Gap year reloaded

As we draw near to the end of 2016 I have some time to reflect on lessons learned from my year off being a job seeker.  I guess the first thing is that since seeing bipolar disorder written down about myself for the first time, I need to acknowledge that a relapse can hit at any time. September 2015 hit me hard with a huge change of role for me as Little One started school. I missed the company, missed the routine of being a stay at home mum with groups to go to and friends to meet up with.  I had to build a new structure into my life and that took a number of iterations to get right.

The Occupational Therapy service in hospital was a godsend for me back in May.  Using OT components of self-care, leisure and work helped me to plan my days more effectively.  I realised how important work-related activities are for me in having a sense of self worth.  I started to develop a broader definition of ‘work’ to include volunteering, blogging and journalling about my future aspirations for paid employment.  In November the next part of the jigsaw slotted in to place as I began being supported by Workways.  Meeting regularly with an employment specialist has been a huge boost to my confidence, and has helped me to identify where I want to be in the future.

When 2017 gets underway, I will be spending 4 hours a week working as a support assistant for a dear friend who lives with M.E. – one pleasure of this role for me is that it will involve fortnightly meal planning and preparing healthy, nutritious food.  I get to putsky around in the kitchen and make lots of soup (I think I just made that word up but it kind of means experimental pottering!)

In March 2017 I have been invited to be a co-facilitator on a mums mental health course at Devon Recovery College. I am hoping this will be just the beginning of part time work as a trainer with this fantastic learning community.  At the end of January I will finish an online Level 2 course in Supporting People with Mental Health Needs.

What about the other aspects of occupation?  Self-care is something that I realise has been seriously neglected in my previous life.  The trendy concept of Hygge has been really useful to me in creating physical space for self-care in our home.  As I type I have my bare feet on a sheepskin which used to line Little One’s buggy and am siting in my hyggekrok (cosy corner) with a soft red blanket.  I really should light the candles and then I could be Danish!  Both of the kids have embraced hygge and we have recently spent more time playing board games and watching slow movies like All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride

My self-care aspirations for 2017 are to read more, reinstate my practice of mindfulness meditation and book in treatments at the beauty salon more regularly.

Leisure was a tricky one for me initially.  I really felt that I was wasting time if I wasn’t doing something that had an immediate sense of productivity.  I didn’t like trying to do leisure on my own.  However, in balance with the right amount of work related activity and self-care, I’m beginning to get the hang of leisure now.  Metafit HIIT workouts in the local village hall have made a huge difference.  30 minutes of intense exercise at the start of the day gives me much more energy and creativity, and also fulfils that need for human contact!  I was given a beautiful daily sketch journal by a friend for my birthday, and my aspiration is to treat myself to some nice H and B pencils for sketching.  Blogging counts as leisure too, right?

Some of my ambitions for the gap year were unfulfilled, like redecorating the girls’ bedrooms.  However the last year has taught me that this can happen in stages as energy and finance permits.  Just yesterday we collected a lovely pine dressing table for Eldest, an absolute bargain at £5 from a Facebook selling board.  Slowing down has given me the time to watch out for second hand things, and to look on Pinterest for decorating on a budget.

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