How to Deal with Burnout

How to deal with burnout, depression and mental health

Generally, I have a very blessed and wonderful life, but I’ve always been quite open about that fact that I suffer from depression. These ‘down days’ are always impossible to pre-empt, sometimes not appearing for weeks or even months at a time, but over the years I’ve been able to develop coping mechanisms in order to maintain some sort of functionality when a depressive episode strikes. 

This year, however, the down days were increasingly more extreme and lasted for much longer periods of time. I was dealing with a number of negative and stressful situations in both my personal and professional life over a number of months and was struggling with feelings of pressure and de-motivation, but I began to find myself unable to complete even the most menial of tasks. I didn’t particularly want to go outside, my appetite increased and I began comfort eating excessively, I felt physically and mentally tired all the time but couldn’t sleep, I felt physically unwell, eventually developing laryngitis which took several weeks to recover from, I couldn’t concentrate to the point where I even forgot what I was saying mid-sentence. I even started to lose interest in the creative things that made me happy, becoming disillusioned with my own blog and the community. For me, feeling low was part of life that I had learned to accept and work with when I needed to, but when the bad days turned into bad weeks I knew that there was something wrong.  Continue reading

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Blog of the Day: Love, Laughter & Truth

Meet Matthew! He’s the creator of Love, Laughter and Truth, an open and sometimes brutally honest blog about life… I started writing about the different topics that he covers, but his About page explains his content far more succinctly than I ever could…

Sometimes, sh*t happens.

Depression, divorce, having to take the kids to an Olly Murs concert… we’ve all been there. Well, maybe not; the specifics might change but one thing’s for sure, if you’re reading this you’ve dealt with some sh*t along the way. That’s life folks!

The thing about sh*t though, it’s a great fertiliser. In dealing with the sh*t in our lives we learn, we grow, we become better people. Sometimes, we even start a blog. Continue reading

Frustrations With The Black Dog – Freewriting

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I had plans for this week for the blog. Having a few extra days to myself meant that I have had much more time to do all of the things that I’ve been wanting to do over the last few weeks. However, while the urge to write has been as strong as ever, every time I have sat down to create something, my mind has gone blank. I’ve experienced bloggers block on numerous occasions, but never as bad as this before. I have avoided posting something just for the sake of it, like I used to do in the early days of Suzie81 Speaks, but my lack of ideas has left me feeling really frustrated. Today I have decided to sit down and just write – freewriting was something I used when studying A Level English and I find that it is an effective way of unclogging the mind.

I’ve had quite a bad bout of down days over the last week, and this hasn’t helped. I’ve tried to remain as positive as possible, but the problem with ‘The Black Dog’ is that it takes time for it to subside, and I have to take things one day at a time until things start to ease. Depression has been a feature of my life for a number of years, but it isn’t a constant in the way that it seems to be with others. I can go for months feeling absolutely fine, and then it will suddenly hit me, usually after a period of extreme stress (which is often work related) and the only way that I can deal with it is to live life one day at a time and avoid looking at the big picture until things get better.

I often refrain from writing about my mental health until I feel better, mainly due to the large number of family and friends that now read my blog, but on days like today I offer no apologies to those who are put off or offended by my thoughts. This was the reason why the blog was created in the first place – I needed a place to exorcise the inner demons that were plaguing my everyday life and blogging has proven to be the best form of therapy I’ve ever had. There is still such a stigma surrounding mental health issues and I feel that it is important to discuss them when I need to.

It has been particularly bad over the last few days. I seem to have spent the last few days feeling an intense agitation – the insomnia has returned with a vengeance, I have experienced high levels of anxiety, and the slightest little thing has irritated me because I have been so tired. For example, as I write this, the man who lives on my road who frequently walks up and down shouting to himself is stood outside my house and shouting the same things over and over to himself. Normally, it wouldn’t bother me, he clearly has mental health issues and needs to be treated with understanding and compassion, but in my current state of mind I’m resisting the urge to fling open my door and yell at him to shut the f*ck up. However, I know that this will only make the situation worse and it certainly won’t make me feel any better. I’ve spent the week trying to remain calm and I’ve also been conscious not to take it out on The Bloke, who has also had a week off and has been in pain due to a torn muscle in his back, but he’s noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet and, as usual, he’s been understanding and supportive.

