20 September, 2013

Living in an emoti-world x


I would say that my friends and I are all basically similar. I say basically because on the surface we are not. If you lined us up and looked at us you wouldn’t think so – in my main circle alone we have Make Up Artists, Business Managers and Fire Women (!), Music Moguls and Teachers, and enough lovely ‘Marketing Girls’ to fill an office. We all like different things, have different tastes and styles, eat different foods and have our own interests, but there is something about us that is basically the same. Some kind of affinity I feel with my close friends which I don’t feel with the people who I don’t become close to. I have been wondering, what is that? What is the thread that pulls a group of people so outwardly different, together? I think it is to do with the depth we live at. ‘Wavelength’ is starting to make sense to me beyond having the same taste in music. I have realised recently that while my friends and I are different in many ways, we are the same in our basic outlook and the way we feel things, and I think that is has a big part to play in bringing us together.

When I was little I assumed everybody felt things in exactly the same way, at exactly the same depth. As I got older I couldn't understand why I got upset about things when other people didn't, or why people couldn't see other people’s feelings like I did. As an adult, I have realised that people don’t feel things the same. At all. They perceive things very very differently. Different moral compasses, different curves of right and wrong, working on totally different levels and at different depths. It is mind boggling, and there isn't a right or wrong, just a 'what suits you.'

I pretty much know I feel things a fair bit more intensely than the average person. I used to think I was emotionally unstable or had some ‘issues’ because I felt things so deeply and wore my heart so very on my sleeve. I had ‘friends’ who reinforced that belief about myself and allowed me to believe it. It was only a few years ago, when my Dad said to me ‘you feel things very deeply, you see things very clearly, which is both a blessing and a curse', that I realised there was nothing wrong with me. I just feel things acutely, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Since the days of feeling like the ‘odd one out’ because I got randomly anxious or struggled not to care, I have made several friends who feel things in the same way, who randomly cry when they see an old man having dinner alone in a pub (yes I did that) and who get so fiercely angry when they see someone they perhaps barely even know getting hurt. And they are really down to earth, happy, awesome people who I admire, which makes it easier for me to accept myself. Since then I have embraced that side of me too, because it is the same side of me who makes me able to truly empathise both with my closest friends and family, and people I barely know. It is that same side who makes me generous, kind and over-flowing with love. I can say those things about myself confidently – you don’t cry as many tears as me and not get to say those things about yourself!

 I have had conversations with my best friends from way back who are basically the same in the way they feel things, the way they can be high as a kite one week and down the next. Since school we have had conversations which have involved us saying that sometimes we just wish we didn’t care so much, that we didn’t feel things so deeply, like the people who just get by and don’t cry at the sad things and shut out the difficult and the bitchiness and just get on with it. Their lives look calmer and selfish in an easy way. But then we always come full circle and say we wouldn’t have each other any other way. My friends who feel things deeply and are willing to work on that complex level are my best friends. They empathise with me when they have never even come close to experiencing what I have experienced, but they still ‘get it’ and I don’t have to explain why I am upset or elated or just plain confused. They just know and make me feel normal for it. That is so reassuring and I don’t know where I would be without them.

I am so glad I finally accepted myself for being an emotional wee thing and opened up to it because it brought to me the people who I love so much, and in recent years has brought me right back to the person I like to be. That’s not to say I haven’t learnt where and how to channel my emotions, because I really have (you're reading it for a start!) – gone are the days of shedding a tear in front of the last people who should see me cry, because as much as I will always be emotional and I know I will, I have gotten daymn strong. That said, as innocent kids, before the world shapes us, we naturally and instinctively express the tiniest feelings through tears, tantrums and laughter - I don't think growing up should suppress that height of living.

I think a lot of people see emotion as weakness still, and shy away from it, or find emotions annoying in some way. So many of my friends almost punish themselves when they feel negative things or remain upset about things they quite clearly should be upset about, and it makes it all the harder for them and self-hatred kicks in. There is way too much pressure to 'be okay' and 'cool' all the time, and it isn't normal. I think the 'keeping up appearances' vibe that is in the media doesn't help. Sometimes I wish a celebrity would just turn to the press, crying, and say 'I am devastated that Brad Pitt left me for Angelina Jolie and 10 years later it is still hard to accept', because why wouldn't they feel like that? I think it would help remove this stigma society attaches to unhappy emotions. I like quirky, emotional TV heroins like Jessica Day and reference her a lot, because she for me is so REAL (apart from how does anyone look that good?!) and she helps people in real life feel like its okay to 'brake for birds' and fall over in public and cry at the totally wrong time. We are people, sometimes we feel sad, sometimes we feel jealous, sometimes we don't like things in our lives - we aren't weak for venting those things. I encourage my friends to accept when they feel like shit and be honest about it, and then to work really damn hard at not feeling like shit anymore.

