This time last year I was preparing for my wedding day. Tomorrow will be our first anniversary so it feels apt to do a little reflecting on what changes this year has brought.
This time last year I was on fluoxetine, an anti-depressant, and had been for six months. I remained on it for a further six months but I am currently off that medication. It wasn’t the first time I had been prescribed fluoxetine and I have no idea if it will be the last. Some people feel guilty for taking medication to aid their mental health. I don’t. I needed the support at that time and it helped. At present I am doing well without prescription medication to support my mental health. This doesn’t mean that I am “cured”, it simply means I am in a better place and have some better strategies in my mental health tool box for helping me manage my mental health.
My biggest ongoing issue on the mental health front is social anxiety. I still have anxiety attacks and I probably always will in some circumstances. Where the anxiety flares up the most is when I am going somewhere I don’t know or to something with people I haven’t previously met or have had bad experiences with in the past. I do my best to manage this without running away but I don’t always manage that. When I do run away from situations I then feel ashamed of myself for giving in. I shouldn’t feel that shame, I know that, but I do. I have discovered that I cope with things much better if I have a set task or role for the event or meeting. It gives me something else to focus on and a job to do which help me feel useful.
This time last year I was waiting for counselling through the NHS. I was extremely fortunate in having some cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy sessions with a hypnotherapist I know while I was waiting for NHS support. These and my later counselling sessions helped me to work though some things and build some better strategies for coping in the future.
In July I started with a series of counselling sessions with a psychotherapist through the NHS. I had eight sessions if I remember correctly and they were very helpful. The therapy approach was a compassion based one, similar in some ways to cognitive behavioural therapy but with out the focus on changing thought patterns, more about accepting and trying to move forward. It suited me.
One of the more stressful situations in my life last year was my employment. I had been having problems with work related stress for a few years. If I’d only had the work stress and no other areas of stress maybe I would have been able to manage better but I didn’t and when you get stress in too many areas something has to give. I ended up going through the work capability process. This is supposed to help support you back into work. It is supposed to help but personally I found it a very stressful process to go through and not helpful in the slightest. Part of that may well be down to personality conflicts, part down to my mental health, but I have to say that I still feel that part is due to the powers that be deciding that I wasn’t really worth supporting even after 19 years as an employee there. I could feel very bitter about the whole thing but I don’t. In July last year I was officially dismissed on capability grounds and it’s one of the best things that could have happened to me!
One of the immediate concerns on losing a job is how you are going to cope financially. Well I had three months pay in lieu of notice to help with that transition. As I had been off work on mental health grounds I decided to apply for ESA (Employment Support Allowance) which is a benefit for those not fit to work for whatever reason. The forms are almost as horrid as the DLA and PIP ones (Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments) and I had to go to an assessment. Needless to say I was deemed healthy enough to work. While going this process for myself I also went through the process of applying for DLA for both of my children. In their cases I was successful and that meant I could also apply for carer’s allowance.
The experience of going through the ESA process myself has been helpful in that I have a much better understanding of what others go though and can better support close friends and family going through the similar process of PIP forms, assessments and appeals. It truly is a horrid and very stressful system!
In September last year I contacted the Riding for the Disabled Association Glasgow Group with a view to starting some voluntary work there. My psychotherapist was very pleased with me at the time for taking this step without her suggesting I try and do something like this. In October I had my induction and I haven’t looked back since. I absolutely LOVE my voluntary work at the RDA stables. I go there on Tuesday and Friday mornings during school term times and usually help with the classes that are on either leading or side walking, whatever is needed. I’m now in the process of completing forms for my daughter to go on a waiting list for lessons there and to have lessons myself. After about forty years or dreaming about learning to ride it looks like I’m finally going to be able to do it. Most of the RDA lessons are designed for those with impairments of just about any type but they do also do a small amount of lessons for those without impairments. If you want to know more please do visit their website, Riding for the Disabled Association Glasgow Group
In January I started taking my daughter along to dance classes with Indepen-dance. This is another fabulous organisation. I’ve known of them for years as one of their staff gave music and movement sessions to my son several years ago now. That wonderful person gave my son about a year of free sessions, enabled by another wonderful person who allowed us to use a suitable room in a place she owned and managed on a free basis. So it’s lovely to be a formal part of the Indepen-dance family now with my daughter. She absolutely LOVES her lessons with them!
The school year has progressed reasonably well for both kids. There’s been glitches along the way but that’s life. I am blessed in having two wonderful autistic kids. I have been for an adult autism assessment myself but did not meet formal diagnostic criteria. I have however had a few lovely peer confirmations of my neurodivergent state. I am proud to be a neurodivergent Druid.
In February I started a Counselling Skills course and I’ve recently received the official certificate for that. I’ve written about my experiences and what I gained through that process elsewhere.
I’ve also had changes in my patterns of devotion over the last year.
So a year of marriage has seen me though all these things and more. My wonderful husband Neil has been further developing his photography skills – do look at his site Awen Photos and have a look at some of the wonderful images he has taken. I’ve also seen much more of Scotland with him than I did before as going out and finding new and interesting places to take photos is something he loves doing.
It’s been a year with many unexpected changes and generally I do not like unanticipated change. I tried to stay employed but that didn’t work out. The results of that change have been much better than I could have imagined and Neil has supported me though it all.
Thank you Neil and happy anniversary my darling!