I have also tried to be proactive – I’ve been into work on several occasions and have tidied up my classrooms and cupboards, I’ve done some washing and I’ve treated myself to some tat from the new home store that has opened up on the high street, which always makes me happy, and I’m proud of myself for not taking my usual approach and just retreating to the couch, but I’m getting a bit fed up of feeling like this.

What I need is a break – a proper break away from everything that has been bringing me down. My youngest sister and her new husband have been on their honeymoon over the last week in New York, my middle sister has been jetting off all over Europe with her job and I’ve seen all the lovely pictures that my friends have been posting on various social media accounts of their recent adventures and holidays, and while I’m delighted that they are all having a wonderful time, it has made me realise that The Bloke and I need to get away. We aren’t financially destitute by any means, but over the last few years we have been hit with large unexpected bills which have had to take priority, which we are just beginning to recover from. We try and visit London a few times a year, but the last time we went on holiday was in 2010, when I surprised him with a trip to Paris for five days. We have very different ideas of what makes a holiday – he likes to have lots of things to see and do, whereas I like to lay about by a pool in gloriously hot weather and do nothing for a while – but we’ve decided that our next destination is Washington D.C. I visited there when I was supervising a school trip in 2010, and we ended up being stranded in the city for a week longer than our planned excursion because of the volcanic eruption in Iceland, which grounded all flights back to the UK. The extra week gave us the opportunity to see and experience many more things than we had originally planned, and I completely fell in love with the place, but having 56 young students to take care of meant that I had to constantly be in ‘teacher mode’ and I couldn’t truly relax during the entire trip. I want to go back to experience all of the same things again without having to tell someone where the toilet is or answer random questions like ‘Miss, what’s your favourite pizza topping?’ when I am sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and contemplating Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

Still, it gives me something to look forward to and I feel safe in the knowledge that these feelings will eventually subside – they always do. And when it does, I am always left feeling grateful that I have lots of people and things in my life to be thankful for…

What about you guys? What are your tips for dealing with depression?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

 

Image Credit: AJ Giel

 

Want To Find New and Interesting Blogs?

One of my favourite things about the WordPress community is the sheer variety of interesting and exciting blogs that are available. Here are two that I would highly recommend – they’re totally different in style and content, their authors are brilliant and I’m sure you’ll find that they’re absolutely worth your time!

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Jolene, at Valley Girl Gone Country is a Southern California girl that moved to Arkansas. Like Suzie81 Speaks, she writes about her life and experiences, but she is also an avid reader and has built a solid reputation reviewing independent novels. Her blog is beautifully written, honest, witty and for those of you that love books and stories, or wish to have your own creations reviewed, this is the blog for you! Jolene was one of the very first people that I ever communicated with when I joined WordPress, and her support, her friendship and her insight has helped me through some very difficult times!

You can also find Jolene on her social media sites:

Twitter: @joleneVGGC

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jolene.cecil.3

 

Helena

Helena, at Helenatubridy.com offers support for effective change for life. Starting as a nurse and then a UK midwife, Helena is now a psychotherapist/hypnotherapist, fertility & IVF Coach and miscarriage counsellor and her blog discusses ideas on Mindfulness, EMDR and CBT approaches, Fertility and Maternity Reflexology. Her blog is insightful, intelligent, informative and a must read!

You can also find Helena on her social media sites:

Twitter: @fertilityexpert

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FertilityInMind

 

With 10,000 members now in the Suzie81 Speaks community, I’m sure that there are lots of you that will enjoy these blogs and the genuinely lovely women that created them. Check them out, follow, comment and share with your bloggy friends!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

 

There Is Always a Light

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S was a lovely man. Kind, quiet, considerate and friendly, he lived in the house next door to us. We were good neighbours to each other – we looked after his cat whenever he went on holiday, he would trim the hedges at the front of our house, we’d put each others bins out on rubbish day and we’d always have a nice chat in a morning as we left for work at the same time. I know that he had been having a rough time – he and his wife had separated and she had left, taking their son with her, but in conversations we had with him he seemed to be doing ok – he regularly went out with his friends, he had a new relationship, he went away on holiday for a break, and he seemed to greet us with a smile every morning as he left for work.

