Monday, 22 August 2016

My values... Just incase you were wondering

Following on from my last post, just incase you were wondering, here are my values. Definitely a worth while exercise to un-pick your own. See my post "Hopelessness vs U happiness" for instructions on how to unpick them.

 1) Freedom- Free to express myself, freedom of responsibility at times, freedom of choice, freedom of taste, free to be me.

2) Stability- Stable home, stable relationship. Where I want to be.

3) Trust- Honesty, integrity, trust in responsibility, trust in my relationships.

4) Creativity- Making things, writing, able to use my artistic eye.

5) Space- Personal and mental space and distance

6) love and nurturing- to be loved, looked after, cared for, appreciated, to love with passion.

7) Purpose- Need to strive, need to grow, make a difference.

8) Independence- Be in control of me, my life, determination.

9) variety- Things not being too samey

10) Connections- communication, intimacy, socialising, friends

11) Fun and Enjoyment- light of heart, humour

12) Success- Producing, writing, creating things for people, a desire to be well received.

And after looking at my values a few times, I felt that something was missing. I get really angry when the house is a mess, when things don't look neat and tidy, or even when things just look plain and dowdy. At first, I thought that the value was "perfectionism" but I then realised that I often find beauty in broken, misplaced or tired things. That's when I realised that the missing value was "beauty."

13) Beauty- a need for things to look nice, appealing to the eye, interesting, something to admire.

The definitions just help me understand what each value means to me, you may have the same value but it could mean something entirely different to you.

It really has helped me enjoy life a bit more to focus more on what I value in life, something that appears so simple can make all the difference.

Hopelessness vs Unhappiness

I'm writing this post largely for myself, to gain a better understanding of where I'm at mentally; I could have just written it in my private journal, but thought it might be something others can take from too.

Shortly after my daughter was born I felt utterly hopeless; I had no zest for life anymore, the days passed by as one big, hefty blur, I hated myself and everyone else around me and I was struggling to deal and make sense of my emotions. Seeking help from mental health charity, Mind was by far the best decision I could have made in aiding my recovery. My mental health improved hugely as I embraced the weekly 1:1 counselling sessions with a wonderful counsellor who gave a safe place to share all of my feelings, worries and fears. The mental state and turmoil I was experiencing was no doubt a product of mental illness associated with post-natal depression, although I believe this began during my pregnancy.

Once I had completed a counselling programme with Mind I felt much, much better. I returned to work from my maternity leave around this time last year in relatively good spirits and felt ready to take on my new life as both mum and teacher. The first couple of months were tough, but I was feeling strong and I was performing very well in the classroom, achieving "outstanding" in my lesson observations and producing good results.

Then, at around Christmas time last year, I began recognising similar feelings of  discomfort. My daughter had suffered several bouts of illness, my boyfriend had a recurring chronic infection which was making him poorly, resulting in him needing time off work and I was sometimes going to work and teaching children on little more than 2 hours of sleep.

I was at breaking point.

Christmas came and went and I hated every second as I didn't have the energy for people, for present buying and for pretending that I was happy. Because I wasn't, I really wasn't happy,

With a higher awareness of my mental health following my issues with PND, I made the decision to seek out a private counsellor to help me build myself back up again. I thought it may only take a few sessions of talking therapy, of me getting to the route of my feelings to put me back on track. However, quite a few sessions and 3 counsellors later, I was feeling no better, I certainly didn't feel "hopeless" as I had in the PND days, but I still couldn't understand why I wasn't "happy."

Until I met with a friend for a coffee (ok an apple juice, I don't drink coffee or tea....  bleurgh) and she told me about a "life coach" she had been seeing. It wasn't counselling, but about working out what you want in life and getting to know yourself more. I made no hesitation in making the call.

I have now had around 5 or 6 sessions of "life coaching" and it has been truly life changing, just as counselling had been life changing for me when I'd needed that. On speaking to my life coach about my lack of recent success with counselling, she explained that there is only so far counselling can go and I now realise that I was ready for the "next stage" in getting my life on track. First of all, my life coach and I have been working on me, working out who I am and what I want from life. This is actually much more difficult than it sounds as expectations, other priorities, other people and busy lives often get in the way of getting to know and understand ourselves.

