Tag Archives: stress

There Is No “I” In Team

Doctor, Patient, Clinic, Consultation

I keep on thinking about work. I am in a good place mentally about work at the moment. It can be extremely stressful and demanding at times, but right now, I am coping just fine with that. That’s not always the way. Some weeks, I am so exhausted I come home and curl up wishing that I never ever had to go back there.

Some times, I feel as if I end up doing all the least popular tasks. I don’t mind. I really don’t mind what I do at work. We are all part of a team. I have felt as if some of my teammates were just so stressed and under so much pressure more and more was being left for me to do. I am happy to sort out all the time-consuming, faffy, frustrating tasks and get paperwork finished off so the decks are cleared.

But over time, it has felt as if some of the team began to view it as my job to sort out the rubbishy tasks. I still don’t mind doing those tasks. But what I don’t like the idea is any of the team feeling there is some pecking order and they take on the more “glamourous” tasks. I don’t think anyone is doing it. But I do sometimes notice a spirit of “this is your job and that is my job”, whereas the truth for the most part is that we all need to be able to multi-task and be willing to do whatever is asked of us. Not completing tasks sometimes makes it harder for someone else to come along and work out what we have done and not done and fill in the gaps without a clue.

It’s not really a big issue….it’s just….the way I see it is that we are a team. I don’t believe in individual glory at all. I believe that as a team we work together. All have strengths, all have weaknesses. All are working hard. Some are particularly effective in tasks that mean we meet targets. My boss has sometimes singled me out because of the “results” I obtain in some areas. I feel uncomfortable with that, partly because of having a dislike to personal praise. But partly because I don’t want others to feel discouraged. I don’t want competition amongst the team. I perceive the team as a group of humans, with hearts, that might be close to breaking.

Doctor, Nurse, Healthcare, Hospital

We all have good days and bad days. We all need to be aware that sometimes our colleagues need a little more kindness, or more understanding. When we are tired, we get whingy and start to feel as if the odds are stacked against us, or we are working harder than everyone else.

I don’t know….I just love the people I work with. We have been under so much pressure and so much stress. But for me….I don’t think wages or glory compensate for kindness and love. Some of my colleagues might not see things that way. Some want a lot more than 1% as a reward for all their hard work. Others want to be given praise and verbal appreciation or perhaps promotion. We all want to feel needed. Everyone is needed. We just are different. As a team we are especially amazing. For most of the past year there has been a tremendously supportive spirit amongst the team. I want that to stay. I don’t want anyone to feel undervalued and unappreciated.

That’s one of the reasons why I guess I am happy to take on the rubbishy tasks – because that’s my way of saying to my teammates – you do the work you find more rewarding, I’ll do those annoying tasks no one seems to want to do. I’ll do them because they are part of the work we do as a team. They may be rubbishy….but we have to make sure they are completed as a team. But I am not doing them to win praise for doing rubbishy tasks. I am doing them because we are a team – and I want the team to be happy and enjoy their work. I don’t want anyone to dread coming to work, I don’t want anyone to go home feeling bitter. I want all to know that as a collective – we are really really remarkable – we have been all year.

Stress-Busters

This is a post I originally published almost two years ago….

Fandango, the creator of This, That, and The Other, has asked us another superb question this week:

“How do you manage or deal with stress? Is there a specific strategy or approach that you’ve found to be particularly effective?”

GREAT QUESTION FANDANGO! My short answer is…I need a little time to think clearly and decide whether the causes of my stress are real or just imagined/perceived…and then, I need a combination of taking practical steps to alleviate some of the causes of the stress, and I need to make sure I enjoy simple things rather than letting the pressure I am under take all the pleasure out of life.

I don’t mind a bit of stress. Some stress seems to be good for me. I am fairly easy-going by nature. But when things become intense at work, I become like a machine. A little stress moves me to be more organised and I find my stamina (I have terrific stamina) kicks in and I just don’t stop. The kind of stress that comes from being busy makes me thrive.

