Full time work and mental illness

This month marks three years since I began working full time.  The news that i had attained my first full-time job was clouded with trepidation.  I had never thought that I’d be able to manage full time work because of my mental illness.  I was sure that my depression and anxiety disorder would make it impossible for me to bear a full time workload.  But here I am, three years on and still doing the full time thing.


Although I manage pretty well, there are some pretty serious bumps in the road.  I often struggle to cope, and at times have thought about pumping the brakes and going back to part time work.  Today I wanted to share some of the challenges and benefits to working full time when you have a mental illness.


Finding time for self care

For me, managing my depression consists of a carefully-structured routine that centres around self care.  Years of trial and error have led me to a series of self-care steps that generally manage to keep my mental health on an even keel. I know that in order to feel my best, I need to eat properly and get enough sleep.  My yoga practice keeps me fit and helps calm my monkey mind.  Journalling several times a week gets those anxious thoughts out of my head. All these steps are choreographed into a daily dance that helps keep my head above water.

When I was working part time, it was much easier to find the balance between working and self care.  Now, when eight-and-a-half hours of each day are spent at the office, that leaves another eight for sleeping and then a further eight for eating, household responsibilities and self care.  That doesn’t leave a lot of spare time for socialising or family time.  And I’m often jammed between choosing to spend time with friends at the detriment of my self-care regime.  If I spend too much time with my family, or my boyfriend, or my mates, then my mental health begins to slide because I’m not able to keep up with those vital self care activities.  But it’s not always easy to leave a family dinner early because you need to do your yoga or because you just need to be alone for a while.  It’s difficult for people to understand why you’re piking out early, or declining invitations.  And after a while, they stop inviting you altogether if you bail too often.


Working full time has made it a lot more challenging to fit in those ever-important self care rituals.  And sometimes I’m overwhelmed with frustration because it feels like all I do is go to work, come home and run through the motions of keeping myself sane.  It’s maddening when it feels like there isn’t time for anything else in the day, and when you feel like so much more is expected of you and you aren’t able to achieve it.


To tell, or not to tell?

I’ve grappled with the decision of whether or not to tell the people I work with that I have depression and anxiety.  I’ve had mixed responses in the past, and when I begin a new job I’m always a bit gun-shy about disclosing my illness.

There’s the risk that the people you work with will treat you differently when they find out you have a mental illness.  There is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness, and it can be hard to work when you feel like people are walking on eggshells around you.  There’s also the unpleasant feeling of knowing that a workmate is internally rolling their eyes at you and wondering why you can’t just toughen up and manage your life like everyone else does.

On the other hand, many employers and workmates will be exceedingly supportive if they find out that you have a mental illness.  So it’s always a delicate balancing act of deciding whether you should mention it, and if so, when you should disclose your illness.


The perils of an invisible illness in the workplace

I went through a period last year where I was going through a really bad patch with my depression.  I was struggling to get out of bed each morning, and I just felt despondent all the time.  But I felt as though I had to force myself through the motions of everyday life anyway.  One morning about three weeks into this hellish patch I woke up with a fever and a sore throat.  I nearly cried with relief.  Why on earth was I so pleased that I was sick?  Well, because I felt like now that I had outward physical symptoms, I could take a sick day. Even though I’d been terribly unwell for weeks, it was only when my illness became physical that I felt like I was justified in staying home.


Invisible illnesses come with tricky pitfalls.  There’s always the worry that people will think you’re faking it.  That you’re making it up to get out of work or to avoid responsibility.  When you have no physical symptoms to “prove” that you’re unwell, it’s difficult to justify taking time off.  This is particularly true when you’re depressed or anxious and you simply don’t have the emotional fortitude to assert your needs or argue with workmates who don’t understand that mental illness can be as debilitating as physical illnesses.  For me, I’ve never been brave enough to call in sick when I’ve needed a ‘mental health day”.  Even though I think it would be justified, I still haven’t ever been able to bring myself to do it.


