Thursday, 4 February 2016

Dear Butterflies

Dear Butterflies,

You seem to have flown away for now, or at least, that's how I feel. I hope that you enjoy where ever it is you've gone and that you stay there a while; enjoy the weather, learn to swim, have an adventure, take your time.

A month or two again, it seemed like I was stuck with you for good but now I'm feeling better. Don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect, not suddenly confident about the future or even next week, but I'm getting there. So I thought I'd just write to you and let you know what I've been up to, what I'm doing now you've moved away.

Last time you were with me properly, was probably before Christmas, since then, I've been doing quite a lot. The holiday was wonderful, a really perfect family celebration; parties, family, friends and food, music, many gifts and lots of laughter. For a few weeks, you were gone from my life, you'd spread your wings and flown away but every day I felt January approach and I knew you'd return. You'd stick me right back where you wanted me, waking early, feeling guilty for things I shouldn't. very lost and confused. You did come back for a bit but I think you've flown off now...fingers crossed.

I planned to move into the flat in London. I love my house and being in the country but there's only so many winding roads and getting stuck behind a tractor or a horse or two that I can take. London is so busy, a bustling vibrant city filled with things to do everywhere you turn. So that's where I am. Now that the fairy lights are up in my room, I'm home. So far, so good.

I applied for a course for September; a 2 year course that trains me in the philosophy and ways of the Montessori Method. I had an interview In December and by January, I had the official letter offering me a place. That letter has been put aside. It's sitting at the bottom of a pile of papers on the table in the kitchen, I'm giving myself some time. Time to think and time to get better.

So that's the other thing: getting better. Sometime in November, I wrote a letter addressed to my enemy. Your friend and conspirer, anxiety. I wrote how overwhelmed I felt. I was stuck and I was sad. So now I'm getting help. I take tablets, one a day, designed especially to scare you away, to reduce your effect on my body and my mind. By the looks of things, they're working. I'm also seeing a lady, a lovely lady called Louise. A CBT specialist to add to my collection; She talks to me every week and we work together, picking apart my every thought and working out where it has gone wrong.

For the third time in less than 10 years, I'm having to ask someone else to help me to tell you to buzz off. It's not new and, certainly, none of it's news. I studied psychology at A-level and I did pretty damn well. I spent two years going home and exhausting my family with explanations for why and how they were wound up or feeling the way they were. I am perfectly aware that you are simply a result of chemicals and faulty thinking. You're biological and cognitive and you can be fixed. That is my focus, getting rid of you...or at least finding control over what you do to me. Until I've done that, I'm not going to let myself feel in any way bad about what I am doing or why the last few months happened as they did. The focus is forwards. Onwards and upwards, new day and all that jazz.

That's why, instead of panicking about a potential repeat of last September, I've decided to spend the months ahead not stressing but allowing myself time to explore my interests. To do things I love and to see whether my future really lies in childcare, something I've always believed was true. So. how am I doing that you ask? In several ways: So I'm volunteering at Great Ormond Street. That's right, you heard me! That big ol' children's hospital in London and the most wonderful charity. I applied in November during the peak of my university meltdown and only a week or two later received a letter saying I'd been accepted to start training. At my first training day on Saturday I found out they receive hundreds of applicants a month. Out of those hundreds, they noticed little old me. Beat that butterflies!

The day was so fantastic. I met some wonderful people of all ages, occupations, histories. We sat in a room from 9am until 5pm and talked and acted, thought and listened and laughed. We were all warned that it's a tricky job, a hard place to work and very emotionally draining but I think I'm ready and I'm determined to try. I've spent so many years in and out of hospitals so, although it's not quite the same, I like to think I know what it's like. I've been a child surrounded by doctors and needles and beeping machines. I've sat in the waiting rooms filled with pretty colours and talked to the nurses with the smiling faces and I want to be one of the ones that helps, that makes the experience easier and to make a child or two smile at a time when it may feel like they can't. Today I heard that I've been cleared to continue training and in a few weeks time i'm going to have my first explore of the hospital itself. The start of a new adventure.

