2018 was the worst year of my life. Exactly one year ago, I’d just had approximately six weeks off work and was ‘preparing’ to go back to work. My sick note read that I was anaemic, which was true, but I could have handled that without time off. It was my mental health that was actually causing problems.
Mental health is such a strange thing. It can get incredibly bad without you really noticing, and it’s only after you have a breakdown that you think “hmm, something has changed here – I didn’t used to be like this”.
I ended up going back to work on second of January, though, to be honest, I probably shouldn’t have.
I went into 2019 in pretty much the worst state of my life, and I leave 2019 in probably the best state of my life. It’s been a very long recovery. An extremely stressful situation out of my control finally resolved, which was necessary, but apparently not sufficient, for my mental health to recover. I got the anaemia under control, which helped a lot too. I started taking anti-depressants, which have undoubtedly helped me settle down the rampant anxiety I was experiencing. And, finally, I found a better job and got myself out of a toxic environment.
2019 was a pretty bad year in many ways, but it was an upward trend, and I’m starting 2020 in a pretty good place.
Blood test results: It turns out my iron and haemoglobin levels are pretty good – the highest they’ve ever been on blood tests. Even so, the iron levels are a long way off the maximum healthy level, and, with how quickly they’ve dropped in the past, I am going to self-medicate another course of iron tablets. The last course took my ferritin from 20 to 62, and the healthy range is 20 to 300. It turns out you can buy the tablets I was taking – ferrous sulfate 200mg – over the counter without a prescription (though you need to ask), and it’s actually cheaper than a prescription.
Injury: I mentioned my ongoing running injury woes to the doctor. She had a good feel around and told me that the area of pain is a busy area full of soft tissue, tendons, fascia, etc. She recommended a week’s course of ibuprofen to reduce inflammation, then re-asses. I was completely hyped for this until I read the side effects list of ibuprofen, then got cold feet. I have had problems with stomach bleeding in the past (hence the iron tablets), so I get nervous when I read it on side effects. So I haven’t taken any.
Instead, I’m trying to get some anti-inflammatory effects through my diet and I’m coming around to the idea that I just need to rest it. It is improving, but it’s not there yet.
Interestingly, although she didn’t say it to me, she recorded it on my record as a strain of the tendon of the medial thigh muscle – so not my abs at all. It makes sense – I have found that stretching my inner thigh can give an unpleasant pulling sensation in the area it’s been hurting.
Usually Sunday is a long run day but since I’m trying to rehab my ab (rehabab), it wasn’t.
I used the time to wrap Christmas presents instead.
I bought my sister a board game called Colt Express, which may or may not prove to be a good purchase. I haven’t played it, so I don’t know what it’s like, but it looks like it might be good. It’s something to do with a wild west train robbery.
I learnt recently that board games are a burgeoning industry, and some of them are actually really fun. It’s not all Monopoly or Battleships.
I had a last minute idea to give my mum a plant from splitting one of mine. I used to have one Drosera Adelae (Australian sundew). Over the summer I split it and ended up with three, but they’re looking overcrowded again, so I split them again today and now I have five. I think she will like one.
I also did some weights (squats + deadlifts), but a little while later my abs were feeling sore again. But is that just because I sat down and my hips tightened up?
Maybe I’m going about this the wrong way. Maybe I should just focus on stretching for a while. Everyone knows that sitting all day is bad for you and shortens your hip flexors and changes the angle of your pelvis, and I don’t do any stretching to offset that.
Today was the last day of work for a while as the office is now closed until January. We went out for a Christmas lunch, which turned out to be a very posh 8 course meal lasting for the whole afternoon. It was an experience.
It was a bit awkward to start with but I think I enjoyed it. I ended up drinking alcohol, which I don’t usually do, but it was kind of peer pressure and kind of anxiety medication.
I think I enjoyed it. It was certainly a new experience, which I survived, and maybe I feel like slightly more of an adult because of it. It was also something that we’d never have done at the previous job. And I definitely appreciated the fact it was held during work time!
It turns out I’m being paid for the Christmas period even though I haven’t accrued the holiday, which is nice. This employer seems a lot better at the human touch.
