I'm usually the one answering problems, so this feels quite strange and a little disempowering. However, my home life doesn't afford me the opportunity to speak to anyone I know. I have to be strong- sorted and organised. If I breakdown, I'm scared of the consequences. Thus, writing it out here offers me the chance of release. Do not read if you're easily bored....or confused! lol
The past couple of years have been a bit unstable and they have finally reached the time to topple. After spending many years battling with a mental illness, I went back in to studying as a mature student and chose the subject of psychology. It was close to my heart and a subject I found easy to learn.
As a single-mother, with little support, I juggled the obligations of my homelife with studying and did a good job at it. For 6 years, I sacrificed my social life and any other interests in order to keep up with the demands of my life. Oddly enough, the stress of studying, sometimes working (part-time bar job throughout a couple of years) and being a lone-parent kept my mind straight. I felt as if I was working towards something, therefore, whenever feelings of depression or loss of control occured; I could soon deflect them and focus on the future.
And then the studying stopped. I qualified as a research psychologist and started working in the same university I had studied at. I wrongly assumed that it would feel like home, that I would get further opportunities to grow in the subject I loved and ultimately, get paid to do something I was good at.
But it wasn't like that at all. Part of my job was teaching statistics and at first, I didn't think it would be a problem. I knew I would have to put in some hard graft- maths was never my best subject- and I expected to be confused and overwhelmed in the first couple of weeks. Yet as time wore on, I became aware of how much difficulty I had retaining numerical information. I would have to study the stats books for around 3 days before taking a class and even then, I would hear murmurs around the students that I didn't know what I was talking about. A couple of students complained, but after a while I managed to win them over and started to take on less of the statistical side of teaching.
However, despite finally being able to teach the subject I was being paid to teach; characteristics from my previous mental health problems started to come back. I started to feel stressed out at the slightest knock to my confidence; I felt stupid next to my colleagues and would refer to myself as the 'Inbred Cousin' of the department. I couldn't speak out when we had meetings and I couldn't bring myself to socialise with anyone outside of work, despite being invited to many parties, barbeques, etc. Other issues started to stress me out too- I would work quite a few hours from home- in one weekend, I worked 30 hours trying to get marking done- and I felt as if I was neglecting my son.
I perserved for over a year. Then after an argument, one day, with a colleague- I left.
I couldn't feel as if I could face her or there again. The argument had been heard by others in the department and as she was a popular member of staff, I felt as if I would be the one vilified for incident. She had also instigated during the argument, that other members of staff thought I was odd and couldn't do the job. I felt absolutely horrendous; pretended I was ill and went home to look for another job. I got an interview for the following day and started the new job within a few weeks.
The new job was working with emotionally disturbed children in a small, independent school. In the interview, I was told that I would be assisting on teaching maths, but primarily I would be teaching philosophy and ethics, and religious education at GCSE level (ages 15-16; high school leavers level for readers outside of the UK). That sounded perfect! I told the manager of the school quite clearly in the interveiw that maths was NOT my best subject and that I would prefer not to teach it. He said I would fine- I would only be assisting.
However, after getting offered the job and accepting, his demands were to slowly change. He started asking me to do work for them and go in when I hadn't even started working there or getting paid for the work. Then he told me I would be teaching GCSE maths and I was sent timetables and aims & objectives for the lesson plans. When I asked about resources, I was given website addresses and a book. That was it!
Despite being aware that I had never taught this age group or at that level before, the school manager seemed to think I was adequatly prepared. The book, I got 2 days before I was due to start the job and on my first day, I was promptly asked "Do you have worksheets prepared?"
When I stated my lack of readiness and confusion at having to prepare anything for my first week, I was told not to worry about it- he would do the planning for that week and it was more important that I bonded with the children.
Bonding with the children wasn't a problem. Unlike the rest of the tutors, I'm not a middle-class academic; I come from a council estate background and grew up with similar experiences to them. I recognised the stories of prison visits to see Daddy and the tales of scoring a bag of weed from some dodgy dealer in an alleyway. I was on their level. So much so, that within a week I had students defending me against the more difficult ones and when they walked in to my class, they sat down and worked. It was noted among the other staff- I got told that I was honoured; not one student had bad-mouthed me, swore at me or kicked off in my class. I even had students leaving others classes to come in to mine.