The mental load of engaging with others

I am a self-confessed introvert.  I much prefer my own company to the company of others.  I find being around other people (with the exception of a few of my nearest and dearest) mentally taxing.  And when those interactions take place in a professional environment, that makes it just a little more difficult for me.  On my good days, I can manage the daily office banter perfectly well.  I can smile at staff meetings, make small talk at the copier and pick up my intercom without breaking into a cold sweat.  But when my anxiety is kicking in or I’m on the verge of a crash, managing those polite, simple interactions becomes a monumental task.  Just answering a question from a colleague about the stationery order can leave me on the verge of tears.  Each time my intercom buzzes I feel a sharp pang in my chest and my breath comes in bursts.  For me, the mere task of being around other people is taxing and takes a huge mental load.  It’s extremely difficult to keep my professional mask in place and do my job like I’m supposed to.


Financial security and the money buffer

One really positive thing that my full time job has brought to my life is the feeling of financial security.  When I was working part time, I was making enough to pay my bills and not much extra.  I would often fall into a panic about what would happen if I had a sudden emergency and needed extra cash.  I wasn’t in a position to cover unforeseen costs, and the idea that I might suddenly require hospital care or need to pay for repairs on my flat was terrifying to me.


Now I feel much more secure about my financial position.  I know that my bills are covered and I have enough to put food on the table.  I can switch the heater on or take an extra shower without panicking about the spike in my bills.  And I now have enough that I can save towards some financial goals and stuff a bit of cash away for the future.  For all the stress that full time work brings, that financial security and knowing that I’m looking after myself is really reassuring.


A reason and a purpose

Although I’ve mentioned a lot of the struggles I have with my depression and work, taking on a full time job has helped my depression and anxiety as well.  I’ve gained confidence as I’ve learned new skills and managed challenges at work.  I’ve come to see that I’m quite capable of dealing with difficult problems and working with other people in my office as a team. Additionally, there are days when it’s difficult to get up, to shower and to drag myself through the day.  But I do it because I have to.  Because I know I have a job and I can’t afford to lose it.  Because I care about the work I do and I don’t want to let my workmates down. While that could be a lot of pressure for some folks, for me it works well as a motivator and helps me to move forward.


Do you have a mental illness and a full time job?  How do you manage it?  What are some of the challenges and benefits you’ve experienced?



The three common principles of BDsM

I’ve had a few requests for some posts about BDsM.  Some of you might know that I’m interested in BDsM.  I’m both a scholar who likes to learn about new techniques, fetishes and relationships and an active participant who likes to indulge in BDsM  play in the bedroom and in day-to-day life. I’m by no means an expert, but this is something that I’m fascinated by and passionate about. I’m happy to write about this part of my life as long as my readers are interested.  And since I casually mentioned it and got a few responses asking for more information, I’m guessing that at least a couple of you are.


I thought a good place to begin talking about BDsM on this blog would be to introduce you to the three core principles of BDsM.  BDsM covers a vast range of practices, scenes, fetishes, fantasies, lifestyles and roles.  It can be something very extreme, involving complex equipment and dedicated participants, something light and gentle or anything in between.  Even though the scope of the term BDsM is incredibly broad, there are three core principles that apply no matter whether you’re tying someone up and hanging them from the ceiling or giving your lover a few playful swats with a hairbrush.  Those are the principles of Safe, Sane and Consensual.  These three words are the cornerstone of all BDsM play and should be considered very carefully by all players involved.

So what do I mean by Safe, Sane and Consensual?  Let me break it down for you.

Safe” means that you have taken into consideration the potential risks and how to eliminate or minimise them.

  • You understand any and all equipment that you are using during your scene.
  • You have practiced the techniques that you will use.
  • You are aware of what warning signs to look for that may indicate that your partner is in distress.
  • You are able to administer first aid or quickly obtain assistance if necessary
  • You have safety equipment such as rope cutters close at hand.
  • You have discussed any physical ailments or limitations with your partner.
  • If your BDsM play involves sex, you will practice safer sex.
  • Safe words or signals should be decided upon.  If the word or signal is used, play must stop immediately.

Sane” means that you are in a rational and clear-headed state of mind.

  • You will not practice bondage, impact play, sharps play or other dangerous scenes under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • BDsM should not be undertaken to harm another person, to vent anger at your partner or to exact revenge.
  • Proper aftercare should be employed to ensure that all parties are feeling safe and stable after play time is over.
  • The person who takes on a Dominant or Top role must be aware of the vulnerability of their sub or bottom and not take advantage of them or abuse their position.
  • Extra care must be taken if you have a mental illness.  Potential triggers should be discussed with your partner, as well as any additional needs or aftercare that you may require.
  • You must act responsibly and with self-control.

