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Adventures in High-Speed Living

5 Nov

So much has changed in the three months since my last post…

I handed my thesis in.

I got married.

I had my ‘Viva’

I became a ‘Home Owner’

I made my ‘Major Amendments’ in 48 hours

I qualified as a Doctor in Clinical Psychology

I moved to Kent

And finally…I started my first job as a Clinical Psychologist!

During these months there has been NO ‘time-off’ and, with the exception of the wedding, no real celebration of all that has been achieved.  There simply hasn’t been time to sit back and ponder.

I thought that once the course was over I would be able to step off the ‘rollercoaster’, the fast-crazy-caffiene-induced-must-keep-going-despite-being-knackered-body-is-falling-apart-don’t-have-time-to-care lifestyle.

It hasn’t been quite that simple.

I finished my course on friday the 28th of september, moved to Kent and started my new job on monday the 1st of october.  I negotiated my new hour-long commute from Rochester to Canterbury and landed in my new job totally disoriented to time, place, person and role.  I felt like I had just been thrown off a high-speed train into a foreign country where, suddenly people think I’m some kind of expert while I feel like my brain has been wiped clean and can’t quite understand why people seem to have such high expectations of me.

I thought I would have lots of time in the evenings and at weekends to relax, blog, finish craft projects, bake etc…

It hasn’t happened, I have found endless household tasks and preparations for work that must be done.  I have been grumpy.  I have been exhausted.

I also still need a holiday, a honeymoon  and time to unpack my house and take stock.  I need to drink less alcohol and re-learn the art of relaxation.

So, after a month in my new job…

here I am.

I am having a week off…

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The Little Things

6 Jul

I thought I would share some of the Things that have made me happy this week….

1) Getting the data in
yes it required driving to London. But. I. Have. It!

2) Getting Down To It
Yes; actually writing my results section. It’s not finished. But it’s a good way through.

3) Breakfast
I know this is becoming a re-occurring theme in my blog but having only recently re-started eating breakfast and Discovering bacon and maple syrup this has got to be worth an entry!

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Which leads me nicely on to my next happy thing…

4) Double Yolk Eggs
I bought a box of extra large eggs… All of which have been double yolkers! Perfect for dipping!

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Not to mention perfect comfort food!

5) Wholesome Soup
I have been trying to eat better; mostly by adding lots of veg. I figure that if I make sure I eat a pile of veg, anything else I eat doesn’t really matter. I also don’t have time to cook or sit down and make a proper event of a meal. So I made the biggest vat of sweet potato, butternut squash, celeriac, courgette, butter bean and cabbage soup ever! (I also threw in a pack of bacon as ‘seasoning’). This has kept me feeling healthyish all week…

6) Phone Calls
Making the time to stop and talk! Feeling Heard. Feeling Supported. Being Acknowledged. Offers of Help. Thank You to my lovely friend and mother.

7) Relaxed Puppies
When I take a short break from studying I go and look at the pups. I swear their calmness is contagious…

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Not only is their calmest contagious… But their joy…

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8) A New Toy
Yes it is filled with doggy treats… Hours of entertainment!

9) A Good Looking Correlation Matrix

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My thesis results are turning out to be pretty meaningless, largely due to a lack of statistical power. Anyway. I made this table and wondered at it’s beauty. Then I tried to sleep and couldn’t. Then I decided I needed an evening off.

10) An Evening Off
The pups and I met D in the forest as he finished work. He bought me flowers and whisky (yeah I had run out!). The pups ran, scampered and frolicked. Then I spotted these dudes…

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Teeny-Tiny-Baby-FrogsAWESOME.
I came home,drank Pimms and am writing this post as D cooks me a proper meal.

Things aren’t so bad
I hope something made you happy this week

To Cope or Not to Cope

30 Jun

So this post has been a long time in the making.  I have been thinking about it a lot and wondering if any one will even read it, being as it has taken me so long!