I have news – emotions are and always will be a huge part of being a person, negative ones too! Yes life can be temporarily ‘easier’ if you shut difficult feelings out and pretend everything takes place in your mind and body, but it doesn't and at some point that can of emoti-worms will open itself up. There is always another level, and it is present in everything you do, everywhere you go, and some of us can see it even when you think you are hiding it. Sometimes I wish more people would accept the emotional essence of humanity and how good it can be to not only acknowledge but share that side of you - I believe that the harder you cry, the louder you laugh, the more you live. But then again, everyone is different, and everybody has to be different, so I don’t try to change people who are different to me anymore or try and find their other level if they don’t want it to be found, because heaven forbid we were all as emotional as me!

x

12 September, 2013

Falling Down a Lot & The Art of Romance


Sometimes things just don’t go to plan. Don’t you just hate that? I am a perfectionist and when I have an idea of how something is going to be, I struggle to adapt if it isn’t exactly like that in reality. Following my recent job news (yay!) I had 2 weeks to finally enjoy my time off before starting work again and it was going to be EXCELLENT. I was going to go for lots of long runs, I was going to shop, I am joining my family down in Devon where I was going to go surfing (try to), go on bike rides and run along the beach every morning. I was going to get a massage and a haircut and enjoy a fabulous anniversary adventure with Gareth.  It was going to be the indulgent break I haven’t had since the dawn of time...

That was until approximately 8:00pm on Monday night, when 9 minutes into a netball match my ankle went crunch beneath me and the blood drained from my face. As I crawled off the court and turned to look at my now Elephant-man ankle, my heart sunk as all my dreams for the next few weeks went bouncing off into the distance with the ball. As my ankle continued to grow and I was wheel-chaired out of Sheffield’s largest leisure centre dripping with sweat and fighting back tears (oh the memories!) my picture perfect few weeks evaporated completely.

I am trying to get better at adapting when things don’t go to plan, especially when really all that has happened is a minor inconvenience for a short period of time. To me it may have felt like I had been clinging onto these few weeks off forEVER and it was hard to accept that now there were  alot of things I just could not do, but really I know we’re just talking about a sprained ankle here. Its not that bad. Its just a nuisance. So I have tried to be really optimistic and embrace my time off in a different way. Thankfully Gareth has been off work so there has been lots of TV sessions, lots of films, lots of TV dinners and lots of R&R. Each time an ‘I could have been doing this’ or ‘I should have been doing that’ comes into my mind I tell myself to man up. I know how lucky I am, and this is merely a fly in the ointment.  While I can feel my bum getting wobblier with each day off from my exercise regime, I need to accept that sometimes you just can’t do everything you think you need to.  My massage will wait, I WILL run again, I will still hobble on that train to Devon this weekend – it’s not the end of the world. First world problems at their finest. That said, I would be god damned if anything was going to get the way of me and my boy celebrating our anniversary.

Romancing a different way

It probably won’t surprise you that I am a total romantic. We’re both quite traditional too, so romance for us means I bake for him, he sends me 12 Red Roses and takes me for dinner – you know the good old fashioned romance that people deny they like but most can’t help but warm to when it is them on the receiving end.

For our anniversary I had long since planned a picture perfect day of lazy brunch, a rainy/sunny walk in the peaks, me waiting on him hand and foot and getting dressed up to the nines for a meal out, but seeing as 2 days before the celebrations I quite romantically and dramatically sprained my ankle (classic Hannah I might add), the romance of our day took a drastic turn. It started in A&E as I rested my puffy ankle on his knee, the sweat from my leg meeting his jeans. Ahh, lovely. Our anniversary itself involved much puffing and whining from me as I shuffled on my bum around the house. I ungracefully lurched his presents at him across the bed and groaned as I went to lift my roses out of their box. I was determined to make him brunch but he wouldn’t really let me, so I got frustrated and couldn’t even stamp my good foot as I tried to man handle him out of the kitchen.  Later that day, the romantic walk became a 2 hour drive in the countryside as we belted along to BBC Radio 2’s oldies – Bryan Adams, Elton John, they were all in there. I all but hung my head out the window like a dog as i tried to get my first few gulps of fresh air for 3 days and avoid car sickness.

