Initially I had been planning a blog about the value of creativity as a form of therapy that can help to relieve some of the difficulties and symptoms of things like depression, anxiety and stress. While this is still going to be largely or at least in part the theme of this blog, this morning as I returned from delivering an order of earrings to a local shop I started to think about just how far I have come since April and my first outing to a craft market as "Gilli's flowers". I started reflecting on how at my first couple of markets I had felt surprised the want of better word when somebody bought one of my items was said they liked my jewellery as well other people had praised it I was still very unsure. I knew I liked what I made, I knew that close friends and family who might show it to liked it and said I should sell it but I still didn't really believe this myself.
As those of you know me all who have read some of my previous blogs will know over the last what is now coming up for four years I have become disabled due to a combination of long-term health problems. As well as resulting in the breakdown of my marriage, I'd also had to accept that however hard I tried I could no longer push myself at work in the way I used to do and could no longer meet my own high expectations of myself. This was really really hard. I had been doing the same kind of work for most of my teaching career. I had been involved with children with special needs and disabilities right for my first job and been a SENCo/inclusion manager since the introduction of the first code of practice about 25 or so years ago. I was now lucky enough to to have both my dream job and to be working in a school which genuinely valued inclusion. Suddenly, I had to accept that it was no longer something I could do more importantly it was no longer in the best interests of the children or the school that I worked in and so I made the hard decision to go part time and accepts a new role.
I was then, and am still incredibly lucky to both have a job that I can still do and to work in a school where the management, at the majority of the staff were also so supportive of me and my new circumstances. However it was difficult. Together with all the other adjustments I was having to make both physically and emotionally, including the impact this has had on my mobility and the knowledge that there were some people, including some work colleagues who now viewed me differently. I knew there were some colleagues at work who made me feel that I should simply give up work and that I was no longer able to make positive contribution to the school.
I lost a lot of my emotional resilience, felt I had to constantly prove myself and not surprisingly depression and anxiety reared their ugly heads. At times I know I gave my head and deputy head a lot of grief when I overreacted to what I saw as criticisms of me. On top of everything else I felt that I had lost "me", that my personality had changed and I did not like the new me.
The positive though was that I had finally found a new creative outlet, I started off with more conventional origami but then finding what worked best for me i.e. caused least pain, I started making origami jewellery, and one day one of those spur of the moment nothing ventured nothing gained type moods I applied to and then joined a couple of local crafting groups.
The first step towards rebuilding my confidence was simply that the organisers of both of these liked my work and that one considered that my prices were too low and I needed to raise them.
Since then I have sold items at eight locally organised craft markets - not a huge number but this is manageable from me as much as I enjoy doing them now they are very tiring and the follow-up is usually at least a day of real brain numbing fatigue as my body recovers.
But there have been so many benefits. Obviously the fact that I have made a profit at every market I've attended has been great financially but also means so much more to me. It means that people like, value and are willing to pay for what I design and make. In fact I've even had to turn down some invitations to attend markets due to having to be realistic about what I can manage.
I have had customers come back to buy from me more than once and completed special orders.
I've met some really great people who also help me to feel more confident and more importantly help me to value myself for what I can do and to start feeling more positive about myself and even to start liking this new me (although there are many times when I still wish I had the old me).
This confidence and increased feeling of contentment with myself has also moved over to work, I am now happier at work than I have been for a long time, and while my job now is difference I do still know that I making a positive difference to the children I work with both directly and indirectly so my mood swings have lessened from last year and I no longer feel that I have to fight to prove myself the whole time.
And why did this hit me today? In the summer/early autumn I discovered a wonderful vintage clothes shop near me and took in some of the vintage clothes I had collected over the years. The owner, Gigi, is a lovely person and she, along with my daughter and one of my best friends Fehmida, have helped me feel confident again about the clothes I wear. Gigi also likes my jewellery and so today rather than going to buy something from her I was taking in a special order of four pairs of extra large angel earrings that she had asked me to make for her to sell in her shop.
So, for me at least finding a new creative outlet has helped me to accept this "new" me. It is helped me see that I can still make new friends, still dress in a way that has been described as stylish and quirky and that I am still of value, that I still have a worth, that I still have something to give most of all that I'm not ready to be written off yet!
If you're still with me, I know this has been rather a lengthy post, then in case I don't get round to blogging again before Christmas can I just say that I hope you do have a wonderful Christmas and a good New Year