It sounds a wee bit dramatic and at odds with what happened on the day. Judging by all the feedback we’ve received so far, by all means #ukgc15 was a resounding success. The blog posts are beginning to come in, people are still tweeting about it with such enthusiasm and energy that it’s a joy to see.
And that’s where I’ve failed. Because I don’t feel joy. I don’t feel anything but grief and depression. I didn’t engage. I withdrew.
When I last walked into Microsoft for #ukgc11 I felt horrendous. 2010 was at the time the worst year of my life. My partner collapsed and nearly died from a brain haemorrhage during the summer of 2010, and spent a long 6 months recovering before he was fit enough to go back to work. In the October my Grandad passed away, and then in November the Daily Fail’s rotwhelier Quentin Lett’s decided to shit all over me in the Press for having the audacity to be female, with an opinion and worst of all a Civil Servant who used Social Media.
When I walked into #ukgc11 that cold Saturday morning I almost walked straight back out again, feeling sick with fear. It was stupid and irrational, because when I said my name “I am Baskers” the whole room erupted into applause and gave me a huge hug. That lifted my spirits up so much, and enabled me to start rebuilding my life again after the horrendous year of 2010. I became involved in helping to organise UKGovcamp because I wanted to give back to the community that stood by me and gave me so much support over the years.
Fast forward to #ukgc15. It’s four years later and we are back at Microsoft.
It’s 7:30am, and I’m in the auditorium setting up and getting frustrated at the lack of things working. The wifi failed, the work laptop didn’t work, the chromebook wouldn’t work, the AV set up was wrong, we were supposed to get access the night before to test all this out but it got cancelled. I’m very OCD, and probably bordering on the Austim Spectrum – things like this seriously stress me out. I just want to crawl into the corner and cry.
Pressure is on, attendees are arriving soon and things just weren’t working. But eventually we get there. And we kick off, it’s a full house and we are straight into #ukgc15 mode.
I should be feeling happy. But I’m not. I’m feeling immense sadness, emptiness and despair. I’m feeling numb. I’m feeling lost in a black abyss of depression and am struggling to reach out.
I speak to some folks, and they ask how I was as they hadn’t seen me much online last year. That’s because last year was the worst year of my life, not 2010. 2014 has been the most painful year I have lived through. I thought I was doing okay, but the stress of talking to people about it has left me feeling very vulnerable. Something crumbled inside me that day, and I find myself struggling in the midst of another bout of black depression.
I withdraw. I stay behind my laptop. I don’t engage.
My Dad was diagnosed with cancer in March 2014. I’ve spent most of the year backwards and forwards to Dundee and back. I’ve struggled with work. I’ve struggled with friendships. I’ve withdrawn into myself. I don’t know what “normal” is anymore. I wake up crying, I go to sleep crying. Sleep? I’ve forgotten what it’s like to a good nights sleep.
Dad fought hard through the Chemo and we were all elated when in early August he got the all clear. Finally, the cloud have been lifted and we could start planning for the future. I started getting involved again in organising #ukgc15. Mum & Dad were supposed to come visit me last summer, and we started arranging for that to be this summer. Dad went out and bought jumpers for the winter, and camping gear to he could go out for walks with his best friend Jim.
But none of that happened.
Only three weeks after he’d gone into remission we were told it’s back. And even more aggressive than ever. That future that we’d planned had vanished in an instant. Weeks later he was dead. A slow, cruel death. I hadn’t appreciated the phrase “passing away peacefully” was totally ironic. It was not peaceful. It was the hardest thing I have ever been through. My Mum, my sisters, my brother. It’s been hard on all of us. We are all trying to rebuild our lives.
He died on October the 6th at 11:35pm.
Two weeks later I am back down South, trying to pick up the pieces of my life and stick them back together. But nothing makes sense anymore. Things that I enjoyed, just leave me feeling empty. I’m going through the motions at work. Everything just seems so utterly pointless and irrelevant. I have a great team, great staff. They keep everything going whilst I’ve been away, but I’m struggling to lead and manage them. My world doesn’t make sense.
Slowly life starts to return to “normal”, but it’s a lie. How can anything be normal now?
Two months to the day that Dad died, I get a phone call from my wee Sister. It’s Mum. They’ve had to rush her to hospital. I drop everything. I’m back up on the train 400 miles north to Dundee, back to the exact same hospital where Dad died 2 months earlier and it’s hard. All the memories come flooding back. Mum nearly died, but luckily the NHS saved her. Thank fuck we have an NHS. Or I would have lost both of my parents in 2014. I come back down South once we get Mum back home, back to work, back to my supposedly “normal” life.
Christmas and Hogmanay came and went. Wasn’t really that much to celebrate. I was full of the flu.
I worked on #ukgc15 stuff, sorting out the tickets, updating the website, doing the comms across Twitter, FB, G+, writing the blog posts, dealing with the email enquiries, following up on donations etc. etc. Coming back down south again mid January, back to the “normal” life. Back to work. Back to coaching my team through another re-organisation where we are essentially re-applying for our jobs, again.
I’m feeling it.
But I’m also feeling the crushing black cloud of depression enveloping me. I’m fighting hard against it, but sinking into this claustrophobic pit that is day by day paralysing me. Since Dad’s death, and Mum’s illness I’ve been struggling. Getting out of bed in the morning is that bit harder. Getting off the train at Marylebone in the mornings and strongly resisting the urge to just jump onto another train to take me away is getting harder. Anywhere. To be lost somewhere. To be away from my “normal” life. This is me reacting to the grief I think. I’m not sure what my coping mechanisms are anymore, and I don’t want to be disappearing down the bottle.