NOTHING keeps me away from my baking and I was determined he would still get the showstopper cake I had painstakingly created in my mind.  So the day before said anniversary, while he slept off his A&E and night shift  double whammy, I panted and hopped around the kitchen for 3 solid hours icing and filling the cake I had thankfully baked a few days in advance. I might have had Big Foots ankle and been drugged up to the eyeballs on painkillers, but nothing comes in the way of me and one of my baked-good creations. It was humdinger and I cursed myself for having to have set the bar higher every year.

Dinner was something I was determined to still go to. He’d offered to get take out instead and take me out another time, but I wanted to put on my pretty dress and eat fine food dammit! So after an arduous 60 minutes trying to get ready, as I reluctantly left my high heels behind and settled for pumps, he taxied me door to door between our house and the restaurant, and I hobbled through the meal with my foot elevated as best I could, my 1 glass of wine going straight to my painkiller dosed head, causing me to confirm loudly that we WOULD have Cotton-Eye Joe as our first dance at our wedding. And we both did our own renditions of it.

When we got home it was straight to the freezer as he placed frozen sweetcorn on my ankle, brought me ibuprofen and regularly had to rearrange my cushions as I panted my way through a film, fidgeting every 5 seconds. I think I started to fall asleep at about 9.45pm. Ahhh, rock and roll! I slept 10 hours and woke up this morning irritable from lack of fresh air and groggy from too many painkillers, but I still had to smile as I grumpily put the kettle on – how could I not feel the love?


So as it turns out, our day wasn’t quite the traditional romance I had planned. But you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. We made some real memories and next year we will laugh. Mainly at me. We had a hilarious time crooning our way around the peaks as the rain hit the windows, he still got his annual ‘showstopper’ cake and I still enjoyed my  beautiful roses from the sofa. Romance exists in so many forms, and to me there is nothing more romantic than him standing behind me pushing me as I crawl ungracefully up the stairs, grunting with every step.


The lesson I am learning (and think I needed to) is that life can be enjoyable even when it is restricted and is not what you had planned, because all that matters if you are alive, well and together. I think knowing that and laughing your way through the rest is the secret. I told him whilst we watched my ankle become increasingly deformed in A&E that I hoped he knew with me there would never be a dull moment and he just smiled at me so fondly it broke my heart. He knew. So here’s to another year of euphoria followed by falling over, I don’t care, ‘coz I got you babe.

I would like to also give a little mention to my grandparents, who also celebrated their anniversary yesterday – married 65 years and counting. They are an inspiration. 
Nanna & Grandpa, married 65 years 


10 September, 2013

5:2 - I have a bone to pick with you


If you haven’t heard the words ‘5:2’ at some point in 2013, you either move in a very different world to me or you have a disease which omits numbers out of conversations. What would that be like?
‘5:2’ has meant many things in the past – the ratio of working days to weekend days, 5 minutes before the hour, my height. But 2013 changed the meaning of these 2 little numbers FOREVER. Now 5:2 refers to a diet. The latest fad diet which people are trying in order to shift weight and still eat whatever they want most of the time. Hmmm, I think I have a problem with this already.

What do we know about 5:2?
The 5:2 diet involves fasting for 2 days out of 7, and only consuming 500 calories in each of those 2 days. The other 5 days you eat pretty much what you want. The idea is that you only have to choose 2 days a week in which to avoid bad foods and eat with real restraint, which is more realistic for busy, social people. By fasting twice a week, you can eat what you like on the other 5 days and still lose weight.
I have so many issues with this concept, but to sum up...

What has years of eating taught the human race?

  • ·         Eating little and often and consistently keeps the metabolism up
  • ·         Starving yourself causes the body to become weaker
  • ·         Starving yourself causes the body to panic store fat when you do eat normally again
  • ·         Extreme fasting can cause women to lose their period and jeopardise future child bearing  
  • ·         Starving yourself 2 days a week makes you a miserable sod
  • ·         If you under eat one day, you will crave more food the next day to over-compensate
  • ·         Eating anything in moderation is fine – i.e. you can eat bread, you just only need one slice, not a loaf


Does the 5:2 diet tick any of those points?
Like with Atkins or any of these trendy diets, they don’t last, inevitably at some point normal service resumes, you get back into normal habits and before long all that starvation followed by over-compensating was for nothing. Any weight you might have lost will come back on as your body panic stores fat. Hands up if you were doing Atkins 10 years ago and looked slinky? Hands up if you are still successfully doing it now and currently sporting your dream body?

It’s not rocket science
More than the physical effects of this diet, what it probably doesn’t warn it’s disciples about is how utterly miserable the other areas of your life will be. Constant craving and obsession over what you cannot eat on your fast days, followed by guilt and over-indulgence on your normal days.  That’s a recipe for a good mood salad. I have come into contact with several people doing the 5:2 diet, and most of them have become increasingly irritable and in all honesty, not sustained any great weight loss either. They are sending their body into panic on a regular basis, which is likely to pay havoc with their hormones and their bellies.