However, there is another kind of stress that rarely, but occasionally, grips me. It is when I feel absolutely overwhelmed. Just over four years ago I felt that way. For almost five years I had worked between 40-60 hours a week (I did not have one day off sick in all of that time) on a rota of early shifts, late shifts, night shifts and normal day shifts. I had a very busy social life. I thrived on the packed schedule and the wonderful work I was involved in. The problem started when people started to talk about Jack and I…it started tame, but after a couple of years, it was nasty. The worst was what people posted about me and Jack online. I was very upset. In addition, everyday for months I was confronted in person by both friends and strangers who had something to say about Jack and me. I was taunted by people daily about Jack and called names like “slapper”, “slut” or “slag”. People made comments suggesting Jack and I were suppressing sexual desires for one another. Then they clearly became bored and started to say that sexual acts were taking place between Jack and I. Later they talked about arguments we were supposed to have had. Then they said I was sleeping with other men to make Jack jealous. It was all rubbish – but boy did it hurt. I didn’t see it at the time, but the thousands of comments I received did amount to taunting or a kind of bullying.

distressed…Anyway, I do not want to think about that stress right now. But what I would say is, stress that is because of a situation that goes on for a long time, and becomes more intense, and despite all of your efforts, nothing changes – that kind of stress, is very challenging to see a way out of. You become accustomed to the way you are being treated. You accept it as normal, but inside are crumbling. You start to feel yourself drowning and you cannot see an escape. I knew the situation was “stressing me out”. I did a lot more exercise – started running more, swimming more, playing basketball and going to a boot-camp style fitness class. I did the things I loved and spent time with great friends. There were some wonderful events I went to and great days – but the pain and stress were always there. That night that I did not go home – I was overwhelmed by despair. That’s how much the stress had accumulated. I lost sight of my own safety. I don’t know how long I sat there on the bench in the dark next to my attacker. I was in a world of my own. And I know the consequences of that were awful, but it certainly broke the cycle of despair. It brought a host of different challenges with their own stress.

stressedThat was a very bad case of stress of course. A couple of weeks ago, I found myself becoming overwhelmed with stress. This huge amount of money disappeared from my bank account in order to buy my ticket for Australia which was scary. In addition, I have felt as if I was “burning the candle at both ends” for some time and I will be doing so right up until my holiday. The combination of tiredness, worrying about my close family member who has cancer, money concerns, the sheer amount of people depending on me not to let them down…it just seemed such a heavy weight and I found myself becoming emotional and irrational. Symptoms that I was STRESSED!

What did I do about it? A number of things. I had to calm myself down and think about what I had to do one step at a time. I made lists of all the tasks I have to squeeze into my schedule. I made a start on doing what I could, so that  could reduce that list and feel a little relief. I had to reason with myself that my financial situation was not as dire as it may seem. After all, I carry no debt. Living a debt free life is a brilliant way to avoid stress. I might have wiped out my savings, however, I do not owe anybody or any bank, or organisation a penny. It will just take time to build my bank account back up again. Sometimes being able to think clearly and reason with your anxieties – is this a real problem or a perceived one? Is this level of stress justified? I really do need that time to think and reason to get control of my thoughts.

There were some physical things that quickly brought me relief. Trying to get more sleep helped. Trying to do a bit of extra walking, although I did not have time for as much as I would have liked. I love walking out in the woods and through parks. One evening I arrived in an area where I do some work once a week, and found I was too early; they don’t want me to arrive before 6:30pm. I have a friend who lives round the corner, so sometimes, if I arrive early, I will pop by to see her and have a cuppa and a chat. But she was not in that evening. It was very sunny, so I headed down to the local common and I discovered a park I had no idea was there. It was lovely – a little pocket of paradise. Sitting down on a bench with warm evening sunshine bathing me and listening to birdsong and the rustle of the leaves in the light breeze, breathing in the fragrance of the flowers around me – I closed my eyes and said a little prayer of thanks for all the wonderful in my life.