However, in two days, I was given over 10 hours of work to do at home and considering I was in the school from 9am till 6pm on one of those days, it was extremely taxing. I had to prepare maths worksheets and when I attempted to source the right materials, it proved almost impossible. I ended up constructing my own, yet due to my lack of abilities in maths- this proved to be a freaking nightmare and I had to keep checking over my methodology and answers to make sure I was delivering the right stuff!
It was gone midnight, one night, when I broke down, while still doing work for them. I had only had around 5 hours sleep in three days and I cracked. I had had to send my son to my mothers for a couple of nights to complete the work and feelings of guilt, that this would be a regular occurence if I stayed at the job, completely swamped me.
When I told the manager I couldn't teach the maths, as many of the kids were beyond even my capabilities and I was finding it difficult to plan for them, I was quite surprised about his reaction. In so many words, he blamed me for fooling him in to thinking I could do it. He said he had made it clear what the job was about and that I would be required to do work at home. He certaintly said I would be doing work at home, but when I had asked how much, he had estimated about an hour on a Sunday to prepare for the whole week. I was spending 10 hours on two days work! Then he passively-aggressively accused me of only chatting to the kids and not teaching them anything. This comment made all the hard work I had done & sending my son away from home so I could get it done seem completely insignificant. I HAD been teaching the kids- but it was pummelled in to me BY the manager that forming a bond with them came first. Once the attachment was formed, they would work and within a week, I had executed that method successfully. Despite my own maths skills taking hours of studying, I had gotten at least 7 students out of 10 to complete their worksheets correctly within 45 mins. They're children that need patience and him out of everyone, should understand that. Yet still, they were complying with me and showing me respect in class. I assumed that was the beginning of them learning successfully, but to the centre manager- this wasn't good enough.
Needless to say, I resigned. Even over the space of a week, I started to realise that everything wasn't as it seemed at the school. The manager is a fundementalist in a particular religion and while he doesn't appear to teach his religion stoically in the school; special measures are put in place for his religious preference and those who practice it. Staff take breaks only when he says so (there are no set times) and are expected to swiftly adapt to his quick changes in routines, breaks, wages, responsabilities, etc. One day, I was told that over a period of six hours teaching, I was not entitled to any breaks. Apparently, this is in compliance with the law, so I can't even make an official complaint about it! Needless to say, I spent the day quite hungry.
I am now, in a phrase: financially f**ked.
Christmas is around the corner and thankfully, I have already bought my son's big present. I have enough in the bank for the next months rent and I know I have to turn to benefits until I get another job.....
However.....my issue is not necessarily financial. I will scrimp and save to pay the rent- the roof over our head is the most important- and I can be quite enterprising when I need to be. I've already started looking at what I can sell and have a pretty vast vinyl collection that might get me some money.
My issue is that I can't work with people. Despite my psych training, etc, my mental health problems go deeper than paranoia, depression and social anxiety. I have a personality disorder that, at times like this, feels impossible to live with.
I don't 'like' people very much. I find them draining and difficult. I find having to talk to people I'm unfamiliar with, a complete nightmare! I'm quite expressive and some people can percieve me as aggressive or over-enthusiastic, so I don't often 'click' with people. I think that's why I got on with the kids at the school- as I'm very expressive and I find it difficult to lie or hold back what's in my head, I often speak, before I think- like many of them. I also ask lots of blunt questions and often people don't like this. I know when I've gone to far, but usually not until after the words have left my lips.
In a conversation with a close friend once, she suggested I might have Aspergers; however, after some research, I don't think I have. I'm very perceptive to body language- whether through a personal interest and/or the psychology teaching- and I do experience a high level of empathy....probably a little too much, sometimes.
This leaves me a problem. Most jobs are social ones; in some shape or form, I have to work with people. I'm not cut out to be a teacher or tutor- that's been concluded. Yet going by my past, I'm not cut-out to be anything. I've worked in an array of jobs; hairdresser, factory worker, personal assistant, accounts clerk, trainee butcher, security guard, barmaid, shop worker, dry cleaner.....
Teaching was a dream from childhood that I thought I would be good at. I assumed I would be fullfilled by it, but I wasn't and I don't want to sacrifice my whole life for a 'job' that only satisfies me with barely enough money to live. I know I have earn- that's not an issue; I WANT to earn, but as one of only two people in my son's life (I have no family or close friends- just my mum), I don't want to have to sacrifice my time with him. My ideal career would be as a writer- I would be here for him, doing something I'm good at and I wouldn't have the spiders web of social contact that is necessary in every job. Yet the business is extremely competitive and hard to break in to. Everyone is a writer is some form- what makes me better than the millions of others out there? I've uploaded my first book on to a website, but interest has been low.
