Behind Closed Doors

When not blogging and trying to do a part time degree my day job is as a community outreach worker for unemployed focusing on those with housing and homelessness issues with other people with general vulnerabilities thrown in for good measure. It’s a varied role that sees me pottering around Leeds and connecting with all walks of life and as a general rule I love it.

I think though I’ve become a bit complacent in the role. Over the last couple of months I’ve had an influx of under 25’s on my caseload. These young people have for various reasons found that they can’t go home and are sleeping on various sofas across the city. Some have found they have issues managing money and have lost homes, some have fallen out with family members, and one sadly has parents that can’t understand having a gay son. But they are all coping fine, most have moved onto supported housing or shared housing and we’re moving forward.

Today though has been about meeting new customers and with them has come a whole range of horror stories that has left me wondering what is wrong with this world and humanity. I’ve seen kids fleeing violent parents, child sexual abuse, mental breakdowns, extortion and a guy worried about his 15 year old niece potentially having her child taken off her. Yes just 15 and a mother. And that was just before lunch!

This afternoon I met a Portuguese girl, just 20 and new to the country. She has come with legal custody of her 14 year old brother. They are currently sharing a sofa of a friend’s studio flat. Their violent father is in a Portuguese prison and mother is also back home unemployed with 5 other kids to feed! Whatever your feelings on immigration the fact remains that this poor girl wanted to better herself and has found herself lost in a sea of housing and schooling 9for her brother) bureaucracy and no idea of how to move forward. My phone call on her behalf to one council department suggested she walk into a local school and ask to register her brother. She barely managed to explain herself to me – asking for school applications papers and a copy of the Ofsted report is a bit beyond her. Luckily they are willing to offer support so we have one issue starting to resolve itself.

One thing I noticed though is my emotional resilience to these things is improving. A few years ago I started counselling training and would get upset even just listening to role play examples. I would take too much on board. My empathy levels are quite strong. I was probably too close to my won breakdown to be strong enough to handle other people’s traumas. Today I am still empathetic and while I was still thinking about how to resolve some of my customer problems (who to talk to, training options and so on) I found it easier to unwind than I have. A trip to Nando’s with my son and some cheesy movies brought my stress levels back down to normal (as normal as I’ll ever be!)

Tomorrow’s another day as they say and I wonder what it will bring


Sugar, food issues and mental health

I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about stopping chocolate and this is a follow on from that. It’s now 42 days since I last had a chocolate bar. I’m still stunned that figure keeps going up. As a lifetime overeater it’s quite a big deal. 12 days ago I decided to cut out cake bought from shops too. I put it that way to allow small treats at the once a month restaurant night out me and my girlfriends have. I don’t bake at home so buying pre-made cake is how I’ve usually got that fix. Just by checking the sugar contents on packets has resulted in me giving up other luxuries. Some yoghurts have as much sugar as a slice of cake. Even muesli, touted as a healthy breakfast, is riddled with the stuff.

Standing on the scales this morning I have lost a few pounds. I’m pleased with that but it isn’t why i started looking at my food issues. Every diet I’ve ever done has failed with me trying to give up everything at once and making myself miserable or giving into my emotional eating issues, never looking at why I do the things I do. I’ve spent 30 years eating for every emotion mostly negative ones. I’ve always said I’m not a self harmer because I never cut myself but yet surely devouring a weeks worth of your sugar limit in an hour has got to be self harm??? It’s often hard to explain this to people. They don’t get how much damage you can do to yourself .Until I started this blog I’ve always hidden my depression. I still struggle to say help.

I had my second (and I’m determined my last) breakdown four years ago this month. I’ve spent the last four years trying to recover what was lost mentally, learning how to have fun and live life and coping mechanisms to keep me sane on a bad day. Yet up until 42 days ago I still hadn’t tackled the food issue. I don’t think I’ll ever be truly well mentally untilI’ve tackled the health side. I kid myself that as long as I’m smiling it’s enough but yet I know I hide certain insecurites behind the ‘cheeky chubby girl’.

So what happens next? I need to learn to deal with the bad days by assessing what has gone wrong, what makes me feel bad and how to fix it rather than run to the nearest supermarket for my harmful fix of sugar. AS far as I’ve come there’s still a lot fo work to do but I’m hopeful. Every day brings it’s own rewards. Coming out of a supermarker with just a bottle of water and not wanting to add that chocolate bar when I feel down is an achievement. Not even thinking about adding it is the biggest of all.

I keep my little tally of days without chocolate or cake and maybe some others will be added as I look at other foods that I torture myself with. It’s a physical reminder that when the black mist descends I’ve something to fight it for. I don’t want to see those numbers return to zero.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West Gregory Maguire #bookreview

Having not seen the musical I went into this story completely blind and thoroughly enjoyed it. Wicked is the origins story of Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West and explored the notion of what is good and evil and just how she turned out the way she did. Maguire creates a rich back story of the little girl born with green skin and different from other children right from the offset. I enjoyed discovering how she grew up and the teenage years at college slowly building friendships, her relationship with her sister and developing her personality. What surprised me was the level of activism and politics with Elphaba becoming involved in the Animal cause where talking animals were persecuted and killed.

For me it dipped in the middle with her relationship with Fiyero but picks up again as she travels to Vinkus seeking redemption for events possibly out of her control. We never do find out who leads the opposition or who the evil (or was she) Madame Morrible was working for and if certain prophesies ever came true..I would have liked to no more about her brother Shell. He was mentioned so little I’m not sure why he was even in the book at all. I would have liked closure on one or two little things and more about where the skin colour could have come from. I was pleased however to have an answer to one troubling question: if you’re allergic to water – how do you wash??

But I’m nit-picking. I enjoyed reading alternative viewpoints of such a well loved story. Right now I’m off to book tickets for the musical 🙂