Sunday, 14 October 2018

Sarah's Life | A Lot Can Happen In A Year

This week (Wednesday 10th October) it was World Mental Health day and it really got me thinking about how much of a different place I am in compared to this time last year.

Flash back to a year ago and I was in what I'd say was the worst time of my life so far. I had just gotten back from the most amazing holiday to South America and I had (and still do have) the most amazing boyfriend in the world, but aside from that, I was so unhappy.

A year ago today I was weeks away from being made redundant from a job I had been in since I had just turned 20, so a third of my life, and basically the whole of my adult life. Anyone who has ever been through a redundancy knows how much of a horrible time it is and it's something that I can only describe as horrendous. I was scared, worried, nervous, anxious and my whole personality changed. When I was with my friends, or on social media, I would put on a front and act like I always am, this happy, silly girl who was always cracking jokes and laughing. But behind the scenes around my family and Craig I was a complete mess and so broken emotionally. I cried every single day, sometimes multiple times a day, for over 6 months. I was overly sensitive and my confidence was completely knocked. I was anxious all the time thinking about big changes that were happening in my life that were completely out of my control and the furthest thing from what I wanted as I loved my job and the people I worked with. I was applying for jobs and getting nowhere. I had been applying for jobs for around 9 months and hadn't even gotten a call back for an interview. I felt like a complete failure. The anxiety over it all convinced me that I wasn't good enough for any other jobs and I was just going to end up struggling through life.

Alongside losing my job there was also other factors adding to how unhappy I was. My mum has COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and at the time, her health was deteriorating in front of our eyes. She had just had a stair lift fitted in the house as she could no longer walk up the stairs and her breathing was terrible. She was in and out of the doctors and there was quite a few times she nearly had to go into hospital. She had to start using a nebuliser 4 times a day and her ability to do anything decreased so much that my dad officially became her carer. She began sleeping downstairs in the armchair as she couldn't breathe properly when she was lying in bed and she began to panic so much that she decided the only thing to do was sleep in the living room in the chair. She lost a hell of a lot of weight and she just generally looked so unwell. If we had to go anywhere she would have to stop every 10 seconds because she couldn't breathe when she walked, which meant our usual family gatherings and meals which we used to do together a lot started to slowly disappear. It was awful watching her go from this strong independent confident woman to someone I no longer recognised and who had to rely on someone else so much. I would cry all the time to Craig saying I had lost my mum even though she was still alive. It was heartbreaking.

Then there was also the fact I no longer spoke to my best friend. The girl who had been my best friend for the last 15 years. There was no argument, no big fall out. It was just one of those where we just drifted apart, and other people got involved and stirred the pot between us which pushed us even further apart. We had fallen out towards the end of 2015, then at the start of 2016 began speaking again and throughout 2016 we seemed closer than ever. Then stuff happened and the last time I saw her was the end of August. After that I didn't see her for nearly 2 years. At this point I am talking about in this blog post, it was just on the year mark of us not really being friends. Again, it was so upsetting and a year on, I still shed a lot of tears over it. It had gotten to a point where I just didn't think it could ever be fixed. We both had different lives now, friends and family had opinions and I didn't want to cause any arguments or fall outs, so I just tried to accept the fact that someone I loved so much was no longer going to be in my life, and the girl I had wanted as godmother to my children, who I wanted stood next to me on my wedding day, who was like a sister to me was not going to be in my life anymore. It broke my heart, but again I put on a front and acted like it was for the best. I would say things and act like it didn't bother me and I was better off without her anyway, when in reality I was devastated over it and missed her so much.

The result was I started to have mild panic attacks. I definitely didn't have them to the degree of some people, but I would definitely describe them as a mild panic attack. I would get pains in my chest, I would shake, I would be breathing as if I had just ran a marathon and I would just cry for hours where I was so overwhelmed and panicking about what I was going to do, all the changes I was experiencing and how I was going to get through everything and it would make me just want to run away and hide. It was an extremely dark time in my life and without Craig, I don't know how I would have managed.

