Wednesday, July 31, 2013

So much better than I was

It's now over four months since  I left my workplace. Four months since I walked away from a job I'd done for nearly a decade. There's been a lot of therapy—positive therapy where for the first time in my life I approached it from a strengths-based perspective—and a LOT of medication. I've lost entire days to sleep then zombified drift. And then I've utterly won other days where I just walk around and realise for the first time in my life that what I have done, what I accomplished in a place where to say the word "glacial" is to imply a speedy thing, is nothing short of incredible.

And it's taken a lifetime to reach this point. To realise what I did and what I have done is incredible; that a man as physically and mentally as unwell as me managed to achieve so very much. 

I know, this post is shouting to the void, but I tell you there is nothing quite like winning your life at 40, to realise you actually shaped a sliver of society for wellness.

I remember watching this The Daily Show bit from Jason Jones where he interviewed a pair of psychologists that specialised in assisting people to cope with sudden wealth. Their experience being that between 3–6 months after receiving sudden wealth many recipients, such as lotto winners, often suffered depression in that they'd "won their life" as far as material acquisitions went, but now they no longer had to work, the other emotional driver of accomplishment was missing. Jason Jones mocked the psychs, and the bit was edited and crafted as usual to perfection. But the central premise of these counsellors offering a needed service of tailored counselling to the suddenly wealthy was still intact.

I can see that. That how to win your "life" in terms of dollars and cents was an empty win. Because it wasn't from merit; it was chance. And, okay, for the first time in your life you were free from the yoke of need but that joy lasts but a short time. You don't have to work ever again but, well, what now?

That and sudden wealth can wreak changes on your social and family life. Good Weekend, the most-awesome supplement in The Sydney Morning Herald for the weekend edition, once ran a piece about a couple who'd won lotto and in their late-twenties they were financially set for life. They talked about the giddiness of the win, how the dude of the pair would ring the banking automated phone service to hear how much money they had in their bank account, Steven Hawking-style; "You ... have ... one million ... and three hundred ... thousand ... dollars ... and .... thirty two cents". 

They were set for life, and had already prepared for a life of privation in that as a couple they'd been relying on the one wage as they tried for a child so they would get used to the single salary; his. 

Then the lotto win happened. 

After the initial rush they decided, after the obvious stability requirements of a paid-off house and security for the future, to spray the wealth to friends and family. They had a dinner party where they handed out gifts; such as an expenses paid holiday to a friend of the wife and another substantial gift to a mate. 

In this process the mate, the friend of the lad in the pairing, realised that the friend of the wife of the pairing got a gift of greater value. So incensed was he that this caused his friendship with the lotto couple to break-away. He was gone; gone from their social circle wrapped in bitterness from the "slight".

I know, it all sounds a bit "Jesusie" in that there's a moral in this story; that investing happiness in physical reward is wellness-defeating. As in "okay, I don't have to work for a living; I have 50 years of life ahead of me ... now what?"

So I can see that. I can see the pain that would cause. How the emptiness of material wealth lands upon a person and they know they are missing something; that they crave a higher purpose than their mere sanctuary from the typical vicissitudes of a modern life ... because with their "" they are no longer normal. They no longer enjoy yet despair the typical child to old person struggle that is the life of a person in the Industrialised west. 

Material gain without earn must be a cross to bear for the suddenly wealthy. And I pity them, because, unlike they, I won my life. I had a life of good works where I shaped the culture in which I was reporting to. I spread as much wellness as I could and my time wake is a rainbow any shaper would envy. 

I did that. I did that as a mid-level public servant because I was, in the end, the perfect person to do the job that I did. Not only that I was blessed with a partner that loves and supports me and a child, a child that was born through SCIENCE! and without SCIENCE! would not be here, that I thank each and every day for. 

I spent 30 years steeped in self-loathing. Because I was odd, because I did stupid things to get attention, and because I was fat and physically broken with clicking knees and a pain-wracked gait. Literally, on occasion, a fat wheezy boy with a note from matron.

I felt that. I felt it to my core and I felt I was not worthy of the chance at life I'd been given.

I feel that no longer. That pain of in-consequence, of not mattering. That's all gone; dust in the wind. What I did was important and it was important that I did it well.

I won my life at 40 and whatever happens next is a fucking bonus round. 