So, the Christmas break…
Excitingly, I’m going to get a blood test on Monday to see how my iron and haemoglobin levels are, which I should have had done a few months ago when I finished my last course of iron tablets, but I didn’t. Then on Tuesday I’m at the doctor to renew my antidepressants and I’ll mention my ongoing ab muscle woes and maybe get referred to physio, but I’ve decided to just take it easy over Christmas and limit running to parkies.
We’re quite lucky in that we have both a Christmas Day and New Year’s Day parkrun on top of the normal Saturday events. I will be there sporting my Santa hat 🎅 and my festive red 50 t shirt.
So ever since I started my new job the trains have been a bit terrible. I don’t actually think there’s been a single day they’ve been within a few minutes of being on time both in a morning and evening. This evening everything through my line was cancelled over about a 3 hour period. I was actually seriously considering running home (9 miles/15k) until my dad offered to give me a lift from a station on the other line. I didn’t ask, but he’s retired and he likes to feel useful, I think. If I wasn’t injured I would have just run it. It probably would have been quicker. The train company is going to get an email hearing all about how disappointed I am that my loyal custom does not appear to be valued even though when I changed job I specifically chose to remain in the city centre because of my previously high opinion of the local train service, and by the way I think you should reimburse me for the ticket I bought today to get to a station I didn’t want to go to.
Actually though I feel a lot happier than I should. When this kind of thing used to happen it would usually ruin my whole evening. I used to get very stressed when things weren’t routine and predictable, especially commuting. I would catastrophise it into “am I going to get home today?”. Today I feel pretty calm about it. I just rushed over to an unfamiliar station, bought a ticket at a stupid machine I’ve never used before, and then asked someone where platform 8A was because their signposting was rubbish. Then I went to a station I’ve never been to before and somehow found the car park where my dad was. I did OK, I think. I was a bit concerned because the train route I ended up going on just happens to be Becky’s route, which could have been awkward, but no, I didn’t see her. I’m quite surprised we haven’t randomly bumped into each other yet, given that we’re actually still in close geographical proximity. I remember writing here once before about being frustrated I bumped into her when I was with my mum and how it always seemed to be her, never other random people from the office.
This evening I started the abs rehab program with two sets of front squats, two sets of back squats and two sets of deadlifts, with very low weight. Even so, I expect my legs to feel like lead tomorrow. I also threw in a lot of core and glute exercises. I think most running injuries come down to glutes being weak or inhibited and other muscles taking over to keep the legs and trunk stable, with limited success. There was no hint of any kind of discomfort, which is notable because a few weeks ago I was finding any kind of core work would be at least a bit uncomfortable. That’s not bad the day after a 12k run. Maybe I’m not doing as badly as I think I am.
Hopefully this will help. But maybe I’m just doing squats because my new HR lady referred to my ‘little legs’? We’ll never know the true reason.
Sooo… the weekend. My sister started an Amazon prime trial a few days ago, so we have been watching a few things.
Firstly: Good Omens. I read the book years ago. I don’t remember much about it other than I really enjoyed it. Having watched the first two episodes, little of the story has come back to me, but it’s very well done. I was a bit hesitant because I didn’t feel the Discworld TV adaptations ever really captured the magic of Terry Pratchett, but Good Omens has the advantage of being a standalone book without a vast amount of lore that needs to be somehow translated to the screen.
Secondly: The Expanse season 4 episode 1: Ooh ooh ooh. I really, really loved the first three seasons of Expanse. I watched them around this time last year, when my world was an extremely dark place, and a few of those memories have resurfaced, unsurprisingly, but OK… It completely gripped me and I felt it was extremely well done. It reminded me a lot of Babylon 5 in the quality of the writing. There’s a lot going on and the characters are complex and interesting.
The first episode of S4 is a bit bewildering, but so was S1 and I’m sure it’s laying a lot of groundwork that will be rewarded later. I am a bit concerned some of the characters will lose depth though – Amos and Avasarala specifically – in the same way that Tilly in Star Trek Discovery S2 became a bit of a parody of Tilly from S1. We shall see.
In related news, I was stoked a few days ago when they released the full version of the Belter version of Highway Star (which played during the slingshot scene in S2, or was it S3?). The fact they re-did the lyrics in Belter pidgin is fascinating, though it’s a contrast against the very faithful instrumentation. That’s even a single coil pick up on the guitar, isn’t it?
