Surely you’re back at work by now?

“Surely you’re back at work by now”… said someone, as we chatted recently.

It really struck a nerve. I already knew it was tender but this inflamed it all the more.

Or this one “Right, so you’re still not working then?” or  “Oh, so is ‘the blog thing’ your job then?” 

The answer is, no, I haven’t gone back to work. I don’t have a job contact and I don’t get a weekly or monthly payslip. And no, I don’t call this my work or job – probably for the above reasons. But it is my one passions and it also gives me a sense of purpose.

Four years ago, I walked out of a place of work I loved, knowing that life was going to change but having NO CLUE what that really meant. It’s no secret that I assumed I’d be back to work, after maternity leave. When people used to ask I said “oh yeah, I can’t imagine not working”. I couldn’t. My first summer job was at 14 and since then I’ve been in varying types of employment – some I loved more than others!

That’s not to say that I didn’t think some changes would have to take place about HOW I worked – I think that’s why lots of people asked the question. My job involved many evenings and weekends and didn’t have a weekly pattern, at least not one that would have made it simple to find a childminder or nursery place to fit. Gavin’s (my husband) was the same. So I knew I’d have to rethink, after maternity, but I knew my employer was aware and on board. All good? Yep… until it actually happened. “It” being Postnatal Depression. That. Changed. Everything.

I did go back to work, when Reuben was one year old, for 6 months. By that stage I was ill, with PND, but I didn’t know it. Going back was hard and easy. Easy because I loved the team I worked with and fitted right back in with them, where I’d left off. It was hard because I was ill, although at that stage, unknown to me.

EVERYTHING was harder than it should have been – from the moment of leaving Reuben off with a wonderful friend, to picking him back up again. I remember many days feeling physically sick the closer it got to 5.30pm, panicking about having to collect him again and hating myself for feeling that way.

All the things that used to come naturally to me, within work, took so much more extra effort. I really struggled to remember how to do things, that were supposed to be my “natural gift”. I felt useless and rubbish most days and worried that my co-workers and boss would find out that I’d “lost it”. “It” being my ability to be any use in the work place. I haven’t been back in paid employment since finishing there – due to becoming so ill – and 6 months after finishing was diagnosed with severe PND.

The first year, after diagnosis, I wasn’t even thinking about work – I was thinking about recovering and getting well. Last year, I began to give more time to this – Have you seen that girl? movement – and that has given me somewhere to focus my time and energy, it’s also kept me very busy!

(Find out how busy in my year-end review here – What a difference a year makes)

And now, 2 years after being diagnosed and journeying my recovery, I’m STILL not back in any sort of work. I’d be lying if I said that doesn’t worry me sometimes. It does. Not that I have any real idea about what I’d do… my work in church ministry seems like a distant memory and my qualification as a Counsellor feels dusty. I do have some ideas and dreams – many people have encouraged me to write a book, something I’ve always wanted to do – but I feel very uncertain about what’s ahead of me or for me. And I’m not even 100% of what I really want it to be.

But here’s what I do know – I feel in limbo. So many days I battle with looking lazy. I feel useless. I feel that I’m not contributing, as I should. I worry I’ve lost so many of my gifts and abilities to the illness. I also feel vulnerable and spend way to much time comparing myself to everyone else, especially those who are “more successful” and seem to “know their purpose”. Those who have managed motherhood or PND “better” (ok, yes “differently” but it often feels like “better”) and are ‘back on track’ or “out in the world”.

I can’t pretend there aren’t days I look longingly at the cars pulling out of our street, heading to work. Somedays I’d love to join them but instead I pull on my joggers, run the brush through my (needing washed) hair and chat with my little dude about our plans for the day. On the other hand, especially those where I’m feeling low, I am thankful that I don’t have to put on a show for the world.

With Reuben going to Nursery 5 mornings a week, more and more people are asking me “What are you going to do with yourself now?” with the inference being I must be heading back to work.

And, yet, I’m not. At least I don’t think I am.

I have plenty on with Have you seen that girl? to keep me busy for a lifetime, more than I can normally say “Yes” to – does that count?

I know in the “real world” it probably doesn’t. I don’t have a job title and it does nothing to pay the bills or contribute tax to society. Is that ok? I’m trying to remind myself my value is not defined by a pay slip, but I’m definitely finding it a challenge, especially when society seems to suggest I should “be doing” something with my time and my life. And yes, I do miss my pay cheque – not that I’m not thankful we can manage as we are – but because it was money I “earned”, for the effort I put in. At the end of a busy month, I was rewarded for my energy, creativity and passion and I could then reward myself with buying something I really wanted or liked, just because. I’ve lost that, in the last 4 years.

I feel vulnerable as I question this next season of our lives, or very much this next season of my life.  I feel like I’m at the end of one season and the next has not decided what it’s to be. My faith has always told me that my life is not determined by own plans, I still agree, I’m just finding it hard to “wait” and see what’s next. I’m also facing the fact that maybe the season won’t change this year? (EEKK!!).

Here’s the other thing – having me “at home” (I HATE that description but I’m not sure what else to call it – I don’t just sit “at home” all day) works for us logistically too – with Gavin away for much of the working week).

And, as much as I miss having a “career path” and a work team to be part of, I treasure my mental health & wellbeing and my family even more. So, can that be enough for now, at least until the next step becomes clearer? Will I allow that to be enough? I hope so.