It’s not been a traumatic week, nor a particularly difficult week, but it has been a tiring week. I’ve felt the energy sapped out of me by high temperatures and humidity, disturbed sleep and early awakenings, interruptions and changes to routine, hormones and hay fever.
I’ve itched with irritability and sunk into a bog of despondency that’s felt hard to drag myself out of.
Time to light some torches and take a better look at the landscape of this last week.
First of all, let’s name this mire – it is Fatigue and I know it makes me more susceptible to a low mood. Multiple steps have led me here this week.
We’ve had a heatwave. After a busy weekend, much of it unavoidably spent ‘out in the midday sun’ (organising races on an athletics track, trekking uphill to a restaurant lunch when no taxis could be found), we spent our following day off, equally hot, fit for nothing but lazing around the house hoping uselessly for a breeze. It started to feel like a wasted day.
Back at work, offices have been heat traps despite open windows and fans. Long days on the road visiting patients have been made longer by traffic delays caused by melted roads and few offers of a cold drink.
And on the hottest June day in forty years, our chosen BB activity that Midsummer evening was to build camp fires and cook over barbecues! No wonder I got tetchy when the boys got too close with a game of football.
But even in the heat there have been blessings:
- I’m grateful for time with my family whatever the temperature and however active or inactive we choose to be together
- I’m grateful for the ability and luxury to prioritise time with people who need me
- I’m grateful for an air-conditioned car and that I remembered to keep a bottle of water in it
- I’m grateful that the weather led to incredibly dry kindling and branches, easy to make a fire with
- I’m grateful for our home’s plumbing so I could take three showers in one day
- I’m grateful to see the weather’s effect in my garden oasis turning pea blooms to pods, ripening apples, and promising tomatoes with tiny starry flowers
I’ve been based in a different office part of the week. My boss is on leave so I’ve been covering her work on our in patient unit. Usually I enjoy the change but by the time she comes back I’m glad to get back to my usual duties in the community team. This time, it’s taken less than two days for me to wish I was back in my own role.
Part of the problem has been that I’ve been the only one working in the main office so I’ve had to field every phone call and every enquiry for the whole department. Some of those have been relevant and necessary and I’ve been happy to help. However, many have been misdirected but complicated to work out who should be dealing with them instead. It’s frustrating to be employed to be a therapist but to spend much of my time acting as an admin instead.
I’ve also found it draining to be unable to finish any task without being interrupted. Detailed notes to write up or referrals to make, triaging the increasing waiting list (no time to see new patients on my own caseload when covering the ward), making tactful phone calls to bereaved relatives, even getting through my emails and the tasks raised from them, all these are part of my normal routine but take concentration. With frequent interruptions, concentration is regularly broken and then requires time to refocus, so it’s just not an efficient way to work. The days end up feeling ‘bitty’ with little achieved at the end of them.
But I mustn’t forget the blessings in all this:
- The welcome from old colleagues who I haven’t seen or worked with for a while
- The companionship of one afternoon sharing the office with our volunteer
- The satisfaction of solving a tricky problem for someone (even if it wasn’t really meant for me)
- The fact that I have a job and that it is one I feel fulfilled in doing
And then there have been the irritations of minor health issues. Pain and discomfort, alongside the heat, sapping strength and stealing sleep, making me fractious so I have had to shut myself away to prevent my picking arguments. A day long attack of pollen making my head hurt, scratching and rasping my eyes, restricting the opportunity to find calm in gardening. Petty problems but further steps along the path to fatigue and dejection.
However, I don’t have to give in to it. So let’s count the blessings in this too:
- I am blessed with the availability of pain relief medication
- I am particularly blessed by Opticrom eye drops, which I had the forethought to keep a supply of
- I am blessed with a large house and garden with space enough to escape into privacy if I need it
- I enjoyed the trip to the garden centre to choose container plants (even though it brought on the hay fever!) and can enjoy the planning of where to put all the plants I bought
- I feel blessed by the friendly, unsolicited, advice from a fellow shopper so now I can prevent slug damage to the beautiful lemon French marigolds that I plan to scatter (and by scatter, I mean plant carefully) around the garden to light it up like the stars on the EU flag or the Queen’s hat at this week’s Opening of Parliament.
- I am blessed by remembering that I don’t have to plant everything I bought all in one go. I can eke out the satisfaction and gratification over the next few days. I might even be able to share the tasks with other members of my family and therefore share the benefits.
Looking back, it’s been a very ordinary week in many ways. None of the challenges or demands have been ones I have not faced before. But I have let myself focus on the frustrations, get caught up in petty irritations. Like I have said before, I’m naturally a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person and I have fallen back into my default mode of thinking.
So the last blessing to count this week is this blog series. The discipline of identifying the blessings in my life each week lifts my eyes (and my mood) from the ground and gives me a truer perspective of where I am standing. Or as the old hymn, which my Nanna so loved, puts it:
‘Count your blessings, name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done’.