Thirdly: The Death of Stalin. This is a black comedy. With the emphasis on the black part. This is one of those films I watch and I think “why am I watching this?”. Then I get to the end and think “why did I watch that?”. I didn’t enjoy it. It’s hard to articulate why, but I think it comes down to it being two things in one. Firstly it’s an absurd comedy presented as being serious. Airplane with murderous communists, if you like. Secondly, it’s quite an intense political drama. It doesn’t work for me, because the intensity of the politics is so high that it makes the absurdity seem in poor taste, and the political drama is hard to take seriously when it’s offset against such absurdity. A lot of people liked it though. It seems to be a cult thing. But I think it’s one of the worst films I’ve watched start to finish.
Running: Sadly, my abs are still causing me trouble. I don’t get it. It seems very volatile. I was doing OK this past week, but I’m feeling it today after a very gentle run. I sneezed during the run a few times and oh my god I felt that. I got home and did some bicycles; the first set was quite uncomfortable, but the second set was fine. Explain that.
I think I’ll just have to take some time off, but how effective that will be I’m not sure – it got worse when I started my new job and didn’t run for a week (the muscles tightened up, probably), so it’s hard to know what I should be doing. Maybe I’ll dust off the free weights and start doing some squats and stuff again. I think I must have some kind of muscle imbalance and the compound exercises should sort that out, hopefully.
I am at the doctor on Christmas eve so if it’s still causing me trouble I will mention it.
Ever since I started taking Citalopram, I seem to dream a lot more. A few times over the past week I’ve had dreams about my previous job, and then I wake up feeling stressed or angry or resentful or just generally unhappy.
It’s strange. I am still resentful over my previous boss and HR lady. I am actually, in retrospect, really pleased about how I resigned. As soon as I got to work on the first day back from a two week holiday, I sent a very strong mail to my boss saying I’d been told by HR lady I was “valued and respected” and quoted him on saying my work was appreciated by customers, and then I said “it is therefore unclear why my salary has fallen so far behind the market rate and why my professional achievements are not being recognised here” or words to that effect. My boss went into conciliatory apology mode and promised to sort it out, but wanted to make it a bureaucratic process involving people I didn’t work with to review my work and then wanted to interview me with my manager. Four weeks later, he was still faffing trying to organise that and I’d got a better offer from another company who could apparently assess my value with more efficiency, so I gave my notice.
So in summary, I gave my boss a warning that he wasn’t meeting expectations and gave him fair opportunity to remedy the problem, and then I fired him. I’m pleased with that because firstly I did the right thing for myself while being very fair and professional, and secondly there is no way he came out of that thinking he had done the right thing.
The end result is that I’m in a better environment with a company that’s competing at a higher skill level than my previous employer, and I’m earning more. If my ex-boss or ex-HR lady had been more competent then I’d still be working there, which would have been a good deal for them, but a bad deal for me.
So I don’t really understand why I’m resentful over it, but apparently I am, because I keep having dreams about it and I wake up annoyed and it’s difficult to go back to sleep. It seems that it takes more than a month to leave behind seven years of feelings.
So the running went pretty well! I ran down the canal and ended up near my old workplace. I had chosen that route because the distance was about right and I knew the area where I’d have to turn around and head back. Next time I’ll go in the other direction and explore some more, but I’ll be in totally unfamiliar territory after about five minutes.
I hadn’t told anyone I was going. I’d got changed in the loos downstairs and left my clothes in a bag by the front door, with the coat stand. So I’d kind of hoped to end up back at my desk with nobody the wiser.
When I got back in, the HR lady was sat on the sofa in the entrance talking to the MD. She gave me a look. I gave her a look. “Have you been for a run?!?!”. She was surprised. Guilty! She looked at me, in my shorts, and then enquired “But don’t your little legs get cold?”. This is extra funny because that’s the exact phrasing my mum uses. I didn’t tell her that.
Later on, the MD wandered into the room and casually announced to my manager that he’d had to go to the bank on the other side of town and it was “brass monkeys” out there. Then continued… “You’d have to be mad to go running out there today. It must be a blonde thing”. Then walked off.