Even if the 5:2 has enabled you to lose weight and eat freer, my point is that it simply isn’t a healthy mindset or attitude towards eating. Weight isn’t the only reflection of how healthy you are, yes it can be an indicator when something is wrong, but what about all the other things that matter? Our mood? Our energy levels? Our insides? Nutrition that fights toxins and disease?

In times when strong is considered the new skinny, when we are more conscious than ever about our health, when we have more access to insightful technology and science that allows to really understand the science behind food – in 2013 for goodness sake – why are real, grown adults following this fad? WHY is the 5:2 diet catching on? HOW are people possible thinking this is a healthy, maintainable lifestyle? I for one certainly wouldn’t want to stand here knowing that for 2/7 days, 29% of THE REST OF MY LIFE, I would be starving. And more than likely become highly unpopular.

I know how irritable I get if miss a meal and if the people I have come into contact with who are following 5:2 are anything to go by, I would expect to become rather difficult to be around. Moody, tired, sensitive, snappy, forgetful. These are all repercussions of not eating well. That’s 29% of the rest of your life spent hungry, tired, irritable, day dreaming about pizza, loathing people with a sandwich while you munch on your allocation of carrot, losing friends at a fast rate.

Yes it has been likened to the 'Caveman' diet, when people were slender and e-numbers weren't an issue, but guess what? We aren't cavemen anymore. We have adapted to fridge-freezers and ovens, we have welcomed international cuisines into our diet, and it is very rare that we go out and hunt our own boar anymore, we are too busy.

“The tortoise wins the race”
Never was a truer word spoken than in the world of dieting and weight loss. I have got some really inspiring friends who have lost weight, like REAL amounts of weight, through eating 3 healthy meals a day and exercising more, but keeping to a lifestyle which is practical and maintainable. And which doesn’t encourage starvation. I applaud those people, as they have really put the work in and they deserve the fact that their weight will be much more likely to stay off FOREVER.

The result may not be as quick as simple starvation, but if you really want to lose weight long-term? Put the effort in. Get off your bum and run round the block. Swap your pies for salad wraps. Do that and you won’t need to starve 2 days out of 7. And your body will be so much happier and will still get all the nutrition it needs, every day. And so will those who have to put up with your mood swings! You got to put the effort in if you want to see change.

There are no shortcuts in health, and there is certainly no such thing as free lunch. The sooner we accept that and stop hoping some pill made from some random new flower will miraculously just rid us of all our fat or that a diet of syrup in water is the answer (mmm, nutritious),  the better for everybody.

Life is for living, life is for enjoying, food is for eating without pressure or guilt. Believe me, I understand the struggles with self control and balance when it comes to food, I have been there. So I am going to save you the effort and time and say take it from me, eating consistently, normally, every single day of your life, with the occasional blow out/treat day (and by occasional I mean once a month have a pizza, not every Saturday and Sunday eat everything you can possibly see – this will ONLY undo all the good work you have put in Monday –Friday) will make you infinitely happier.

Before I finish, I must state I am not a nutritionist or a dietician, or even a scientist. So feel free to ignore me or challenge me. Let the debate commence! But I will also state I am a real human girl who knows what she sees and who has learnt through trial and error what healthy means, who has bounced back from chubville (also known as wine-weight), who has bounced back from anorexia, and found a way that works for her. Weirdly, it’s the way most people have been doing it for years. That way is NOT 5:2. That way is ‘normal’, healthy, common sense eating.


*Read more about the science behind this diet, and why it is particularly bad for women*

06 September, 2013

A Little Secret and a Big Thank You x

I am going to let you into a little secret. I have spent the summer quite overwhelmingly unemployed. I could write you thousands and thousands of heartfelt words about my experiences, so intense an experience it has been, but that’s for another blogpost, which I did actually write a few weeks ago, when I was at the very pinnacle (or should I say pit) of my despair.

You wouldn’t have known it, right? I know. As I explain in this post, I so desperately wanted to channel my experience into my blog, not least because of the therapy it would have given me, but I couldn’t do anything to jeopardise my chances of securing a new role. So instead I wrote this post to myself, and saved it for a rainy day. Ironically, today it is hammering it down outside. You might want to read about my experiences here before you read this as it explains a lot about how I got to that point.

Today

The wait before the excitement!

