Thursday, 9 July 2015

So, the work life balance.....

Two posts in three months - I'm really spoiling you!

I thought I had better explain what has happened work wise - to go from a workaholic control freak managing a team of 8 people to a one day a week auctioneer/marketing consultant is a big step! Not necessarily a step down, but the gap is still huge.

From about this time last year (my daughter's first sports day, to be precise), I was in a bit of a mess - right through to Christmas, when I pretty much fell apart.

Having had a life changing event such as cancer, there is SO much pressure to get everything back to normal, be it work, home, children, lifestyle etc and the feeling that I had to get through everything and "beat the bastard cancer" possibly even fueled me to be more than I was before.

Not surprisingly, this took a bit of a toll on my mental health and well being, and during the latter end of 2014 I wasn't enjoying life very much - was stressed out at work and home - didn't really enjoy any facet of my life, which is exactly the opposite of what should happen to anyone, regardless of whether they have had cancer or not.

So, in December - and I can't really pinpoint what set it off, I cracked. Just slightly, but enough that my work appraisal ended up with me as a sobbing wreck. You're probably rolling your eyes at me, but with the state I was in, the question: "Where do you see yourself in 12 months time?", was one that could only be answered with: "I just want to be alive/not diagnosed with cancer again". 

Melodramatic - maybe, but I was in a place where on almost a daily basis, I was planning what my funeral might be like. Not. Good. 

Fortunately I had an appointment with my GP the next day (which I sobbed through), and she basically told me, in a stiff German accent, that I was clearly putting too much pressure on myself (moi, surely not!) and had got to the stage where I was making myself depressed. So, I walked out with a prescription for anti-depressants.

Now, you know how much I like taking pills (not), so over the Christmas break I re-evaluated my life, and though I hate the cliche, I "took stock". 

When was the last time I truly enjoyed spending time with my children? Not for some considerable time. Ditto, really, my husband. Work was work - frustrating and rewarding all at once, but I didn't feel that I was in a place where I could do myself and it any justice. 

My in-laws are spending a lot of time out of the country, (Brother in-law issues, don't ask!!) so we were short staffed on the farm, and my husband just couldn't do the level of childcare that he had been doing so I was having to try and cram everything in as well as school runs, which of course meant I wasn't at work as much as I should have been, which is not ideal when you are managing a team of people. 

So, when I went back to work in January I had a plan. As much as I love(d) my job, I was not in a position to be everything that it needed me to be, therefore I had to either leave, or scale back dramatically. I am very lucky that my employers are very supportive and still see me as an integral part of the long term structure of the firm, but for now it is pressure that I do not need, so I have been able to step back to part time. I'm still doing the auctioneering and the marketing for the auctions, but I'm not managing the staff and the auction rooms, which is a load off my mind. They are a wonderful team, but I have two children and a husband at home to keep organised - I can't look after everyone.

It's quite a big thing to admit, that you can't do everything. I'm not very good at "failure". But, having had a long think about it, I haven't really failed - I've passed the baton at work onto someone else who has got the time to put into the business, and I now have the opportunity to "not fail" at being a wife and mother. Let's face it - these are far more important roles in the grand scheme of things.

It has been a huge adjustment - everything happened in March, and in honesty I don't think I have fully adjusted yet. I do miss the buzz of work, and the people, but I would almost certainly have had a nervous breakdown by now. 

I haven't taken any of the anti-depressants, and I'm a lot less likely to burst into tears than I was, which is a massive improvement although shares in Kleenex have gone down in value.

I am finally getting to spend more time with my husband and children, and we are all still talking to each other, which is good! Caring for two small people is still very stressful and hard work, but not having to work until midnight to make up for "lost time" is a huge bonus. I am also getting to ride my lovely young horse on a more regular basis, which I am loving, and we have even been out to our first dressage competition! 

I still don't have time to do everything I want to do, but hey - who does?! At least I'm a lot less stressed about it.

So, that's what has happened to my career, in a sort of a nutshell. Yes, I regret the feeling that I might have thrown it all away, but I had to choose having a life over the career.

Apparently, this sort of "episode" is totally normal after having cancer. It feels the exact opposite of normal - perhaps we should start saying that it is not "uncommon" to experience stress and to feel concerned about how to get back to a "more normal" routine" following what feels like endless treatments and follow up visits. 

One does tend to feel "abandoned" or "let loose" which is disconcerting, once you're out of the regular 3 weekly trips to hospital. What comes next? Annual check ups. What can you do in the meantime? Be vigilant - check your body for changes, or any warning sign that might save your life. 

It's kind of like being on Defcon 4 rather than Defcon 5. It would be wonderful to be able to go back to the days of being Defcon 1 on a bad day, but it is impossible. 

Three years ago, nearly, I started down this road. Probably, I had made the appointment to see my GP (which I nearly cancelled), and was feeling stressed about the fact I would be 45 mins late to work afterwards. What a wally. Ignorance was such bliss.

On a good day, I can nearly forget that I have had cancer, and that is definitely progress. 

It is still hard though, not to let having had it be something that guides my decisions over how to live my life. Sometimes, don't get me wrong, it can be a good thing - accepting an invitation that you wouldn't have accepted before for example, but at other times the responsibility to not waste the time, the life, that I have been given is so huge it nearly crushes me. 

After all, I don't know how long I have left, do I? It could be that I never hear the "C" word again. Let's bloody hope so anyway.

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