I may be a 'little bit broken' but reconstruction is underway / Rebecca Jane column
'A little bit broken.'
This picture was taken four weeks ago, and frankly, it doesn’t match my attitude now. I wish it did. It seemed like the day after this picture was taken, I went into a downward spiral.
My darling marketing manager, Annabel, has been at my side for four years. At the beginning of last week we had to have a very honest conversation about the fact my mind was breaking… again. One of the first conversations to take place on the ‘Rebecca is struggling tour.'
‘Well RJ, it’s that time of year again isn’t it' was Annabel's reply… and it all made sense again.
She was right. Every year when the season changes from summer to autumn, I lose the plot.
I’ve had a couple of mental illness diagnoses over the last 20 years, but the one that swans into my rather lovely life causing turmoil and carnage every autumn is ‘complex post traumatic stress.'
Post traumatic stress is where someone has visual, mental and sensory flash backs to a traumatic period or event.
‘Complex post traumatic stress’ is where you don’t visually have flash backs, but the emotions flash back and traumatise your over and over again. Imagine reliving the emotions from worst day of your life, constantly.
Although, you don’t really know why you’re reliving them, or that you’re even reliving them!
You just think you’ve fallen off the edge of a cliff, your world is catastrophic and you often feel like life is an entire pointless existence. On the other hand, you can’t even explain to anyone what is wrong or why you’re crying!
The ‘I’m struggling tour’ had to begin when I’d cancelled all my weekend plans and spent 92% of the weekend in floods of tears, and I couldn’t tell you why. I couldn’t tell you what my name was, eat, go to a toilet or barely move.
Monday came around and I didn’t know how I was going to cope, so the tour began.
Our staff, my close friends, our trustees, family, friends and anyone else with significant impact on my life had tobe told because there’s only so many times you can cancel people, miss events, put things off, make apologies or generally be a shadow of your former self. To say nothing is nothing but detrimental to those around you and discounts their ability to help.
So how does this illness manifest and where has it come from?
For me, I went through a highly traumatic period and various events from the end of August until Feb, when I was 20 years old. When I feel the seasons change, the emotions come flooding back and I don’t know why, where they’re coming from or how to make them stop. The first year we realised this was happening to me, I honestly thought I was so far mentally gone I needed sectioning!
One minute I’m normal and laughing. The next, all of my emotions have gone and I feel nothing. Then one very fine example of how life currently is…
I was on the phone to a former client. I say client, I also regard the person as a friend and they have been an immense support to me this year. A truly understanding soul, who knows me and my insecurities well. Someone I truly admire and respect in business, and not someone I ever want to break down to…
We were having a normal work conversation, and then he says…‘Your voice isn’t ok, it’s not matching your words, are you ok?’
And off I went. Into 30 minutes of tears whilst HE counselled ME through it.
The ‘RJ is struggling tour’ has now concluded, all relevant people in my life are firmly aware and at the end of it, I don’t feel weak, because between us all we came up with a strategy.
We decided it was best I stop working with suicidal clients, we dished out some of my admin work, I’ve had numerous daily conversations with people who really help me, I've taken days off, I’ve gone easy on myself and there’s just a level of acceptance that right now, I have to lean on people around me and we know I’ll get better again at some point.
For anyone else feeling similar to myself. I would like you to think of one question. ‘What can I do to take the reigns of my situation?’. What is your strategy? Do you need help? If you’re afraid to ask or accept help, address the fear behind it. Together we can achieve greatness, but not a lot is achieved in isolation.
In the words of my Annabel… ‘you get through this every year RJ, and you’ll do it again.'
I’m saying this because I wouldn’t be the leader of a mental health organisation if I kept quiet. I’m human and I struggle too. Every time someone admits they’re struggling, a little bit of stigma is broken and one more person may feel they’re not alone. Being open and telling people ‘the weather has triggered me’ (which still sounds crackers in my head!) has opened up entirely new discussions. The amount of people who have said ‘me too!!’ has made me feel like I’m not cracking up alone. That is priceless.
Being mentally unwell doesn’t always mean the need to take yourself off the grid or out of the picture physically or mentally in work, at home or with friends. If everyone who was mentally unwell sat in a corner rocking every day, the world wouldn’t be able to function.
People can heal whilst still appearing to live normal lives. We may go out, we may nail a meeting, get every meal on the table, attend every parent event going - but it doesn’t mean we ‘have it all together.'
I’ve been undergoing some rather intense, but incredible training in trauma lately. Specifically how I can work with patients, when I personally still carry a lot of trauma. My tutor Janine Piccirella has so many wonderful insights, and this week she shared a quote from Najwa Zebian, which perfectly summed up my thoughts, feelings and gives a glimmer of hope for anyone currently healing, and trying to live in society like everything is normal.
‘You can be healing and feel broken at the same time. Healing isn’t a destination we reach where we’re perfect and at peace all the time. Healing is a journey that involves accepting and embracing ourselves as we break, as we heal and as we reconstruct.'
And on that note. My name is Rebecca. Right now, I’m a little bit broken.. but the reconstruction is underway. One day I still have hope that I will resolve the trauma that takes all the joy out of the beautiful autumn season and you’ll find me dancing in the leaves once again.
That will be the day I declare I’ve ‘healed.'
To those around me… I couldn’t do this without you. Thank you x