Today I woke up knowing my life was about to change. I had reached stage 3 of a rather rigorous interview process and had all but been offered the job verbally. 48 hours ago I gave a presentation which I had spent no less than 6 solid days working on and the waiting since then has been unbearable. I haven’t slept properly, I couldn’t stomach much food and it was all I could do not to check my phone and my emails every 60 seconds. That’s how bad I wanted it, and that’s how much pressure has built up in my system over this past 6 months.

Being unemployed this summer has been the most soul destroying experience of my life. Why had my career been so difficult? Why didn’t anyone want me? What was I missing? It was so hard putting energy into job applications (circa 100), interviews (circa 20), and presentations (7 in total) when I didn’t know what it would lead to and when my confidence was so low. It was so hard feeling so isolated from the world every day, never being able to properly rest, not being able to make plans or look forward to anything because ‘we don’t know what’s going to happen’, trying to be strong and brave for Gareth and him trying to be strong and  brave for me. But throughout it all I held onto what I knew deep deep deep down – that the universe had other plans for me. It really is written in the stars, that’s something I learnt a long time ago and it helped me through these past few months.

What I do know is the timing of my unemployment was destined. I think the world knew I was due a break of some sort, in my 5 years of working I have barely had more than a week off at a time and in the past few years I haven’t had a proper holiday. I can’t call these past few months a ‘holiday’ but it was a break from the treadmill. I am so fortunate because had this happened 2 years ago i would have had to pack up my entire life in Sheffield and start again somewhere. But now i had my supportive partner and am so so fortunate that I was able to remain unemployed for nearly 2 months and not have to give up much but my spending money.

My advice to anyone who finds themselves in this situation for no good reason, who like me does everything right but still finds nothing is working out – my advice to you is BELIEVE that something right is around the corner, and it may be even better than you dared dream. My other bit of advice is make the best of it – yes, I have found it devastatingly tough being unemployed, standing in line to sign on and feeling as though I had lost my ‘place’ in the system. But I can’t be accused of not making the very best of it. Every day I got up at 6 or 7am, I did something positive and productive, I stuck to a routine, I took a break to go see my family and his family, I exercised a lot, I made lots of mini social plans like meeting people for coffee, I went for walks to clear my head and keep things in perspective, I set up on my own and freelanced – a project I will be forever grateful for as it has given me so much confidence in my professional abilities. I focused on little projects and doing nice things for other people. Yes I cried, but not that much considering how I felt inside and considering that I am a huge cryer!

I can hand on heart say I am so proud of how I have dealt with what’s been the most soul destroying 6 months of my life, I am so proud of my own strength that I want to shout it from the rooftops. Hannah a few years ago would not have had the same grace, positivity or certainty that it would be okay. I also know I am one of the lucky ones, not only in that my unemployment has been relatively brief, but in that I had the exact support network I needed to get me through. I have never had any doubt about how god damn lucky I am where Gareth, my friends and my family are concerned, but man they have excelled themselves during this. So this post more than anything is a big fat thank you to all of them.

Whether you picked up the tab, answered my desperate call on a bleak Wednesday, messaged me from the other side of the world to give me a confidence boost, wiped my tears when I’d had one too many lemon cellos and the despair came flooding out, reassured me whilst I cried in the toilets at work, or just listened to me, told me it was shit, but that you still believed in me. Your belief fed into mine and got me to this point. Thank you so so so much to all of you who played such a big part in keeping me a float. I owe a few drinks to say the least! And not to mention, as always, my Gareth. He has been nothing short of a hero. Even with me ALWAYS being in the house, taking up all the space, making a desk for myself in the dining room day in day out, hogging his laptop when mine died in my last week of work (I know right), not having so much time to clean the and the like (oops!) and having a few mood swings, he has been nothing but incredible. And to say we have been living in each other’s actual pockets for the past 7 weeks, we have barely even bickered! WHAT a team.

This morning my life did change, I received an absolutely amazing job offer, I accepted and I just know this one was always meant to be. It’s the role I have imagined myself in for a long, long time. Unlike other roles I have accepted, here there is not a single misgiving, everything about it is right for me and better.

The change I have been through in my career is really quite something, you can’t accuse of me of having chosen an orthodox career path. But this is the one I want to stick and do you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. I have learnt so much about myself (not all of it good, but I have learnt from it), I have met some really very inspiring people, I have doubled my salary in 2 years and I feel like finally my hard work and heartfelt challenges are paying off – I am nothing if not a fighter! The first thing I did when I found out the good news (after bashing my shin on my bike whilst dancing around the dining room) was put my wellies on and set out for a long walk, to feel the real rain on my cheeks and make sure I wasn’t dreaming. And the next thing I did was call everyone who I owed a huge thank you to, and then buy a load of thank you cards.