About a year after the separation, we received a knock on the front door. It was K, who lived in the house on the other side of S, and she was upset. S had taken his own life. He had been found in his house, hanging from the light fitting in his bedroom by his brother who had become concerned when he failed to show up for lunch. When we learned the time of his death we realised that when he was doing it, we were lying in bed in the room on the other side of the wall. A wall that was so thin that we could hear him cough and sneeze in the night.

I felt helpless. If he had only knocked on the door, or even on the wall, and told us that he was feeling this way. If only he had given some sort of inclination that he was struggling, that he needed help. If only he had told someone, anyone. If only…

I couldn’t sleep last night. I awoke at about 2am after a nightmare, and so I logged onto Twitter to calm my thoughts. Like the rest of the world, I was horrified to hear of the death of Robin Williams, an actor who’s many films have made me both laugh and cry. While many are quoting his performances in Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting and Mrs Doubtfire, for me it was Bicentennial Man that has always stayed with me as being the absolute example of his ability to simply make us feel. Every death is tragic and a loss to the people around them, but a life taken by their own hands always leaves me with the same feeling that I experienced when S passed away. Helpless. How sad that a man who did so much for so many felt that there was no other option.

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Suicide is not chosen: it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain. It is not a strength or weakness, or a defect. It doesn’t come with any moral wrongs or rights.

I am not a therapist, and I don’t possess any qualifications in counselling or mental health issues, but I know what it is like to feel that there is nothing. I know what it is like to be surrounded by people and feel entirely alone. I know the blackness and despair that depression can bring. I also know that, without help, the Black Dog doesn’t go away – it festers and grows, taking over and destroying every aspect of the mind and body, and the burden of carrying it alone makes it unbearable. I also know that things get better.

Depression doesn’t discriminate. I’m not saying anything different from millions of others this morning. If you’re feeling lost, alone, out of control, I’m imploring you to tell someone – a family member, a friend, a neighbour. Contact the Samaritans, or the National Suicide Prevention line. Or anyone. Just tell someone. You aren’t alone, you aren’t crazy, and remember that no matter how badly you feel, there is always a light out there. There is hope, friendship, love and laughter. There is joy, inspiration, creativity and happiness.

There is life.

RIP Robin Williams, you will be greatly missed. My thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends.

Blogging Worries and Paranoia: Are We Limiting Ourselves?

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ILikeToQuote.com

At the age of 18 I was one of 16 girls from college that decided to go to Malia, Crete, as part of an 18-30’s holiday (one of them met her future husband there) and we spent two weeks lazing about in the sun, drinking far more than we should and dancing the night away. I had a good time, but the trip was somewhat marred by the fact that one of the girls was openly hostile towards me right from the beginning. She activitely avoided engaging in any conversation with me, snapped at me on many occasions and at one point I think I remember that she shouted at me. I was confused by the situation and bent over backwards in an attempt to get into her good books with no avail. I knew that I hadn’t done or said anything to offend her, but at 18 years old I was quite a timid character and so allowed her to treat me badly as I was too scared to confront her about it (this would be very different now). After we returned we never spoke again. I have been offered a few explanations by mutual friends since, namely the fact that she had been going through a traumatic time in her personal life, but these don’t make sense to me as she was perfectly fine with the other girls. The only plausable reason for her behaviour was simply the fact that she just didn’t like me.

While this one particular girl’s opinion doesn’t concern me, this is a fact of life that I still find quite difficult to deal with, even at the age of 32. I’m now a much stronger character than I was in my teens and am perfectly capable of standing my ground, but I have still have an inherent desire to please people and would be lying if I said I didn’t care about what others think.

Ultimately, I want to be liked. Most of us do.

Google

Google

The original purpose of starting this blog was to try and rid my brain of the messy thoughts that had been plaguing me for a long time through the process of writing. I was in the throes of a bad bout of depression and didn’t think anyone would read it, but as my following has grown beyond all expectations I have become far more paranoid about what I write. I read and then re-read my posts before I publish them, sometimes keeping them in the draft section until I am sure that I am absolutely happy with what I am sending into the blogosphere and I question myself all the time. Do others enjoy reading my posts? What if I offend someone? Why has that person unfollowed me? Is my writing good enough? What if someone I know reads it? Am I going to put somebody off with yet another picture of my cat? As a self-proclaimed stat obsessive I have also been known to worry about the lack of feedback I’ve received on posts that I have deemed to be good. Judging from a number of recent posts I have read recently, there are lots of bloggers who feel the same way.

