I wrote this on Sunday and it initially formed a continuation of my previous blog but it became too long to post in one go. I also think it is a little rubbish so debated whether to post it.
Firstly, just going back to something else my therapist said as it will become relevant later on. It has been said before that I have a high level of functioning and intelligence. In addition I am apparently someone who likes to take risk, live on the edge, push boundaries and limits and be the ‘all’ rather than the ‘nothing’. I have displayed some classic examples of this over the years. I am told that I thrive on excitement and I have to keep going, I crave new and if there is no stimulation, my mood drops and boredom quickly sets in. I am not happy with just surfing the edge of the wave, I need that wipe out. When I was off work, I had to keep developing my brain by reading and writing. To sit still would have been dangerous for me. Sitting still and ruminating would have led to more of a destructive lifestyle. Like many people with mental ill health I suffered from a lack of concentration, motivation and lethargy. This was due to a combination of medication, a messed up head and the evil fear of the unknown.
One last go
I am now 9 months on from returning to work. Whilst I was deemed unfit to return, my ‘unfitness’ was deemed not permanent. I had a decision to make and decided to give it one last go. The decision was made easier as I was allowed to work from home, which thankfully my role allows. I could not have gone back otherwise. I reflect on how I am now, compared to how I was back in March 2016 and I couldn’t be more different. A pale, thin, unwell stress head compared to a happier, fitter, never been this un stressed person. This is down to my line mangers effectively monitoring me coupled with redefining what’s important.
Whilst I have gone into my office twice since January, I am under no pressure to do so. My therapist further suggested that I put some routine in my life, which admittedly is lacking and in some respects not helping. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants each day changing the times which I work depending on head space. I have decided from next week to have more set times during the day and maybe visit the office once a week. I have even done some sort of provisional timetable.
Saturday was probably one of my biggest tests since returning to the job so far. I would like to say that it was my infinite wisdom, but is was more like my rash impulsivity, that led me to sign up to take part in the pride parade with the police. Cue Saturday and a trip to Cardiff Central Police Station for the briefing. I worked in Cardiff Central for many years, in fact I have not worked anywhere longer. I was a PC on a response team and an acting sergeant in both the child abuse unit and the domestic abuse unit. It was where I learnt of my promotion to sergeant in 2012 and where I had some of the best times of my career.
Unfortunately, I was now battling with phobic anxiety to the workplace. I stood on the steps looking at the building I knew so well, my heart beating faster than what it ever does running, being closely matched by breath frequency. My head was telling me to run like Gump in the opposite direction, my were feet fixed to the floor and my hand was gripped on tightly to the warrant card in my pocket. As my mind raced, I knew that running was not an option; it would have meant failure, a word that no longer fits into my vocabulary. It was about celebrating who I am, who I have become and not a day for hiding away.
I knew that all I had to do was get myself up to the fourth floor gym for my briefing. I did not have to go anywhere near the parade room which can be full of activity as officers come and go. I just had to get myself to the gym. I could do that, I like the gym after all. As I opened the main double doors, I was immediately hit by the familiar smell of the life I once knew so well. It was like I had never been away. But I had, and I was now different. As I took the tightly gripped warrant card out of my pocket and whacked it on the door for access it was like I had stepped back in time. The carpet was perhaps new, the old front desk to my right, the brown wooden panels, those same double doors in front of me had not changed. Flashing thoughts of the lifts to the side that I would never use as they liked to get stuck.
More double doors
I pushed the next set of doors open (yes that is 3 sets in 15-20 metres) and hit the stairs. The cream(ish) coloured steps with black mottled spots which I have walked up so many times were uninviting. As I walked past each floor I mentally ticked off who used to work there. Not something I purposely did, but it was something which I became aware of doing. The different colour carpets which I could see through more brown double doors with glass panels reminded me of which floor I was on. Between the third and fourth floor the lights were off or not working, yet another thing which has not changed in over seven years. As I stood at the top in the dark, I realised that my heart was still beating at a crazy rate and I was out of breath. I took a couple of seconds to compose myself before pushing through the next set of double doors, then the next.
As I headed towards the gym. When I say gym, I mean a very old sports type hall where we used to do officer safety training. I recognised one or two faces, said hi, grabbed my pride t-shirt and went to get changed. Returning to the gym, I found a quiet space and sat on the floor, back against the wall watching people as they threaded rainbow laces into their shoes, had their faces painted and ate the breakfast provided. A friend came to see if I was ok, which I was. I then got distracted by a really cute little dog. Playing and fussing with the dog became my focus, my escape. Dogs are definitely therapy.
After the briefing I headed outside feeling somewhat overwhelmed and emotional. I was ok, I just needed to be out of that situation. For someone who does not like noise, crowds and struggles to people, you may be wondering why I decided to get involved. I was wondering the same thing. Looking at me, you would have had no idea what a struggle it was. I suppose I wanted to feel part of something again, I am proud to be a police officer and living on the edge, challenge and excitement is what I am about right?
Did I enjoy the parade? I actually don’t know. It was hard and I felt a sense of relief as I saw people I recognised in the crowd. A bit of what I knew, some familiarity was a welcome distraction. It was nice to meet some new colleagues and good to catch up with some old faces. I even stayed out for a bit to see what the celebrations were like.
I must say I was glad to get home with a bag of chips, jumbo sausage and gravy.