Email I wish I could send

What I said:

I’ve been struggling the last few weeks, particuarly with mornings and getting out of the house. If there’s no additional work expected in the next couple of days would it be OK to work on the spreadsheets from home for the rest of the week?

What I want to say but is too much to expect a colleague to deal with:
Emailing across the office feels a bit daft, but it’s something I find very difficult to talk about and it takes time to find the right words. They call it “smiling depression” when it doesn’t show, sounds about right for how I try to present myself to the world. I end up with no words to actually express how I feel when everything I have is going into just carrying on and seeming normal. I don’t know why it matters to keep pretending it’s all fine and I don’t feel like life is all getting on top of me and hard to keep up with. When I’m feeling more positive I can discuss it all I want… I think it’s all part of the depression, the lower I feel the more the emotions seem locked away – I can feel them in a remote way but I can’t let anything out, even when I feel like crying. I keep hoping I’ll pick up from this particular depressive slump but it just seems to be getting harder to keep going and stay on top of everything.
This morning it was a real battle to not just turn around at the end of my road and go home because for a moment the whole commute and day just felt like too much to have to deal with. I sit on the stairs in the morning to put my shoes on, and some days I’m staring at the front door for far too long, gathering my energy and motivation. Can other people really get out of bed when the alarm goes off, have time for everything they plan to do in the morning, and get to work on time? Is it just me that takes half an hour to even be able to keep my eyes open then stares into space halfway through getting dressed until I realise I should have left 5 minutes ago? I struggle to describe or remember how I’ve felt before – am I really worse now than I was this time last year, or just lazier, or missing some essential factor?
Depression is an illness that doesn’t feel like an illness. It feels much more like I just need to try harder, give myself a stern talking to then get out of bed on time and keep up with the laundry. It’s hard to receive a good self-lecture when most of your brain already feels bad for ‘failing’ and already knows all of the areas requiring improvement – some of them probably not even noticable to anyone else. When I already feel that I’m different and doing badly it makes it very hard to judge how I’m really doing in comparison to everyone else, if I look like a swan gliding along or a small creature that fell in and is trying very hard not to drown… or an otter drifting with the current, holding a favourite rock for comfort and hoping nothing nasty comes along.
Do you know how hard it is to press send on this sort of message? Whether it’s internalised stigma against mental illness, a fear of admitting to failure or being thought less of, or just the upright piece of me that says you don’t call in sick or ask for concessions unless you absolutely need to and is this really bad enough? If I’ve written this and thought of just going home then maybe I have reached that point, but then again I’m not sure I trust my brains assessment of itself anymore. I have this internal debate everytime I think of calling in sick. My last few sick days have been complete crash-and-burn stay-in-bed-all-day can’t-cope-with-the-world days and I want to avoid that in future. I’d prefer a few low functioning days to a completely incapable of functioning day. Let’s hope a day at my own desk will help me reset…

Thoughts on a home

English Bridge, Shrewsbury, from a riverside garden

I had such a strong moment today of remembering being in my childhood bedroom it took me a while to remember the layout of my own house… I had to focus to mentally separate the places I’ve lived, and it made me realise how many similarities my home now has to the house I grew up in. There’s probably some deep psychological meaning to that, and maybe the reason this house felt like home the moment I first entered (despite some truly horrendous decorating choices by the previous owners). Maybe it’s the layout – same or very similar orientation and arrangement of bedroom and living room and kitchen… 18 months and it’s only just consciously occurred to me. It was a very strange sensation, and left me feeling a little lost and uprooted, especially as that childhood house was sold years ago. Brains and memories can be very odd things…

I have a lot to be grateful for here where my life and choices have led me, but my home town still has a strange pull on me… It still feels like a homecoming every time. Perhaps it will always be a home, those roots never truly working loose or dying away, in much the same way my Mum still refers to where she grew up as home despite there no longer being a particular place to return to. Or maybe because over time ‘home’ becomes people and emotions rather than a place. And those things are more important and valuble than any building could ever be.

The turning of the year

It’s been a while since I was on here… It feels like I’m behind on everything at the moment and the essentials have to come first, followed by any projects with deadlines. At least I’ve been out doing things so I have some excuse… I’d love to be further on with my sewing, and up to date with my scrapbooks, and have a nice tidy flat, but currently I’m not succeeding with any of them… I’m sure I’ll get there, my weekends have been busy recently so there’s been no time then either! At least now the antidepressants have kicked in I’m more able to do things with my evenings. I’m considering taking a day off sometime to just be creative and make things for birthdays and Christmas. I’ll see what else ends up happening πŸ™‚

It’s definitely autumn here now and the days are drawing in, so here’s the first commute sunrise of the season.