Consensual” means that all activities are undertaken with full and informed consent of all parties involved.

  • All scenes are negotiated well before play begins.
  • Parties should discuss their limits and boundaries, and those limits should be respected.
  • Honesty is essential to achieve informed consent. You must not lie or mislead a partner about what you intend to do to them during a scene.
  • Make sure that you tell your partner if they are approaching your limits, or if they are doing something that you do not like.

As you can see, there is a tremendous amount of care and consideration which must go into the practice of BDsM.  The amount of planning and negotiation is proportionate to the level of danger or the degree of power exchange involved, but it is always a vital part of BDsM.


I’m certainly interested in writing more about BDsM or play.  If there are any topics you’d like me to touch on in future posts, please let me know.  As always, questions are welcome but I ask that you keep them respectful.


How to deal with a body that’s changed.

So, over the last year or so I’ve noticed a lot of changes in my body.  And I don’t mean like, growing hair in strange places.  I mean that I’ve gained some weight.  Not a huge amount of weight, but enough that I feel uncomfortable in my own skin (and in most of my jeans).  And I’m not going to lie to you, it’s been pretty hard for me to deal with this change in my bod.

Now, I’ve written before about gaining weight, and how it’s troubled me. And a lot of the feelings I discussed in that post are still ringing true.  I’m finding it quite hard to manage the feelings that are cropping up with the weight that I’ve gained.  So in an effort to move forward, I sat down and thought carefully about why I’m so bothered by a few extra kilos.


While my negative feelings about my body are complicated, there are a few key issues that have bubbled to the surface during my ruminations.  The first is the realisation that even though I try hard to be body positive, even though I try not to internalize the messages I’m bombarded with about how thin is better, and how being fat is a terrible thing, I’m still affected by them.  Even though I know countless people with a wide array of body shapes and sizes who are all incredibly gorgeous, even though I constantly tell people to be kind to themselves, I still feel the weight of those messages.  I still feel like I’ve failed in some way because I’ve gained weight.  I still feel less attractive when I notice that my jeans won’t zip or that my belly pokes out more than it used to.  I still feel like I should be ashamed of my weight gain.  It makes me pretty angry that even though I’ve done my best to resist that negativity and shame, it’s still wormed it’s way into my consciousness.

I’ve also felt frustrated with myself because I keep having this idea that my weight is something that I should control.  And that if I’m gaining weight, it’s because I’ve done the wrong thing.  I feel ashamed and lazy.  I feel mad that I have to manage my depression with drugs that have caused me to gain weight.  I feel burdened by my full-time job, which takes up much of my time and energy and makes it much more difficult to eat well and exercise. And I curse my genetics which make it more likely that I’m going to have a rounder figure as I get older.  I feel impotent because there are so many factors working against me, and I imagine that I should be able to manage them and keep my figure because that’s what women are “supposed to do”.

I also feel uncomfortable with the way I look.  Now, I need to point out that I don’t think that fat=ugly.  The reason that I don’t feel comfortable is that I’m not used to the way my body looks now. Even though the shift in my weight hasn’t been dramatic, it’s enough that I feel strange in my own skin.  I look in the mirror and it feels weird to see more rounded hips, and a curved tummy  and actual boobs.  My figure has become more hourglass where it was always fairly up-and-down and very skinny.  My clothes fit me differently and hug me too tightly over my new curves.  Outfits that used to make me feel confident and sassy now make me feel like a sausage in a too-tight casing. I don’t feel like I look like “me”. It’s so difficult to learn to love a new shape when I’d barely become confident in the one I had.

But I’m doing alright.  And there are a few things I’ve been doing that have helped immensely.  I’d like to share those things with you, in case you’re also struggling with a body that’s changed.

Talk about it.

Discussing my feelings and insecurities has been extremely helpful.  I’m lucky enough to have many people in my life who were kind to me, who listened attentively and empathised.  Talking it over with a few of my favourite people helped me to feel so much better.  It made me realise that my feelings aren’t unique, that these struggles are something that most people go through.  It gave me comfort to know that those special people didn’t think any less of me because I’d gained weight, and still valued me just as much.

