Last year I made a Blog For Mental Health pledge. Sadly, there is no pledge in 2016 and the Blog for Mental Health site is no longer being curated, though it is currently still accessible. However, this was a wonderful project (and it ran for several years) and I’m truly glad it got me blogging about this subject, albeit less regularly than I’d like!
The Pica Pica Project
I’ve been blogging about The Pica Pica Project, a summer project all about being braver, finding the joy in things and bringing my creativity back to the fore. You can read more about it here.
I realised today that there’s a bit more to it than that. I’ve been wearing many hats this year. I’ve been a student (for both my Cert Ed and gearing up to get back in to my degree study with a lot of prep), a trainee teacher on placement, a full time virtual assistant. 75 hour weeks have been the norm with the amount of sleep being gradually shaved down more and more, time with family getting dented and me time becoming diminished (or almost non-existent some weeks). Strangely, Twitter has been an anchor to the world. Whenever the kettle was boiling or I was checking on the cats or getting up from a long stretch at the laptop, I could check in on the world and realise it was still whizzing around me. It reassured me: get through these two years and you’ll be fine. Life carries on.
I have missed my family since we moved to Barnsley. Weekly breakfasts with my Dad, step-mum and niece or nights at my mum’s dwindled once we were a 3-4 hour round trip away by train/bus and once I took on my teacher training, alongside work and study, it became hard to find time to eat sometimes, let alone socialise.
Don’t get me wrong, I chose a very full placement, far more hours than my course required. I wanted to see what it was like to be inside a classroom for 18-20 hours a week, to learn the names, to get to know all the students and to see their journey as I took my own. It’s been amazing and this was only year one. Year two, during which I will also be finishing my final degree modules, will be HARD but I’m excited. Also, I’m not a parent! I fully understand and appreciate there are people who do this and juggle all manner of other responsibilities too and they would probably consider my ‘full’ week a holiday, so I know I’m actually very lucky!
Dude, Where’s My Hat?
So what does this have to do with hats? I’ve realised recently that it’s not the hours I find hard to deal with sometimes but the number of hats there are to wear. (Again, I fully realise that if I were a parent, there would be even more hats, so this isn’t a ‘woe is me’ rant, just a personal viewpoint.) It’s less a game of plate-spinning and more one of constant hat swapping. I switch from hat to hat to hat but I think somewhere along the line I put down the hat that is MY hat – just ME – and forgot to pick it back up again. I’m not entirely sure where I left it or when. I just don’t think I have it to hand like the others. Who am I when I’m not in the classroom, as student or teacher? Who am I if I’m not working or studying?
If I’ve learnt anything over the last 15 years, it’s that the best thing I can do to support my own mental wellbeing is to take a careful and proactive approach to self-care. Self-care and the 75 hour week doesn’t always work because I don’t always prioritise the right things. That’s on me, nobody else. However, as summer nears and my placement hours dwindle, as I have a little stop-gap before the second year of Cert Ed begins, as I can actually take a little time, I know that the best thing I can do for myself is find that hat. I want to change as part of this process, that’s vital. What I don’t want is to leave myself – or my self – behind.
So, as excited as I am about my project generally and about getting back to the things I love, this is the mental health rationale behind it too. I want to go into year two as someone who is ultimately braver. It’s more than possible that I threw myself so much into this year because I didn’t want to be mindful and didn’t want to take the time to think and reflect (personally, as opposed to professionally or academically). I wanted to do and to act. This summer, I want to be more receptive to my own thoughts and get to know myself a little better again. I don’t want to run the risk that all this burying myself in something is so I don’t have to spend any actual time with myself, with my own thoughts. Because I’m sure I’m bigger than that, better than that and braver than that.