So, life is busy…

It’s crazy…

As I write I’m aware I don’t want this to sound like a sob story I’m aware that I am a very lucky person with lots of things to be grateful for…

But I am stressed!

I am writing a Thesis, which should have been finished months ago,  this is largely out of my control as I wait for data to come in.  Deadline is end of July.

I am planning a wedding,  Did I mention we are getting married? No?  End of August!  This was meant to allow plenty of time between Thesis and Wedding as Mr Thesis was due at the end of April.  I was meant to be spending this time solely on WEDDING PLANNING  sadly, it didn’t happen, now I am doing both.

D and I are buying a house, In Rochester… This is awesome… We both have jobs to move into and are finally going to own a house together… but…. see above(!).

I am also holding a full case load on my new placement.  My current clients either have a Dementia, Huntington’s Disease or Brain Injury.  I like them. I like the placement.  I just don’t have the time or the head space for it!  Some of our clients have forensic (i.e. offending) histories so are in locked or secure wards, this doesn’t bother me. However, my supervisor and her colleague are both pregnant so are no longer allowed on the wards.  This means that I am taking on (some of) their case loads in addition to my own.

So… Something had to give….

It’s ended up being my evenings.  After a period of dread, followed by a period of bereavement.  I have gotten over this.  I realise that if I’m going to work, write my thesis, plan a wedding and sort stuff out for buying a house as well as the usual housework, dog walking, cooking etc there is NO space for anything else.  There isn’t really space for all of the above.

And that’s where the Coping Question comes in.

Can I cope?

I have historically had  a belief that my ability to cope was somehow inferior to that of others.  I would become tearful, depressed, stop eating, maybe hurt myself and ultimately STOP doing the things I was meant to be doing.

This changed during my degree,  I realised, somehow that, if I kept going, ate what I needed to, resisted hurting myself and was relatively kind to myself I could keep going, and going, and going.

This was a useful lesson. It taught me that for me, coping was a choice. Jung  (I think) once wrote that mental illness was an escape from legitimate suffering.  And in my own personal (not professional) experience it has been.  and here we have the difference (for me) between Stress and Depression.

At the times I have become depressed, the suffering has not been worth the end goal.

At the times I have been stressed, the suffering may have been just as bad but there has been a tangible end goal that looked worth the bother.  This has kept me going despite the suffering.

And this is why I chose to cope.

Because if I get through this I will have a proper, well paid job, doing something I am passionate about.  I will have a beautiful wedding. I will be married to the man I love, who loves me for who I am, despite my current foul mood.  We will have a three bedroom house near the river, a reasonable income, maybe some foreign holidays. We will have a guest room , with no other purpose other than to always be ready for house guests, there will be matching towels and saucepans with copper bottoms. We will walk the puppies on the nearby nature reserve.  I will make the garden beautiful. I will plant a magnolia tree.  I will crotchet dog coats and lace curtains.  We will stroll down the river in to the town, where there will be proper pubs serving real ale, Pimms and bar food.  I will cook delicious, nutritious meals, bake cakes and brew beer.  We will try for babies, we will decorate a nursery and enjoy our time together.

And this is why I am lucky, this is why I chose to cope, because any amount of suffering is worth it for those things.

I am mindful that I also have more support now than I ever had in the past.  My family, D’s family, my friends including my course colleagues are fantastic. D is a rock.  The puppies are so beautiful I could cry.

I chose Life, I chose suffering

The two are not exclusive.

I chose, one day soon, just to be. To hold back on all this ‘striving’ and be in the moment. Not living for the future. For things that might happen.

But for now I need to look six months ahead to an easier time.  I need to take the small stuff where I can. I need to do whatever it is I need to do to make it.

I need to remember:

Crying at work is OK! Psychologists aren’t meant to be scared of emotions! Just having them and carrying on.

Letting D do whatever he is able to take on around the house.

Not being perfect. HELL – my mind is on so many things I’m barely in one place at a time, I’m not going to be my best.

