No one is more surprised than I am that I’m going to be swimming a mile. Outside. In Salford. It is just not at all the sort of thing I normally do.
I’m supposed to be doing a training blog to let everyone know I’m doing lots of swimming. I’m not sure how fascinating that will be, to be honest. You will, at any rate, be pleased to hear that I’ve rejected the idea of strapping a waterproof camcorder to my head so everyone can see a video of my arms flailing about in the water as I go up and down the pool.
Anyway, I thought I’d go back to where it all started. That was not, as may be expected, at the swimming pool, but in a small room at work where I first started seeing Tom from Moodswings.
He’s Fizz from Coronation St’s Dad, by the way. There are lots more pics of both him and Jenny on the Moodswings website http://www.moodswings.org.uk/.
Most people don’t know that I have depression and anxiety. I’m not one to go on about it. But anyway I do, and at that particular point I was more in a mess than usual.
My 16 year old relationship with my kids’ Dad had irrevocably broken down, but I didn’t have a clue how to move from living together to not living together. The kids, the house, the mortgage, the car, the cat – what was to become of all those things? The only thing I knew with any certainty was that, no matter what, he was having the CD collection. Anybody who has ever heard a cowboy yodelling or Ethel Merman singing disco classics first thing in the morning will understand.
So what to expect from counselling? Someone to listen, nod from time to time, and ask me how things made me feel? Someone to say “Hmmm” at intervals and look understanding and empathetic?
That’s not the Moodswings way. Obviously Tom listened to what I had to say, my random meanderings of half-baked plans for what on earth to do. Then he told me, ever so nicely, that I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
He followed up with lots of very practical advice for me, advice which knocked months, if not years, off the separation process. He made me see that it was in no one’s interests, least of all the kids’, to prolong being together. There was never going to be a “good time” to split up.
He also gave me the number of an accountant, Gordon Levy, who came to see me at work in my lunch break and went through my finances with me, free. It was him who worked out I could afford to stay in my house, on my own. From there it took me about eight weeks to be living on my own, sharing custody of the kids with my ex-partner, who now lives about ten minutes away.
This is my debit card (actually it’s not. It’s an image I downloaded, but it’s very similar. I LOVE First Direct BTW. There are many, many reasons why they consistently win prizes for their customer service). I smile every time I use it, because it is on my own account, rather than the old joint account. There may be less money, but it’s all mine!
The next session with Tom told me exactly what I already knew. He’s terribly good at stating the bleeding obvious in a way that makes it meaningful. My next step pretty much had to be giving up drinking.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have a bottle of vodka in my desk. I didn’t even drink spirits. I liked the process of getting drunk, rather than actually being completely out of it, though of course I generally ended up that way. I didn’t need a drink to get out of bed, I never had a day off work because I was drunk or hungover. I was a functioning alcoholic. Or, as I was to find over the numerous NHS assessments I had over the forthcoming weeks, I was “alcohol dependent”.
Many, many people have said that it’s coming to the decision that’s the hardest bit. They are right. I was fortunate, very fortunate, to have Moodswings there to guide me through that part. The actual stopping drinking was, relatively speaking, a breeze.
I had my last drink on 19 December. Well, to be fair it wasn’t just the one. There were 7 empty wine bottles in my kitchen the next morning. I hadn’t had all of it, but there were only two of us drinking that day....
It’s not much of a training blog is it? I haven’t even got wet yet.