Give it a rest

After two years away from my ‘day job’ at ITV News where I used to work as one of the reporters and editors for the nightly regional TV news programme, I’m back.

But it’s very different this time around.

I quit my job there in April last year and have been doing small amounts of freelance work for a newspaper, a radio station and some private clients for whom I write articles and blogs.

I’ve learned a lot about managing to do ‘some’ work in that time, and find that – while achieving a balance that works with my ME is incredibly difficult – the satisfaction of doing work is worth the all too regular boom and bust cycles.

It’s with all that in mind that I returned to ITV News in January this year, on a freelance basis, doing a couple of reporting shifts each week.

I’m reflecting on it now as I’m on a two week holiday. A good time to take stock and see how I feel I’m managing things.

In short, it’s not easy. It’s a constant series of refinements. And the ever-present need to remind myself to properly pace myself is vital.

The big breakthrough was the realisation that those two days of work each week needed to be non-consecutive. Having at least a day of nothingness after a day of work is crucial.

I’m also building in mini breaks throughout my working day. It may he simply five or ten minutes in a meeting room with the lights off. A chance to dial down all the senses.

I’m learning to notice my responses to events through the day. When I see a colleague coming to ask me something when I’m in the middle of a task it triggers a near-angry feeling inside me, that I’m about to be interrupted. Whereas I used to love multi-tasking, now I need to do one thing at a time. That angry feeling is a cue for me to take a break.

Being back in an office has reminded me of the various sensory reactions, that can vary wildly hour to hour. It could be that a conversation elsewhere in the office is so loud in my head that I can’t concentrate on my work. It’s sometimes that the light outside is brighter than what’s indoors and I can’t handle the contrast. I’ve found wearing earphones and sunglasses, respectively, have helped. And I’ve got over any self-consciousness about how silly it may look. Who cares?

I’ve also started keeping little lists. Lists of things I’ve been asked to do. Lists of calls I’ve put in. Lists of loose ends that need tidying up. They’re all the things I used to do without thinking about it. Now those written reminders can be a godsend.

Most of all, the upside of being at work, has highlighted the downside of not properly building in rest and recovery – and anticipating the delayed response to activity. A busy Monday may only hit late Tuesday or Wednesday. I need to remember that I may or may not feel fine a day or two later, but that even if I feel relatively okay, using that time to properly rest is vital.

And rest is something I’m not good at. My mind is always whirring. I’m thinking multiple thoughts. There’s a constant need to ‘do’. Here on holiday I’m writing this on my phone, laid in bed in the hotel in the middle of the day. I know everybody else is out in the sunshine having fun, but I’m listening to my body and doing the right thing. I’m also actively trying to embrace boredom. It’s fine to lay in silence, to perhaps reflect on the day so far, to notice the room around me. All gentle stuff that helps me rest. And if my thoughts drift to anything more taxing or serious, I don’t beat myself up about it, but I do let my attention drift back to the here and now.

So, there you have it. Doing some work is good for my sense of achievement, and for being able to spend time with colleagues. The past two years have been spent, mainly, gone alone. And while I value my own time, while others including my husband are at work, it has occasionally felt lonely.

All that said, I need to remind myself that rest is also time well-spent. When sensory overload kicks in, when my thoughts go foggy, when my eyesight goes blurry, when my hearing goes whistly, when the shape-shifting pain in my body goes from its usual sore to eye-wateringly severe, I know I’ve not heeded my own advice to give it a rest!

If you happened to want to watch any of my TV reports and see what I’ve been getting up to on those days back on camera, I’ve popped them all on my journalism Facebook page here.

8 Comments

  1. Great post. Thank you. “The past two years have been spent, mainly, gone alone. And while I value my own time, while others including my husband are at work, it has occasionally felt lonely.” I could have written that … I mourned, still do on occasions, the job I had to leave because of ME. I’ve (more or less) finally embraced being ‘the woman on the mobility scooter’. And, somehow, miraculously, I have signed with a literary agent. Who knew here could be new horizons for one of the invisible chronically ill?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A good post, Gary. While I’m not a sufferer of any condition, apart from a need to be occupied, I can still empathise with much of what you’ve said. After a successful military career of 20+ years, I went into retail management, and there is where I truly learned the meaning of stress. This was another career spanning 20+ years.
    I had days when it didn’t matter who else was working–I had to go somewhere quiet, even for a few minutes. How did I bring myself back to earth? I recalled that I’d left my previous career, still being of sound mind and body, for which I’ve always been grateful.
    It’s good for you to have your lifestyle under control, and I’m delighted for you. I’ve known others who have such debilitating conditions, and the real anguish must come from the knowledge that to an outsider, all appears well with you. Be good to yourself, and maintain what you’ve got going.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This post will help some of my group members at Fibro Active struggling with work at the moment.
    Some people are frightened of leaving work due to financial pressure and others have reduced their hours but still finding restrictions have an impact. Maybe you would like to look us up at fibroactive.co.uk. We have a Facebook page too))

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Gary, I just went back and listened to you vlog on pain management as that is a big factor in my life right now. I was interested to hear that you had been prescribed Gabapentin as my doctor has just suggested that to me. At the moment I have been reluctant to try it as, like you,I am not keen on popping pills and I seem to get nasty side effects from almost anything. Please could you tell me if that was helpful for you and also are you still taking CBD oil, and if so do they go ok together. If anyone else has tried Gabapentin for neurological pain would be glad of any feed back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Bobby. I tried Pregabalin for a while but couldn’t notice any great difference. CBD, which I started using last Nov, has been much better. A satvia extract each morning and indica each night. They’re not a cure-all but they’ve helped with pain, energy and sleep.

      Like

  5. Thank you Gary, you have helped me make up my mind. When researching the Pregabalin there was quite a lot of feedback on adverse side effects so was very hesitant. I have been taking Healthspan’s cbd oil for four months. It is good for sleep but unfortunately not the pain and energy with me. Anyway keep smiling and one day someone will come up with something and we will all be running around like spring chickens again. 😃X

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Gary, thank you so much for this post.
    You write so well, and what you describe fits my experience exactly. I will not be returning to work but your advice is sound for any given activity for ME people.
    You are an encouragement, a guiding light, for me and many others. Keep up the good work, and best wishes for your ongoing journey.

    Liked by 1 person

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