The hygiene thing seems to have worked out OK. I went faster than I intended, my heart rate was very elevated (Zone 4. I was intending to keep it more like Z2, but that wasn’t happening) and I was definitely sweating. Even so, I made my sister smell me this evening (lol) and she insisted I did not smell.
So this is definitely a success. I’m not sure when I’ll do it again because the weather forecast looks like it may be very wet for the next few days, but hopefully I’ll get a chance soon.
The other thing is that I definitely found I was focusing a bit better this afternoon. I even felt calm when my train was late! Having said that, my watch says I’m anything but calm. But it’s said that for the last few days. Maybe I’m fighting an infection or something.
Now I’m lying in bed with my laptop and bluetooth headphones listening to Rush.
Parkrun number 50 today! It went ok. I was slow, but it’s the first fast run I’ve done for a while so that’s ok. My abs felt fine, though this evening they feel a bit tender. That’s an improvement anyway.
So I am all set for starting to run at lunch time next week. My new shoes are here and will be transported to their new home under my desk on Monday, my new bag is here and is big enough to fit my running clothes and a towel.
I’ve been kind of paranoid about the hygiene (smell) issue, but I think it should be fine. I ended up being quite sweaty getting into the office on Friday because of spending 20 minutes crammed in on a late and very overcrowded train
(The conductor apologised. In the most monotone voice you can imagine, he announced “I would like to apologise for the severe overcrowding this morning. This is due to a short train formation. I can offer no explanation as to why this is.”)
and then having to rush to get to work on time in the suddenly tropical December weather while wearing a big coat. I sat down at my desk with sweat dripping off my temples. That was a perfect test though. I was slightly upset at a vague hint of an unpleasant smell on the train home, but that went away when the greasy looking 20 year old boy sitting next to me got off.
When I got home I smelled the armpits of my clothes (as normal people do) and despite the fact they were definitely moist (pleasant!), the only scent I got was deodorant.
Running today was another test. Parkrun was max effort and I did another 5k to get home at moderate effort. I got home feeling pretty fresh, actually. The only giveaway that I’d been exerting myself was the fact my hair was damp. I can work with that.
So I think the plan will be to run such that I’ll have a ten minute walk back to the office so I’ll have stopped sweating by the time I get back, and untie my hair so it can dry off a bit. Then I can use wipes and towel myself off at work, reapply deodorant and hopefully that’ll be fine? I think I’m worrying about nothing. Someone at my previous job used to run to work (no shower) and I never gave him a second thought. Until now!
At work today I learnt that one of my ex-colleagues from my previous job is an ex-employee of my new employer. How bizarre is that? Two colleagues were talking about some work and one said “I think [full name] did that” and I’m like… “wait a minute…”. Apparently he used to work here about four years ago as a developer, but he’s a project manager now. They weren’t entirely complimentary about his work. Maybe that’s why he moved into management. I sent a message to someone I’ve kept in contact with asking to let him know!
Work itself is still fine, but the trains have been frustrating me. They’ve been 15+ minutes late getting home four of the last five days, which is annoying. I’ve started submitting compensation claims for it. I don’t expect to get much money back, but it costs them money to process my claim so it’s the right thing to do.
I’m putting into action the running at lunchtimes plan. I’ve ordered a bigger bag to carry my clothes and a towel, I’ve got a pack of wipes, more deodorant, etc. I’m going to leave a pair of trainers at work instead of carting them back and forth, so I’ve ordered a new pair. Hopefully next week I’ll be running again.
I’m being pretty good about staying relaxed. I’m currently writing this lying in bed on my new laptop (which I bought specifically so I can spend more time lying in bed! I’m not going to feel guilty about being lazy in the evenings), listening to some new music through some bluetooth headphones I bought on a whim about six months ago, but until I got this laptop, never actually found a use for.
Even though the trains were a nightmare tonight and even though starting a new job is supposed to be stressful, oh yeah, and even though HMRC sent me a letter today telling me they’ve reduced my personal allowance to £3k because they have decided the non-PAYE tax that they were too inefficient to take over the last three years has to be paid in its entirety from my income in the next four months (grr – so much for my pay rise.. until April at least)… well apart from all that, I’m actually feeling pretty calm. But let’s give credit where it’s due; I’m sure the Citalopram is helping here.