So last weekend I saw a psychic. Now it doesn’t matter whether you believe in psychics or just think they are excellent readers of body language. Either way what this woman had to say struck home and I’ve spent this week working my way through what she had to say. I admit I’m a little bit jealous of my friends with their long relationships and (at least on the surface) happy families so when she asked what I wanted a reading on and I said relationships I was kinda hoping for the “Your tall, dark, handsome stranger is on his way”. Instead I got a few home truths that left me reeling for a few days.
It really is a rich man’s world and for the rest of us we have to make adjustments if we are to achieve the things we want in life. For me this week, I’ve been sat down trying to work out how to save or find an extra £200 ($300) of my wages to allow for losing one day per week from October.
Now hopefully this won’t be an issue because I’ll instantly become a successful small business woman where money is nothing to worry over. But I will also be studying towards my online part time degree at the same time so there will be weeks where I make less things because it’s assignment time. So I sat down to work out how to cope with this drop in wages using worst case scenario of not selling a single thing in a month
I managed to create an extra £172 ($258) with very little effort and I’m actually a little embarrassed by my own spending habits. I’ve done research on this before and I know that 9 out of 10 people with Mental Health issues have bad debt and money issues (at least in the UK). For myself I have, over the last few years, slowly worked out my spending triggers. I would spend money (which I often didn’t really have) on clothes, books, DVD’s, CD’s and so on because for just a few minutes it made me feel better. But then the feeling would go and I would be back to the feelings of desolation so I’d spend again. It’s an endless cycle not everyone can get off. I know if I could clear all my bills I would be able to happily take a lower paid job or work maybe even 2-3 days without a secondary business. But these are the things I need to work on and I’m trying to clear the debts one by one while still working on my dreams. It’s not easy but I’m now in a strong mental position to attempt the challenge.
Anyway, back to the money. I have one debt due to be cleared in August – that’s £65 ($98) of my £200 ($300) saved, over a quarter in one easy stroke. Then I decided to be brutal with my spending. There’s me and my son and we have one take away each week (occasionally more if I have a down week and don’t want to cook). That’s another £40 ($60) minimum per month that can be saved. I’m already half way there.
I’ve fallen into very bad habits where I bring lunch to my main work office but have been buying lunch when I visit my other two offices. That’s another £25-30 ($45) a month. I spend £20 ($30) plus on magazines – not the cheap glossies that tempt you while you’re waiting to pay for groceries but the expensive knitting magazines and spiritual ones that I never read fully. More waste and a minimum of £20 ($30) a month.
There’s nothing wrong with having a treat now and again so I’ve agreed we can have one takeaway per month and I’ve put my favourite knitting magazine on subscription so it’s cheaper. My friend is buying a different one and we are going to swap.
But that’s already taken me up to £150 ($225) of money I’ve found straight away. I recently had my gas & electric joint bill re-assessed (I must be one of the only people in the country who used less heating this winter instead of more!) and that’s gone down by £22 ($33) per month.
So there we are I needed to find an extra £200 ($300) per month and without hardly trying by the time it’s needed I will only be £28 ($42) short.
Going forward I will have another debt cleared in January (£43/$65)) and am looking at upgrading my TV aerial so I can get a freeview TV. That will mean I can cancel my Virgin cable and phone and then shop around for a cheaper broadband deal (I tried looking for a new package but ignoring the new customer lure promise they are all actually the same) That’s another £4($60). And I want to fit a water meter. I know people who have halved their bills by doing so (£24/$36 saved).
So while I will have some small outlay with the aerial and TV, in the next 12 months I can potentially save £279 ($419) of monthly outgoings. So next time I complain about having no money I should re-read this post!
I used to wallow in my money issues and see everything so blackly and that I could never be able to afford anything. By trying to look at it in a more positive way I can finally start to see the end of the dark tunnel of debt. It just takes a bit of thought…
I have never really had a solid work plan. I vaguely remember at school wanting to be either a human right lawyer (although if pressed I’d not be able to tell you why, I think it just sounded glamorous and worthy!) or a journalist. It’s funny how I remember that bit when with my memory issues I did for many years forget I could write and wanted to write!
I ended up not going to college to pursue this though. My parents divorced during my exam times and that started a long line of issues that resulted in me hardly going to school and then not bothering to revise. Shame looking back as I was expected to get all A’s. Funnily enough there was another girl with the same issue but who came from a privileged background who was offered the chance to continue her studies as it wasn’t my fault. Me, from a poor working class family, was told tough.