Not caring what other people think (today I ran down the street in my pyjamas after the post man).

To eat! whatever it is! Without worrying about it… there are more important things.

To have compassion for my self and for everyone else.

To plant some daisies in the back garden.

To walk the dogs.

To drink some Pimm’s (just not during the day).

To keep dreaming about the wedding, the house and the future. Just for now.

A Belated Easter Post

21 Apr

I started writing this post over Easter and thought I would try to write a seasonal one for you all (I’m sorry it’s late!).  I have had a busy time thesis writing, I wanted to get as much done as possible before I started my new clinical placement. Fortunately, the lack of blogging and the persistent slogging has paid off and I’ve written pretty much all I can untill I start getting the results of my experiment in.

Unfortunately, I pretty much missed easter altogether!

In England Easter is a bizarre and fantastic conglomeration of  the Pagan celebration of new life, the Christian marking of the death and rebirth of Christ and blatant consumerism.  To celebrate I usually make a cake; a simnel cake to be precise, which is a medium-light fruit cake with a layer of marzipan baked into it, it is our favorite but really should only be served at Easter.  I really missed the simnel cake but I did allow myself to make some easter nests!  Which were scrummy:

They are just made with crushed shredded wheat cereal and melted dairy milk chocolate, mixed up and squished into nest shapes where you place your little mini eggs. Leave to set in the fridge.  Not exactly high brow…

Well…

Untill you serve them with this:

Yes…

That would be a peaty single malt whisky

Yum!

Had I have been at my mother’s house for Easter, food would have been of central importance.  It still was here, only not so fancy! At my Mum’s we would have had fish on good friday and a roast dinner on Easter sunday (probably lamb- but not necessarily).  D does not eat meat so there is little point in cooking a roast dinner in this house.  We were able, however, to have fish on the friday.  This took the form of a smoked mackerel salad:

I know it’s a ‘salad’!

This always puts us off too, untill I actually make it and realise how ‘yum’ it is.

I think the recipe came out of one of my mum’s magazines years ago, I can’t remember where and I have probably sufficiently altered it for it not to matter too much.  It’s basically a bag of mixed leaves (preferably something peppery); sliced radishes; sliced Gherkins; Smoked, peppered mackerel and new potatoes.  I make a seriously unhealthy dressing by mixing mayonnaise with grated horseradish (or horseradish sauce) and lemon juice.  No measuring involved just to taste.  The flavours are fantastic= Smoky fish, tart gherkins, peppery radishes/leaves and the freshness of the lemon= Grand!  We washed this down with a few pints of homemade Woodfordes Wherry, a Dark Ale which didn’t seem to disagree with the fish as much as you might expect.

For Easter sunday we went with a cheats ‘toad in the hole’.  I’m ashamed to say I bought the (boat-shaped) yorkshire puddings and just added meaty sausages to mine and veggie sausages to D’s, served with gravy, Kale and mashed potato neither of us minded too much!

And that was our easter,  I hope yours was more seasonal and I look forward to a time when I can embrace public holidays and celebrations again! (maybe then you will get to see my simnel cake!).

Happy weekend!

 

 

 

How to Write a Thesis

22 Mar

My Thesis, or ‘Mr Thesis’ as he has become known, is currently dominating my life. I am on study leave until mid-April for the sole purpose of him. Writing is painful, or rather, not writing is painful! I seem to have moments of brilliance punctuated by eternities of mind-curdling-gut-wrenching-soul-destroying-life-is-pointless-no-you-can’t-leave-the-computer awfulness.