Decide what action you want to take (if any)

Let me be absolutely clear: you don’t have to do anything about your weight gain if you don’t want to.  I’m the last person who will tell you that you need to go on a diet.  But I do think that if your weight gain is causing you pain and grief, then you need to do something.  For me, I’ve taken stock of my  lifestyle and realised that I could definitely improve my eating habits and exercise routine.  I know that I need to plan a more well-rounded diet and move my body more often.  At the same time, I know that unless I starve myself and stop taking my medication, I’m never going to get back to my old body.  And so as well as taking better care of myself, I’ve decided that I need to work on accepting my body and coming to terms with the changes that have taken place.  So whether you want to change up your habits, or look at your emotional patterns, or a bit of both, I think taking some action to get yourself feeling better is a good idea.

Recognise that bodies change

All bodies, particularly female bodies, go through massive changes over the course of a lifetime.  And whether those changes are caused by a lifestyle shift, hormones, medication, illness, age, growing a human inside you or some other reason, it can be difficult to manage.  As difficult as it is, it’s really important to accept that our bodies alter and shift as time passes.  It’s perfectly OK to mourn the shape and size you once were, but I think it’s also a good idea to begin to celebrate some good things about your new shape.  For example, I’m trying to feel chuffed about the fact that I finally have boobs, after years of struggling with push-up bras.  Find something that you like, celebrate that and build from there.

Get rid of clothes that trigger self hate.

This one has been hard for me, because my clothes are a huge part of my life.  I love getting dressed in the morning, and I place a lot of emotional attachment to the items in my wardrobe.  For me those skinny jeans aren’t just a couple of denim tubes and a zipper, they have the power to make me feel fierce and sexy.  And when those fierce jeans will no longer zip, their power changes….they become a trigger for self loathing.  Lately I’ve been taking a long, hard look at my clothes, and I’ve gotten rid of a few things that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wear again.  There are some I’m hanging onto because there’s a chance that they’ll fit someday.  But the ones that made me feel the shittiest had to go.  It’s hard to let go of those items because of the memories attached to them, and because in a way it feels like the end of a part of my life.  But sometimes you have to take a deep breath, let them go and then buy some new gear that makes you feel fierce and fabulous.

Do you struggle with your body when it changes?  What have you done to make that change easier?

How Mummy shaming hurts us all.

I got shamed at the gym a few weeks ago.  Not Body shamed or Fat shamed. I got Mummy shamed.  After class, I was chatting with a group of women I work out with, and I admitted that I almost hadn’t made it to yoga class that day because I was feeling so exhausted.  One of my workout buddies exclaimed, “Ness, until you have kids, you don’t know what it means to be tired”.  The others nodded in agreement and I felt, well, shitty about myself.  And then on the walk home that shitty feeling broke up into shame, anger and frustration.




Now it’s true that I don’t have kids, and I don’t know what it’s like to be a mother.  Raising children is a task that is impossible for me to even imagine.  I can’t really fathom how tiring it is or how challenging it can be, and I’m not here to suggest that motherhood is anything other than trying and difficult (and probably also ultimately rewarding).


But here’s the thing: in spite of me not having spawned a brood of offspring, I definitely know what it means to be tired.  I work full time.  I live on my own and run my own household.  I support myself financially.  I deal with chronic mental illness.  I keep up family and social obligations and occasionally do some dating.  I’m busy, I’m challenged and at times I’m fucking exhausted.  I know all too well what it feels like to be tired.


Thinking back to that day at the gym, I recall how small I felt.  I’d admitted to this group of women that I’d struggled to get to the gym that day, that I was struggling in general, and instead of being met with support and encouragement, I was made to feel shame.  Like my efforts were less than theirs because I’m not a mother.  Like my tiredness wasn’t as important as theirs because I don’t have a family at home to take care of.


This isn’t the only time I’ve ever been Mummy shamed.  In fact, it’s happened to me a whole bunch of times.  And in each instance I’ve felt invalidated and unimportant. Looked down upon for my choice not to bring children in this world.  And that really sucks.


Here’s a big truth: every single person you meet is fighting the battle that is life.  And they’re fighting it in their own way.  We each have a unique set of hurdles and struggles, and to each person those struggles feel entirely real and sometimes overwhelming.  From the outside, an observer might think that any given individual’s burdens are simpler and lighter than their own.  But to the person carrying them they are heavy and complex.


