is conspiring against me.  As long as I keep myself busy I’m OK but other than that I feel like I could have a breakdown at any moment.  I nearly had a panic attack yesterday just trying to find a particular pair of shoes, rummaging through my belongings in storage.  It’s not the easiest thing to speak to anyone about. I’m desperate for professional help, but as always it takes its sweet time to be arranged.  Until I’m moving on with my life, with a new job and a new place to live I don’t think I’ll be able to draw a line under it and fully be able to deal with the past few months.

So here we are…..

J x

A letter to myself 14 months ago

I’ve not posted for a little while because I’ve been doing really well with my recovery. I’d be lying if I said every day was perfect, all flowers and sunshine. It’s a daily battle but it’s becoming easier. I know how to handle my head and I’ve put strategies into place to help me should I have another wobble.

I’ve made the decision that this will be my last blog post. Id like to take the lessons I’ve learnt from this horrid past year and move on to a new exciting chapter of my life without being held back by my past. A clean break into a new me.

The timings a little appropriate too, it’s been 2 months since I came off antidepressants which has made a phenomenal difference to my mental health and I’ve not looked back. It’s also a year since I put myself into hospital. Something I didn’t think I’d feel weird about after having come so far since then, but for some reason I can’t quite work out I am feeling a little uncomfortable with the looming day.

So. Here is a letter of advice I’ve written to myself 14 months ago when I was first diagnosed and place on medication. All things I wish I’d heard and believed at the time. I hope it helps someone else in their battle.

Dear jen,

Antipressants are horrid, truly awful things that will make you nearly fatally worse when you start taking them. Don’t jump to the decision to take them just because it seems like the only option. Caution and more thought needs to be given to them and other more natural approaches should be tried first. Meds aren’t a quick fix

The friends and support group you have when you start your recovery won’t be the same when you get back on your feet. A lot of people are shit

Going through this, getting better and the road to recovery is horrid. It’s unattractive, scary, soul destroying and one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do 

Some people just don’t care that you’re having a tough time but there are plenty of other people who do

You will become something you don’t recognise, someone you hate, try to push everyone away and punish yourself for how you are. But a better you will emerge stronger the other side

Self harm doesn’t solve anything and there is no easy way out

There isn’t a ‘normal’ or a ‘better time’ to try to revert back to. You can only move forwards and be better than you ever were

Alcohol will become your best friend and worst enemy and it cannot be trusted

Your judgement on everything becomes completely skewed. Don’t react to situations too quickly – try and see logic and perspective before opening your mouth

Your boyfriend is an exceptional person. The financial and emotional support, love and care he shows is unfailing and unconditional. Tell him and show him every chance you get

You’ll lose all feelings of being horny and lose your sex drive. Sex stops and cuddles will become the most intimate thing you’ll do and it’ll take longer than you can imagine for your self confidence to improve enough for that to change

Talking and listening to people without judgement is the most helpful, supportive and kind thing someone can do with you

You’re really bad at patience. Having patience is the most important thing you’re going to need to get through this. Everything takes so much longer than you can imagine to improve but it will get better

The road to recovery isn’t a straight line. There will be bad days but they should be treated as rest days not days to torment yourself on ‘failing at life’.  celebrate the good days and any little victory

Just because the world is still spinning and people are going about their lives doesn’t mean you can punish them for feeling lost, lonely and isolated

Because of being housebound and being so focused on your illness you’ll become really self centred. Remember the other people in your life around you

Sometimes people just don’t understand but it’s not their fault

The only person who can make an actual difference is you. Doctors, friends, counsellors, therapists, family, medication can only do so much and even then might not happen.

Any progress is good progress and a step in the right direction

Depression will attack your immune system. You’ll get poorly more often and it’ll take longer to recover. This is normal. Keep healthy

It’s ok not to be ok

Baby steps are better than giant leaps

Depression will have an effect on every part of your life. And everything in your life has an effect on your depression. Getting the balance is the tricky part

Those closest to you will be finding your illness hard too. They can’t be at your beck and call. Give them a break if they need space

Don’t be hard on yourself, none of this is your fault

Emotions and feelings you never thought you had will emerge. Dealing with them and recognising what’s you and what’s the monster is what’s most important

The people that matter the most are those who stand by your side while you’re in the darkness and are still there for you when you get to the light – they’ll be friends for life

Deep breath. Be strong. You can do this

Balance and focus

Since starting my new job 4 weeks ago, I’ve done nothing but focus on work.  I’ve not left myself with any time to reflect on the changes I’m going through, to keep up with the positive changes I’d made to my lifestyle or to have any fun

My jobs over the past year have been mainly office based and normal working hours so havent been very demanding. Now I’m in a job that I love and back where I belong in the hustle and bustle of a fine dining restaurant but the challenge of going back to lobg, irregular hours and the physical demands on my body are definitely harder to get used to than I imagined. That teamed with no time for meditation, no proper meals – certainly no healthy eating, too exhausted to exercise, not much down time to myself, as well as messed up hormones and now seemingly ineffective medication has caused a bit of a meltdown. Additionally to all of the above, my anxiety is currently off the scale because I’m terrified of anythibg negative happening with my job and ending up unemployed again and I’m also desperate to get my own space out of my parents house, make some new friends and get back to having a social life.

I’m stubborn and love my job and the opportunities that Its giving me so it’s Down to me to reevaluate the rest of my life and focus on getting the balance back in the favour of keeping my head on the right side of the tracks.

After several failed attempts with medication and an overwhelming concern for trying any new medication now I’ve started a new job, I’ve made the decision to come off medication completely. Instead I’m going to swap the pills I can barely pronounce for herbal supplements like omega and st John’s wort and I’m hoping these will keep my head on a level playing field.

I’m also looking into paid counselling instead of the poor services received through the NHS which so far have proved more damaging than helpful. I’m also asking my parents if they’ll help me fund a course of acupuncture for my birthday.

As well as this Ive got a new wave of motivation for looking after myself during my time out of work – eating healthier, drinking a lot more water, getting proper sleep, exercise, meditation and treating myself to doing something fun on my days off – all things I seem to have neglected over the last few weeks.

I am so proud of myself and so happy not only to be back in a job but doing one I genuinely love and have a passion for. But I also need to remember life isn’t just about work and in order to keep doing this fabulous job I love I need to make sure I take care of myself and not let my health jeopardise things

J x