As such I thought I would share the things that are getting me through…

1. Coffee

I managed to persuade my long-suffering partner that a coffee machine was a Good Idea… Well… It was. Every morning at 7am it makes me 8 cups of the finest caffeinated loveliness. And that caffeinated loveliness sits there, staying warm until I get downstairs at approximately 7:10am. It is much easier to get out of bed when you know the coffee is made and waiting for you.
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2. Puppy Walks in the Park

It is much easier to walk two pups when you have a helper. D leaves for work at 8 so we go walkies at 7:30. This solves three problems: 1) it prevents later procrastination regarding when to walk the dogs; 2) it provides another reason to get out of bed and 3) it provides a non-thesis-related start to the day.

3. A Proper Breakfast

Both research and old wives tales suggest breakfast is a pretty important meal. I was swayed away from my usual non-existent-maybe-eat-a-biscuit-in-the-car first meal of the day by both the realisation that I had more time in the morning and discussion of breakfast fantasies with one of my fellow thesis writers. She described a sweet potato, cinnamon, bacon and egg hash which set my digestive mind on fire. I had to do it. I figured that I would probably consume fewer calories over the course of the day, boost my metabolism, start the day feeling satisfied and, most importantly still sit down to write at 9. I also thought that cooking my self a nice breakfast would be a good self compassionate thing to do (this is especially true if you have the core belief that food=love). Unfortunately, my metabolism isn’t what I had hoped and those pounds started piling on so I am now alternating cooked breakfasts with oat bran porridge to compensate!

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4. Specific but Flexible Aims

I am a slave to the Planning Fallacy I love lists, timetables, diaries and tick boxes, they make me happy… Only they don’t. I have ruined my day by not meeting my goal, and falling behind on my schedule for success too many times. Bollocks to it, I have resolved to only plan what I am doing next. I have replaced my to do with a have achieved list. Much Better. I still have a timetable-wait-several timetables but aside from other commitments and fun things I only fill it in for the day, if that. Goals for the day get bigger or smaller depending on my motivation levels and productivity.

5. A Little bit of CBT

On one particularly poor motivation/ productivity day a friend pointed out that I should step away from the computer and do something menial and easy, but that would give me a high sense of achievement. It worked, I went and threw out the old pants in my underwear drawer and made it all tidy and nice. It took all of 10 minutes and made me feel successful! I went back to the computer and had a much more productive day as a result.

6. A lot of CFT

I am someone who is motivated by achievement, I like tick boxes filled and items on To Do lists struck off. Unfortunately achievement has long been a condition of worth and a search for external validation rather than as the result of a self-actualising process. I have previously relied on self-criticism as a way of achieving. It turns out that this works! You can get quite a long way in this life without ever actually being nice to yourself. You just don’t enjoy getting there! So, somewhat unsurprisingly I was dreading getting down to thesis writing. I envisaged hours…wait…months of self-torture, feeling inadequate and denial of nice things. All of this, for the eventual minimisation of any real achievement and feeling that I had lost months of my life to misery. Why bother?

I have been learning about and even teaching self-compassion to staff and clients on my clinical placement. I had started practicing compassionate mind exercises in my day-to-day life with some positive results. However, I realised that to do away with self-criticism in favour of self-compassion in the context of writing a thesis was not an easy task. It’s a bit like practicing mindfulness when life is crap- not as easy as when the sun is shining. For one thing, being more compassionate towards myself made me think that maybe I didn’t need to write a thesis after all! On the other hand my self-criticism had also completely failed to motivate me. It is a special kind of self-compassion that is kind and understanding of yourself while still getting the job done. I am learning as I go and I suppose this post is mostly about how I have managed to be compassionate and write at the same time.

7. Good Old Fashioned Behaviourism

Rewards, Rewards, Rewards!

When I manage to achieve a reasonable goal, such as drafting a complete section I am making a point of doing something really nice. So far such things have included buying a bunch of flowers or going to the pub. Watch this space!

As for more frequent, well-done-for-getting-through-the-day rewards, they look more like this:

Yes… that IS a Pint of Pimms!

In writing this, I have realised there are many more things that are helping me get through this. However, this post is turning into a thesis in and of itself. So I will end here as I’m sure other posts will be equally thesis-centric!

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