Take that, once more, real life; I'm still winning.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


I have a Wilson sporting goods branded headband. Of my four headbands—needed for the sweat pouring from my head is of Finn-in-a-sauna quantities and my sweat-themed man fluid gets in my eye if I don't wear protection—the Wilson one is the most comfortable. The Wilson headband fits snuggly but not too tight and, being made of absorbent terry towelling, it does a more effecacious job at keeping the sweat from dripping past. 

Only, whenever I wear the Wilson headband, I have to shout WILSON! in a despairing cry of loss ala Tom Hanks in Castaway before I slot it around and upon my balding dome, like I've been crowned king of a sweat lodge or something. 

Also, I can only wear it if I remember to pin the Wilson headband on the clothes line on the way out of the shed. For the sensation of sliding on a now-cold but still severely sweat-dampened headband 24 hours later is not a pleasant one for the old scalp-a-rooney. 

In addition, never ever smell test a headband. Never. It's sweat flannel bad.

A dog leg nave for my man lair

theWife saw fitness mats on special at ALDI—whose name I then sing out in a high-pitched voice any time I hear the store's name spoken; "Ourl-DI!'—and purchased two. They are silvery-gray, like an item of THE FUTURE! circa 1954. They were for my man lair—the electricity-enabled shed in our yard where I do my daily exercise atop SoTPC, an exercise bike forged by the very same dwarves that forged the hair of Sif!

Due to the shed being an unlined structure—it is merely a weatherproof aluminum shell upon a concrete slab—the floor within gets most cold. You need slippers at night or during colder days of Winter if walking within the shed or your feet soon chill. The fitness mats serve therefore as a carpet for the shed, and because I am doing stretches now and then, as a good thing to stand on so I won't slip if sweaty.

The fitness mats, of a neoprene-like substance, are about two feet by six. I have them perpendicular with one leading from the door and then, connecting to that mat at 90 degrees is the other, which leads to the shed's innards.

So it's like a nave, in other words, a nave within my man lair. A nave of a sponge-like material that takes a bite of the chill from the floor for when you pace about. 

I do a lot of pacing—and dancing!—in my man lair so the twinned mats are a welcome addition into my already steeped in wellness orgone machine. 

Making your environment even more well for the win.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Where the gang goes on holiday

We went on a holiday. First to see family in our old home town and then off to stay for a couple of nights and go to the zoo during the day. 

Our holiday was kewl. We got to hang out with family who we love, we saw lots of animals, watched lots of Scooby-Doo, and I read books on my tablet.

While I was in my home town I talked a bit about oldwork. And, for the most part, I could talk about oldwork without getting the physical symptoms of hand shakes, stabbing pain in the shoulders or tremulous guts. 

My Dad's PC is an older model, pre-Windows seven, which meant I could play Warlords II. So my niece, who is 13, and I played a few games and, all up, I think we came out even on wins. While we played I talked about my old job and the manner in which I left it. 

'You should pity them,' she said. 'Because they have to remain behind and still do your job.'

She was right, of course, I should pity them. And when I do get angry about what happened I have to remind myself that they're victims too. Victims of an unwell workplace, unwell physically and unwell mentally. And when people are steeped in an unwell place then unwellness is the only possible result. 

Of course the flipside of that is that all it takes is one or two resourced people to turn a horror workplace into an awesome one where people like to work. But then you get used to that and when that is taken away from you and replaced with its polar opposite then, well, it all turns to shit just so horridly fast.

I had another medical support meeting and it's now likely sometime in the next month that I get eased back in. I was nervous before it, felt okay during it, and felt alright afterwards. And I didn't cry, which is a win.

But this afternoon the jitters came. I rugged up under a doonah on the couch, my electric hot water bottle pressed against my shoulder, and watched two movies with theWife. Then we went and got theBoy and the gang was assembled again.

It's nearly four months (1) since I was last at work, my last day in my old building resulting in me checking into a mental health ward later that night. But I am so much better than I was and each time I take a step back all I have to do is look behind me to see how far I've come. 

Wellness for the win. 

(1) UPDATE: The post originally said five months and so this is a correction.  It's late-July. I realised it had  been nearly four months, not five months, when I'd written this post. It's now officially over four months since I left work as I type this. Four months to get to a point where I can actually step back into an office—though it will be a gradual process if it's back to my current organisation. I'm better than I've been in years, though I'm still subject to the physical manifestations of anxiety, and the odd mental moment as well; the sudden sick stab of fear something is horribly wrong. My body too deals with the yuck of IBS, Fibromayalgia, and other aches and plains. So I like to say I'm sore but I am well. My body feels like shit for much of the time but upstairs in Mikey's head sadness is replaced with joy—and I am forever free of the feeling that I suck, that I am shit. Because I am not so and never have been. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

I'm self-actualised

I've spent much of my life feeling shit because I was fat, looked odd, had an attention-seeking problem and because I made weird popping noises when I moved about—a blister-pack of self-critiquing crap.. 

