Monday, February 25, 2008

It's been a while...

...and maybe I didn't mention that I was going on a Buddhist retreat? Maybe I did, anyway I went for a week, came back last Friday and it was quite an adventure! What with the communal living with seventeen or so assorted folks, the amazing beautiful setting (and weather), the long periods of silence and seemingly endless long periods of sitting meditating in the shrine and lovely vegan food too. Does that sound like Zoe heaven to you? Well, almost. And the teacher was one of the Western Buddhist Order's best meditation teachers, He's written a few books and his approach is very compassionate, humane and above all, very grounded in the body.

Even though it was by no means easy (by God meditation and silence faces you with yourself like nothing else!) I felt great by the end and really began to enjoy the company of the others and appreciate them. We had a lot of fond goodbyes when it was time to leave, like long-lost friends, and yet we had been in silence most of the time!

And it helped me a lot with my difficulties with the loving-kindness meditation practice, the metta bhavana. The way he explained it, that and the mindfulness of breathing meditation are basically the same practice. And also, he said not to necessarily think of metta (loving kindness) as a feeling. One can equally use one's intelligence to approach a problem or a person lovingly. This was very comforting as I was experiencing quite a bit of emotional turmoil and I think my heart centre or whatever was rebelling at being told what it should be feeling!

I've been back a few days now and had a lovely weekend with Richard. Today did my computer course, then the gym, and tomorrow I start a new voluntary job at Tulip, another mental health organisation. I found that a few days after I realised MIND wasn't going to work out. It seemed fortuitous, they just happened to have a volunteer leaving and wanted to take on two new people to job-share. I am going to do Tuesdays and Thursdays. I am a bit nervous about starting another new thing, but they seem very nice and quite efficient. Which will make a change from MIND. I will doing general admin and reception work...quite a bit of answering the phone. I seem fated to have to do phone work...Once I know who's who and what's what it should be OK I suppose.

I'm also thinking of volunteering my cooking skills on Buddhist meditation retreats. You get to go on retreat for free if you do. And that NVQ in Catering might come in handy at last!

Take care all...Lots of love, Zoe.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The rocky road!

Hi peeps. Yes, this week has been a saga of work. My personal life is going fine, my health and fitness levels are better than they've every been, but on Monday I went to do my day at my local MIND centre in the office and found everything kind of collapsing around me. It would have been inexplicable except that a friend who knows someone on the committee had told me that they were in a lot of difficulties with their funders. They basically may have to close, and it's clear that no-one is quite sure if they will still have a job in a few months. Which is all fair enough, mental health organisations are all being squeezed these days, but no-one said a thing to me. I was left to do my own detective work. Finally I asked the admin lady if it was true they might be closing and she didn't confirm or deny, they were having a meeting at lunchtime and it was clear that everyone was pretty preoccupied. It absolutely was not a time to be taking on volunteers!

There wasn't nearly enough for me to do, I wasn't told who my line manager was or introduced, I didn't even have my own computer to work at, just a desk with nothing on it that they had pushed against a wall for me. I have been volunteering at a volunteer office! I kind of know that this is not the way to treat volunteers! Why did no-one tell me anything? Is it because I have been a service user, or is everyone just in denial, trying to pretend everything is fine? I can only speculate and perhaps it's better not to go there. Whatever the reasons, it's not good enough.

So I said perhaps I better leave it for now (no perhaps about it but I was being polite) and she said OK and to call in a few weeks if I'm still interested. Well frankly after all this malarkey, I'm not! I went straight up to the gym and worked out then went to Learn Direct but the disappointment over the lack of communication (as well as the loss of the job) kind of threw me out for a few days. Not helped by the fact that I am becoming less satisfied with the volunteer centre work. My line manager there does not really supervise me to speak of and I'm getting stuck doing jobs that feel peripheral (and very dull) such as inputting numbers onto a database. All day. This at a volunteer centre that definitely knows better! I bumped into this guy my line manager in my local area last week and we went for a cup of tea. He talked! I listened and tried to get a word in edgeways now and then. Basically he isn't that happy in the job, he's stressed and by God it shows! So I have to say that that also unsettled and demotivated me.