Life, living and letters

There’s more to life than just plodding to work and back, sleeping and repeating, but for most of January that’s mainly what I’ve seemed to do… I’ve had very little energy or motivation – I’m just about on time for work and on top of the washing up (because otherwise I run out of cutlery…) but I’ve found very little get up and go for much else. I’m sure some people do all sorts of things and create huge amounts in their evenings, and I’d love to be one of those people, but most nights my projects and letters remain untouched. I’m feeling restless and easily distracted, I want to make plans and go places and complete things but the steps to get there seem they require more energy and decision making ability than I currently have. I’m hopeful that a bit of determination and the imminent arrival of Spring will get something done soon!

My first thought on realising that it’s now February and the Month of Letters (Lettermo) was  ‘I won’t get it done so why bother?’, but maybe a challenge is the motivation I need to complete at least one letter or card each day, and feel like I’ve achieved something. And once I’ve started it will hopefully be much easier to carry on.  I’ll start with letters and postcards I’m owing to various people, then move on to family and friends, then Postcrossing, Postcard United and Swap-bot – plenty of opportunities for all kinds of post πŸ™‚

​I tried to keep track of all my sent post last year but I moved house and misplaced my list… I’ll try to record all of my outgoing and incoming post this month, and hopefully anything else I end up doing.

Outgoing post:

Great travel themed letter off to exotic London!
Incoming post:

Swap-bot ‘send me something to make me smile’ swap from Australia. There’s plenty of goodies to make me smile here πŸ™‚ and clearly a swapper making full use of a laminator!

This card coming home was a surprise, it was part of a travelling postcard swap which hasn’t happened for a while. The swapper who sent this back said they had received theirs so sent mine on. It looks like it missed round 3! I’m hoping to hear back from the swap organiser if anything more will happen. I’m also signed up to the main travelling postcard swap on Swap-bot now, I find it fascinating.

Roll on February! I might just get things done πŸ™‚

Sewing chaos

I’m in a weird mood with my sewing at the moment… I have a long list of planned projects (Christmas gifts, tops, sewing set, skirt, dress, birthday quilts) but I don’t seem to have the patience or the motivation to get on with things. I just want it all to be completed! And then I get frustrated that I haven’t achieved anything and stressed that nothing is ready, which is all ridiculous because it’s supposed to be fun. I can sit in the office all day mentally designing all sorts of things, but in the evenings I don’t seem to be doing more than the basics of living – eating, cleaning, sleeping… And recent weekends have been busy with events and trips and things like food shopping. I can probably blame the darkness and increasing cold, it’s much easier to curl up and read. No one but me will know if home made gifts never get given or finished, it just feels like there’s creativity going to waste somewhere. And I could really use some new tops and skirts and a way to organise my desk πŸ™‚

This is my sewing desk right now, featuring: the finished blue skirt that needs a hook to stop the zip undoing, a half finished grey skirt that ground to a halt when I couldn’t locate my zip foot in the mess, scattered fat quarters for Christmas gifts, a stack of fabric for organisational things for my desk, piled with dressmaking cottons and a vest top that I added sleeves to then tried to adjust and made a horrible mess of and just needs hemming as a vest to be wearable (but it looks like camouflage fabric from a distance so how wearable I’m not sure!). And the tubes are to store quilt binding.

I think I might be just a little overwhelmed. I’ll put some of it away and focus on one thing at a time – maybe that way I’ll get one thing finished πŸ™‚

Worries and imposter syndrome

As was really the idea for this blog, sometimes I just need to put down a few thoughts. Put down the baggage and walk away… I overthink things, and I worry too much about things that worrying won’t help with. 