The first thing I did...


Now I am going to unsubscribe from ALL the job sites (thank GOD!), write my thank you cards, have a glass of wine tonight (my first in 4 weeks) and enjoy the next little while until I start work again, because for the first time in a very long time I have TIME to spare and a job at the end of it. And its mine.

Wish me luck..

x




Written on Wednesday 28th September

Written on Wednesday 28th August

I am going to let you into a little secret. I have spent the summer unemployed. If I hadn't been so aware of the professional implications I would have shared this with you a long, long time ago. I am not an overly proud person and I have been gasping to vent my experiences through my blog, but I knew the implications it could have for my future employment and I couldn't say or do anything to hinder my chances of securing a new role. But unemployed I have been and I could have written a trilogy by now based on my experiences and the emotions I have come up against day in, day out.


My story

So how did this come about? It’s no secret I was miserable in my job in Leeds, to the point I took the first opportunity out of there. And while the next job I took was a fantastic opportunity, somewhere I fitted in and people SAW me and I was actually paid more than peanuts...while it was all these things, it was a fixed term contract. 9 – 12 months, maternity cover. And I didn't really tell anyone that. To begin with, this vital fact was a small dot way off in the future, I was just so relieved to be out of ‘that place’ in Leeds that job security didn't matter to me, job happiness meant more. I didn't even tell most people that my new job wasn't forever, because I had such shit luck beforehand that I thought it’s just got to work out. How can I fit in so well somewhere and not be meant to somehow stay? And if it doesn't work out, at least I am not miserable anymore. So I took it.

Needless to say, I had never been happier at work, not once did I dread going in, I made good REAL friends with my team and beyond, people could see me for who I was and the only office politics was one tiny woman who had an issue when it came to brew rounds. I don’t know if the fabulousness of the place was offset by the hellishness of the last, or if I had just learnt to count my blessings, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t know such a good workplace existed, but learning that it did over time made the realisation that I actually would have to leave (which hit me around April of this year) quite upsetting. But I tried not to dwell, I kept my head up, I knew the situation for what it was, I got myself into it to get out of something else, and I was (and am)just so so happy and felt so blessed to have had that experience. I can honestly say my 9 months there were hands down the happiest in my career. Short but very very sweet.

Fast forward 9 months to April of this year and I knew I had to face reality again. I have always been independent and I have worked since I was 14 (part-time in a bakers, who knew I would end up such a baker myself!) I have barely had more than a week away from work since I started working full time 2 days after university finished. You can’t really call me a slacker, and so the thought of NOTHING after Dimensions TERRIFIED me. And my bank balance. We had only just got out of the Red, we were so happy to be back to black, we couldn’t face the thought of NO SALARY.

So, it was time to throw myself back out there. And what a 6 months it has been.

Reality

I have always been lucky with job interviews, knowing as long as I could get my chatty confident self in front of people I would be in with a good shot. So nothing could have prepared me for the never ending turmoil that followed. Interview after interview, presentation after presentation, hope after hope shot down as yet another person with ‘just a bit more experience’ pipped me to the post. I aimed high, I aimed low, I aimed way out West.  I lowered my standards, I widened my net, I offered my skills for FREE in half hour long presentations to potential employers who didn’t want me but wanted my ideas. I spent every spare minute, weekends, evenings, lunchtimes, trawling through job sites, speaking to recruitment agents, filling in applications, bettering my CV, pimping up my LinkedIn, making connections, following leads. I bought blazers, I bought shoes. I spent 2 or 3 days on 1 presentation for 1 potential employer – only for them to go for that person who wasn’t as passionate but wouldn’t get bored, or who had 3 months more experience, or had less experience and who they wanted to give a chance. Would I ever win? Amongst all this, I had to wind my once full to the brim social life all the way down in order to focus on securing a new role.

At first I almost enjoyed it. I love the excitement of what next? I focussed on the potentially hugely positive change that awaited me. It was what I had to focus on to avoid feeling devastated at leaving the only team I had ever really belonged in. Sods law, right? I love the interview process too, the adrenaline, the hope of a future just in reach, talking about myself (ha!), showcasing my actual, real skills and realising I have the. It’s fun. At first.

At first, my friends had so much positivity for me “you are so employable, Han”, “someone like you won’t stay unemployed for long”, “so many companies will want to snap you up!” they said it because they meant it and I believed them because it SHOULD be true. Recruitment agents all wanted me on their books for the commission, all thought they could ‘definitely secure something for someone with your background’ and some of them even acted like I was one of them ‘haha you should see some of the CVs we have to work with, Hannah, you won’t have a problem.” Oh well thats good to know.