Our first task was to uncover my values. My life coach explained to me that people often become dis-satisfied with their lives when they're not living life in accordance with their values; our values are what makes us who we are and we're all different. They're made up of genetic and environmental factors, we can't change them, they're just who we are. The way to uncover a value is by looking at what makes you really happy or what makes you feel extremely angry; look at where your passions lie. When values are hindered, it affects our emotions.

We uncovered 12 values during our session.

Looking at my values, I could see exactly why I'd been feeling unhappy, aside from the sleep deprivation and juggling teaching alongside motherhood, I was not honouring my values in many ways. Sometimes, it can't be helped straight away when many of your values are being hindered, but making small adjustable changes can make the world of difference. One value that we discovered was being majorly hindered was my value for creativity. I wasn't making the time to write enough, I wasn't creating or producing artwork (a hobby I dip in and out of) and teaching was stifling my creativity. It was the creative lessons, displays and projects that I gushed about during my session with the life coach and yet most of my time as a teacher is spent inputting mind-numbing data, getting into psychological wars with teachers and pupils alike and ticking boxes (metaphorically speaking). It was no wonder I was feeling low since returning to work as a teacher, whilst trying to be a good mum.

Since then, I've been reflecting on my values regularly, ensuring that I'm honouring them as best I can and that doesn't mean 100% as every day life doesn't always allow for it and I'm feeling much better. I've accepted me and what I'm all about, I know what I need to do to feel happier and I'm not "really happy" yet but I am happier and that is great.

Sometimes life is shit and we feel massively shit and hopeless; that is depression as I remember it. But when we're unhappy, it doesn't necessarily mean that we' re depressed and in need of medical intervention, sometimes we just need to look at our values and ask ourselves whether we're living our lives in accordance with who we truly are. It sounds quite wise reading this paragraph back again, but believe me, until life coaching, I hadn't a clue about any of this! But it's one of the most valuable lessons I've learned, value your values!

Monday, 15 August 2016

The No-napper

Friends with children older than my daughter have spoken about the disappearance of nap-time and the impact this subsequently has on the day. I've empathised greatly with the thought of no toddler nap to pull myself together half way through the day, but I've also thought that I have atleast a few months of nap times to enjoy before they're gone altogether. This thought has been based on my own comprehensive study which consisted of asking loads of friends and family members with children at what age their nap times ceased to exist.
2.5 years was the average.

I have tried to think about how I'm actually going to pull myself together half way through the day when my daughter decides to stop sleeping after her lunch time and I have failed to think of a solution. On that, I've then drawn the conclusion that I don't need to worry about it just yet as I have around 6 months of nap times left to enjoy, based on the average of my comprehensive study.

With this in mind and 6 weeks of summery nap times to enjoy, I've planned activities to fit around nap time, even split the day in to 2 halves so that my boyfriend and I can enjoy our own free time. We even planned in nap time dates for ourselves which included wine lunches, long walks and even naps for ourselves. Our daughter has been following a predictable nap time pattern for almost 12 months now, it's not likely to change just yet, we thought.

Wrong again.

Having just turned 2, my little one has decided that day time naps are no longer for her. I am learning more and more to expect nothing where little ones are concerned; the minute you think you've Sussed them out or mapped out their routine to fit your own needs, they just laugh in your face and change everything.

I'm not ready to lose nap time. I haven't thought up my contingency plan, I don't know how to keep going non-stop with Mr Tumble ringing through my ears all day, or not being able to leave the room to take a well-earned toilet break without piercing screams or demands for my attention, I don't know if I have it in me to spend the entire day making silly noises and speaking toddler-speak without a break to communicate with adults at some point during the day.

I feel tired just thinking about it.

I'm not ready to lose nap time. My read-a-chapter time, my private lunch time, my social media binge time, my Netflix time. It's not fair. I'm not ready. I find myself hoping that this is just a phase, that nap time isn't over for good, but I've also learned that where children are concerned, the least you expect, the least likely you are to be disappointed....

Monday, 8 August 2016

Potty Un-training

As my boyfriend and I have "6 weeks off" we thought it might be a good idea to get our 2 year old potty trained 'ready' for our return to the teaching-Pit in September, when neither of us will have the time or energy to apply our minds to anything remotely difficult. The down side to this is that our time "off" becomes a bit of a slog, although this realisation has only dawned on us within the last few days.