Then I had my break-down, my ten days in March, where I went insane; actual, gibbering insanity where I could no longer perceive reality. All because my toxic workplace had finally knocked me over when I couldn't understand what was to happening to my job, my person and to my colleagues because it all seemed so utterly in the face of logic.

It was quite the ride and I haven't been back to the work since. Now, with my CV done I am likely to soon have a graduated return to elsewhere in the org and far, far away from my oldwork.

I know that the following seems an odd thing to say, because going insane is not fun—as I can attest, especially during the near-death moments I had when foetal and crying on my shed floor—but it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Because it took an actual mental and physical collapse before I could separate from my then toxic environment. And because I valued what I did so much that it took a trifecta of appalling management to line up to break me and spin me into an abyss of madness. 

I needed a collapse in order to leave—a job which was monstrously important and that I believed in—to allow for needed recovery. And it was in my recovery, and subsequent therapy, that I realised that I'd been awesome the entire time. In that I'd always looked out for my colleagues and that I'd always done my best at any job I had. And that I'd actively shaped the narrative and culture in my workplace for the better. In other words, I felt like I'd won the Public Service; I got to do awesome, fulfilling legacy-leaving work and I had a ball in the process.

So with that I am born anew; I'm self-actualised. I can look at my time wake not for the failures and loss but for riches and joy. And that at 40 I'd placed a mark upon the earth—as a mid-level public servant—because I had the reach, tools, capacity, study, training and passion to not only give it my best but excel whilst doing so.

I can accept the crap parts of life because everything had to happen for everything to happen. And with this letting go of failures past I get to spend significant chunks of my day walking around feeling like Manny after he infused The Little Book of Calm (1). 

Mikey for the self-actualised win. 

UPDATE: Self-actualisation doesn't, however, stop anxiety flares. They still come. For example, if theBoy has a five-year-old moment, especially in the car, then that can set me off. I have to jam in ear plugs and then press my hands over my ears and flat to my skull to drown him out. It's just how it is with severe anxiety recovery. You can feel great, glowing with self-worth, but a sudden intense moment or a brush with old stressors can fire up the physical side—hand tremours, shaky voice, fight or flight kicking in. 

But the trend is always up, and the weal outweighs the woe. 

Yet more wellness for the win!

(1) Right up until, that is, he gets beaten up...

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

I'm now like a knockdown clown

I'm preparing a CV for future work and I've had to reference oldwork. I discovered they'd made significant changes since I left, re-branding the reports I ran with a jazzy new look. That's as far as I could look, though—the cover. I couldn't bear to look inside it because it's just still too horridly painful.

I had an immediate anxiety spike and I was wracked with bitter sweet. Bitter that it felt like a fuck you to me and that I'd been cruelled out of my job, but sweet in that my job was hard and I could no longer do it and also because they've invested in the report's future and therefore accepted its value. With a re-brand and launch then perhaps they will now care now they've taken carriage. 

After a hot shower as an immediate comfort-seeking environment assist and after lashings of lovely hot water I soon mentally accepted what had happened but, as I've discovered, the physical symptoms still came—the jitters and shakes and occasional tremulous breath, as well as a mild kick into fight or flight. I countered these with medication and calming which drove the manifestations back to a minor irritant. And instead of cancelling a planned social evening I forged ahead, a D&D 3.5 game with our characters journeying through the Eyes of the Lich Queen super module from the Eberron line. Despite the wish to heavily drink to numb away the tremours I played on and had a fucking ball. Great rollicking laughs and the happy chatter of a convivial pre-game dinner.

Oldwork has moved on without me as I have moved on without them. And while the nature and abrupt loss of my long-term rewarding (slash) stressful job still wounds I am not only free, but I left on a fucking high note

So I took a surprise sudden knock but within mere hours I still went out into the world, mentally well with the lingering jittering reduced from constant to merely present and lost in the background of a great night out.

Increased rapidity of wellness onset for the win. 

