back to busy

Back to work last week. Just two short days. It was OK, but enough. Two full days coming up this week which I think will be OK too. It's kind of weird leaving in the middle of the afternoon, so it will be good to work normal days with proper rhythms. With an hour for lunch (instead of half). Being at home for four weeks has made me realise anew what a difference it makes to have an hour to myself in the middle of the day. Especially important when I come home from another kind of intense day and have to go straight into the bath, dinner and bed routine. Complete with tantrums.

Some of my colleagues thought that I had been on holidays (leadership not being specific about why I was absent due to privacy reasons, which I appreciate) but for some reason, that really bothered me. So, I've started to tell people that I was ill, and if they've asked, I've said that I had a manic attack, that it was pretty serious and that I'm getting better. There have some interesting reactions, one being that I seemed alright at the Christmas party and you wouldn't have known. Which may well be true. I guess my actor continued to present the calm/normal facade for short periods, although she did get a bit tired and haggard there for a while. I really, really need my actor, but sometimes she needs a rest.

Some have said they think being honest is really brave but I doubt I'm ever going to buy the whole bipolar / mood affective disorder / mania / depression / whatever it is I have / as just another health issue that can be managed just like diabetes thing until it's not shrouded in shame and secrecy. I'm sure blogging about it and the supportive response I've had is a big factor in why I feel more or less OK about being upfront. Sure, I do worry about my career (such that it is) and about being labelled and about having a return to work program, but less than I would have thought. Blogging means I'm used to expressing my thoughts, used to making a narrative about what's happened to me. That's given me a confidence I might not have had otherwise. So, once again, thank you all for being here. And for reading.

Last week I also had two(!!) by myself outings at night. Firstly a mother's group dinner at a local place, which was great. Although I felt a little sun worn and sweaty, as I chose not to go home after my doctor's appointment, but to walk by the river with my camera instead, and then catch a tram to the restaurant. Then the next night, drinks (sadly softies for me) with a woman friend at a nearby pub. It was interesting to walk into a hotel by myself for the first time in about eight or nine years and scan the room for my friend. I noticed a number of men of roughly my age group look back. Not that I would dream of anything untoward, but you know, it's a funny/interesting feeling when you're a forty something, somewhat shrewish mother with a partner and all the responsibilities that go with that life to have a man make eye contact with you. Indeed. And then later walking back to my car (on a main road not far from where I met my friend), I was harassed by hoons driving past yelling take our photo. When I refused, because I was only interested in the lovely soft rain (oh yes!) and the lights, and because I'm fairly arrogant that way, they said, hey look, she's not a man! Hah. All in all though, it was really great to be out and about. I'm going to do it again. For sure.


Linda said...

An illness is an illness. We have been honest and open about my husband's anxiety/depression episodes and over the years have found that 90% of friends, family, and workmates have been understanding and supportive (mind you if the stats are correct 30% have first hand experience they just hide it) 5% don't understand but will wish him well and the other 5% are the ones who give advice along the lines of "just pull your socks up and get on with it"....(the ignorance is bliss group!).
Over the past 7 years we have had dozens of phone calls from people (friends, workmates, bosses and even family) who wanted to share their own "secret stories" with us. Cover stories about how they weren't actually staying indoors because they had a temporary photo-sensivity; how they weren't really confined to their beds with bad backs; and even one who had begged his doctor to put his foot in plaster as a cover for not being able to function.
One close friend in particular was highly judgemental and it was obvious she thought he was just bludging. We realised she simply did not get it and we accepted her thinking was based purely on her lack of understanding of the nature of the illness.
Fast forward a few years and the same friend is going through her own personal hell that is anxiety/depression. Her journey has been painfully slow as she has refused to accept it as an illness and sees it as a personal weakness. While she still won't fully "admit" to her situation she has started to ask questions about how my husband copes and how he managed to get well (2 little white pills every evening - one to keep his arteries healthy and the other one to keep his thinking healthy - both essential to his overall good health and neither one deserves more respect than the other!) I am desperate to offer help but I know that I have to wait until she reaches the point that she is ready to accept her illness for just what it is.
These types of illness are miserable enough without having to add guilt into the mix.
Be proud of yourself because it does take bravery to be honest.

Victoria said...

Right on. Definately good to be honest and worth the risk that people won't understand for the good it will do for everyone else who will be educated or feel able to be more open about themselves, you go.

h&b said...

Love the juxtapostion of being critically appraised in the pub, then dissed on the way home.
Which is exactly why we have to be ourselves and take the opinions ( both good and bad ) with a grain of salt.
Besides, those boys were just pissed off as you didn't think them pretty enough for a piccy ;)

Saha said...

Being brave is bloody annoying! Because there really isn't a choice is there? But you are, and it's commendable even if you look like a man!
You come into my thoughts quite a lot. Take care.

Susan said...

I really appreciate your honesty when you post. Among other things, it keeps me coming back to read.
There's always people who "get it" and those who don't. I love my people who don't get it but want to hang out in spite of that.
Loved this funny (as in ha ha) post. The photos are stunning. Especially the rowers. A most extraordinary photo.

Susan said...

I really appreciate your honesty when you post. Among other things, it keeps me coming back to read.
There's always people who "get it" and those who don't. I love my people who don't get it but want to hang out in spite of that.
Loved this funny (as in ha ha) post. The photos are stunning. Especially the rowers. A most extraordinary photo.

Elizabeth said...

I think you're spot on about mental illness not being recognised as a genuine disease until it's no longer shrouded in shame and secrecy. I so admire your honesty, having struggled with friends' and particularly family's reaction to my own depression/anxiety issues. Every time someone speaks out about this issue, I think we get a little closer to losing the stigma.
And I love your photos! They're inspiring me to use my camera more, to record what moves me.

Alina said...

Hey there Janet, I hope the recovery is building, as you can see there are people out here who can relate to how you're feeling. I hope it helps that we do!

Miss Eagle said...

Congratulations on your return to work and your openness. I pray all continues to go well. You seem to me to be on right path. When one recovers from a physical illness building stamina once again is important and certainly exercise plays a role in this. What builds stamina in our mental health so that we can keep our equilibrium going for longer? I am emerging from a decade which began with a horrible life experience which affected me greatly followed by seven years of in and out of debilitating illnesses, some quite serious. Since September I have felt that this is behind me and I am in a new place. While the illnesses have been physical there has been a mental health side to things too I have to admit. My way now of trying to build stamina is to do something constructive and creative each day so I can look back and see that the day has been a step forward. But what I see in your blog is someone who has and is doing that - particularly with the beautiful Grace.