Change (Part 1)

If nothing else, the last 6 years have taught me how important it is to live for today.

This doesn’t always seem possible of course, particularly when we are wrapped up in the mundane Mon-Fri regime of work, eat, sleep, repeat. There are also moments, when we become so consumed in the day to day that we simply forget to live for the now.

However, every now and again, we receive a little reminder of the importance of living life.

Sometimes it comes in the shape of a conversation with a friend; the loss of a loved one or; a major life change. Sometimes we just need that trigger to remind us that life is short. Life (and time) is too precious to simply plod along.

I spent the first 28 years of my life plodding along.

Don’t get me wrong…life wasn’t boring, or dull (ok so some of it was, but not all of the time). I certainly enjoyed life and had some great experiences. But I just found myself floating through each day. Never stopping to think about where I had been or where I was going.

6 years ago I received a phone call that changed life as I knew it, forever.

At 28 years old, my best friend had taken her own life.

Our friendship was different to others. We didn’t really have that much in common. But we both put in the effort to meet up regularly and to talk. Even when we went our separate ways to go to University, B choosing to move to the South Coast to study Medicine, and me staying in Northampton to study Geography and Third World Development. We would call each other regularly, or email each other. One of the things that meant the most to us were the letters we would write to each other. Proper letters using pens and paper and envelopes and stamps. We loved writing to each other. It’s probably the time we were most open with each other. B had suffered from mental health problems for as long as I had known her. In her letters she would often open up about her struggles. Those letters were sometimes hard to read. Face to face, it felt like B didn’t suffer at all, not that she pulled the wool over my eyes. I got pretty good at reading between the lines.

I knew when my mobile rang that day that something was wrong. My phone sprang to life and across it, it had B’s parent’s phone number…not her mobile. She never called me from her parents. Instantly I feared the worst and my fear was confirmed seconds later as her sister explained to me that B had taken an overdose. It was all perfectly planned. As a Doctor, B knew exactly how much medication she needed to take in order not to wake up.

Looking back, even the last time I saw her, I am certain she had already made up her mind. She was different that day. She was happy and seemed at peace with the world.

I knew that life wouldn’t be the same again after that day, but I had no idea what else was to come. Within the next 18 months, I also lost both my Nanna’s and my childhood best friend, Robert. Too many people were being taken from me too soon.

This horrible 18 month period changed my life. I didn’t realise back then of course how much life was going to change.

I’m not a particularly religious person, but looking back I could see a clear path had been carved out for me. So many things happened in my life in a short space of time, which lead to me saying yes to new opportunities, and eventually making the move to London.

We used to spend many a weekend meeting up in London, to go shopping, to a show, or just to walk around the wonderful food markets that grace many a London street.

I find comfort in living in London now.

In so many ways, I am grateful to B for kicking my life into second gear. I would obviously prefer her to be here, experiencing the trials and tribulations of our 30s together. But I take comfort in the fact she would be proud of the changes I have made in my life.

She would be proud of the person I have become, and even more proud that I am living life in the now, making the most of every experience that comes my way, as well as looking for new adventures with every new path I take.

Old Harry Rocks

(Old Harry Rocks – photo by me – one of the best weekends spent with B before she left us)

Onions

Rumour has it…I’m an onion.

Over the last few months at work, members of the senior management team (myself included) have been receiving professional coaching from a lovely lady called Beth. My sessions with Beth are pretty epic. Sometimes I think they are more like therapy sessions then coaching sessions. Either way, I seem to need them. It s great way to offload and in the process I am learning a lot about myself.

During Beth’s last visit, I was described as an onion. Not because I smell like one (thankfully), but because I have lots of layers. Ironic, when people in my past have said they like for my simple nature. I’m far from simple. I know that. But being described as an onion!?! I’m not sure I saw that as much of a compliment, but it does make sense.

Admittedly, I do show some random characteristics and behaviours.

I am unable to accept compliments for one. We have explored many possible reasons why this may be. However, we have drawn a blank on this one and parked it for now.

As much as it is sometimes nice to draw a conclusion about things and to put behaviours in a box, sometimes, we just have to give into the fact that we don’t know the root cause, it is just the way it is (for now at least). Despite not knowing the cause for this behaviour, it is still an area I am working on.

It is my natural instinct to reply to a compliment with a negative.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, my friend complimented me on my driving skills. Instead of thanking her, my reaction was to laugh and tell her that she was only person to think that (most people aren’t that kind about my driving).

Why do I struggle to thank people?

I am however, becoming more aware of this. Now when someone compliments me, I automatically go to respond with a negative, but I am learning to pause, realising the comment is complimentary, and although I don’t respond immediately, after a pause, I am slowly learning to say thank you and leave the negative response parked in the corner. Overtime, I hope the length of the pause will shorten, but for now, I am grateful that I am at least noticing the behaviour, and working to resolve it.