I got made redundant in November 2017, with no job to go to, no idea where my life was headed and I was on my 11th month without a single job interview offer. I was absolutely terrified of what lay ahead. Then out of nowhere I got a phone call to attend a job interview for a company based in town. I was absolutely thrilled but so nervous. I went for my interview and came out so deflated. I had barely answered any questions properly due to nerves and was convinced I had messed it up. A few days later though I was offered the job and a month after I had been made redundant I was back in work again! This is it I thought, this is where my life turns around and things start going my way again. This company sounded amazing, and I thought my career was about to take off in this fab new business. Unfortunately though, that's not what happened and the new job I was so excited for turned out to be the job of nightmares.
I started the job at the start of December and straight away I hated it. The company was a shambles, and the staff were just awful. The team I was put on was extremely cliquey and no one bothered to speak to me or tried to make me feel welcome. I tried to speak to them and get to know them and make friends and got nothing back. I was there for 3 months and in those 3 months I sat and watched while they emailed each other talking about me in the emails and I felt so uncomfortable sitting with them. I sat with one girl off my team on my lunch break once and she actually got up and went and sat on another table. I sat in between two girls who would talk over me when I had my headphones on (we wore them as part of the job), and if I took them off and tried to join in, they would stop talking and put their headphones back on, then when I put mine back on, they would take them off again and start talking again. I would ask them how their weekends were and get one word answers back. In the whole time I worked there I don't think anyone asked me a single question about myself. It was my 32nd birthday while I was there and not one person knew. My team leader was on holiday for my first day, and when she came back in on my second day she didn't even acknowledge that I was there. It took her hours to even say hello to me or ask me if I was OK. She didn't speak to me properly the whole time I worked there. I don't think I had one none work related conversation with her. Instead of taking me to one side and speaking to me about any issues she had with me, she would email the whole team and make sly digs about me in the emails but of course not name any names, however it was completely obvious who she was talking about. I felt like I was back in school and being made to feel about 3 inches tall by this clique of god awful girls. They would laugh and cheer when people got let go. They would all be laughing and whispering when I came back from the toilet and then suddenly go quiet. I had absoloutley no training whatsoever in the job and basically trained myself, then watched another girl start 2 months after me and get loads of one on one training. Then I was expected to meet an absolutely unattainable target and then moaned at when I made a mistake which I wouldn't have made with sufficient training. I was again, crying constantly, feeling sick with dread every morning and every night. I would get home or go to Craig's and be this shell of the person I was before, grumpy and emotionally drained and tired all the time. It was a living nightmare and when I got let go in February I was so relieved that I didn't have to go back there anymore. As a result though, again my confidence completely plummeted. I was terrified of starting a new job again as I was so worried it would be the same as this one. My self confidence completely disappeared.

After leaving that job I signed onto Universal Credit and it was the first time I was seeking any kind of benefits for being out of work for 12 years. It was such a hard thing to do, I felt like a failure again and like a bum and I was so embarassed every week going for my meeting. I never had any confidence in myself and couldn't see any light at the end of the tunnel but even so, I didn't let it become me and I was determined to get a job and started applying for anything and everything that seemed vaguely related to my past work experience. Nothing I applied for came back positive, but then once day, 6 weeks after I had left the other job, I got a phone call off a company saying they had seen my CV on a job site and would love to get me in. I was excited but also extremely aware of the fact that I was excited about the previous job and look how that turned out. I went to my interview and a few hours later they invited me back for a second interview. A few days later I had my second interview and the next day I got offered the job. The happiness that I no longer had to go the job centre was unbelievable and I was so happy I would be getting back into work.

That's when things finally started to look up for me. I started that job in April and it's now October and I am so much happier there. The difference between the job from hell and my new job is so drastic. The people I work with were all so welcoming when I started and took so much interest in getting to know me and helping me to settle in. They took me out for a welcome to the team meal, I have got a thank you card off my team leader for work I have done, I am praised and thanked for my work all the time and trusted to do some of the trickiest tasks we have. Everyone is so lovely, when I'm not well they buy me medicine and look after me. If I'm not looking very happy they ask me if I'm OK. They support me and don't treat me like I'm a piece of dirt. It proved to me that one bad experience doesn't mean every other experience afterwards will be the same and my self confidence, though it's never sky high, has definitely improved massively.

As well as finally being settled and secure in a new job, my mums health hasn't gotten any worse in months. She's never going to be healthy, but it's definitely a good thing that it's just plateaued now and she isn't getting any worse. She has days where she can do loads and she seems so much more  herself.
My best friend is also back in my life after 2 years apart. We started talking again here and there around the time I was in the job from hell, and then finally after months of umming and ahhing, we met up and are finally getting our friendship back on track. We celebrated her birthday together at the end of September and I couldn't be happier that she's back in my life!  Sometimes even things you think you can never fix can be fixed and I'm so happy I was true to myself and decided to do what makes me happy instead of worrying about everyone else for a change because her coming back into my life has been one of the best things ever and it's made me so happy.
Another friend, my oldest lifelong friend, has also come back into my life recently who I hadn't seen for around 5 years, and even though it's because of a bad situation on her end, it's made me so so happy to have her back also.
Things with Craig are also going extremely well and we are thinking of moving in together next year which excites me more than anything in the world. He's the best thing to ever happen to me and we've just hit 18 months together, I couldn't be happier than I am when I am with him <3

The thing with worrying is, it doesn't change anything. I wish that was something I could take on board and my brain could process but unfortunately I can't and I will always be a worrier. But it's something I am definitely going to work on. Bad times don't last. Same as happy times don't last. This time last year I was in a really dark and miserable place, and here I am a year later, the happiest I have been in as long as I can remember. I am fully aware that this won't last, and am I anxious about it? Yes. But I know that when bad times do come again, they won't last, just like before, and the times before that when life hasn't been going too well. I will get through them, and the sun will come out again, and happiness will come back, just like this time.

The difference in where I was mentally and emotionally this time last year to now is so huge. I feel like me again. I still have days where I am anxious and panic. When there's a lot going on in work, or when I have to go to social events where I don't really know anyone, or when I have a headache and go on Google and end up convinced I am dying (Hello hypochondriac Sarah!). But that's never going to change, and that's who I am. I can sit here though and say that I am happy. And that is a great feeling :)

To anyone going through a bad time or who are in a dark place, just know that it won't last forever and with strength and time the bad times will pass and your days will be filled with light again. <3