Brain Lies

In todays list of things my brain decided to turn into a storm in a teacup was a quick spin on the existential mortality trap of comparing where I am now with what my father was doing at my age. This was duly mixed with an unhealthy dash of “how am I 50?” and a selection of general inflated perceived inadequacy.

Then I shook my head, got a sense of perspective, realised I was feeling gritty from the heat of the day and therefore uncomfortable in my own skin, and had a good hot shower which helped immensely.

Nice try brain. Not today.

Datavore

I came up with a new word to describe how Lady M interacts with the world: datavore. If there’s information, she has to have it – from reading the labels of parcels in the foyer, and peering over shoulders at social media or messages, she just can’t help herself.

Show her a message, and without thinking she scrolls up to see what came before. When challenged she says she’s looking for context, or “just in case it’s important”

As someone who has already filtered and positioned a piece of information for consumption, or who has put the start of the relevant information or story front and centre, it therefore never fails to make me clench my teeth.

It isn’t a worry that anything compromising may be seen, it’s what my brain identifies as disregarding the effort made to consciously present information – like someone wanting to see the unpublished cards in your PowerPoint presentation while you’re in the middle of starting your presentation.

I know she can’t help it, and that her entire being is dedicated to gathering information at all times like a sponge – but I may have to start keeping an old copy of Private Eye rolled up and to hand to lovingly boop her on the nose next time it appears at my shoulder…

Either that or arrange to have something truly strange on my screen the next time she looks

One Foot, Then Another

I had to make a small confession today to boy s, and that was to let him know that I hurt myself during my anxiety meltdown the other day. In my distress I dug my nails into my left arm and back of the hand and raked at myself.

It’s a very dysfunctional grounding technique that I spent years getting rid of after I became very ill about twenty years ago. I’m deeply annoyed at myself for doing it again after all these years. At least it has only left me with scratches, and in this heat and humidity the itch of healing is irritating enough.

Being a Monday, I’ve also had work to distract me, so I’ve started back as I mean to go on, and done my best to balance myself while also supporting my staff. So far, so good. The irony of recommending EAP support for other people is not lost on me.

One foot, then another, then another, repeating as long as needed.

Recovery

I’m doing better today. This morning I was still a bit hazy and jittery – and various muscles felt like they’d been locked in struggle most of the night so that’s been fun in this heat.

In general then I’ve not felt able to socialise and my weasel brain has of course grasped on to that as another failure on my part. Objectively I know that it isn’t. Battling guilt over the strange turns my brain takes is difficult but it is part of being, well human.

Part of growing up with my background included a stoic mindset and reaction to what life brings. Not complaining but just getting on with it played a large part in the models around me, and while that is largely helpful in keeping my wits about me, it does bring its own stresses.

Being stoic in uncertain times lets me be a beacon of calm for those around me. It also fuels a leaning towards life as a service to those around me that I sometimes struggle to keep in a healthy balance. It’s something I’m actively prodding in my current counselling sessions. Anxiety over not meeting my own impossible standards is nothing new; kicking associated guilts into the long grass is a newer fight.

Well hey, isn’t self awareness a fun rollercoaster?

Brainstorm

I’m having a bit of an uncomfortable afternoon inside this skull of mine. As you probably already guessed that means its very chaotic in here right now. I’m not entirely sure why and part of why I’m writing this is to try and get it down out of the lump of rarefied gelatine in my head and down on paper where I can see it and try to nail it down a bit. The anxiety and random flashback images started while we were driving home this afternoon from a quick trip to Kingston. The Hampton Court Garden Show (or whatever the official name is) was kicking out so the traffic was horrendously backed up and stationery as we queued, music played, and blessed air conditioning kept the heat at bay.

And then the anxiety came out of nowhere – with snippet scenes from childhood, school, work, previous relationships all vying for attention and overlapping. Random thoughts about empathy, remoteness, connections, the masks worn to deal with situations all started crowding and even now I’m home now and sat on the sofa with coffee and laptop I’m finding pinning thoughts down like stabbing inside a cloud – or there being an open hole at the top of my head where emotions and concepts, and focus keep bubbling out and swirling like a fountain.

I don’t know if its my mental health having a moment, or that I’m just more aware of how oddly my brain processes things and the disruption to my planned journey has tipped me sideways – yay possible autism brain, thank you. All I know is I’ve needed a big hug from Lady M, I’ve ripped and clawed at the skin on my arm and the back of my hand, my eyes feel like they’re burning, and there’s a remoteness behind those eyes disconnecting me from what feels like a screaming storm in the next room.

I was due to have counselling tonight as well, but that’s had to reschedule – maybe that’s another element but its not a reaction I normally have to changes of plans on that front. I’m up to date with my medications, and even picked up renewed prescriptions this morning. We spent a fair bit of money in Kingston, but well within my anticipated budget – and there’s also the satisfaction of having both got some great reading material but also sorted out some presents for people’s birthdays and Christmas. I did get a copy of a letter back to my GP saying he hadn’t given the ASD team enough information for them to make a decision, so I feel I’m going to have to do some chasing on that avenue.

In the meantime I’m clenching my feet and fists repeatedly, resisting doing any more scratching (and the stinging now filtering through is also uncomfortable but at least I haven’t broken my skin enough to cause bleeding.

