Monday, 22 August 2016

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!

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