Mummy shaming hurts.  It hurts the person being shamed and it hurts the person doing the shaming.  It adds fuel to the flaming idea that a woman’s life isn’t complete until she’s had children.  It invalidates the choices of those who decide that kids aren’t for them.  It dampens the ecstatic notion that a woman can choose a life that suits her, rather than just being what she’s “supposed” to be.  It perpetuates the idea that women need to be snarky and competitive to each other, rather than being supportive and compassionate.  It creates situations where we aren’t comfortable asking for help, or speaking out when we are struggling for fear of being stamped down or made to feel unworthy of the help we need.  And it creates a further divide between those who have chosen to have a family and those who have not.


We’re all struggling.  We’re all tired.  And every person’s struggle is real.  Every person is deserving of a kind ear and an encouraging word.  So let’s do away with shaming and just give the support and kindness that we can.  If a person says “I’m really worn out” you can offer your support.  And then if you need to, you can say “I’m worn out too” and tell them about your struggles and get the support you need.  If we all give that kindness and support and stop shaming, the world can be a much better place.

Inside Out: a damn good film about depression.

Having depression means that I deal with a range of struggles on a regular basis.  But one thing that I find the most difficult is explaining what having depression is like to people that have never experienced it.  It is so rough to find just the right combination of words or the ideal analogy to sum up what it feels like to be depressed.

So last weekend when I watched Pixar’s Inside Out I nearly jumped for joy.  Well, not literally.  In actual fact I sat and watched the film with my mouth agape, occasionally brushing away a tear.  The gaping jaw and tears were the product of watching a film that so accurately summed up what it feels like to have depression.  The joy came later when I realised that I might just have found a great movie to recommend to people who want to better understand the experience of depression.


*Note: This post contains spoilers*


Today I’d like to touch on some of the aspects of Inside Out that I felt brilliantly illustrated what it’s like to have depression.


Everything Turns Blue

When Riley’s depression begins, her emotions are shocked to see that everything Sadness touches begins to turn blue.  Slowly her collection of glowing golden memories are tainted by Sadness, and even her core memories (the most important memories which build aspects of Riley’s personality) begin to take on an inky hue.  To me this felt like such a great metaphor for depression.  When you’re depressed, sadness seems to seep into every aspect of your being.  Even once-happy memories become tinged with regret, anxiety and longing.  Finding a positive spin on your negative thoughts becomes nearly impossible.


I particularly liked the part where Joy picks up one of the now-blue memories and begins to frantically rub at it, trying to turn it back to gold.  This made me think of all the times when someone has told me to “just look on the bright side” or “think positive thoughts” as a means of turning my depression around.  As much as you’d like to be able to rub a little happiness on your emotional wounds, depression isn’t fixed that easily.


Feeling cut off from personality traits and interests

When Riley’s depression really begins to take hold, her emotions lose contact with her “Personality Islands”.  Each Personality Island represents an important aspect of Riley’s personality, from her values, her favourite hobbies and the things she holds most dear.  One by one, the Personality Islands begin to crumble and decay.  I felt a tug in my heart when this started to happen, because I could relate so strongly to that feeling.  When my depression deepens, I sometimes feel as though I’m losing touch with the things that make me “me”.  Hobbies and interests stop being interesting.  I will go through the motions of doing the things that usually bring me joy, and feel intensely frustrated when I don’t feel anything.  It’s as though my personality traits become dulled and I’m a colourless version of myself.  Two of Riley’s Personality Islands represent Friendship and Family, and the crumbling of these two islands is particularly poignant as she becomes more isolated from her nearest and dearest.



Frustration and confusion.

Two words I use frequently when talking about depression are frustration and confusion.  And these two concepts are brilliantly depicted in the film.  When Riley’s memories begin turning blue, her emotions are beside themselves with worry.  They simply can’t figure out why it’s happening.  Even Sadness can’t explain what’s going on even though she’s the cause of all the trouble.  This feeling of “why is this happening?”  is so common with depression.  When it starts creeping into your life, it’s terrifying and you feel so confused as to why you are feeling this way.


After the initial shock, Riley’s emotions become frustrated as their attempts to turn her negative feelings around don’t work.  They try to contain Sadness by asking her to stay within a circle drawn on the floor, they attempt to distract her with meaningless tasks and they make her promise not to touch any memories.  But she continues touching and making things worse.  And so the emotions become annoyed and upset with her.  The thing I found the most interesting was that even Sadness was frustrated with herself.  She didn’t know why she kept touching things, she just felt drawn to do the very thing she wasn’t supposed to.  And that’s the frustrating thing about depression: you don’t want to feel this way, you don’t want the sadness to take over but you can’t help it.  And it seems as though any effort you make to contain it is fruitless.



