Mental Health Maelstrom

This is going to be hard to write. I’m not someone who likes to talk about how they feel. I’m a grit your teeth and get on with it sort of girl. Even I have come to recognise that is not always the best way to deal with things though. Mental health is talked about everywhere now it seems. Somehow though that doesn’t make it any easier to talk about when it’s you that’s struggling. Here goes though.

I’ve just gone back to work this week after seven weeks off with stress. I’m taking Prozac, and when I need them beta blockers to help with the anxiety. I’ve had weeks where I’ve been unable to move off the couch and have slept for days at a time. I’ve been sat watching telly feeling unbearably anxious, and thinking to myself “What am I worrying about, I’m just sat in my lounge and I don’t have to do anything?” Being logical about it has made absolutely no difference though. Turns out you can’t reason your way out of mental health issues.

If I’m being brutally honest then I’ve been feeling like this for a long time, I just hadn’t acknowledged to myself and certainly not to anybody else how I was feeling. Everything built up until I realised that I just wasn’t able to cope any more. There was no massive melt down, just a realisation that I couldn’t go on for a second longer with things as they were.

From the reading that I’ve been doing it sounds like I got lucky with my doctor. I hardly had to say anything to her and she seemed to know exactly how I was feeling. She realised how reluctant I was to take medication, so she took me down that route very slowly over a number of weeks. As I’m a woman of a certain age, then inevitably the M word came up. Who knew the menopause could have such far reaching consequences? The jury is still out on if that’s what’s causing my anxiety, so for now I’m resisting HRT, but it’s good to know it’s there if I decide I need it. You’ve got to love a doctor who suggests you watch a Davina McCall documentary on the menopause as part of your research.

The good news is that I’m starting to feel a bit better. I have good days and bad days, but thankfully I think the good days are starting to dominate. I have some strategies for coping when it all becomes too much for me. Deep breathing is my friend, and as always YouTube has been invaluable for finding suitable relaxation exercises. The brain fog and memory issues are starting to diminish, just as the doctor promised taking the Prozac would do. I no longer worry that I’m getting early onset dementia as a result of the ridiculous memory lapses. Other random things have also disappeared, like being convinced I was going to get run over crossing a road when I was out running. It was like a light bulb going off when I read a list of symptoms of stress. Tick, tick, tick, I think I pretty much had them all.

My checking of my spreadsheets had got beyond a joke. I didn’t feel like I could keep working for a second longer, I just didn’t have it in me. I’d like to say that my emergency fund and my investments gave me peace of mind that I could just walk away, but honestly that’s not how it worked for me. I knew how far from FIRE I was and what the implications of walking away nine years early would be. I’m hoping that I can get a slightly better balance in my life. I am still absolutely working towards FIRE, but I’ve realised that I also need to live my life. FIRE isn’t going to solve all of my problems, and I shouldn’t expect it to.

So what’s next for me? I’m on a phased return to work, building up over the next three weeks to full time hours. Work have been great with me and I’m taking things very slowly whilst I get back in the swing of things. I’m going to try and be a bit more relaxed, in particular about work. I’m going to prioritise my health. Getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising are going to be crucial to get me though this I think. As is the help of good friends, which I’ve discovered I’m very blessed with. It’s so true that it’s when things go wrong that you discover who’s really there for you.

Struggling like this has given a new found appreciation of how difficult these issues can be to deal with. Although I knew logically that mental health wasn’t something you could control, I didn’t properly understand that until it happened to me. Hopefully this will make me more understanding and better able to support the people in my life who have difficulties with their mental health. It’s a tough way to learn to be more empathetic, but at least that’s something positive that I can take away from this whole experience.

Running the Great North Run and September Net Worth

As usual I’ve got last month’s figures in brackets for comparison. I’ve got my Defined Benefits Pension in there based on twenty years worth of money if I start drawing it at 60. I track how I’m doing with my mortgage balance compared to my AVC balance. The reason for this is that I made a decision to mostly stop overpaying my mortgage. Instead I use that extra money to put more into my AVC fund. So hopefully I’ll start to see my AVC fund increase in value and more slowly my mortgage balance come down until they meet at some point and I have enough in my AVC fund to clear my mortgage when I retire. That’s the plan anyway.


