Self Care

I've been seeing a lot do to with self care since the beginning of the year and it wasn't until recently that I finally understood what I needed to do. I thought self care was the basics like running yourself a lovely bubble bath, relaxing, treating yourself, eating right, exercising. How very limited that all seems now. I have been extremely unhappy for the past two years, to the point where I have lost friends, the approval of family members and although James and I are strong, it has caused strain and countless fall outs within our relationship. Everything came down to how much I despised my job. Grab yourself a cuppa and the biscuit tin because this is going to be a long one.

I had wanted to leave my job for at least two years and had spent the past 9 months seeking something to get me away from where I was working and had worked for the past 5 years. It was the kind of workplace that made me feel small, my confidence decreased by the day, I was lacking faith in myself and it was restricting. I won't name who they were other than multi-billion, international, confectionary and pet care product manufacturers and I have come to learn that often, the bigger the company the worse they behave. At first, I thought this was a 'safe job' and I would be there for many more years, if not a lifetime. It was the kind of place where if you played the system you could end up on a high paid salary with a fancy car, posh clothes and outstanding bonuses every year. 

However, it wasn't good for my health. Expectation was on the rise, resource was wearing thin, the animals in my care were stressed and I was constantly being told off for not having time to complete everything that was being asked of me and my team. My team and I were spoken to like children and I never felt as though I was treated as an adult. Each quarter during meetings with my manager, I was expected to present what extra projects I was bringing to the business and how I could 'develop' myself further to benefit them. Every day I felt sick to go in, I wanted my days off more than anything but found when they arrived, I didn't want them anymore because it meant being closer to the start of a brand new 6 day week and I would have to drag myself through further hours of torture. I knew I was stressed and my anxiety was out of control, but it took physical symptoms for me to start taking seriously what my work place was doing to me.

It started with the mood swings and the contribution to my anxiety. With that, depression crept back into my life after years of not suffering that heavily. My hair started falling out, in clumps whilst in the shower and every time I brushed it. I then lost interest in most foods, I had to force feed myself, not actually enjoying 90% of anything I ate. Then I avoided food, because even looking at it made me feel terribly sick, so I started drinking nutritional shakes again to try and get anything into my body. My skin errupted and I started getting Pompholyx on my hands which are little blisters that make your skin sore and can lead to infections. I started getting ice pick headaches, sharp, extremely painful stabbings down the right hand side of my head and down to my neck. When I started getting the symptoms for ice pick headaches, I thought I was having a stroke; they caused one side of my face to go numb and I couldn't speak or move properly. When the stress was at an all time high, my vision would blur and I couldn't do simple maths or remember basic words. On top of all this, I was miserable, irritable and generally not a nice person. I tried so hard to remain a good friend, colleague and most importantly wife and Mum to my own dogs but I just didn't have the patience or energy. I'm ashamed to admit it now, but suicidal thoughts crossed my mind every single day.

I lost count the amount of times James demanded I handed my notice in but the thought of struggling for money and potentially turning my back on my responsibilities filled me with even more dread. I've been running my Etsy shop for two years now and as much as I would have loved to take the big leap and run it full time, I've never been much a risk taker. I began to weigh up in my head which was healthier and less of a struggle. Staying where I was on an okay wage, feeling like I'd failed every single day and being treated like rubbish, or taking the plunge and possibly struggling for money for a few months but overall being happier. 

I was also on a shitty rota pattern which meant most weeks I worked 6 days and had 2 off. I had the occasional 5 day week and then 3 off but they were few and far between and didn't make much difference to recovering ready for a fresh new week. Because of how the rota fell, I was also working most weekends which as less stressful as they were due to no management being in watching you all the time, I didn't get to spend time with my husband or my family. All of my team were constantly down, worn out, stressed and looking for other jobs themselves. If I had stayed at my workplace, I would be working over Christmas yet again. Over 6 Christmas', I will have only ever had one of them off work and over this time, I've lost two Grandad's and valuable family time that I'll never get back. When I say I worked Christmas, I mean the full three days and I wasn't allowed to book them off. To top off the holiday booking system, staffing was that shite that I wasn't allowed to take any holiday from March all the way through to October this year so any chance of a few days away were scrapped instantly. I was getting more and more desperate and clinging on to what I felt were the last few fragments of my sanity.

I handed my notice in during the first week of May and it was without a doubt one of the scariest things I've ever had to do. I stood outside my bosses office shaking with fear waiting for her to finish a phone call and ended up waiting for half an hour, but as much as I hated the place I still felt like the decent thing to do was to hand my notice in face to face. Leaving it on her desk or sending it via email just didn't seem human enough for me and I wanted her to see how broken I was being made to feel. No matter how badly someone or something treats you, always try to be kind and treat them better than they did you. Something that gave me some confidence however was at my workplace, people were being made redundant and whilst it didn't happen much, it still confirmed for me that even a 'safe job' isn't 100% safe. Obviously I didn't want people being made redundant, but it gave me courage to take back control of my own future and take a huge leap of faith.

So what's the plan now? I don't yet have another job to go to and that scares me a lot. However, I now have the chance to go full throttle with my illustration work and my blog and I'm going to see where it takes me. It is something I've wanted to do for a very long time and it was always the long term plan - it's a huge scary step but one I know is in the right direction. Self care isn't just pampering and eating right. Sometimes people and environments can be poisonous and make you feel like you're trapped inside a tiny box. You are not. No matter how hard it may seem, kick the walls of that box down and dream big. Someone once said to me if your dream doesn't scare you, it isn't big enough. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Anything is possible. Do what you need to do. I know sometimes it seems like it'll never happen and trust me, I've been there and felt trapped and helpless for many, many months. If it means biding your time then that may need to happen, but try as much as you can to put your health first.

Since leaving my job, I've had chance to reflect on myself and what I really want out of life. I've been exercising, eating better, spending more time on my illustration work and more importantly, my family. I've been reading again, baking, taking my dogs for long, country walks and even painting my nails. Little things like this that I never had the motivation to do. It's only been three weeks that I've been away from it all, but already I feel inner peace building inside of me and I am incredibly proud of myself for having the faith and courage to do what is right for my health. I want to spend more time appreciating nature, creating art and reaching out to you guys. Life isn't all about money - it will never buy happiness.

Thank you for reading,



6 comments

  1. I can really identify with everything you've said here. Well done on taking the plunge! Self care has as much to do with changing something in your life in order to make you happier so you can cherish those typical self care things like baths and face masks! I came out of a horrid job last year, and I needed time to put myself first. Finally I feel back on track and ready to make the next steps :) Good luck with your illustrations, even if it's not forever, it means the world to be able to do what you love instead of answering to shitty bosses!

    Kirstie | www.behindthescent.co.uk

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    1. Thanks Kirstie! It's so comforting to know I wasn't alone in feeling like my job was destroying me. I've only been gone a month and I feel SO much better already x x

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  2. Good for you. I'm so so sorry you had such a tough time of things. I know what you mean about the bigger companies.
    I'm so excited to see all the things you do with your blog and your shop, you're so talented <3
    Hels xx

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    1. Thankyou that means a lot! x x

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  3. We spend so much time at work that having it as a stressful environment can have such a terrible impact on our lives :( So many places nowadays have a toxic atmosphere, and in the long run they'll only have themselves to blame when productivity crashes and staff turnover soars.

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    1. Never a truer word spoken! That's exactly how my work place was - no one wanted to be there and since I left last month, 3 more followed haha x x

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