Fear, Anger and Disgust

When Joy and Sadness head off to figure out a solution to their problems, Fear, Anger and Disgust are left in charge of Riley’s internal engine.  Which in turn leads to a slew of inappropriate emotional responses.  While this part of the movie was filled with comic relief, there was a very un-funny message behind it.  In my experience, once my good feelings have bolted in the face of a depressive episode, I’m left with Fear: which makes me anxious and wary; Disgust: which makes me judgemental and sarcastic and Anger: which gives me a very short fuse.  It is no fun trying to get around with those three driving the ship.  While it was pretty funny watching Anger, Fear and Disgust try to figure out what Joy would have done to handle the situation, I was reminded of how difficult it is to maintain the appearance of normalcy when you just want to scream at everyone who crosses your path.  I remember going to work and having to force a grit-teethed smile onto my face and try to sound polite as I dealt with each customer.  I vividly recall trying to arrange my face into the closest approximation of a pleasant expression when attending a party with friends.  It is exhausting and difficult to maintain a normal life when your emotions are out of whack.



Sadness isn’t the bad guy

One of the aspects of the film that I felt was the most important was how the character Sadness was dealt with.  Sadness wasn’t the villain.  Although the other characters get annoyed with her, she isn’t the bad guy in this film.  Sadness was a part of Riley’s emotional team from the beginning, and I think that’s a really important distinction to make.  Sadness is a normal part of being human.  But depression is what happens when Sadness gets out of control.  I thought it was great that the film didn’t try to make out that all sadness is bad, and that any negative emotion should be swept under the carpet.  It was great to see that recognition that we all go through a range of emotions, and that it’s only a problem when those emotions become unbalanced.


The truth is, Inside Out wasn’t a perfect representation of depression. There were some aspects of the story that didn’t gel with my personal experience.  But I still feel that it came closer than most other movies I’ve seen at describing what it is like to live with depression.  I am so heartened to have found this film that so beautifully illustrates one of the least-beautiful aspects of my life.


Peer pressure and my uterus…

Peer pressure is something that’s been on my mind lately.  When I hear the phrase “peer pressure” I instantly think of teenagers being bullied by their mates into shoplifting or experimenting with alcohol.  When I was in school, that’s what I thought peer pressure was.  I recall being made to watch countless videos of unfortunate teens who desperately wanted to fit in so they caved to their friends’ coercion and took a drag from the proffered cigarette/downed a swig from a communal bottle of booze/ nicked an eyeliner from the chemist.  (Ultimately getting caught and reflecting on how they should have listened to their gut instead of their bonehead mates).


But peer pressure isn’t just something that affects teens.  As I near my thirties I’ve noticed a different kind of peer pressure creeping into my life.  Only this time it isn’t booze and cigarettes that are being pushed onto me, it’s babies.


Now, I’m pretty darn sure that I don’t want kids.  I have nothing against children per se, but they have never really been a part of my plan.  Motherhood just doesn’t appeal to me and I’m OK with that.   There are enough people procreating that I’m confident that the universe won’t implode if I decide not to add my spawn to the gene pool.   But lately I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure around the topic of children and motherhood.


The first one to jump on the Baby Pressure Bandwagon was my mother.  She has two sisters who each have an adorable brood of grandchildren and I think Mum’s eager to join them in their photo-and-story-sharing sessions.  And in order for her join the Grandma Club I have to squeeze out a baby.  And when she found out that I had no intention of doing that, ever, she seems to have made it her personal mission to change my mind.


Like those peer pressure vids from high school, it started with some casual needling.  A few questions here and there to feel out my position.  “You’re so great with babies, don’t you think you’ll make a wonderful mother?”  “So-and-so named their baby Sunflower,  which I think is really cute.  What baby names do you like?”  and so forth.  Then when my answers proved maddeningly obtuse, she started with a more direct line of questioning.  “When do you think you’ll have kids?” became her catch-cry.


Once I made it clear that I didn’t intend to reproduce, she took it upon herself to convince me.  She will jump at any opportunity to remind me that kids are great, and being a mother is awesome, and when you have kids you get to do all kinds of fun things like play in sandpits and have play-doh in the house again.  Any time she sees me holding one of my friends’ kids she will give me a little knowing nod and make a point to tell me how great I am with kids, as though to reinforce my maternal behaviours.