When I am rushing around, I sometimes forget to enjoy life. So when I can tell stress is creeping in, I deliberately slow down events like meals. Rather than gulping down my food, I take my time eating it and absorbing the flavours so that I can have the full enjoyment. Silly little things that bring pleasure like pressing my nose to my fresh bed linen and smelling the lovely fragrance of the linen spray I use. Closing my eyes in the shower and enjoying the sensations of the water streaming down my back. Moisturising my skin with coconut body butter. Little pleasures that help me not to be in such a crazy rush but to make the most of each moment.

cuupaAnd…very importantly, I make sure I spend time talking with the people I love and who love me the most. My family and close friends. Just knowing that you are not alone. There is a team around you rooting for you. Just knowing that you are loved is sometimes such an invigorating impetus that stress seems to melt away. And making sure you communicate openly with lots of people, helps you to realize that everyone has their load to carry. Stress is common. And talking helps you realize that others have also had times when they have been overwhelmed with stress. They often have great advice and experience to share. If there was one huge mistake I made with the situation regarding Jack, it was not talking to my nearest and dearest about how it was effecting me. I hid it from them because I did not want them to be upset by the awful things that were being said about me. Keeping that stress to myself, isolated me emotionally. I did not know who to turn to and despair crept in.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with stress and it is having a detrimental effect, it is wise to take some practical measures so that it doesn’t develop into severe distress or despair. Do not be afraid, a little stress can be healthy, but too much stress can be harmful. Many other people will be able to relate to you. But not all people are kind or empathetic, so make sure you seek out those who do want to help. There are some tried and tested recommendations on how to deal with stress at the links below:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/reduce-stress/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/understanding-stress/

https://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/g201405/

https://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/mental-health/stress

Anyway…as soon as I decided to call this post “Stress-Busters”, I started to hum a certain tune, and it was stuck in my head until I re-wrote some of the lyrics:

Your problems mount up
There seems no way out
What you gonna use?
Stress-busters!

If life’s getting tough
You’re feeling tired
What you gonna use?
Stress-busters!

I ain’t ‘fraid of no stress
I ain’t ‘fraid of no stress
What you gonna use?
Stress-busters!

You’ve got bills to pay
But you ain’t got cash
What can you use?
Stress-busters!

If life’s getting hard
And you don’t look good
Ow, what you gonna use?
Stress-busters!

I ain’t ‘fraid of no stress
I ain’t ‘fraid of no stress
What you gonna use?
Stress-busters!

https://fivedotoh.com/2019/05/15/fandangos-provocative-question-23/

FPQ

What A Week!

I think….I think that this was probably one of the toughest weeks at work since the start when we were all baffled back in March 2020. It was real tough. I won’t tell you everything that happened – but I will say this – when your adrenaline levels are so high for so many hours for so many days – it is exhausting!!!

I have pretty much done nothing except sleep, work and tried to make time to eat. It has been intense and at times we felt like we had lost control. But even when things are a nightmare – we keep going. We keep going.

I was shocked to come home on Friday and to see a well-known billionaire being interviewed on the news by the staggering amount of money he has spent on launching a rocket into outer space. I found myself filled with annoyance. “GET REAL!!!” I thought to myself. There are so many people who need some help to cover their basic cost of living. Why is he wasting all that money on something so ridiculous?

Oh dear! I was so cross with him.

In other matters – it has become more apparent than ever this week because of what we have seen that the vaccine really is just one string of the bow. The vaccine, testing and social distancing will need to continue to work side by side for several months to come. You cannot have one without the other.

If you have had the vaccine or if you have already had the virus you will have some protection if you come into contact with the virus again. However, you can still breathe it in and carry it within your airways. You can still test positive for the virus. You can still carry it around in your nose and then breathe it on to another person who has not any protection because they have not had the virus and/or they have no antibodies because they have not had the virus before.