My Hospital-Wrist-Band-Paper-Chain
Another new adventure? I've joined a choir. It's so much fun and run by two of the loveliest ladies I've had the pleasure to meet. Every Tuesday evening, I head to Pimlico and I spend two hours (with a break for cake) singing and swaying and chatting and laughing. At the moment we're preparing for a showcase. singing a medley of Disney songs and a pop number or two. If there's anything at the moment that is causing me anxiety it's having to learn the spelling of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (luckily only forwards...phew!).

Oh, and how could I forget! I've also sort of, kind of, I guess, got a job. I mean, I'm being paid to do something and it's something which I love. My sister hired me as her after school care once a employment counts! Picking my lovely nieces and nephew up from school, walking home, putting on some toast, making some tea, doing some reading practice with the littlies, listening to some piano, dishing out some supper. It's not only my sister though, I also help one of her friend with her two children once a week. I'd say that's something. It's in the area I'm interested in, it's with people I love and care about. As a bonus, it pays to fill the fridge (and more).

If you're going to be fussy though and say friends and family is cheating a tad, then I can also tell you I've advertised as a babysitter. I got crafty, made a poster and put it in the entrance downstairs. Days later, i received a text from a lovely lady on the floor below our flat asking if I could come and meet her two lovely children. I contemplated mentioning the time it would take and the cost of travel...then I decided that down approximately 10 stairs and to the left a bit would be unlikely to effect my oyster card too much. I was greeted with huge excitement from a tiny, adorable two year old girl who dragged me inside and immediately showed me all her toys while her one year old brother calmly sat on his mothers lap, the shy observer. By the end of my visit, I had both kids playing with my coat and a game of peek-a-boo going on with the baby. A short stay but a very enjoyable one. What am I doing tonight? Going over to theirs after supper and babysitting for a few hours. I'd say that's pretty good work.

Finally, if that really still doesn't sound good enough, I've applied for some part-time work at Hamleys in their Build-a-Bear shop and got an interview on Sunday. Yeah! That's right! Build-a-Bear!

'What's that?' I hear someone say from under a rock near by.

It's a shop that originated from a little girl wishing she could design her own teddy bear so it would be just how she wanted it. It's a shop filled with bear designs and bright colours. Your pick your bear, head for the giant stuffing machine, pick a heart, say a rhyme and sew it up. You can record your voice or place a message inside, you print a certificate with a name for your new furry friend and can then spend hours choosing tops, trousers, skirts, dresses, shoes and more to take away. Heaven for any small child (or even a bigger child - shhh, don't tell) who likes a teddy bear or two. What's more, this bear heaven is situated inside the greatest toy store of all time. I mean, what more could a child in a 20 year old's body ask for? Wish me luck!

So that's that. I'd say that really I'm pretty busy. Even when I'm not doing that stuff, I'm working on my blog design or reading. I've got a thing going where my relaxing books are saved for the times when i'm curled up in bed of a morning or evening. During the day, I'm reading other things. I just finished a really good book of lectures by Maria Montessori about the method and her ideas. People who know me well know that I would never normally put 'good' and 'lectures' in the same sentence but I honestly enjoyed it. That and the book I'm reading now are really starting to make me realise that psychology is truly where my interests lie. Learning about people and how they think and learn and work.

The book I'm into now is all about OCD, something I've suffered from since I was very little, although I was unaware as a child. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can range from obsessing over cleanliness and needing to wash your hands all the time to my sort of compulsions of checking things, counting things and straightening things up before I can settle. The book 'Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Self-help guide using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy' by David Veale and Rob Wilson had me wish that my tube journeys were longer yesterday. There's so many aspects to it that I had never thought about and there are people out there who really suffer, much more than I do.

The book complains about how under appreciated the condition is and how important it is that people talk about it more with doctors, psychologists, family. It's not a sign of a madness. It's a Cognitive issue that effects Behavior, an issue with the wiring not the person and if not treated early, it can really damage lives...are you seeing that this is something I feel passionate about? People are kind of a big deal. We're important and we all need caring for even if we are making people late because we've checked the door is locked 5 times with alternate hands...

So that's what I'm reading and that's what I'm doing. I'm working out what I like and what I don't. I'm seeing where I'm drawn to and what opportunities arise, and I'm (sort of) not worrying.

Yours (a little) less anxiously,

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