Two wise people once said:
"Natalie, we know you are capable of anything you set your mind to. Also, we know that you can't do it all at the same time sometimes!"
...My mum and dad.
Who have been brilliant supporters of my recovery, the creation of my heart's-work in2gr8mentalhealth, and giving me space to live at home so I can balance that important voluntary work with other paid work around it.
The past two weeks could be described as climbing the Alps, full of peaks - BBC World News, and troughs - having in2gr8mentalhealth offline whilst trying to develop investment and tech solutions for a platform that couldn't be provided by the old one. And then the need to find meaningful work because all my paid ones finish at the end of March. It's turned out to be a bit of a mash up of the Maslow's.
At some point, you have to notice when you're walking around with shoulders so far past your ears with the stress of balancing it all, your head's barely on show. Such is the space where the voluntary heart-work can sometimes meet the pragmatics of finding the petrol money.
It was with some support today that I finally stopped trying to do everything and tearily downed all tools. Not in defeat, quite the opposite, in a blinding stroke of sensibleness.
I've now only picked up those tools most important for the next two months - the space to complete my temp work, my UCL work, some staff wellbeing work, an article, a conference and teaching slots, and space to actually apply for the work I need after April. The universe has clearly sent me all this so I can learn how to prioritise better.
Applying for the work I want to do as a clinical psychologist isn't easy for me, as my breakdown interrupted my clinical career a few years after I qualified, before I really had a chance to supervise trainees properly ( I was in a non-NHS setting where that might have happened sooner), so DClinPsy tutor roles feel hard to meet the criteria of. Also, I am choosing not to work clinically, partially because I'm not ready, and partially because my interest and skills in strategy and leadership in mental health is where I'm firmly at these days. I know clinical psychology is doing more at trainee level to prepare for leadership roles, perhaps I may meet some of these opportunities from my qualified end. I hope my searches will bear fruit when I see what's out there, I'll be bringing my qualified, entrepreneurship and lived experience with with me.
in2gr8mentalhealth will need me to rest from all my striving trying to do everything at the moment, to give myself fully to the vision I have for it when I'm ready (and it's a good one). I won't continue its creation presently without proper time to walk through the important structural stages to make it a great space to be. I imagine after getting settled again in April I will be able to come back to it, and the offers of help and investment, and do them justice. I take my role as leader seriously, that means having capacity for clear vision to steer and support, or in other words, far less shoulders around my ears than I have at present.
I hope I've never done anything less than be authentic and open on this path I've taken since coming back into the mental health scene, just exactly as I am, and fighting the good fight with valuing and destigmatising lived experience in the profession, and everything it takes to do that.
So, mum and dad, I hear you.
And to those who have listened to my struggles over the past couple of weeks to get in2gr8 up and running again, whilst balancing me Maslow's, thank you for your advice and time.
In particular, by the time I entered the hugely supportive Katrina Scior's office on my UCL day this morning, and put my head on the table in tears from it all being a bit much, I knew I'd turned the corner in understanding I need to do things in bits.
Katrina and the crew here at UCLUS have always welcomed all of me with open arms, from my tearfully passionate first interview for the job, when I poured out my trained and lived experience on why this training community work would be so important, to today's need for a right old blub from holding too much altogether. It is wonderful to be able to be yourself at work, to be human, to share how we can all get overwhelmed with trying to do a good job with everything sometimes. I will be sad to leave when the contract is over in March for sure, but the work we will have done on the guide together, on valuing and supporting lived experience in the training community, will have been fantastic. I hope it springboards a whole new set of conversations about how to make training even better, based on the experience of those who have been through the tough stuff like me. How amazing is it to be paid for what you love?
If you see me about over the next couple of months, it's likely to be with a one of those expressions you only get on your face when you're having to update your CV - you know the one, not dissimilar to when you've stubbed your little toe. Given our range of preferences in the human race there will be someone out there who enjoys it - I'll aim to find them for inspiration.
With all best to you out there in your endeavours, I won't be the only one who has been full of holding a bit too much and in some anxiety about finances.
We'll try our best.