So for some months ahead – vaccines, testing and social distancing have to continue to work in tandem. We cannot abandon any of those yet. Never forgetting the basic foundation that we relied on throughout 2020 – good hygiene and quarantine for those who have symptoms – two basic foundation pillars of modern medicine which were recorded in the Mosaic Law over 3,500 years ago.

Please understand that we are in the eye of the storm. Do everything you know you need to do to keep yourselves and other safe.

Freezing Fog

Nature, Dawn, Winter, Sky, Tree, Water, River, Bach

These past few weeks, there has been a lot more fog than I remember for a long time. Freezing fog. I have arrived at work shivery and soaking wet.

I know the way to work like the back of my hand. It is interesting to me, because when it is foggy, I have only been able to see around three or four metres ahead of me. Then there is a thick white grey cloud that obscures everything ahead. But I don’t worry, because I know the way. I know the route. I have been here before, many times. I am not afraid.

When you sense a fog descending in your life, don’t despair. You can do this. Keep doing what you know you need to do, one step at a time. I know from my own experience that it can be frightening – to be stuck in a life fog. To not see the way out, to not see the route ahead can be scary. But take the few steps right in front of you.

The fog will lift.

Soon the choice that all humans will have to make will be as clear as daylight.

Who is qualified to rule mankind?

What Did Ella Have To Say About It?

I don’t think I have introduced Ella to you yet.  Ella and her husband Dean were living in the same flat as Jack and I and two other flatmates.

Ella was a great flatmate.  She was bubbly and cheerful and very popular.  She made huge pizzas and loved having lots of friends over to eat and play table football.  She had four brothers, so she was used to being around lots of male company.  I could never have lived in a flat with four men without Ella being there.  They respected Ella.

She also worked in the same complex of offices and studios and huge storage areas as our flatmate Jack and so she saw him frequently each day around their work site.  I knew she heard what was being said in the foyer, the canteen and throughout the offices.  She had told me once or twice about some news about Jack and I had spread like wildfire through the departments.  Very wisely, she did not tell me anything until I specifically asked her to.

I tried hard not to let rumours or comments from friends affect my behaviour towards my flatmate (we are calling him Jack Barnes, in case you missed that). When I did briefly see him at home in our flat, he was only lovely to me, asking me how my day had been, what were my plans for the weekend, offering me a drink, complimenting me on my dress or hair in his rather clumsy fashion.

It felt like he was really trying hard to maintain the new good will that had developed. There was no hint of anything he’d want to hide from me. He was cheerful, affable, gregarious.  Nothing to indicate that behind my back he was contributing to rumours about him and I.

I was upset, but I hid it from him. I did not feel hearing rumours from others outside the flat was a reason to authorize me to treat Jack any differently. Yet what I had heard that week had made me tense. I arranged to be out every evening so that I did not see Jack, that way I would not become provoked.

Over the next few days, I heard more rumours and saw more photos and comments that others showed me on their social media sites. I also received many enquiries everyday, every single day, from friends and workmates, some kindly expressed, as to whether there was any any truth in the rumours they were hearing.  I could understand some of my friends and workmates asking. It was the sheer number of enquiries that made the situation intense, in addition to people I hardly knew, or had never spoken to before, bounding up and asking me if I was going out with Jack.

I was very careful with my words.  I told everyone who deserved some sort of answer, “Jack and I sat down to talk about the unhappy atmosphere that we have had in our flat, which had all been due to the pressure we both felt because of rumours about the two of us. We are both trying to ignore what is being said about us and try to make sure there is a better atmosphere in the flat. There is nothing more to tell.”

Close friends continued to report to me that Jack was enjoying the speculation and public attention he was receiving because people thought that he and I were now “together”.

