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.