That I believe now started me off on a spiral of no career plans. I fell into jobs as a hotel maid. This actually suited me just fine at the time, it’s a transient role and one that enabled me to travel round the country while I worked and left me with some of the best times I will ever have (only wish I could remember half of them!). then I had my son and became a full time mother and carer as he has some learning difficulties (not so obvious ones as he is now at university but certainly very hard to deal with when he was smaller)
Going back to work as a single parent to a 6 year old brought it’s own problems such as childcare. There was also the fact that I hadn’t worked in 6 years and only knew how to clean and serve people in a canteen. So I took the first job I was offered and started a 10 year history of banking. First just 16 hours a week serving customers but by the time I left I’d become a mortgage and insurance adviser, the next step up was running an actual bank. Not bad for a girl with my background. But I was never happy.
Just before I started at the bank I’d managed to get myself on a European funded part time degree course in Social Policy at Leeds University. I had to give it up to start work but the year I spent on it was a massive boost to my confidence and restored my faith in myself that depsite all that had happened I did actually have a decent brain. During this time I revisited the idea of journalism. I spoke to the careers adviser there about swapping degrees, going full time and pursuing this career. That was met with a resounding no. I was told I’d left it too late and was now too old to do this. I was 26!!!! This was in the mid-90’s and before internet writing took off as it now has. It was still very heavily a print media occupation. So dreams shattered again I went into banking.
And pretty much hated everything about it. I trained to be a mortgage adviser and spent my whole time in the role feeling like I’d sold my soul to the devil digging into people’s greatest fears to sell them insurance. And the worse thing was…I was bloody good at it!
So I became a civil servant! From one devil to another. Again I’ve spent 5 years working my little socks off in various roles and always felt something was missing. More & more when I’ve had time off work I’ve not wanted to go back. Not in a depressed I hate my job way but just that I’m sure there’s something better way.
So I’ve put my thinking cap on and the only thing I can think of to make me happy is working for myself. I could write but my creative non-blogging side is still in its infancy so I’ve been thinking about the crafts. There are several to choose from and the return to handmade goods moving away from the identi-town chain stores is growing rapidly so there is room for me and the things I can do. I had my annual review meeting with my team leader last week and discussed this with him. As his wife is a big fan of card maker and frustrated employee herself, he understood exactly where I was coming from. I can’t afford to leave my job and try and support myself so we have a plan of reducing days down as things progress. So from October I will be losing a day per week.
It’s scary but exhilarating at the same time. I’ll lose around £200 a month and will need to sell items to try and make that up. So the next 6 months will be frantically trying to pay bills off and make preparations. Not to mention the fact that my next Open University course starts the same month. I can never be accused of doing things in small doses!!! I’m setting up online shops with a view to putting some small things on now to test waters. And if it fails…then I’ll have a day off a week to study! But I hope it doesn’t. This is the first time in my life I feel like I am doing something to earn money in a way that I want and not because I have to.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life, not tomorrow and so if you really want something it’s time to stand up and go for it…..
Have you read the title above and got the song stuck in your head??? Hehe
Last week was the worst part of my annual Easter Blues. My last post about Mental Health pledges was meant to be a small part of this one but sometimes when you need to get some feelings out you just have to go with it. However they blues are wearing themselves out and I can see the happy horizon once again and there were some good happenings last week; mostly due to the power of a good friendship base.
Tuesday was just general drinks with my good friend and a chance to have a catch up, have what she calls “drinky bup bups” (no I’ve no idea where she gets it from! The actuality was 2 bottles of wine), some nacho’s and just a general gossip. As per usual just an hour turned into 4 hours but as a chance to have a good chat and relax in good company you can’t beat it. We talked about a whole range of things from work nonsense to family including my newly rebuilt relationship with my mum. It’s an interesting discussion as she lost her own mum when she was 28 and finds it still painful. She has often asked the question is it better to have loved and lost your mum or to have your mum alive but estranged from you??? Philosophical questions that can only be answered as you work through the bottle of wine!