But should the opinions of our potential readership determine the way that we write, and what we write about? Are we limiting our creativity and holding back our thoughts in an effort to please others?

The inspiration for this was based upon this post that I read about a week ago. The author clearly wasn’t bothered by the backlash that he must have known that he would receive and while I disagreed with the generalisations he made, I was almost envious at his confidence to post something despite knowing that he would ruffle a few feminine feathers.

Generally I have to be careful about the content of my posts because of the nature of my job, and anything that can be deemed to bringing my place of work into disrepute could result in my contract being terminated. Initially, I was paranoid about revealing too much about certain areas of my life and the ‘real me’, despite the fact that I sometimes actually wanted to write about it. I was scared of the reaction from others – I’ve always felt that issues of mental health are still quite a taboo subject and others don’t always want to hear about it.

Good news – how wrong I was! Over recent months I have been a bit more daring and started to divulge information on a more personal level, and have been pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback and support that I have received.

I found a brilliant post from The Sits Girls that offered a perspective on the same subject.

‘We all have that innate predisposition to worry about what someone will think of us if we let them see the “real” person behind the blog. That is human nature. But bloggers who have actually gone deep on a particular subject, sharing some personal stuff, are usually glad they do. The feedback is almost always positive because people can relate. Being a write-from-the-heart kind of blogger is very rewarding on a personal level. You don’t always have to bare your soul, but doing so every now and then will endear you to your readers.’

Google

Google

However, if you are still concerned, I have a few hints and tips that you may find useful (and which I am going to try and follow myself).

  • Stay true to yourself. Don’t make things up in an effort to please others
  • Seek out people that share the same interests or who have experienced similar things.
  • If you are going to discuss a subject that may be deemed to be controversial, do so in a respectful way and avoid generalisation and being judgemental. Writing a post that insults an entire community of people is not going to do you any favours.
  • If you wish to remain anonymous and still promote your blog, create a separate Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest account to link your posts to and avoid telling friends and family about it.

And ultimately…

  • If you genuinely don’t want an element of you or your life to be read about, don’t write about it on a public blog.

Your blog is your blog. If you have an opinion about a subject, you are perfectly entitled to discuss whatever you like and my general experience of the blogging world is that it is a happy, supportive place. However, it is also important to understand that there are often those who may disagree with what you have written and accept that it is impossible to please everybody. In some cases, some people aren’t happy with anything and take great delight in ripping others apart.

extremetech.com

extremetech.com

Learn the difference between someone who offers constructive criticism and a troll.

I’ve been lucky when receiving feedback from others – the majority of comments offered have been respectful, useful and encouraging and I generally view the blogging world as a supportive community. However, I have noticed that there is a distinct correlation between a bloggers popularity and the amount of negative comments that they receive, some of them being outright disgusting. While a public blog is open for anybody to read, there are several ways in which you can deal with this.

If someone offers constructive criticism:

  • Listen to what they have to say – they may actually have a point that you may not have considered
  • Respond politely
  • Ignore it
  • Carry on

If a troll leaves a comment:

  • Change your settings so that you have to approve the comment first, or disable the comment section entirely
  • Delete the comment
  • DO NOT respond to the comment
  • Report the comment (again, on a public blog there is very little that can be done about this unless the comment is extreme)
  • Carry on and do your best not to allow what they have written to affect what you think of yourself and your writing
Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

When it comes to blogging, the only opinion that should matter is our own. Do you enjoy what you have posted? Does it make you smile? Has it helped to heal some wounds? Have you made some new ‘friends?’ Then it’s worth it.

The important thing is that we don’t limit ourselves to what we are fully capable of on the notion that somebody might dislike what we say.  And if somebody doesn’t like it… well, it’s their loss.

Carry on blogging!!!

What about you guys? Do you get paranoid about what you write? Do you hold back from writing your true feelings about a subject in case you offend someone?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @Suzie81blog

Don’t forget to check out the winners of the New Year week 3 competition!!