On the Friday evening, six days after Jack and I had talked openly over a cup of tea, Ella and I were in the flat alone. The boys were all out. Whilst sipping mojitos, we chatted about everything that had been happening. Ella declared how glad she was now that Jack and I were friends because what was happening between us was affecting the whole flat.

Now I had the opportunity to question Ella to gain an insight into how Jack was dealing with the rumours that were flourishing due to our new found easiness with each other. I decided to ask Ella if she had heard rumours at work during the past week suggesting that Jack and I were now involved romantically.

Ella shrugged her shoulders, “Men say such stupid things Mel.  I ignore most of what they say. They have been talking about the two of you since before Jack moved in here. They are stupid. As soon as he moved in, most of the guys started to bet on how long it would take before the two of you started sleeping together. I’ve been telling them they are all losers and that he has no chance with you.

Ella, what about him? What does he say? Does he try to stop this?

Ha! He is not going to try to stop it. He absolutely loves it! He loves attention. He is flattered that everyone thinks you like him. He loves being the main topic of conversation day after day.”

woman cryingI was not expecting that. Tears started to trickle immediately down my face. Ella was clearly not comfortable with my tears.

You know he is a complete idiot. But he is an idiot who is kind of insecure, that’s why he needs attention. He would absolutely love to be loved by a woman like you. He knows that he does not deserve you, that you are out of his league. But it makes him feel great that people connect the two of you together. He wished there were some truth in these rumours, which is why he keeps lapping them up while they are popular.”

I tried to stop my tears and absorb everything she had said to me. “So, people are actually betting on how long it will take me to sleep with him. That is truly pathetic.”

Ella’s expression suddenly became very serious, “Mel, you need to know something. Do you know where Jack is tonight?

I think he said he was going out for drinks with some friends from work.

Yes, but it’s bad. I mean you are really not going to like this. Hugh Sanders – you know what Hugh is like – claimed to have won the bet. He took the money which everyone had put in a jar or tin and they were keeping in one of the kitchens. I don’t know how much there was exactly, but well over £100. He is using it to buy drinks for any of the guys who wanted to go out tonight.”

Hearing those words made me shudder with disbelief, “I have not slept with him. Ella, I sat down and had a cup of tea with him.”

I didn’t think you had Mel, although even if you had, that’s none of our business really. We just want you both to be happy. The point is there are a lot, a lot of people who think that the two of you are sleeping together now that you are acting like you are best friends outside of the flat.”

But we haven’t spent much time together at all.”

smiling (2)Enough time for scores of photos to appear of the two of you together Mel. I know you are just trying to be nice to each other, but the two of you are in all these photos full of smiles towards each other. Of course everyone is getting excited.”

I was feeling rather sick but knew that Ella was right, “But why has Jack allowed Hugh Sanders and others believe that I have slept with him?

Jack didn’t want to lose face in front of everyone. Hugh was winding him up so much, Jack didn’t say anything at all, but Hugh took that as confirmation.”

I felt really angry.  This was so so wrong.

couple and jealousyHugh is mad with jealousy. He has been winding Jack up for weeks. Hugh has fancied you for a couple of years, but knows you are not interested in him. He hates seeing you and Jack happy together.”

Hugh Sanders had asked me out a couple of times actually. I only said no because I was convinced it would be disastrous and he would forever make fun of me after it all went sour. My reasons were solid. I had been at parties and at dinner with groups of friends with him and it was obvious he had a soft spot for me. The reason I did not respond to him was that I was so overwhelmed by the intensity of his sarcasm and the critical tone he used when talking about everyone else. I like a bit of gentle sarcasm, I have grown up in Liverpool on a solid diet of sarcasm, but not the type that destroys another person’s confidence. If I had spent time with him, I would have withered up. He would have despised me because I would have recoiled from him.

Do you have any idea how confused I was hearing all this about Jack and Hugh and their workmates?

sharing tea.jpgMy flatmate Jack – on his own, was undeniably “my cup of tea” and he had the potential to make me extremely happy.  I knew I could very easily fall in love with him, if only I was allowed by the rest of the world to actually spend some time with him.  On paper, he was everything I admired and felt attracted to.