I think the most life changing characteristic we have identified is the fact that I suffer from Imposter Syndrome. I have possibly suffered with imposter syndrome for much of my adult life without realising it. I can think back to a number of times when I would receive a negative comment about my performance, and I would let this fester away in my mind for days. The only way I can describe it was like having a dark cloud over my head that I just could not shift.

I don’t tend to get the dark cloud as much anymore, but more worrying in some ways, I can feel my heart racing, which comes with a dull ache in my chest and a kind of sinking feeling.

Part of me is grateful at being ‘diagnosed’ with having imposter syndrome. Giving a name to the sinking feeling took a lot of weight off my shoulders, and made me feel a little less like I was going insane. For those of you who may not have heard of imposter syndrome, neither had I until my first coaching session. In short it is a fear of being found out to be a fake or a fraud, that our achievements are based on some type of fraudulent behaviour, as opposed to actually just being really good at what we do.

Imposter syndrome for me comes in waves. It is not something I suffer with all the time. My trigger seems to be other people’s comments. I have recently come out of a particularly bad wave of imposter syndrome, triggered by one persons comments, which then made me doubt myself. I had the ‘sinking’ feeling for around three weeks in the end. And quite frankly, it was exhausting. It was all I could think about. It affected my performance at work and my mood at home. It was demoralising and made me feel horrendous.

I am working with some new techniques to deal with this. My current trend goes something like this:

Trigger  > Reaction > Perspective

The ultimate goal is to avoid the trigger. However, in the meantime, I am trying to work on:

Trigger > Perspective > Reaction

The aim is for the reaction not to be as long lasting, or in fact, not to be there at all. By putting perspective into the trigger first of all, I should then be able to see that the comment wasn’t necessarily a dig at me, but could’ve purely been the result of someone else’s bad day, or simply realising that there was truth in the comment, but there are solutions in order to fix the problem. Fixating on other people’s comments is not healthy.

Ironically, the individual who made the comment that set off my last trigger, doesn’t even know the impact it had on me.

Eventually of course, I rationalised things, and realised that the reason I reacted so badly was because I already knew I wasn’t performing at my best in a particular area of work, I didn’t need someone else to tell me this. But, as they say, truth hurts. And it did. For three god damn weeks…

Family time

After a hectic week at work, I returned home this weekend to spend some much needed time with the family.

I love living in London, but I am slowly learning that I need to take regular breaks from the chaos that comes with living and working in the city.

As soon as I reach the M1 the air changes, as does the scenery. With that my mind clears, the stress lifts and I feel energised.

Although we are now in September, the weather was beautifully warm this weekend, which also meant getting lots of sunshine.

When I first used to return home after moving to London, I would pack my weekends full, catching up with friends as well as family. However as much as I want to see everyone, it just wasn’t physically sustainable. I would return to London feeling more tired than when I left. By the middle of the week I would be frazzled and felt far from rested. So now, as much as I still feel guilty at times, I try to have a weekend of seeing family or friends, rather than both.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to escape from the city this weekend. Sitting at home in my parents garden, I switched off from work and just enjoyed sitting in the garden, letting the sunshine soak into my skin, eating good food, and catching up with my family.

I felt truly relaxed, a feeling I haven’t enjoyed in weeks.

And now, sitting back in my London flat, enjoying a glass of wine, I feel rested and relaxed and ready to tackle the week ahead.

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And…so it begins

I can’t believe I’m writing my first post!

I guess I should start by telling you a little bit about myself.

So here goes…

My name is Becky, I’m in the lower end of my thirties (just!) and I’ve decided to start writing a blog. The few friends I have let into my blogging secret have asked what I’m going to blog about. Its an interesting question and I’m as keen as they are to see how this pans out. The truth is, I don’t really have a plan. I’m actually rubbish at planning most things in life. But, what I do have is a huge desire to write and a lot to get off my mind.

I’m a country girl at heart having grown up in rural Northamptonshire. However, three years ago work brought me to London, the place I now call home.

I grew up surrounded by a small but beautiful circle of friends, and the most amazing family I could ask for.

But life, like most people’s, has been full of ups and downs.

Six years ago, I lost my best friend. After 28 years, she decided she’d had enough of this life and didn’t want to live here anymore. And I guess that’s one of the reasons I am here, writing this blog. Not just as a tribute to her, but much needed therapy for me, and to maybe even help others too. There are stories of wellbeing and mental health everywhere right now, but it is crucial that we find our best ways to deal with these issues. What works for one person doesn’t work for all. I hope that by writing this blog, I can start to declutter my mind, and if it helps other people too, then I very much look forward to sharing my musings with you.

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