I was a volunteer at a local restoration project. I was working very hard. I had reached a point where I was tired of doing it all for nothing. The Christian expression that a friend uses a lot is “the grace had gone”, which means the love, the joy, the being able to put the work at the castle first, not needing rewards apart from the joy of being, wasn’t there any more. It meant I was getting grouchy about it all and wanting to see wrong in it and everyone there. My husband said that it is psychologically proven that when people want to leave something – a job, project, relationship, town, etc – they find fault with it. But you see I didn’t want to leave not liking it there. I can see the castle from my study window. I also walk my dog in the grounds. I did not want to stop looking at it, stop going there, stop encouraging other people to go there. I didn’t want people to hear my bad mouthing it. So what to do?
Well, being a Christian, I spent a long time in prayer over how I would resign my post. Yes it wasn’t just that I was a volunteer but that I had a key post. I tried to not do anything and to say I was busy in the hope that they would get mad at me and ask me to leave. It didn’t work. It was time for me to grow up and take control. In the end I did manage to step down gracefully and leave as a friend. It does mean at times that I am called back to help – with events, with late evening lock ups, can still run my writing groups up there. It means I can still walk there, see the people involved and have a chat.
Then the other night I was at Dan Snow’s History Man event at a local theatre. At the end of every evening he always shares something on the local history of the area. Well one of the two places he picked was the castle where I used to volunteer. And he especially picked out the young man who runs the Trust and is the driving force in the restoration. Because I had left with grace and kindness, when I saw it and the things Dan Snow said about it my heart swelled with pride. Not because I had been a part of it but because I knew the person being honoured. I was proud of him. He is my friend. I was proud to hear him honoured. Proud that the place I used to be very involved in was one of only two places singled out in this area for Dan Snow to talk about. All this came about because I grew up and left with grace not with anger.
I am hoping I can take this onward as a life lesson for whatever I do next.
A friend of mine shared an email he had written to his place of work to explain how he is struggling with mental health problems. You can read it here – A Personal Message to Friends and colleagues.
It is great, open and honest and something, I think we should all be doing – being open about our mental health issues. I do have a few Facebook friends that are totally open about what they are going through too. But what I have noticed with my friend’s post and with my FB friends is that they have all been diagnosed with a something. I think this helps. With my friend in his post too he works in an office environment so can take time working from home, etc. But what about all of us who have not been diagnosed either because of not having gone to a doctor, not found a professional who sees the problems and who can’t take time out.
This isn’t a gripe and a “poor me” but I do think it is harder. I work from home and some of what I do I have to keep going with – like the Airbnb stuff to keep the house clean and have beds made up for guests. This does give me freedom from not having to work 9-5 too so it is swings and roundabouts. But I do find it harder, when I can hide away at home and then put on my brave face when I go out, to be able to be open and honest about how I feel. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. There are also people who work in environments that may not understand or be sympathetic. A friend of ours with borderline personality disorder who worked in sales was given sympathy but still expected to meet his targets in high-pressure selling.
So how can those of us without a diagnosis, who have stepped out of the normal working situations or who are not in a sympathetic work environment deal with this? At the moment I don’t know but I know that I am trying harder to be honest about my mental health even if it is to have lower expectations of myself in what I can and can’t do, to be honest about how I am struggling to cope with all the changes that have gone on in the last two to three years – us moving, changes in my children’s lifestyles, all the new people we have met and new things we are doing. So when I have a meltdown because my husband has taken longer than I wanted over doing some household job or other I can say calmly, once I’ve regained my thoughts, “it’s not you but just this on top of me still coping with the changes”.
I’ve a project I’m doing that I know I should not have taken on. I need to finish the project. I need to finish it because it is the right thing to do. Yes, I work on that “right thing” but I am now downscaling what I’m doing with it, realising that I can’t get the help I expected due to other people’s commitments, and that actually I don’t have the emotional energy to get it sorted. So I will finish it but I will be kind to myself and again realise that little things like the household jobs taking longer could cause me stress but it isn’t them it’s just life.
So what I have decided is even if I can’t be open and honest to others as my friend has been in his post I can be open and honest to myself, kind to myself and say that even though I don’t need pills and therapy I do need space and time.