Queen of the Imposters

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palpak.org

Yesterday, as I was just about to leave work, my boss asked me to have a look through some of the learning objectives he had planned for one of the lessons that he is going to deliver next week. I read through what he had written, and offered some suggestions.

He wrote my suggestions down.

This isn’t the first time this has happened since I started teaching at my current school nearly two years ago. To most people, it wouldn’t mean anything. However, I was (yet again) taken aback by the fact that he actually valued my opinion. He’s an experienced and excellent practitioner and I have an enormous amount of respect for him, so why would he want to know what I think?

This is something that has plagued my working life since I graduated in 2006. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in that I’ve been in full-time employment ever since, while some of my friends have experienced various struggles when obtaining jobs over the years. I’ve always felt that this was predominantly down to luck and being in the right place at the right time.

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Job 1: Two weeks after I had received my degree results, I saw an advert for a Learning Mentor at a school on the other side of the city. I didn’t fully know what a Learning Mentor was, but after doing some research I thought that it sounded interesting and I decided to apply for it anyway. I got the job. (It turned out to be the best job I’ve ever had).

Job 2: The funding was being cut for the Learning Mentoring posts, and I was worried that I was going to be made redundant. A random conversation with a Deputy Headteacher, in which he learned that I had an honours degree in music, led to him suggesting that I apply for a Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) course, which the school would support. I applied at the end of May and by the beginning of June I had been accepted. GTP courses are now notoriously difficult to get onto and the competition to be allowed onto them are enormous, with application being submitted months in advance.

Job 3: As my GTP was nearly finished, the school informed me that they couldn’t offer me a teaching position after I had qualified and so I needed to find another job. I saw an advert for a school that was situated not far from where I lived and applied. I heard nothing back from them, so assumed that I hadn’t been granted an interview. Unfortunately, at the same time, my mother (who lives 100 miles away) was taken into hospital and so I rushed to catch a train. Two days later, my mother was recovering and we knew that she was going to be fine. At 6.00am I checked my phone answer machine messages to discover that I had an interview for 9.00am that day at the school I had applied for. My sister raced over to look after my mum, I jumped on a train, informed the school of the situation and that I was on my way. I turned up nearly two hours late, with no lesson plan and no resources (aside from a few CD’s that I happened to have in my bag). I got the job.

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Family Guy

After this I had a few interviews at two different schools that I didn’t get and at the time I was crushed. However, I managed to get a job at my current school, which I love, and have since found out that the places that I applied for and was turned down are places that I would have really struggled in  – the education system is a small world – everybody seems to be related to each other – and I have heard horror stories and thanked my lucky stars that they turned me down as I know that I would have gone from the proverbial frying pan into the fire…

There’s that word again… Luck.

My problem is that I feel like an imposter. I have been given lots of praise and encouragement at work – my last few sets of lesson observations have been awarded with ‘Outsanding,’ trainee teachers are sent to my room to observe my teaching, I have trained other members of staff that have been in the profession twice as long as I have and I have been grateful for every opportunity that has been offered. However, I can’t shake the feeling that at some point I am going to be found out for the fraud that I feel that I am. My faculty is filled with hard-working, lovely, high achieving adults who seem to spend their entire lives marking and planning and be able to do everything better than I do. I hate having to attend meetings as I feel that my opinion is going to be viewed as irrelevent and so I often feel that it is best to keep quiet unless I am absolutely sure that what I am going to say makes sense. When something good happens, instead of feeling proud of myself I often find myself thinking that I’ve managed to fool them this time and have got away with it. What I find most ridiculous about it is that I haven’t experienced any negativity from my colleagues, I have enough evidence to prove that I shouldn’t feel like this and yet the thoughts still won’t leave.

I’ve often been told that I have a tendency to overthink things. I must admit, I feel silly writing about it, and haven’t done so to prompt further praise or fish for compliments, but it has been troubling me for a while. Is it luck? Fate? I’m not sure what initially caused these thoughts – it could be a lack of confidence or bad experiences that I have had in the past, but it is beginning to affect the way I think about myself and my job.

Does anybody else feel like this?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @Suzie81blog