But in the context of what he either said about me or allowed to be said about me in order to receive attention from his colleagues and fans, he had the potential to crush me.

If it was not for everything I had heard during that week that followed, maybe that cup of tea with Jack would have very much led to me falling in love with him.

All of this was playing on my mind, and emotions were burning within me. Emotions that caused me to do something rather strange during the weekend at the end of that week. What did I do? I will tell you in another post.

Well…we have come quite a way…

Catch up with Jack and Caramel at your leisure:

https://fivedotoh.com/2018/09/06/fowc-with-fandango-question/

https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2018/09/06/your-daily-word-prompt-authorize-september-6th-2018/

Freaky Folk

I have had a few incidents recently that freaked me out a little.

The most recent was Saturday evening. I nipped into a little organic supermarket on the way back from work. While I was there a guy crashed into a stack of fruit crates knocking figs and cantaloupe melons in ever direction. He was trying to make a quick escape with a large bag stuffed full of expensive produce. This was a shoplifter with great taste. It was mostly cured meats from the deli fridges, and some expensive tinned tuna and pate.

Well a shop assistant grabbed the bag, leading to a raucous tug-of-war, at which point the duty manager jumped on the bag and started lifting the packets of fine meats out of the bag. In the end the guy left empty-handed and the staff had to tidy up the pandemonium left in his trail.

Anyway…there has been other stuff going on. A young woman pounced on me the moment I left work begging me to go into the supermarket with her and buy her shopping. I was willing to go in until she grabbed my bag and tried to pull it from my arm. At that point my will to keep hold of my handbag was stronger than her determination to prise it away from me.

What else has happened? Well, I think more than anything it is the aggression from patients at work that is getting to me. We have been told we are stupid, thick, liars, cheaters, money making, uncaring, immoral – yes, working for the NHS is not all about national applause and getting discounts at Costa Coffee. Recently I have seen patients have extreme tantrums and become very verbally abusive.

I choose to think that our customers are extremely stressed and their outbursts are unusual for them. But it is intimidating going to work when you don’t know what will happen. We are trying to do our job, when a patient who is in their older years is screaming and accusing us of terrible things, and refusing to leave the practice and telling every patient who walks in that we are demons.

It makes a long day even longer!!!

Shaken Up Under Pressure

Girl, Shop, Souvenirs, Woman, Shelf

Have you ever had to work in retail? I always knew that one of the biggest challenges for retailers is shoplifting.

I know of a recent incident where teenage girls were shoplifting herbal supplements (health conscious shoplifters?) and when a member of staff from a distance made it clear they were observing and offered the girls a shopping basket the result was appalling behavior. Swearing, spitting, the teenagers accusing the member of staff being racist (even though the member of staff was black), and then to leave things on a sweet note, one of the teenagers decided it was time to throw the fizzy drink she had been sipping all over the two member of staff who were now present.

Business, Shoes, Bags, Leather Goods

Charming young ladies, I am sure they must be the pride and joy of their families!

I was watching the BBC Breakfast News this morning while listening to the sound of the pouring rain outside. I saw something shocking. They had a report on retailers facing an increase in abusive behaviour from shoppers, particularly since the start of the…you know. The report was not focused on shoplifting at all, it was more to do with incidents of aggression that retailers seen a significant increase in this year.

They played a video, and I must warn you, it is quite disturbing to watch. Well, it shook me up.

https://metro.co.uk/video/customer-destroys-op-told-follow-one-way-system-2253476/?ito=vjs-link

Shopping, Kermit, Money, Euro

Apparently the store assistants had reminded the customer of social distancing requirements. I imagine that like every other shop they would have had visual aids displayed to bring this to the attention of shoppers. (Most people have been careful and considerate about social distancing requirements, but others have been casual or just careless about the clear instructions we have been asked to follow.)