Maybe that’s all that is – a confluence of multiple stresses that has hit some sort of switch and now I want to retreat/withdraw from everything and am panicking because I can’t define it or explain it because my spoken words can’t keep up with the torrent of thoughts, tangents, imagery, and emotional cross-links that are cascading through and ricocheting like bullets inside my brainpan. Its like my whole body wants to scream but using my voice won’t be enough.

This is very uncomfortable – but I do feel better for being able to put this into some way that someone can read – there’s at least this way of communicating even if anything else just freezes. I’m telling myself it will pass. I will find a distraction – I will write more, I will draw, I will put on a game, something.

It will pass.

Angry and Sad

My employer announced very recently in a very public forum that they were going to be disconnecting from Stonewall as they developed their own in-house EDI leadership. This immediately set off a storm of homophobic and transphobic abuse and crowing on social media, which was made all the worse because this was the first that the various staff support networks had heard of it. Needless to say there are a lot of hurt and upset people, and a large number of very vocal and passionate meetings are being held. Others are better placed to have those arguments about how to proceed, so a colleague and I who are part of one of those networks have been reaching out to people in our service who were at the meeting to offer support and to offer confidential support to those who are not comfortable speaking publicly.

As with most things like this, the decision lies in the complicated crux of politics and business logic, but damningly it seems to have been done with a naivete about the message being sent to the wider world, and to the staff who had in recent years been beginning to trust their employer. I have at times been fighting back tears of incoherent rage both for my sake, and on behalf of the people I manage and work alongside faced with the enormity of the hate that this move has enabled, and I and my colleague are carefully monitoring and offering support to each other – and thankfully are being in turn supported by both our management and the people we work with. That has been the saving grace I think in the last couple of days – that the overwhelming majority of people in the service are supportive of the whole LGBTQ+ community and are equally shocked by this move – especially so soon after Pride.

There’s a lot of processing and pointed awkward questions now going on; and there has at least been a recognition of the hurt caused and an understanding of just how badly this has gone. That doesn’t erase it, but it does give us somewhere to start in working out where we move on from this point.

I am saddened, and the black dog has been barking loudly in response to all this, but tomorrow is nearly here, and there’s work to be done. As ever I am minded of the question: If you don’t move to work on this, when who else will? Representation isn’t just for the nice things in life, and I’ve got my sleeves rolled up.

Spinning Wheels

Like an overrevved car with smoking wheels, the week has managed that age old trick of standing still and generating a lot of noise and motion – but somehow still isn’t over. I actually had that moment of being genuinely shocked this afternoon that it was only Thursday.

Between running round helping boy s gather things for his new flat, various illnesses, and general stresses with work deadlines it has been packed. I’ve had conversations around outreach opportunities with partner organisations ; talked about potential Arts Council funded events for the future; focused on further recruitment; and generally steered and pushed things as only a library manager can.

There’s a lot there, but as a lot of it is kind of setting things up rather than necessarily delivering discrete results, I think it hasn’t felt as productive as it has. I suppose it could be worse, but it has felt at times like an extended anxiety rush with added heartburn. But hey, there’s still Friday to look forward to.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Could You All Just Stop?

My day started with one of my branch managers phoning me while they were having a panic attack on top of what turned out to be an acute asthma attack. They were worried that they might have to close their library as they were working on their own. There’s a lot to unpick there, and once I’d talked them through getting their breathing a bit less on the edge of collapse I wasted no time in telling them that I couldn’t care less about closing the library – their health is far more important. This is an individual who is new in their job and feels they have a lot to prove, despite my telling them many times over that they are doing a great job and literally have nothing to prove and they need to slow down.

Grumpy? Me?

While still reeling that in I got a call about another member of staff wrenching their back while reaching for christmas decorations in a cupboard, had an update on another person about to undergo surgery, and had calls from the cub’s school that he wasn’t well and could someone come and retrieve him. I may have growled about that as he’d pranked me this morning by walking out of his room with red vaseline around his mouth so that it looked like he had foot and mouth but was thankfully at that time okay. Lady M meanwhile had called in sick with a heavy cold, and while down in Portsmouth boy s had also succumbed to the same cold.

It turned out that the cub has, you guessed it, got the same heavy cold as Lady M and boy s – so I’m chalking it up to Con Flu from the weekend. Lateral Flow Tests have remained negative.

Me? I haven’t got time to be ill. I had school runs, building health and safety inspections, job shortlisting, event risk assessments, and partnership meetings to sort out – and retrieving boy s from Portsmouth after hours. Tomorrow I have more of the same, so I’ve quarantined everyone else in the flat in the other rooms and laid claim to the sofa. If I get this in the same week that I’ve had my blood pressure medications increased, I won’t be happy.

So, could you all just stop falling apart please? I haven’t finished my turn yet.

Covid Life

Well the little plague goblin’s PCR came back as positive but as the rest of us are double jabbed we don’t have to isolate – just him. We’re going to organise PCR tests anyway just to double check even though our lateral flow tests remain negative.

That would be enough on its own but this week seems determined to throw obstacle after obstacle in the way, which is probably why I’m currently sat in a closed library waiting for a BT engineer to remote fix an issue that has in traditional fashion been bounced between several different services to try and fix – and that it feels like the least stressful part of my week to date.

Mostly I’m just reminding myself that I need to keep time and energy for myself so that I can support colleagues and family and friends. Its a very familiar refrain and so if sitting on my own in an empty building forces me to do so then I’ll accept the unexpected respite time with as much good grace as I can muster.