I knew I needed some time out after #ukgc15 and booked the Monday off of work so I could have some much needed downtime. I knew that I’d be feeling drained, emotionally and mentally exhausted and was prepared for that. But the depression didn’t go. It’s stayed on. I was back in the office yesterday and spent the whole day just trying not to cry at my desk. I probably wasn’t that productive.
I went to the Cabinet Office/TechUK event last night to promote UKGovcamp & Open Data, then a catch up with fellow Govcamp organisers Nick & James to do a washup on #ukgc15. Still feeling numb inside.
I spoke with James later on, and he suggest that I blog about this. To be honest, I’d completely fallen out of love with blogging and dismissed the idea. But when I woke up this morning, I struggled even more so. I just sat in silence for an hour or so. I couldn’t move. I forced myself to get up, deal with work emails and calls. I’m trying to pull together my Performance Management Review, taking some time out to review my year of work and gather the evidence. Yet, when I look back over the year, all I see is blackness.
An immense void.
I’m struggling to make sense of 2014. I’m struggling. It all seems so pointless and utterly meaningless.
So, I’m taking a time out for a couple of hours. I need to deal with this. I need to blog about this. It’s my way of trying to take control, to try and understand. I remember reading about Winston Churchill and his way of dealing with his black dog of depression, was through writing. So I’m giving that a go.
Stress and Depression are my constant companions right now, and I want them to go. I’ve had enough. I want the joy and happiness back in my life, I want to be able to dance with my partner again. I’ve been to two weddings since Dad died, but didn’t dance. I couldn’t bring myself to dance, knowing that I’ll again never dance with Dad. We used to like dancing, (very badly).
I need to move on.
But don’t know how to. Maybe this will help?
Time to grab a late lunch, then try again reviewing my work year and see if I can pull something together, that will make some sort of sense.
I need for things to start making sense again.
There aren’t words that I can write that will help you at this second, but I’ll try to say something anyway.
Don’t give up. Don’t jump on that train to anywhere because you won’t know where it might take you. Perhaps it may be a better place, perhaps it’ll be worse, but it won’t be where you decide to go.
You talk about trying to get back in control; try not to grasp too hard. To paraphrase Princess Leia (yes, I’m an uber-geek…) the more you tighten your grip, the more happiness will slip through your fingers. Take time by yourself and with those you love and don’t force yourself to be anywhere you don’t want to be.
And don’t feel like you’re alone. I accept 100% that this is easy to say and easy to agree with intellectually, yet nigh-on impossible to fully agree with emotionally, but it’s true nonetheless. You are surrounded by people who care about you, who will share a moment, a meeting, an hour, an afternoon, an evening, a drink, a meal and a cry with you.
Like many who will read this, we’ve only met a few times but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to offer whatever help I can in the short, medium and long terms so you can work through things at your own pace and in your own way. I, along I’m sure with as many or as few others as you would like, will always be there for a glass of wine and a smile or a tear.
After all, like so many others, #IamBaskers too.
Sorry to hear this, Baskers. But I’m glad you’ ‘ve been brave and honest enough to put your hand up and say you are struggling. Loads of people think you are very great.
And Dan, big hugs to you. Sometimes the world is just too busy, too noisy that it’s all too much for me, and I need to switch off or will burn out. I was reaching that point last weekend, being overwhelmed with everything, unable to cope and breaking down. Taking a time out, switching off has helped. Am nowhere back to normal, or healed. That’s going to take a long time, but at least I find myself on the path and not suffocating in the blackness at least. There will be good, and bad days. Hopefully, more good than bad.
Thanks Glen. Have been taking the advice, trying to get some time out and spent the weekend with my partner and his daughter. Not organising anything, staying offline and trying to relax has helped. I can feel my mood shifting back into light away from the blackness. There’s still a journey to go, but kind words from friends on and offline are helping that shift in the right direction.
So sorry about your Dad and that you feel like this – with all that’s been happening, it’s no surprise you do. Grieving is an exhausting and heartbreaking slog and depression is a bastard. You’re a damn amazing lady to admit how you’re feeling, I hope talking about it will help you.
Hi Kelly, thanks for your kind words. Blogging about it has helped me at least to try and put a shape/picture to it. An anchor so to speak. Have been offline, switching off and trying to relax. Spending sometime with my partner and not organising anything has helped. Still a long way to go, but at least I’m not feeling so overwhelmed at the moment.
A really important post. Though you won’t believe it, it will get better. You must give yourself some time and look after yourself. Thank you.
I have a huge amount of respect for you Sarah. My Dad passed away in 2006 after a 7 year battle with cancer. He was lucky, he was given 6 months and took an extra 6 years. I struggled silently for a long time after. It didn’t help, silence just encourages the black dog.
You don’t need to rush and you don’t need to feel bad about how you feel. It will get better, I promise. The pain will fade but the love never will. Eventually the happy memories will outweigh the sadness.
Thinking about you.
Thanks Tim. I guess it’s all still too raw at the moment, plus with nearly losing Mum only 8 weeks later was just horrific. Hoping there will be more good than bad days as time marches on. Have switched off, been offline to try and get some of the “quiet” back, and rebalance things. It’s a struggle, but hopefully I’m heading in the right direction, and things might just start making sense again.
Sorry to hear about your rough time. I find some Black Coffee helps when I get down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7kXSeaXWKo Don’t give up the good fight!
Thanks Megan. Dunno about the Black Coffee, not really my kind of thing but will keep on plugging away. Hopefully there’s better days ahead.