Just thought I’d share a little of what is going on in my life at the moment, although I generally stay away from that sort of thing, as my life is by and large quite boring!
I am very well at the moment. In fact, for the past year I have had few wobbles, and those that I did have were related to my ESA appeal which I subsequently won. For at least three months I have had no symptoms of mental illness at all. I can’t really express how wonderful it is for me to be clear of any depression (or my minor highs), to be so normal that I have barely had to monitor my moods. In fact, my mood has been almost entirely good/content/happy/peaceful throughout, with barely any negative. I have been seeing my new psychiatrist, but irregularly and the last time I saw her she said I don’t need to see her for another six months. She also agreed to a second reduction in my medication, which pleases me immensely.
The reason for my good mood is, I think, partly to do with moving house. Back in October I moved from London to the North of England, to a small town. This was a big change! I find my town to be relaxed and peaceful compared to London, less stress, less daily strife (for example the frustration of using public transport, gridlock and rude people) and the people here are friendly. The other reason is that I have vastly reduced my alcohol consumption. Back in London I had been drinking 10+ pints of lager every night – that is now down to about 8 pints on each of two nights. My friends in London were centred round my local pub, where the landlord is one of my best friends. I started going there every night in hopes of seeing as much of my friends as possible, as there were always some people there. Most particularly is a friend of mine who goes there every night himself (although he drinks less) and who I started feeling like I shouldn’t leave to sit on his own. In any case, I feel so much better that I think reducing the drink has helped more than I would like to admit. I still do drink though – and I have started to make friends through one of the pubs here, where everyone is nice and I have a number of people to chat to.
The big thing in my life is the church. I go to the local Church of England, where I have started to make friends at the later morning service, which is informal, small and friendly. I have met some nice people there. I was confirmed – something which I have wanted for some time – earlier in the year. As I have mentioned elsewhere I am currently exploring whether I have a calling to the ordained ministry. I was waiting until we got a new vicar – although I did mention it to some clergy I got to know – and our new vicar arrived about five weeks ago. I had a meeting with him last week and we have agreed to explore still further – I didn’t, and don’t, like to make a firm “I want to be a priest” statement at this stage. So he has offered to send me on a course in the neighbouring village called Faith and Life which he thinks will help me decide further. He also recommended a book to read. He also recommended that I visit other services in the church to get more of a feel for the breadth of the Church of England.
The church is a big area in my life and I want to do more for the church. I was asked by another member of my service if I would lead the prayers last week, but I’m afraid I ducked that one! I was going to do it but a combination of feeling that it would be inappropriate so soon after declaring myself to the vicar and also a fear of getting it wrong as I have no experience in leading prayers and don’t know what to do led to me turning it down. Fortunately the couple who were leading the service that week understood – although I haven’t told the church at large about my desire for ministry yet.
A bigger issue is when I let on about the bipolar. I don’t mean telling all and sundry – I tend to regard my mental health as really being my own business and don’t tell everyone ordinarily, but the vicar will have to know at some point. I want to tell him on my terms and in a considered way. One thing that concerns me is that we had an associate priest during the interregnum in our church who had to go off sick with depression, and eventually had to give up ministry in our church. I don’t know what happened to her to trigger her off nor do I know what happened after we were told she would not be returning to us. I am a little concerned in case the vicar looks at her and thinks that I too would be unable to minister when ill. I worry about the general stigma of mental illness and the fact that it has worked against me in several jobs now and hope that it will not be the same in the church. However my plan at the moment is to let the vicar get to know me, to help more in the church and then, when I feel the time is right, tell him about my illness and hope that, as he knows me, that he will suspend any stereotypes he may possibly have bought into.
The trouble I have at the moment is that I am still on ESA, but I do not know for how long I will remain on it. I was originally put on ESA because work has always been a trigger for my illness, so it was a preventative measure. However I am so well now that I don’t really think I need to stay off work. Certainly I expect to be declared fit when I am reassessed, and I have no intention of appealing again. At the moment I have been told I can take a part-time job (up to 16 hours/week earning less than £94) and still continue on ESA, which is what I am looking for. This will enable me to phase return to work and hopefully avoid being ill. The only job I’ve had where I was consistently well was one where I was part-time. The downside is that once I lose ESA I will be living on little – on the other hand I am living with parents and so face vastly reduced costs in comparison with other people. The major problem is that my area is severely restricted in terms of jobs – I have found perhaps one vaguely suitable job per week being advertised. This is because I cannot drive, and have been advised to stay away from driving (although I think I could argue that if necessary) and the public transport here is abysmal. So it is rare to find jobs, although I also have been asking around as I have a feeling that bar/hotel/waitressing jobs are not necessarily advertised properly, the internet is not great here for jobs.
In good news – I have a job interview on Thursday morning for a reception/admin job in a vet’s surgery. This would be ideal as it is part-time which leaves me room to do church work/etc, I have been to the surgery many times (my cat goes there for her slimming club) and they all seem friendly and happy, and my last job was as a receptionist/administrator. I generally do OK in interviews so I am hoping this will be the case here. It is the only interview I have been offered in many months.
Overall, things are good and I am happy. The blog is doing ok, I am generally pleased with what I have written, and I have had a couple of articles put on the Mind and Soul website which is rather nice! Things seem to be coming together. Anyway, this has turned out rather longer than I intended! I’m keeping everything crossed that I get this job on Thursday! I’ll do another update sometime soonish.