Tomorrow I have my annual review at work. Logically I know I shouldn’t worry, there’s been no problems mentioned, I’m doing more complicated work and I know a lot more now…but still the imposter syndrome has been hitting hard this week. Ridiculously, it was kicked off by a surprise payrise (I haven’t been in the job long enough to know if it’s a regular event and money is a thing people don’t discuss) and it’s the sort of thing that should fully reassure me that my boss likes my work and wants me to stay and will likely give me a good review as I’ve already had the reward, but…I still worry. I’m now earning more than I ever expected, and having starting with several low paying entrance level jobs it’s all feeling a bit surreal. I don’t feel grown up and professional, I don’t feel like I do a particularly good job of working or looking after myself and my home, I don’t feel like I’m achieving much, I want to travel but nothing’s happening, I have very little social life – basically I feel like I’m drifting by a lot of the time with little to show for it. I’m also in a very niche industry and I don’t know what’s normal here – I like stability so this doesn’t help. The payrises I’ve had in this job have been completely unexpected and made me worry that I now have to prove myself in some way, and really anxious that I might do something to suddenly not deserve it,  or to make people realise that’s it’s me working here – the forgetful, shy, occasionally scruffy, distracted, self-doubting mixer up of words. Oh yes, the self-doubt; the little voice wondering if I’m good enough, clever enough, fast enough, was that a stupid question, have I bothered people too much recently, is this right, should I know that? It’s a thing that’s hard to talk about, I’m not great at expressing myself and reassurances from anyone outside of work won’t do much to stop the worries, because what would they know? I’m sure my family would instantly reassure me that I’m amazing, but they may be a little biased! And what do I say? “Do I deserve what I’m earning and when I was told I did a good job was it was actually any good?” I think I only person who can answer these questions is my manager, good thing we’ve got a talk organised tomorrow… I just need to be able to ask the questions.

Thoughts and plans

I have come to the realisation that my life is fairly boring and very ordinary. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing – I now have a nice apartment, a well paying office job, some good friends and I’m working on the social life, and I few hobbies I enjoy. But I also have a desperate urge to travel and get out there.

I’ve possibly been reading too many travel blogs but the vague idea to book cheap flights to Bergamo is now a sketched out and budgeted 5 city trip across northern Italy. Not that I really have the time or money, or it’s something I’ve ever considered before. I have a list of big trips (Iceland, southern Germany/Switzerland by train, the Norwegian coast by ferry, back to Japan…) that are expensive enough without going all out on a passing urge for a city break. I think my main problem this week is that after nearly 4 weeks medical leave I’m tired and not used to working. I also have no plans for the entire rest of this year beyond 2 trips to the theatre, which is slightly depressing and leaves a big void for the imagination to fill – and I have a good imagination!

I’m sure plenty of little things will happen to fill the gap, but I won’t stop dreaming yet πŸ™‚

Anyway, here’s the plan (squashed up against my work notes) that probably won’t happen:

On friendship

A few days ago I went to a social event to view an art exhibition. I’m really trying now to find a social life in this city. I’ve been here a year and still have no-one close by to just go to the cinema with, or out to lunch, or any of the little last minute plans that can happen when meeting up doesn’t involve a short train journey. So I went to the (insane and incomprehensible) exhibition, and when everyone headed to the bar, I…ghosted straight out of there. To my surprise someone did actually see me leave and I had to explain that I was stressed and just wanted to go home (rather than saying actually mainly middle aged men are not a social group I’m interested in cultivating and I can’t face trying to make any more forced conversation). And there are other groups that are more female focused or aim at my age group but it’s hard work to keep going sometimes.

It’s got me thinking about a few things. How friendship requires effort and that when I’m feeling alone I need to put that effort into existing friendships as well as looking for new ones. And that some of my best friends at the moment are people I’ve never met and only communicate with through letters. And how bad I am at maintaining communication in any other format with people closer than 500 miles away! So more effort required – circular argument here I think πŸ™‚

I’ve also been thinking about when a friendship isn’t worth the effort. Like the group of old men I feel will never become friends. I’ve never straight up ended a penfriend relationship. I’ve been friend dumped once, by email, and it was really painful, made me completely doubt my ability to be a friend, and made me wonder why anyone would like me. I hope I have some redeeming qualities and that people aren’t just being polite in return… I’ve ghosted on penpals a few times when I’ve got 5 lines a couple of times a year and thought ‘why bother?’, but I don’t do confrontation so I mainly just keep writing back. Maybe more slowly and not chasing when another letter never arrives but reading about their children’s summer activities or a recent shopping trip and trying to be that good friend.

Sometimes we just need someone out there to listen. People need connections to others, and with the terrible current political climate it’s important to know people in Russia and USA and everywhere else, and know that the news doesn’t reflect the individual good people around the world. Maybe if all politicians had pen friends the world would be a nicer place. I’m trying and failing to imagine Teresa May and Angela Merkel as penpals, but maybe they could share leadership advice and how to ignore people criticising their fashion sense…

As a shy introvert it will of course take much longer to develop in-person relationships and have more than 2 friends, but there’s still plenty of options to explore. And despite the dominance of old men in certain local groups, or racists or painful silences or when only 2 of us turn up (all recent experiences) and late night doubts, I’m still optimistic. About everything.

And if there’s any lonely people in Derby or anywhere else – hello!!!