At this point it was easy to shrug these things off as a bit of silliness from my baby-crazy mother.  But then the balance shifted when many of my friends started to join The Motherhood, rolling down the streets with their strollers and colourful collection of Peppa Pig toys.  All of a sudden, the pressure wasn’t just coming from my mother, it was everywhere.  Friends who had never batted an eyelid at my childlessness before started to inquire when I’d start my own family.  And then the tension began to mount.


What started as a bit of casual questioning took on a distinctly disdainful air.  Whenever I’d mention that I don’t want to have kids, inevitably there would be someone who would roll their eyes and say “You’ll change your mind”.  My decision to remain childless has been met with people asking if I hate children, or questioning whether I’m vain and selfish and don’t want to devote my time to another.  My mother has begun rattling off lists of people I went to school with who have had children, and I’m starting to feel that same old high school pressure “Everyone else is doing it, why not you?”.


In the face of this adult peer pressure, I’ve decided to console myself with the very same advice that those videos preached so many years ago: to listen to your gut and do the right thing.  The truth is I like kids.  A lot.  They can be hilarious and a source of great joy.  And I’m good with kids.  But I am also good at handing them back to their parents when a tantrum kicks in.  As much as I enjoy them, I don’t have any desire to have kids of my own.  I’m perfectly content being Aunty Ness to all my friends kids.  That’s what’s right for me, and just because everyone else seems to be having babies doesn’t mean I need to have one too.


Have you felt peer pressure as an adult?  What have you felt pressured to do?

The struggle between control and letting go.

I’m a firm believer in going after what you want.  If there is something in my life that I wish were different, I will do whatever is in my power to change it.  However, there’s always a bit of difficulty in deciding what is within my power and what is outside my control.

There is a point when you’re working towards something when you have to relinquish control and just let things happen.  But I’ve learned that I’m not good at identifying when that point arrives and deciding to let go at the appropriate time.  Part of this is possibly due to my anxiety, part of it is probably because I’m a perfectionist who is fiercely independent and wants to do Everything For Myself.  And part of likely comes down to the fact that I’m a bit impatient and I want everything good to happen Right Now.


I feel as though I’m constantly torn between two beliefs: that of “If it’s meant to be, it will be” and “If you want it, you have to make it happen”.  I often feel the pull between these two ideas, never quite knowing how to draw the line between them.

On the one hand, I’m not about to sit on my backside and wait for good things to come to me.  It’s not in my nature to just wait patiently while expending only the energy to send out some positive thoughts.  While I think that positive thoughts are great, they need to be coupled with dedicated action if you’re actually going to get somewhere.

That being said, all the dedicated action in the world isn’t always enough to propel you towards your goal.  Sometimes, even though you’ve worked really hard, the stars just never quite align and opportunities don’t present themselves as quickly as you’d hoped.   If you keep slaving away, you’ll eventually just work yourself into the ground, so you have to just let things go a little bit.

For me, one thing that has helped me to straddle the line between “working towards a goal” and “letting things unfold naturally” has been to identify where the control in a situation lies.  Often in a scenario, we have some degree of control, but we aren’t able to influence the entire outcome.  Once I’ve found the things I can control, I put my energy into working on these areas.  For example, if I’m going for a job interview, I can’t control the questions I’m asked or the final decision. But I can control my presentation by making sure I’m well-dressed and that I’m equipped with an up-to-date resume.  I can control my ability to answer the questions by researching the company I’ll be working with, thinking about some answers to common questions and trying to remain calm during the interview.  Once I’m out of that interview room, there’s little more I can do, so worrying about it is pointless.  So I try to put my worries out of my mind.

When I get to a point where I’ve done all that I can do to the best of my ability, it’s time to step back.  It’s true that sometimes you have to be patient and just allow things to happen.  And once you’ve done your bit, it’s that much easier to hand the reigns over to the universe and let it drive for a while.

Also, if I get to a point where I feel like I’ve been working my fingers to the bone and I’m still beating my head against a wall, then I find it’s time to relinquish my stranglehold on the situation.  Often, things take a bit of time to take shape and you need to give yourself space to see the bigger picture.  It will pay to let go a little, trust me.

Do you struggle between control and letting go?  How do you deal with this conundrum?