UPDATE: It's later. CV is done and has been sent on its way. My body aches with fibro flashes of pain from it all. It felt like uni days of old with an essay hanging over your head. But it's done and now I can chillax a tad. And deal with my return to a new job upon my return. It's very Zen of me, isn't? It's because I'm a classy shit. 

Friday, July 05, 2013

I cried again

Recently I had to have a sit down with theWife and the two rehab people assisting me back to work. I asked not to be located in the broad owning area where I used to work but they said that would be too challenging; because the broad area I worked for is so big and therefore where most of the job opportunities lie. . 

In the meeting I cried. I cried because of what they did to me and I cried for the people I left behind. I know all the girls—theWife and the two rehab people being people of the lady persuasion—said to remember oldwork is not my concern since I am not going back there but I can't but ache for the people I left behind. Good, fucking, hard working but unsupported people. People who work in an unsafe work environment, both physically and mentally. I feel like someone who made it over the wall of Insert-Eastern-Block-Country-Here-Circa-'80s but who had comrades shot down behind me as we made our dash; I'm the survivor and thus I have survivors' guilt (1).

But the support gang talked me down from my 'not the broad area' stance, patiently pointing out the difficulties but, more importantly pointing out the support I'll have from both of them when I do go back. 

With the meeting done I was in a better head space, but with oldwork talking my body went into yuck. However the yuck didn't land for a few hours and I got to see The Lone Ranger with theWife and enjoy tasty treats. In addition I finally worked out what was wrong with my laptop's sound system. The internal speakers hadn't been enabled. It's been in the 'no sound' mode for about two years...

Area nerd for the fail. BUT area new life for the win. Because I'm not going back to oldwork and oldwork cannot touch me.

Hooray for inbuilt staff wellness (slash) recovery systems for being in place when I fell!

(1) That looks wrong but I think it's right. Casso?

Ouch ... but, also not ouch?

I had a couple of whacks regarding going back to work, specifically making sure I remain outside the owning group who had me before so severe anxiety did not trigger once more. In that this requirement needs further evidence. We meet shortly to discuss it, a situation which, of course, has fired up the old ladies. 

Ah, old ladies, you and your horrible shoulder pain and abdominal discomfort!

But apart from that I am still ticking along. It's more three steps forward, one step back really. In that my recovery from my workplace induced insanity is on an upward trend but that occasionally there are knocks that send you shivering to under the doonah, foetal and naked, shivering with anxiety, awaiting the leccy blanket to radiate soothing warmth. But I bounce back from those quicker now. Instead of a week lost to a morass of self-pity and doonah wrapping, it's a day or two at most. 

I did have to go back to my therapist to learn more CBT techniques; cognitive behaviour therapy tools to combat chronic background pain; visualising and adding other elements such as sound and tactile feeling a peaceful scene like a waterfall or lying in a field on a nice day, the grass tickling at your skin. That sort of goodness. So I'm glad I did that, even though ever encounter with horrid oldwork fires up my fibro so my body starts hating me once more. Silly body!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Canberra Drift

The recovery process from severe anxiety is not an even one. Some days you feel on top of the world—"Adrian!" Rocky-style—and other days are lost in a fug of sleep or dozing in a darkened room, the LEDs of assorted electronica pinpricking the dark. 

I had one of those drift days today. I was awake from four am and unable to sleep I read, turned out the light, tried to sleep, gave up, read, and so forth until about seven thirty when theBoy came in, snuggled in next to me, and engaged in some light Humpty and Stumpty back and forth, Humpty and Stumpty being our shared storyverse of assorted characters that theBoy has adventures with (we each take turns adding bits to the story; "And then he jumped on a motorbike, zzzzzzooooom!"). After theBoy and theWife left I returned to alternating sleep, reading, sleeping, reading then more sleep. It was one pm before I could rise and my fibro ache of sore stomach and pain-lashed arm wore upon me. 

It took until two thirty in the afternoon before I was atop my trusty steed and riding SoTPC for 48 minutes. 

So it's another lost day, a day where all I could do was sleep, read, exercise, then read. Another day where oldwork pain lashes my body, though the incidence and severity of the attacks are still nowhere near what the were before my collapse. 

Two steps forward, one step back I suppose.

But I ford on. I am writing more, though no Phase Two writing yet today, but getting back to my pre-collapse output of thousands of words a day I feel will be a longer journey than it took for me to return to exercise bike riding following my hip operation in 2011. 

A day lost to the drift but these days of drifting are fewer. Soon I will have traction again and, as theBoy would say, zzzzzzooooom!