When I was able to do things like Walk again and leave the house after all those years, the world seemed absolutely massive. Even places I’d known all my life like my local shopping centre seemed to stretch on for miles (I did not grow up in a metropolis trust me) I could not find anything that seemed manageable-no matter how hard I looked.
For me, socialising was impossible. Being around people overwhelmed me. This was difficult as I’d always been very sociable and not exactly quiet. I could not even begin to try. So instead I decided to aim for independence. The job hunt began.
Looking back the sensible thing to do would have been to find a job in Newcastle, stay living with or near my family for a year or so, taken something low stress and worked up my hours gradually…unfortunately being sensible is not my strong suit. Instead I found a job in Sussex near absolutely no one I knew. It was as Head of Dept at a Prep School. The hours were insanely long and left me with no time at all to do anything except work. I chose it mainly for the great Health Care program they had. It’s clear to me now that I was basically waiting to get sick again.
The year I spent in Sussex was without doubt the hardest year of my life. Everything was a struggle. I was constantly tired, not very good at walking and permanently scared of being around so many people after all of that time in the house. Open spaces scared me as I didn’t know if I’d be ab;e to walk them, small spaces were frightening as I was so unused to the noise and activity. All of this combined with my being too afraid of food to eat anything-well you can imagine what I must have been like. I think probably the hardest thing of al was that no one I worked with knew what had happened. It took me such a long time to get to a place where I could talk about it to people. I can only imagine how I must have appeared to them.
I’m glad I did it though. I think one year of doing a job I never intended to do longterm, in a place I never intended to stay for long was a golden opportunity for me to re-socialise myself using massive amounts of trial and error. On the very rare occasion I do take myself back to that scary time of my life, it’s to show myself that the hardest part is definitely over.
I’m aware that the way I went about getting a J-O-B will not suit everyone. Many people prefer to enter the work-place again by volunteering a few hours a week in a charity shop, or working with a friend and building up gradually. I don’t think there can be a wrong way to do it-as long as it is your way. Nobody else can really fully understand what makes you comfortable, and doing a job you feel comfortable in will always be the easiest step as far as I’m concerned.
Remember it’s not a race, and it’s not a competition. There’s no need to push yourself further than you are ready to go. For me it was an acceptance that the first year or so was going to suck in a big, big way, (it was actually more like 18 months in the end)…then it would gradually get easier. But that was my expectation not yours. Maybe you will be in a better place ion a matter of weeks or months. It doesn’t have to be perfect right now, it just has to feel like progress…