If you’ve read Beating The Blues Part 1, you’ll know I struggle with mental health problems. I suffered both Ante- and Post-Partum Depression (which is more usually known as Post Natal Depression), but bad as things were, I survived. I kept going, and with a lot of expert help I eventually beat it into submission.
Then I lost my job as a copywriter, and couldn’t find another. All my demons came back with a vengeance. The harder I tried to get work, the more desperate and vulnerable I became. I was all at sea, drowning under waves of childcare problems, money worries and parental disapproval: “Why can’t you be bothered with the housework? It’s not as though you’ve got anything better to do.”
Looking back from high ground, it doesn’t take a genius to realise any prospective employer who interviewed me must have seen me for what I was at that low point. Needy.
One night I was led in bed, worrying, and listening to the constant banging of my toddler’s bedtime ritual. He would rock back and forth until he finally dropped off to sleep. This had been going on for months, but for some reason that was the first time an old joke came into my mind.
You bang your head against a wall because it’s so good when you stop.
Suddenly, that made sense to me.
As the great self-help guru Jack Canfield says, “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.”
In my case, that was rejection. The message was clear—I had to stop trying to get a facsimile of my old job back. That boat had sailed.
But it didn’t mean I had to give up trying to find a job. To carry on with the nautical theme, I didn’t drop anchor, I changed tack. Stepping back from the situation, I tried some lateral thinking. I’d been good at my job—very good. Budget cuts were the only reason I lost it. What else was I good at?
I’d made myself brilliant at childcare, for the sad and desperate reason that many people said I’d never manage and I wanted to prove them wrong. Revenge is no basis for a career, so I had to look elsewhere.
I loved writing, so I wrote a novel. This was in the far-off days of publishers’ advances—although in my case, as an unknown author I got less than two thousand pounds. It didn’t result in any lasting fame or fortune, either.
That meant I’d learned to budget. Having a family taught me to cook, and brought me into contact with young mums who, like me, had been latchkey kids living off sliced white bread and Findus crispy pancakes.
The cakes I made for playgroup (to prove that I could, see above) always vanished in seconds, so I did a basic, certificated food hygiene course at the local college. It was part-funded by the council, so it was cheap but excellent.
Then I stuck a notice up in the mini-market, offering to make cakes for children’s parties. My short career in catering was a mixture of triumph and tantrums (not all of them involving the under-fives). If you follow my blog, I might write about that experience one day, as therapy. One day, when the scars have healed.
Creating my own little job gave me a boost that was worth far more than the few pounds a week profit I earned after paying for ingredients and breakages.
Better than that it proved I was worth saving, to the only person who could save me.
And that was myself.
Follow my blog for tips on self-help from someone who’s been there, done most of it, and survived.