And what do YOU do?

Nothing. I do nothing. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of days I’ve worked in the past 18 months.

When I was well, I had a career with professional training, and was promoted every two years.

During the first few years of this episode, I was able to build a portfolio career of sorts, a patchwork of service user led activities including research, patient participation, freelance writing, public speaking, training and other bits and pieces. All of it drew on my lived experience. It was interesting and vibrant. I did some media work, sometimes on behalf of the big charities, sometimes just invited to speak or write because that was what I did.

In the past year and a half, I have been really ill. Now work is no longer and option, I can’t focus enough, I’m not reliable enough. I did write one unpaid essay for publication recently. Despite being descriptions of some of my own life experiences it was like pulling teeth and had it required being more analytical or logical it would have been totally undoable.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote to Mental Health First Aid England and formally resigned as an instructor. I can’t deliver any courses, let alone enough to keep my registration up, and I can’t make the professional development events.

I’m also just about to resign from the Coalition for Collaborative Care, an NHS England supported patient involvement organisation I’ve been part of since day one – actually before day one, from the event at which it was first proposed. Again, there’s little point in retaining membership of its Co-production Group. I can’t get to any of the group’s meetings, and if I can’t get to the meetings I can’t represent the Group at other meetings with partner organisations, at conferences, in service development. I can’t even blog for the Group’s website.

All the emails I still get from both organisations only serve to make me feel awful about myself. I see other people doing interesting, sometimes extraordinary, things and I can’t contribute. It’s like another world; I’m trapped inside a fishbowl, a world I can’t touch moving around me.

I feel really bitter about this.

When people asked me what I did for a living I used to say, “I’m a mental health consultant”, because really a lot of my work was a kind of consultancy and it was easier than trying to explain all the different things I did. Now I don’t get asked very often, because I rarely go anywhere to meet new people, but when I do I just say, “I’m not working at the moment.” What people make of this, I don’t know. Maybe they mentally label me as a “housewife”. Maybe they assume I am at home full time with children. Maybe they think I’m actor between jobs. What’s the cliche, that when actors are out of work they refer to themselves as “resting”? Well, I guess that’s what I am actually doing. Enforced resting. Recovering, supposedly, but those who follow me on Twitter will probably know that I’m really not a big fan of the recovery model.

So nothing, actually, I do nothing. I miss having a purpose. Having only recently come out of hospital for a third time in 15 months I can’t see a return to form happening in my medium term future.

Yes, I’m totally aware that this is a boring, whiny post that doesn’t address any big or entertaining questions, but sometimes I just need that. I can barely blog at all now; every now and then I’ll get a flash of inspiration, but mostly – nothing, and I feel diminished by it. Thanks for reading, if you got this far!

Image shows a slightly mournful-looking goldfish in a bowl by Carrie Little via Flickr


About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards
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