I need money to survive and thrive, yet finding a career or even a decent job that doesn't half kill me on a daily basis, is proving to be a wholly stressful affair!
And to top it all off- I can't get rid of my weed habit! This was another difficult feat at the school. I gave up before I started. I'm not so immoral that I would go in to work there with an obvious cannabis addiction, but within the first day of working there- my second continuous week of abstinence- the basis of most of the students conversations was weed. They even got caught rolling up a spliff a few streets away from the school. Most of the kids stunk of it and I was asked quite frequently by students if I smoked it. I wasn't completely honest- after all, I had only given up the couple of weeks before- I said I had smoked it when I was younger, but wouldn't do it again. I also did the adult thing and gave a little talk about cannabis being linked to schizophrenia and the residual feelings of paranoia and anxiety. One girl took me to one side and said she didn't know that and that there was no way she was smoking again. Her mum is a smoker and she said she didn't like it, but smoked with her sometimes. She also said that she had felt paranoid while on it. I was really glad that my experiences had actually helped someone! The girl soon became my shadow. At 14, she looks about 18, but this is very deceptive. She's a girl that's had to grow up fast, but really wants to be a young girl. She needs looking after, but I suspect that she's done a lot of looking after.
It hit me. How was my son suffering with my weed addiction? I certainly would NEVER sit down with him and smoke it! I've already sat and talked to him about the addictive side to it- he knows all about the schizophrenia symptoms, increased risk of oral cancers with smoking it, etc, etc. I'm not an advocate for weed; I'm trapped by it. Yet my habit is bound to have consequences for him. Every habit we have inflicts on our children in some way.
Needless to say, the stress of the week has sent me back there. It was around day three at the school that I cracked and called my dealer. I couldn't focus on the copius amount of maths I had to do.
So here I am. After 6 years of studying and over a year of trying to up my work profile- I am back to square one. I am back to struggling to pay the rent, zero social contact, other than my mother, son & two occasional friends and spending every day, wishing I could just get paid to do what I love.
Blerrgh!! I need a spliff and a coffee!
Comments welcome. Try and be nice....critisism not needed, I'm quite good at doing that to myself!
No criticism in my post...I promise.
So hun you need to see a professional, being a nurse doesnt mean I dont need to see a nurse should i break my arm. So being in a professional in psych field doesnt mean you never need to see a psychologist or better psychiatrist. I read your post and you sound alot like me. I dont enjoy being around people unless my patients are the people, others are too much work lol and my kids get the attention I have give but not much left for the world outside after them.
I stuggled with this similar posts listed issues...when i was 18 I slipped into wanting to feel better so badly that I went the low road and didnt call a doctor but used drugs to cope. Like pot, not good...over time is effects can increase your feelings.
I met with a Psychiatrst finally at age 24. And boy was that what it took. Between talking out my inner issues or feelings combined with medication for my short attention span and mental strong hold over being social or happy...I found myself feeling better. This is the most urgent thing I ever did for myself. Medication can create sideeffects that are shitty but keep taking them, theyll either start making you feel different/better or you need to try a different one. No matter what keep seeing the psychiatrist or talk doc if thats what you choose.
Im not sure if i offer any real advice your needing but good luck and god bless
Thank you Usedtobemenowitshim- your reply is very much apprieciated <3 I didn't think anyone would read all that, so really- a big thank you.
I absolutely get what you're saying and you are right- totally right. But...(there's always a 'but' with us stubborn folk!) therapy is out of the question. I think my nearest bet to therapy is possibly calling the Samaritans and there's a few reasons.....
I've had mental health problems since I was 11, so I've done the therapy route- had a few counsellors in my time, two psychiatrists and a psychologist. Counsellors are too airy fairy for me; most work by a humanistic model and my attachment style is too dismissive for that kind of talking therapy. With one, I ended up counselling her! Plus she also told me I was Bi-Polar, when I wasn't. Psychiatrists tend to work by the bio-medical model- in otherwords, pumped me full of different kinds of anti-depressents. It was during the 'come-down' from one lot of medication that I started smoking pot regularly. Had smoked it as a teenager, but not regularly until then. I was experiencing awful side-effects from withdrawing from an anti-dep (can't recall what one now, it was that long ago)- I had an itchy feeling over my skin, electric pulses going through my body (mostly my scalp & head), couldn't eat, sleep, was pulling my hair out in chunks, major anxiety and paranoia....all through the legal, prescribed drugs. My cousin saw the state of me and gave me a spliff...and as they say, the rest is history! I never went back on to legal meds again- and never will.
