Today is the last day of my first ever contract of employment.
At my age, you might be wondering- wow, you were lucky enough to find a stable, secure position which you actually enjoyed enough to stay in for what, ten years?!
Well the answer to that is no- I’m 33, this has been my first full-time working experience, and it’s only been for nine months. A nine month contract at the end of thirteen years of recovery.. and let me tell you, returning to the ‘real world’ after such a period of extended fantasy is not an easy ride.
I’m currently sitting at my desk, in an empty office, waiting for my colleague to return to that I can handover my clients to her (she is the lady who is replacing me and thus ending my contract.) The window next to me is wide open and the sun is out; and I’m enjoying a quiet moment of contemplation.
I’ve written a series of posts on what a learning curve the last nine months have been, so I won’t go into that here, but I just wanted to reflect on how much I’ve gained, personally, from my first proper working experience.
I went into TopShop yesterday and bought myself a burnt orange three-quarter length cropped shirt, and a pair of strappy black sandals, and as much I cringe at the superficiality of using a shopping experience as a metaphor for contentment, I’m not quite sure I’m ready to go deeper than that just yet.
I don’t think it’s all sunk in, really, quite just yet. I still can’t quite believe the situation I find myself in, and that all the hard work, all the nightmares, all the fighting has actually taken me to a place I want to be.
Moreover, it is a case of approaching a ‘finish line’ of sorts, or perhaps not a ‘finish line,’ but a fairly significant marker post.
For I haven’t ‘just found myself’ in this situation, I have worked my ass off for over the last decade to get myself to this point, and I think it’s this realisation which I’m struggling a little to process.
Nearing this sort of indistinguishable finish-line, or marker post, is filling me with a strange sense of ambivalence. I’ve spent so many years fighting, a part of me wonders what I’ll do with myself now that such relative calm beckons. The part of me which has been super focused, super strained for such a long time; it’s forgotten how to relax.
Moreover, I’m finding it troublesome to know how to relate to my new state of relative ‘normalcy.’
I have ‘found myself’ in so many peculiar situations over the last decade; on a psych ward, in a residential care home for people with pervasive and severe mental health issues, at the Bethlem Royal, in a shared home with random unwell people.
I have sort of flitted from one experience to the next without taking too much time to look beneath the surface or examine my situation with a critical eye. I’m not sure I had the capacity back then and I don’t think I would have wanted to anyway. It was easier to flit, like a leaf in the wind; go with the flow and simply accept each new place I ended up in without too much thought or reflection.
I was operating under a premise of blind faith, dogged perseverance and bloody minded stubborn self-belief. Some deep part of me kept saying, “you’ll get somewhere, Ally, you’ll get somewhere.” However as the years went by those little voices of doubt (in and amongst all the other little voices) started saying, “but where, where are you going to get to?”
It’s like now, when that little voice pops up in my head saying, “yeah it’s great to have all this belief, and all this conviction- but what are you actually doing about it?” I can answer, “I’m working in a position which allows me to do something about it, I’m working in a position which I care about.”
I’m actually doing something which I know is meaningful, which is significant- rather than relying on the positive aspects of schizophrenia experience to give my life a senses of meaning, of significance.
This real sense of direction, of purpose and significance is making me really happy, really contented and really hopeful about what might come next. So much of my optimism, in the past, has come out of “delusional preoccupation,” and as that slowly shifts out of focus I’m left with a much clearer view of blue skies and wide landscapes.
It’s a gradual shift in perspective, away from the fantasy, away from the fantastical experiences which gave my life substance and remembering how to embrace the world around me again; take a sense of substance from the here and now, what I’m doing, what I’m really achieving.
Today is absolutely boiling hot, and I’m wearing harem pants and sandals from the first time this year (my DM’s were way to restrictive). The high temperature feel’s strange after the last few month’s cold weather, and the memories of the ‘Beast from the East’ which still linger in my memory.
But, summer is on the way! I start a new part time contract on Monday, and I’m excited to work with different clients and be able to utilise all that I’ve learnt over the last nine months.
I’m gonna take this weekend to acknowledge the marker post I’ve just passed; drinks may be in order 🙂