Wednesday was the first get together after setting up our little book club (and when I made my pledge). And a first for me as it was to be recorded for the radio station. The last time I made any recording (other than my voicemail) was as a teenager when I had to do some research for a Media Studies course. That one was slightly more serious than this one as it was around perceptions for bringing back hanging!! To Kill a Mockingbird however bleak a story was much lighter in the discussion. I soon got over my fears of being recorded possibly due to the arrival of several sponge cakes J I think again though it’s being in the company of some good people that can help with any fears. Although I was conscious of having a microphone hovering nearby it was easy to ignore it to concentrate on the discussion itself.
As for the book I enjoyed it but found it hard going. I was surprised to realise the figure everyone knows – Boo Radley – wasn’t the one standing accused. The same went for the others reading the book. Funny how certain characters will stay in your mind long after the others and indeed the story itself have long faded.
Thursday was the worst day of the Easter Blues and I would have much rather have spent the day in bed hiding from the world. However I went to work – more in body than spirit and ended up then being talked into a meal I’d said ages ago I didn’t want to attend. Work was horrible. My last breakdown came whilst working at a different office (the one with my meal buddies) and so they knew me, knew my triggers and knew how to spot the signals that things are not quite right. In this job, while I do like the people, I haven’t got the same bond and while they may have a feeling something isn’t quite right they don’t know how to vocalise it and I don’t know how to tell people I have an issue. My manager did try. I was asked if I was ok – I said no. I was asked what was wrong and I kind of blew the subject off with I’m not feeling well. Is there anything he could do? No. Did I want to talk about it?? No.
An ideal opportunity then to discuss mental health issues. He is actually aware of my past and as he is the liaison with our companies’ health partners it should’ve been easy to talk but it wasn’t. So while I’m very good at talking about my issues after the fact, I seem to be like thousands of other people that can’t say “Help I have a problem” while it’s actually occurring. This is something that I should work on but where do you start? How do you come into work and say I’m having a depressive occurrence, it’ll wear off but in the mean time I’m a bit weepy and would like to be left alone to get on with it”??? Easy to type it though. Maybe I should have note cards made! Several times I wanted to call in sick that week but that came with the same question. Can I realistically say I’m having an episode and can’t work or lie and make something up like flu?!? I have my work annual review on the afternoon of typing this so I will try and ask the question.
If I don’t how can I possibly stick to my pledge to challenge stereotypes and break stigmas? I wish there was an easy answer but there isn’t.
I made a pledge this week. After book club we were asked to make a pledge for Mental Health Awareness month about what we could do to help break the taboo around people with these issues. This was an easy one for me; I pledge to challenge stereotypes. Too often people assume that anyone with a mental health problem is a monster or a crazy person – wild hair and clothes inside out and muttering away to the voices in their heads.
And some people are like that but most of us aren’t. Me for example, I have held down jobs for the 25 years I’ve been eligible to work with a 5 year gap to be a stay at home mother. I have a good well paid job where I spend a lot of time coaching and mentoring people. Yet I have a mental health condition. I am what someone once called a functioning depressive. I’ve been depressed since my late teens with 2 breakdowns to my name. It’s been 5 years since the death of my grandmother who was as much a mother figure to me as my own mum. The rock in my life. I hate Easter for this reason and have spent most of this week trying to get through my work and not burst into tears at any given moment. Most of the time I am quite a happy individual these days, I know my triggers and how to work to minimise the doom and gloom that I can now see coming. But not at this time of year. I try and go away or spend time with people but this is one that can only be ridden like a wave and hope that I come into shore safely afterwards
But try telling this to people with the assumptions of craziness. People with Mental Health issues aren’t crazy – they may be depressed, have eating disorders, ADHD, all manner of things that make them that tiny bit different but many of us can function perfectly well and put our clothes on the right way round well some days I can anyway!). I’m scatter brained and easily panicked but I don’t wear my issues on the outside for the world to see.
Mental Health problems are one of the last taboos to be broken. Ask someone for their definition and then say to people – do you see me that way? And they say no and look confused.
But yet this is what you have just described as me. I have a Mental Health issue.
No no no no no they say there’s nothing wrong with you.
Or they’ll try and make jokes, confusion very clear in their face. You don’t fit the monster they’ve been brought up to believe in. You don’t look like the scary woman with the Einstein copy cat hair. You’re always laughing and joking.
But so is the clown that is dying inside….
If you only do one thing this week, make a pledge of your own. My friends pledge was simply to laugh more. It might simply be to try and be more aware of you friends and family and colleagues and paying attention to the little body signals that they are giving off. Maybe they need a hug or someone to make them laugh and just take them out of themselves for a few moments. Sometimes the smallest actions mean the most.