So the week wore on and I felt a bit stressed and disenchanted with the whole volunteering scenario. However I knew I could not give up on it, I need to get stuck into something that will help my job prospects. On Thursday I plodded wearily to the volunteer centre to do my boring work (phoning our organisations to ask them for flyers/leaflets, well at least it wasn't the database). My line manager wasn't there as he was at a meeting (hadn't even told me). The volunteer coordinator was though (I get on quite well with her) and I'd told her all about the MIND thing. She said 'Tulip are looking for someone'...they are another mental health organisation in the borough, really, the only other one they've got on their books and not one I've had a lot to do with as a client. 'Shall I phone them for you?' That's her job, you see.

I had a brief chat on the phone to one of the administrators and arranged to go in the next day. Eureka! He and the very nice (somewhat pregnant) lady who does most of the HR work both interviewed me. They were everything that MIND wasn't! Very volunteer-aware. She will be meeting with me regularly, proper supervision. I've got my own desk, will be answering calls and transferring them and my own computer. Quite a bit of reception-type work. No contact with service users (I'm OK with that). A variety of admin tasks and they can adapt the role to suit me (so some higher-level stuff). It's a really pleasant friendly office, they get good feedback from their volunteers and it's really local, I can walk there in fifteen minutes or so. They want me for three days if I can manage that, but can be flexible. HOORAH! So in the space of a week things have turned around. As we say in the 12-Step Fellowships, 'these are high-class problems!', in any case. A few years ago I would have given my eye-teeth to be worrying about work! Except that I don't have any eye-teeth, they were taken out because my mouth was overcrowded!

Enough! All is well and this weekend Richard and I are driving down to see my Mum. Weather is unseasonally gorgeous. We're also set to see Jasper on Thursday. And I go on retreat on Friday. I will start at Tulip on Tuesday 26 February. Lots of love! Zoe.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Not a bad week...

...bit of a mixed bag really. The failure of the two E's, Emilia and Expert Patients, to float my boat has focused my mind in a way. More than ever I feel sure that I really have to go for the work thing. All other considerations aside getting and keeping a job is simply one of the most conclusive ways I can prove to myself and everyone else that I am capable, competent, and fully viable. As I've become weller (is that a word? no says my spellchecker) I become more and more interested in work for work's sake. I enjoy the way it can absorb you, soak up your energies, distract you when you need distracting. It also binds you to others and to the wider society.

I know that I can contribute more than adequately in the workplace. My voluntary work confirms me in that. However it probably won't be an easy or straightforward path into a suitable job, one that really is appropriate and commensurate with my abilities, and where I can fulfil at least some of my potential. That's why I am getting as much support as I can. Life is exciting...more than ever so. But pretty scary too sometimes.

I heard that the lowest point of the average person's life comes around age 44. No way is that true for me. I struggled so much in my earlier years...a lot of my twenties were pure hell and the thirties not much better. It seems that many people look back at their youth with nostalgia, feeling they have lost something. For sure I guess it's nice to have smooth, taut skin and be able to eat whatever you like and not get fat. For me the appeal of youth kind of ends there. I was the most godawful mess, a walking disaster area I'm afraid.

At some stage in this blog I need to write something about my history. The history of my 'manic depression'. Only by putting the present in the context of the past can I really explain just how miraculous it is. There are lots of us out there and it's important to speak out for the sake of all the others who need just this kind of hope. Recovery from major mental illness(I ain't just talking the odd bout of depression either!) totally IS possible, I have done it, am doing it, the quality of my life now is FANTASTIC, WONDERFUL.

Beliefs that bipolar and other diagnoses are basically life sentences are inaccurate if not just plain wrong and too often become a self-fulfilling prophecy. What I say to any truth-seeking person is, just dare to think outside the box. Study yourself, allow yourself to be drawn into the endless fascination of YOU! You are so much more than some dodgy label! Doctors simply have no authority to tell you what you will or won't amount to in life! That is between you and your higher power...don't ever be tempted to hand your sacred power over to some bloody medic! Like your plumber and your postman, doctors have their place. Advising you how to live your life is not, so far as I'm aware, in their remit.

Oops, been having a soapbox moment. Take care of your dear selves! Love, Zoe.