But eventually, I ran out of steam. They ran out of steam. My friends ran out of things to say. They couldn't understand it, they couldn't say it was going to be okay because here i was 5 months, 150 applications, 20 interviews, 6 presentations down the line and it wasn't fine. Even recruitment agents began to despair of me ‘you aren't still looking for work are you Hannah? I don’t understand it, I thought you would have something by now’ and the worst ‘Hannah! I have JUST the role for you, its a little further afield but the role is perfect. How do you feel about Southampton?’. TUMBLE WEED. SO MUCH TUMBLE WEED.

I cannot tell you how positive I tried to stay through all this, but I was so tired. So so drained. I was scared. I was anxious. I was stressed. Especially as this comes after such a turbulent year in Leeds. I needed a break.
My body hasn’t been well in months from the stress. I have been constantly busy, juggling my last few months, weeks, days of employment with searching for something new. ‘Searching’ doesn’t do it justice –what I have been doing is fierce, relentless, I am HUNTING. Yet man, did I stay positive. 

Even in my first week of unemployment, which was surreal as hell, I used every ounce of time to my advantage. I got up at 6 or 7am every day for 6 weeks, 7 days a week, with no job to go to. I stuck to my routine. I exercised, I showered, I got dressed, I made a desk for myself in our dining room and i tried really hard not to think of the girls at work, all chatting together about their weekends. I put in a solid mornings work every day until early afternoon, applying for every single relevant job out there, cold calling marketing agencies, seeking out opportunities to freelance, doing voluntary social media, looking into volunteering, scouring the websites of all the biggest local brands I could think of. Universities, shopping centres, colleges. I contacted various recruitment agents when they weren’t contacting me. I burnt myself all the way out fighting my unemployment, maybe a little too hard because my body hasn’t been happy with me for a while.

My afternoons were usually spent meeting people, going to appointments, finding excuses to go into town, running errands, anything to feel a part of things. And anything to make me feel at the end of the day like I had earnt my bread.

Coping


Knowing how to avoid depression I made myself have this routine, continued to excercise, I ate better than ever, after the first few weeks I didn’t drink even on weekends, became i know what this could have done to my self-esteem.  I did not ‘enjoy the time’ and ‘lie in’ as suggested to me by some  – as lovely as this would have been, I just knew that was recipe for one very depressed Hannah.  For the whole routine I had ever known my whole life had been broken. I had never had this much time off, not since the school holidays. What made it easier though was that my unemployment did fall in line with the school holidays. It felt a little more ‘normal’, a little less like I was out of the loop. But it still didn’t feel right. I need to work, it’s who I am, it’s who I have always been. Not working is more soul destroying that you can ever imagine, because it means no-one wants you. Despite all my positivity and productivity, depression did set in. Slowly but viciously at times.

Despite making myself stick to a routine I found myself less and less motivated, with each new application form that asked me to sell myself (and my soul) I found less and less energy for it. With each new knock back, it was harder to get back up. My reaction to calls and emails from recruitment agents turned from hope to dread – because I knew what fear and rejection lay ahead. With every day I lost a bit of myself. I found fewer reasons to be out in the world. Recruitment agents lost interest in me, my friends returned from holiday and got on with their lives, people forgot I was sat at home. Desperately wanting to work. Lonely. Isolated. Doing everything in my power to avoid depression. Suddenly, out of nowhere, on a sunny Wednesday, I would crumble from the pressure. As my money got lower, my soul got smaller and my confidence got less, these breakdowns got more intense.

I tried so hard to be strong all the time, especially for my partner who this also affected, but every now and then I just wanted to lie on the floor and howl and to have someone sort it all out for me. i felt hopeless, utterly hopeless. Whilst i know how extremely lucky I am, to have a supporting partner and family and friends, pride and my independence having taken the biggest hit of their life and do you know what? They did not need it. I already know how lucky I am. I already see the best in everything and make the best of every situation. I already know how to look after myself physically, mentally and emotionally. I already was doing all the right things, so why wouldn’t this hell end? Why wouldn’t someone just INVEST in ME?

Im going to let you into a little secret, I am still unemployed.  I didn’t ask for this time off, but sometimes, life has other plans for you, right? I must have needed it, I just don;’t know why yet. Which is why going into my 7th week and still unemployed with so much pressure on and very little hope, i haven’t stopped. I am still getting up every morning, bright and early, as if about to set off for work. Only work is my laptop and there's no one there to brighten my day. I am still staying in control. I am not succumbing to the temptation to just sod it all and go and spend my last money on WINE. But with every day that goes by, it’s harder. 