Make a pledge…..
For a change and because I need the practice of reviewing things, this is how I spent my Easter weekend:
Bourton on the Water
I’ve had a much needed week off work. The more I have time off the more I accept that I don’t want to work for other people and it gives me the incentive to look into working for myself creating knitted products and beads. I’ve no idea if it will be successful but I have to try. However with a mortgage and bills to pay I can’t just walk away so I need to compromise. I have a meeting next week – the usual annual review nonsense and I think I am going to ask about dropping one day and reducing my hours from Sept/Oct. That gives me 6 months to try and clear some bills and work on creating stock. Just making the decision has resulted this week in the creation of 4 items and plans for more. For the first time in ages I feel like I have a work plan that would actually make me feel like getting up on a morning.
The week started well, I got to visit the new shopping centre built in the city. The mall is the only one to be built in Europe this year at a cost of £350 million according to the blurb. I’d like to say I was impressed but the domed roof was built in sections which create a wind tunnel effect and there were no doors! In the middle of a freak cold snap I just wanted to go somewhere much warmer. Maybe I will try again in the summer
Wednesday saw me take part in a business event volunteering day at a local High School. This is the 3rd time I’ve done this here and each time I’ve felt a boost from it (not enough of a boost to make me want to be a teacher though! Spending time with 10 teenagers for 5 hours is much different from a full week of trying to teach unwilling kids). The business event is a mix of X-Factor and Dragons Den and the kids have to learn to work together to create a new pop group, making all the decisions from who they want in the band to creating the merchandise for them and planning their first concert. This is followed by a 3 minute presentation asking a select panel (well 3 teachers!) for investment money to help promote this new super-group.
It works really well, the idea is that the kids can see what goes into applying and preparing for a job, why just because they may not have all the attributes it still may be worth applying for the job and as scary as presentations are they are a fact of business life and it’s good practice Plus they are put in mixed groups so are working with others they may not normally spend time with. This happens in the world of work – it’s only in the ideal world where you get to work with your friends all day. There are always natural leaders in the group and ones who are just happy to take part. I always assumed it was only girls who checked out each others outfits but last year I saw things from a different perspective. As all the teens have to come in business dress I watched the boys checking each others suits out and comparing who had the most expensive. But also who’s suit set them out as potential leaders of business. It was a fascinating view into the world of the modern teenager. We never had these opportunities as kids and I wish we did. My career (if you can call it that) has been based on whoever would give me a job at the time and practically falling into each one I’ve had. It’s only in the last few months that I’ve actually made plans based on what I really want. Not good for someone who spent 5 years helping others find jobs!
I highly recommend volunteering as a positive step. It doesn’t have to be with children, it could be care work. In the UK at least, there are opportunities for so many things including dog walking for guide dogs. If you are computer savvy, charities can use your support. There is something for everyone. For me, it helps keep my positive mood up but for others it’s something to add to the CV and fill in gaps where illness has stopped them working. I know of many people that have ended up with a paid job that started off as volunteer work. I cannot big it up enough!
Good Friday involved spending more time bonding with my mum. We’ve been researching our family tree and for the last 250 years the females in our family have mostly worked in textiles including my mum when she first went to work. We went to check out the city’s textile museum. Normally this would be fun but there was an extra pathos this time reading the history blogs on the walls; the stories of children crawling under dangerous machinery to clean out jammed material and the diseases they picked up, this could’ve been my relatives. I felt a sadness walking round that I wouldn’t normally have. My mum had her own (funny to me!) sadness. She’s only 58 but several of the machines were still in use when she left school and worked on them herself. She kept asking if it made her old too!
But we did have fun, the visit sparked lots of memories for both of us. We had a beautiful chat about spending time with our granddads (mine being her father) which has inspired a (half finished at the minute) poem. Plus a drive to the house where she was born (the street behind my high school which I never realised) culminating in a funny story of my mum getting her head stuck in the railings and having to be smothered in butter to get free but getting a scolding because her mum had had to use her best butter! There’s always one child in the family that constantly attracts trouble even by accident. It was me but there’s an extra bonding moment when you see it was your mum too. I used to think we didn’t have much in common but we are more alike than I ever realised.
So this week has been made up of helping others and family time, a very positive want to spend my time.