Frustration, prolonged stress and anxiety – a lot of people have been shaken up by the events of 2020. I think some people are like a bottle of fizzy pop…ready to explode. I think we are going to see more explosive behaviour over future weeks and months.

The Last Straw!

Cyranny is now hosting one challenging challenge. In just one minute, write a story based on the picture prompt she provided below! I have a little story in my head, but how much of it I can get down in a minute, I have no idea!

Let’s set the timer for one minute….READY…STEADY…GO!!!

IMG_20181105_160243_423

This year has been the most stressful ever!!!! I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to sit down in the middle of the road and shout “HEY WORLD, I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE! GET OVER IT!!!!”

Well…today, that is exactly what I did! Enough is enough!

I had been queuing for half wearing my face mask waiting to be served in McDonalds. The server handed me my strawberry milkshake and I went to the condiments station to pick up a straw. As it transpired…the kid in front of me had just taken the very last straw!

“WORLD – I CAN’T COPE WITH THIS!!!”

_________________

This was my response to the “ONE MINUTE FICTION” challenge:

I thought about a story for an hour, tyed like the clappers for one minute, then spent the next five minutes correcting my typos!

The Rough And The Ready

Close-Up, Eye, Eyelashes, See, WomanLast Friday I was struggling. I was on edge all day. On the verge of panic. Unable to cope with all the multi-tasking I have to do at work. I became tearful at work when I thought of weeks more of this intense pace stretching out in front of us, without the chance to break away and go and visit Goldfinch in Australia. I wanted to run. I didn’t know who from or why. But I wanted to escape.

This is how I felt five years ago. I was cornered. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know who was safe, who I could trust. Friends and colleague were talking about me and Jack. I had no idea exactly who was saying what, except for those who blazenly taunted me to my face. Every aspect of my life was touched by the slanderous gossip, name-calling, accusations, undermining of me as a person and my sincerity or integrity.

Ambulance, Wear, Interior ViewYou know where it led me. I went to a park after a night out with friends because I did not want to go home. I was the victim of a crime that night and woke up the next morning in an ambulance.

But around a month before that night, I remember a small incident. I escaped my part of London and travelled to the other side of London for a social event. My sister Milly was there. I met some new people who had been working with her on a project. There were some deaf volunteers there too. Milly and I both learnt British Sign Language when we were teenagers.

I remember saying goodbye to Milly and her husband when they dropped me off at the train station. Somebody had given me a gift. Two bottles of wine, one red and one white, I recall. As I walked towards the train, the gift bag gave way and the wine bottle smashed on the concrete floor. There were glass and wine everywhere.

fdshhgdhsvMy main concern was that glass was a hazard to other people. I searched for a member of staff asking if they had any cleaning equipment to clear the glass. I would have done it myself. I asked if they had a hazard sign or cone or tape, to warn other people. The station employee said just to leave it and they would sort it out. I was so anxious. It was my fault. It was my fault there was dangerous glass on the station floor. It was hazardous to other members of the public. I wanted to fix it. I stood rooted to the spot, determined to be a warning to other people that there was broken glass and they must be careful. I became unreasonably emotional and ended up in tears.

It wasn’t really the glass that was upsetting me. It was the situation in my personal life that was overwhelming and was completely taking all the joy out of life. The effects of tiredness and stress can accumulate. If you become isolated with a challenge and do not know who to trust you can become desperate in your thinking. Its as if you are cornered, they are coming at you from all directions, you want to escape. I wanted to fix it. I was ready to accept some responsibility for the situation between Jack and I. But the relationship between us was so strained back then…he would not speak to me.

annie disappointedSo, when the wine bottles smashed, I just fell apart. You know the expression “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. I was in a flood of tears. I didn’t know what to do. A guy came over to ask if I was alright. When I explained I had dropped the bottles and now there was broken glass all over the floor, he responded by kicking the glass to the side of the wall (so it was less hazardous I suppose) and telling me not to worry, accidents happen.