The first 2 days of potty training went extremely well, our little star was pooing and weeing on the potty like a potty trooper and we were sharing the good news with anyone who would listen.

Then it stopped.

The novelty of the potty wore off and we have been trying to sell our house whilst masking the odours of urine on the carpet of our lounge with anything strong enough to battle it. There's been the emptying the contents of the potty on the carpet incident, the pooing on the floor incident, the splashing in the wee incidents-a-plenty, the wee on the potty through the pants incidents atleast 6 times a day and the constant weeing. She doesn't stop weeing, every 10 minutes she needs a wee. Inbetween the every 10 minutes Our Shining Star isn't weeing, she's telling us that she needs a wee and we're waiting patiently for her to do one.

We're knackered.

Pull-ups are great. We'll do the potty thing for a couple of hours, then nip out for a while with our Potty Trooper in pull-ups with the intention of asking her whether she wants a wee every hour or so, but we quite happily forget and let her happily wee herself in her pull-ups; it's a blissful time for us. We don't mention it to each other either and just gladly let it happen. Ignorance is bliss.

Friday, 5 August 2016

The Potters Wheel

As part of my Summer 2016 plan to be more selfish and organise less "family-friendly" activities, I've joined a pottery group. I've actually been on the list to join the class for around 5 months; they only have a handful of places which have proven to be extremely popular, with some members never leaving!

I felt extremely lucky to get an email offering me a place.

Being a creative person, I attended my first class naively, with a spring in my step, thinking that I would morph into a natural potter over night and within months maybe buy my own potters wheel and begin making beautiful, little pieces of handmade pottery to sell. I envisioned a website, lots of instagram followers and a pathway out of teaching... hooray!


I was greeted by Master Potter with a question "Have you done this before?"
I boasted about the lovely bowl I'd made at a pottery day at a Wedgewood factory some months ago. He laughed at me and smiled, "Ok, well watch me and then have a go at making that bowl again."

It seemed so easy, watching him massage the clay with his hands, creating defined shapes within seconds, his body and expression so at ease with his work. I couldn't wait to crack on and create my bowl.

Move over Master Potter, let me show you what I can do.

My first mistake was covering the clay in water before I'd even had chance to throw it on to the wheel, miserably and pathetically it slid right off the wheel and Master Potter laughed in delight "first lesson: we throw the clay on dry." Blushing, I retrieved my second piece of clay and threw it onto the wheel and began cranking up the speed using the foot pedal, only my foot wasn't positioned properly and Master Potter had to stop me once again. His brash, sarcastic, yet friendly demeanour had me feeling a little anxious at this point and I knew I was about to make plenty of laughable mistakes. Master Potter stayed close by to save the clay from drowning amongst many other harmful creative things I did to it and in the end, we collectively produced a goblet shaped piece of clay. Ok, Master Potter produced a goblet shaped piece of clay, despite the incompetent contributions I made.

"Try again now, by yourself" said Master Potter and so I did with a nervous, shaky confidence.
"Tea, coffee?" He asked.

"Do you do water?" I asked nervously and pathetically, regretting the ridiculous question before I'd spoken the final syllable.

" It's amazing, water comes out of the tap right behind you!" Responded Master Potter. I knew I was going to like him, but not yet, because at this point, I thought Master Potter was a dick.

I didn't manage to create another piece of pottery and I was glad to be taken off the wheel to have a go at hand moulding the clay. There were other potters doing the same thing, all avoiding the wheel for similar reasons to my own.

I left my first pottery class feeling a bit stupid. Pottery making is a wonderful but very specialised skill and I saw many talented potters creating the most beautiful shapes out of clay with ease; I felt as though I was a million miles away from what they were achieving. I hope Master Potter can chuckle at my naivety, although I'm guessing he's seen it before. I feel daunted about my next class, worried that I'll never be able to quite grasp the art of pottery, worried that I'll settle for making clay shapes with my hands (another wonderful skill) but that's not the reason I started the class in the first place. Most of all, I hope I can make mistakes without falling to pieces (a bit like my clay creations)!