Thursday, May 26, 2011

Black Dog / Grey Dog

OK - here goes. This is going to be weird for me to write about. But if I had a dollar for every time I've sat at this keyboard to blog and thought that, I'd be a rich woman indeed. I've had a few weeks off work. Unfortunately I've not been on the long needed holiday Peter and I are desperate for. You see, I woke up just over two weeks ago and felt numb. Not physically, but emotionally. I had an appointment with the doctor and within a few minutes of talking to her burst into tears.

Work has been getting increasingly stressful, and all meetings about workplace change with management are combative and upsetting. They are dismissive of how their staff feel and fail to understand the distress caused by their inability to consult in any meaningful way. ie. listening as well as talking. I guess 'fighting the good fight' took its toll. So much has been going on in my head, and this has been compounded (almost ironically) by one of the subjects I am studying this semester. Human resource management. I think our directors are focused on the 'management' word, whereas I think they should be focused on the 'human' part. It is upsetting as everything I am reading highlights how things can and should be done differently.

So sitting in the doctors room, crying, we spoke about words like anxiety and depression. Anxiety and I are old friends, but since making the radical shift in my life to a better relationship, it has subsided greatly. But I never would have associated myself with the word depression. For the most part I've always been able to get up and keep going. I guess I thought depression was far more intense and all consuming. But like all things in life, the black dog is actually many shades of grey. Crying at the thought of some things, and disruptive sleep patterns began to tick boxes on the doctors checklist.

The reality is that I was coming to the conclusion I was going to have to talk to someone soon, as thoughts of pain and guilt over the breakup of my old relationship were creeping back. As much as I could intellectualize that I have a right to be happy, the pain caused by the vitriol of my ex, and the guilt of causing him pain was doing my head in. I found myself sitting in my car at traffic lights with tears running down my cheeks. I think holding it together for 18 months to get through the horror of legal battles, threats and abuse, served me well. But time had come to deal with it all. And the workplace stress pushed me over the edge. One aggressive, abusive relationship too many.

I've had two weeks at home with my beautiful husband and spent some time (between doctors visits and emails to lecturers for extensions on essays) having coffee with a couple of dear friends. My oldest and dearest friend Denise has been a great sounding board for my current headspace. I don't know if she understand just how much our chats in the last few weeks have meant to me. Perspective, understanding and assurance are wonderful things. No - I don't need anti-depressants, I just need to talk to someone because I have a lot of shit going on. It's true. Funnily I'd be the first person to recommend to a friend that they should seek professional support, but taking a dose of your own medicine can be tough.

But last night, Peter held my hand as I went to talk to a psychologist about the effect this workplace stress and the ghosts of relationships past were having on me. Many, many more tears were shed, but it was nice to offload how I felt to an independent and supportive ear. We will work towards coping strategies, but there was talk of the impact of toxic work environments. Perhaps my colleagues and I could get a group discount on this advice! Change will need to happen for me to get through this. Some of the change will be me, but change may also mean a new job if things don't settle down. I turned 41 a few days ago, and I am learning to put myself first. Finally. I am lucky in that I have wonderful supportive people around me. It's time to leave some of this crap behind, so I can move forward...happily, freely and unencumbered. Time to let the grey dog off it's leash.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The best days of my life...

I know there are elements of Facebook that are evil or at the very least, frowned upon (security settings anyone?). However, there are certain qualities that it has that I quite like. Where else can your community of friends have a conversation? And it is quite fascinating to see what posts or links get people responding.

An example of this happened just the other day. I've been doing the 30 Day Alternative Song Challenge where you post songs on certain topics they suggest eg. first album you ever bought; song you listen to when you're sad; song you have to listen to loud etc. The topic the other day was to post a song you can't believe you used to like. Being a child of the 80s there is lots of cringe-worthy music from my past. I chose a Nik Kershaw song (groan). But lots of people responded saying not to diss the bad 80s music and that they still loved it.

After I picked myself off the floor from shock, it got me thinking. How is it some people look back fondly and some people wish for those trashy times back, while others (like myself) try to pretend it never happened? I had wondered if there is some association with who we were during those years. Some people loved their teenage years, and loved high school. But I think it would be simply awful if they were the best days of your life! When I think back to being 14 (the year the Nik Kershaw song came out), I had braces, a truly terrible perm, crippling shyness and not a lot of confidence. Is it any wonder I don't look back in a nostalgic haze?

I've always joked that I am 90s girl, through and through. Maybe it's because that's when music and life became more intertwined. I have always thought that a soundtrack has run throughout my life. Songs are always associated with people, places and events. But maybe the 90s was when I began to really find myself, and so much of my life was based around music and seeing bands. We went to local pubs every single weekend to see bands we loved. A group of like-minded souls found each other stuck to the carpets of many of Melbourne's pubs. It was a great time. But I also think that the music meant more to me. Perhaps it's the cynical Gen X in me, but I can't stand a cliche and especially not in music. It's got to touch me in some way.

I remember how my musical ear changed some time around 15 and 16. I hung out with my first boyfriend and his friends (all much older than me) who introduced me to The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks & The Rolling Stones. All the great 'The' bands. But also bands like The Smiths, The Housemartins, The Cult, The Saints, The Sex Pistols, The Jesus and Mary Chain (more 'The' bands), Echo and The Bunnymen and music was alive. Suddenly the songs I used to like seemed a little silly and like they had nothing to say. It all turned into elevator music.

Perhaps it's a little chicken and egg. Did the music change me, or did I begin listening to different things because I was changing? I can't quite put my finger on it. I was speaking to my friend Denise the other day and she is similar to Peter. The past is a nice place to visit, but they wouldn't want to live there. They remember the past, but spend their time looking forward, always believing that the best days are still to come. And I must say if I had a choice, I too would hope that the journey of life is leading me constantly in a more rewarding and happier direction.

Peter recites this Leslie Poles Hartley quote often. 'The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there'. When I look back at the person I was at different ages, this quote rings true. I would much rather be 40 than 14. I look forward to who it is I will develop into as life influences and changes me. I will never be someone who is afraid of change. And I believe you cannot move forward if you spend your time looking backwards. So perhaps a trip to JB Hifi is on the cards, to find the next song for the soundtrack of my life.