Well…last week, those feelings were coming back. Every summer since I was attacked I have a rough few weeks. I have flashbacks of events from that night. But I also seem to relive all the stress and anguish that led me to go to the park that night. I had wondered if having made peace with Jack things might be different this year. They don’t seem to be. I am having waves of panic, sleepless nights, dreams recalling some of the most stressful situations I was in five years ago, those same feelings of being cornered, under attack, needing to escape.

I actually think I might be having a worse time so far this year. Perhaps that is because I am cut off from friends and family socially. Perhaps the accrual of tiredness because of work has made it hard. Normally my life is graced with variety. I am involved in different work, different projects, I work with different people, in different locations. The past few months have been the same…every day the same. The feeling of wanting to escape is growing.

Fear, Woman, StopAt the end of this month it will be five years since that night. It is still the night that took me away from my chosen career, my chosen home, my world, my purpose. It is still the night that left me with severe injuries, blackouts, headaches, nightmares and fear of whom I could trust.

People say such silly things. Someone said to me again the other day “everything happens for a reason”. If only I could sent fire to that expression. Do people think about what they are saying? It was also recommended to me that I focus on the positive and what I can do to help others. Yes yes, I know that having experienced a traumatic event myself and gone on to do marvellous things, I may be able to be of assistance, inspiration, a source of practical advice to someone else. I do realize that we learn things when we go through challenging experiences and we can develop precious qualities and we may be able to help others. But really!

The truth is my life has been like broken glass ever since that night. My life is in pieces. But I am a positive person and I do make the most of my situation. I keep going. I keep smiling. I keep singing.

Hooded Man, Mystery, Scary, Hood, HorrorBut still…it’s back again. The waves of panic, feeling cornered, feeling overpowered, under attack, nowhere to run to, noone to turn to, nobody to trust…it comes back. I ended up on my own at that park because for so long I had put a brave face on, I had kept going, kept working, kept smiling and kept singing until I shattered like broken glass.

The brain is powerful. The things that cause flashbacks are varied…the smell of grass, the smell of men, the warm weather, feeling dehydrated, feeling there are excessive demands on me.

When I was on my way home after work last Friday night there was a man walking towards me. He was carrying a grocery bag. As I neared him, his bag burst open and glass bottles of beer smashed onto the road and beer began running down the hill. It took my brain back to that night I dropped the wine bottles at the station just a few weeks before I was attacked.

I watched the guy. He shrugged and laughed and carried on walking.

jhvbdkjxhfbIs that what people want me to do I wonder? Shrug, laugh and carry on. These past couple of weeks have made me realize that despite it being five years, despite being busy, despite having the longed for peace with Jack, despite so much else that has happened on a positive note…the memories of despair and the memories of trauma are still there. They leap out at me from the shadows of my mind.

I think I am in for a rough few weeks.

 

Well I Thought So Anyway

The highlight of today was without doubt the rendition I performed of “The Sound Of Music” for my manager to enjoy…well I thought so anyway! I even twirled around with my arms outstretched to explain how the opening scene of the best movie of all time begins.

I went on to serenade her with “My Favourite Things”, before we had to get back to work. If she had encouraged me I could have continued with the entire score from the musical quite happily.

Today was one of the most intense days yet in some ways. It’s hard to explain how much our workload has multiplied beyond our capability. But we keep going! Except that I am strangely not feeling stress at work any more. I just keep going as fast as I can, and then I come home and switch off to work completely. I relax with a meal, a shower and then bed!

caoiongI am so glad I have my fifteen minute walk to work in the sunshine. I can sing to myself to fortify my heart before the craziness of work begins. I am singing as often as can be. I sing in the shower, on the way to work and now I am even singing at work. Perhaps it’s my way of making sure the stress does not creep up into my heart.