The first psychiatrist, I saw when I was 14, after a suicide attempt. I'd be having paranoid delusions and social anxiety since I was 11- yet when I saw him, I was told I "didn't handle stress well" and was ignored by the mental health system until I was in my 20's and had another breakdown. The second psychiatrist I saw was the one who liked to hand out lots of different medication. After around 6 or 7 lots of different types of anti-depressants (for my depression & anxiety), lithium (for my manic mood swings) and an anti-psychotic (for my schizophrenia sub-type characteristics), my psychiatrist refered me to a psychologist. I was then diagnosed with a personality disorder- schizoid-avoidant P.D. A personality disorder is a little different to a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar, ect. I have periods of depression and anxiety, with minor manic & delusional characteristics, but it can't be controlled with medication. In fact, medication very, very rarely works with p.d's. Additionally, a p.d will know when they are going through a period of time when they are not 'thinking straight'- we know our behaviour is odd, but it's hard to stop and takes mental & behavioural strategies to control. It's also usually present when a person is young- it has an earlier on-set age than most other mental health disorders and p.d's have a differing prognosis'.
With my p.d, when I get depressed and/or anxious, I can experience panic attacks, paranoia, hear voices in the next room that aren't there. I also avoid situations or people that I percieve as negative or that I have had a minor negative experience with. For example, my colleague in my previous post. Most people tend to 'get over' things, whereas I can't. I can't seem to forget negative experiences or down-play them. Instead, they escalate in my head (looming maladaptive thought schema) and then I get over-anxious and depressed. Hence I avoid most social contact. I'm not very good with people, so nearly every experience is a negative one!
I went through over a year of C.B.T- cognitive behavioural therapy- and I must say, it changed my life.
It was from then that I started to sort my life out. I had left school at an early age, due to my mental health problems and my step-dad's death, so I went back to 'school'- did my high school leavers exams (GCSEs) and my A-level's, then went on to university. In that time, I also dug myself out of bankruptcy and homelessness. I also went back to work and was coping as a single-parent. However, I was also smoking pot the whole time. I used it as a 'stabiliser'- if I had pot, I had no need to freak-out; no need to be anxious and no reason to lose control- everything looks better with a spliff in hand. I was focused on getting my life together....and I did.
The present situation is temporary. I know this, but I also know that right now is not a comfortable place to be and I'm absolutely terrified of slipping back to my old self, through the stress.
I can't go back to therapy; on the NHS a patient has to wait nearly 3 months to see someone. My old psychologist is now working elsewhere, so I can't just go back and see him and by the time I get to see someone else, I'll be out of my rut. I also don't have much faith in the healthcare system over here. My doctor seems uninterested- cannabis addiction is not really recognised as a bonefide addiction and despite my mental health history, I don't feel as if my doctor takes me seriously. In a tearful moment, I did tell him I needed help, but he offered me medication (which he knows won't work with a personality disorder) and gave me the leaflet for a mental health charity. The same mental health charity I sought help from over 7 years ago, when I was feeling close to a breakdown and was ignored by them after an inital call-out.
The past few days have been horrible. I've been trying to give up cannabis, due to the tight finances, but cracked today. My arthritis in my neck rendered me nearly bed-bound today. My head felt so heavy on my neck that I could barely lift it. I haven't been sleeping and my appertite is zero. I've also been feeling completely deflated about my efforts to find a job. I'm applying for around 4 jobs a day- even cleaning and barwork. I'm an academic, but I'll do anything, even cleaning toilets, if it earns a living!
Thus, I relented and scored. I'm now feeling 100% better.
I don't have a lot of social support and I know that this is my biggest problem. I turn to the pot, because in a way, it facilitates me to become my own support. I don't have family, except my mum & son. Obviously, my son is too young to take on my stress and tbh, my mother has enough of her own. My one & only close friend isn't massively good at the supportive role- she shuns away from most sensitive subjects and is usually quite self-focused and can be blase in her advice to me. She's more expressively anxious than me, so our time together is usually focused on her career or other friend problems and when it comes to mine, she tends to think that I'm stronger than what I am, despite knowing my history. I'm having internal issues about this friendship at the moment; the friendship is very much on her terms and I'm starting to have problems with this.
Once again, Thank you for reading & replying and I hope I haven't given you eye-ache with my latest installment! lol
My best wishes to you.