Sometimes I just want to get back into bed and stay there. Clearing up after dinner last night, it was the hugest effort to put one foot in front of the other. I am tired all the time. My body is shutting down. I am tired. I am drained. I need a break. And then I need a holiday. Last night i got into bed at 9pm and fell asleep instantly – there's no way I was actually tired, I had had a restful bank holiday, but i felt like hell. That isn’t who I am. Today I felt sprightly first thing but within an hour the hole in my tummy had grown so big I couldnt suppress my depression and I text my Mum with a worried 'I am struggling.' With each breakdown I have, the crying gets worse and the positive reassurance to myself gets less. I am struggling to force smiles to people, even to my Gareth.

I know its all going to be okay, but I don’t know when, and I'm worried about the pressure this is putting on my mind, my body, my relationship and my bank balance. I have worked since the day I left university, I am skilled, I am confident - and I should be in a job that i love and that deserves me. I don’t understand why my career has been so higgledy piggeldy and such damn hard work, maybe there is a lesson somewhere for me, but god knows i am trying my best.

I know the universe has other plans for me which is why things don’t seem to be panning out, and I know they will work out for the very best, but until they do I am going to keep faking that smile, keep my chin up, bounce back from every single god damn rejection and hope to come out of it even happier.


02 September, 2013

September - the month of change


Hello lovely world. I have had a little break from writing this summer - every writer needs a breather sometimes, otherwise you spend a hell of a lot of time putting energy out into the world and not enough time absorbing it. And you get tired. Whist I have been focusing my energy elsewhere, so many blog posts have been written in my mind. It's weird not channelling my emotions into writing and sharing, but it is certainly better for my own peace of mind to just 'keep something back' for me from time to time.

Over the past few days I think we have all felt the first few thrills of autumn - probably my favourite time of the year - and all the thoughts whirling round in my little head have inspired me to pick up my 'pen' again. We all want to delight in the excitement of a new month, especially this one. Ahh September. Like a lot of people, I have a lot of affection for this month – the start of a new season, the nostalgic end to a summer of fun (if you're lucky) and that feeling of a clean slate, starting afresh. September means a new notebook at the very least, and at some point a new wardrobe.

It's weird really because actually September is just like any other month, one of the few months in our calendar with no fancy holiday or reason to get excited. Yet it is ingrained in us from a very early age that September marks the start of something new, usually in the form of a school year or leaving home and beginning the life changing adventure that is university.

Summer sunshine is forgotten and people look forward to things like chunky knits and soup, we switch White wine for Red and wonder how long it is before they can start planning Christmas. Yes, I said it. For me though, September has always carried even more nostalgia. I live in a city which totally transforms with each new wave of students that hits it – Sheffield is pretty small as city centres go, and far too small to have 2 whopping great uni’s in the middle of it and nowhere for locals (am I really a local? I think I’m still in post-grad limbo) to run. I try to close my eyes and drown out the sounds of a city coming to life with Freshers who get younger every year, because the nostalgia is just too much for me. One of the drawbacks of having stayed in your university city is there are memories everywhere you look. University wasn’t the happiest time of my life even nearly, I am infinitely happier now, but somehow the sweet memories that sweep me up on the soft September breeze fill me with a round of pangs.

As well as this, ALL my major life changes have taken place in September. It’s when relationships have begun and ended, all my job transitions (and I've had a few) have happened in September so it is at this time I am usually a new girl or getting ready to move on. I don't think this is exclusive to me - the end of a long summer sparks lots of people to shake up their lives, hand in that notice or end that dead end relationship. As a result, it has always been the time I change the most, as a person. I meet new people, some of whom have become my very best friends and inspired me, and I try new things. With all the external changes September has always brought for me, it has often encouraged me to change too. Emotionally, mentally, even physically – and with each change with each year, I get stronger.

So without fail I wake up every 1st September feeling excited nervous, like the first day back at school, and throughout the month there is a dull but constant thud of nostalgia in my tummy, which grows with every autumn chill and every darker morning. Not the kind of nostalgia that makes you want to go back, but the kind that makes you remember.

This September is no different, and I am so happy it is here! The high pressure of the summer is off, we can all let out our bikini bodies out and snuggle indoors. It’s mine and Gareth’s anniversary next week and I am currently walking around in an actual bubble of love, remembering all our ‘firsts’ and thinking how far we have come as a couple. I am really looking forward to celebrating with him and I get all teary thinking about our adventures. Away from my relationship, I have had a very strange summer (but that’s for another blog post which I am saving for another time), so this September almost definitely holds some big upheavals again for me and I have to say I am actually really ready.

Have a great September everyone.

x