Mortgage £90,900.44 (£91,392.92)


Cash £28,202.74 (£29,026.93)

Defined Benefits £137,586 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £15,346.81 (£15,431.04)

Shares £73,460.94 (£71,318.81)

House £269,000 (£269,000)

Total £523,596.49 (£515,430.38)

Net Worth including house equity

£523,596.49 – £90,900.44 = £432,696.05 (£424,037.46)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£15,346.81 – £90,900.44 = -£75,553.63 (-£75,961.88)

There’s a few things to say about these figures. I received some dividends on my work shares which I reinvested in index trackers. I also finally bit the bullet and sold a chunk of my work shares and reinvested the money in my Vanguard account. Work does a share match scheme which I’ve been doing since it was introduced years ago. If you keep them for five years you get free shares and they are tax and NI free. I sold about £4k worth, which was all of them which I could get rid of without having any tax and NI implications. The cost to sell is on a percentage basis as you’d expect, with a minimum charge of £20, so selling this many made sense as it cost me the same to sell this many as it would have done to get rid of a smaller amount. Also the amount I then put into my Stocks and Shares ISA means that by the end of the tax year I will have filled my tax free allowance. Happy days.

I topped up both the dividend money and the share sale cash with some money from my current account so it was a nice round figure I was putting in. As a result my cash amount is down slightly, but with more than enough there for an emergency buffer. I’ve still got too many work shares, but it certainly feels good to have made a start on diversifying. I’ll not be doing any more this tax year, but the plan it to repeat this process in subsequent years. I have one load of the work shares in a S&S ISA, which I might keep just in case they go back to their old levels, but the plan is to keep moving more over to my Vanguard account. We’ll see what happens to the markets, but I’m reasonably happy with my timing of this shuffling around. The work share price was not too bad, and as we know the markets generally are pretty rubbish, so hopefully I’ve bought index trackers whilst they were on sale. Time will tell, but either way I’m happy with the strategy.

My annual statement is out for my Defined Benefits pension and so my annual amount that I’ve accrued has increased. This is now reflecting in my figures above. It’s nice to see it increasing, but frankly it’s slow progress. I’ve only got 9 years to go until my official retirement age, but they really seem to penalise you if you go early. I’m sure there’s some jiggery pokery I can do nearer the time with going part time if I can afford it to keep me hanging on right till the bitter end.

Not much else to say I don’t think. Things are just plodding on, mostly in the right direction. My AVC fund is slightly down, which is annoying, but in the grand scheme of things not the end of the world. Everything is taking a long time to get to where I want them to be, but I think I just need to get used to that fact.

I didn’t really set myself any goals for September. I wanted to complete the Great North Run and try and sort my mental health out, which has taken a bit of a battering. I did complete the Great North Run. I had a fantastic day and was really pleased with my time. I was aiming for around 2 and a half hours, and I managed to sneak under 2 hours 10 minutes. It wasn’t a PB, but I felt really strong and I absolutely loved it. It was strange not finishing in South Shields due to a Covid forced change of route, but it was brilliant getting to run over the Tyne Bridge twice and running through Newcastle city centre was really special. The consensus seemed to be that it was a harder course than normal due to the amount of hills at the end. It was very hilly, but I have to say I really enjoyed it. The support was brilliant as always and I managed to spot family and friends out on the course who had come out to support me. I’m already signed up for next year.

Photo by Mike on

As far as my mental health is concerned, that’s still a work in progress. We’re living in strange times, and I am finding that increasingly difficult to deal with. Things are not terrible, but they’re not great either. Hopefully I will start to feel better soon. In the meantime I’m incredibly grateful for the support of my family and friends. It’s really true that it’s when things are tough you find out who’s really there for you. Having never really had to deal with mental health issues before I’m gaining an appreciation of what so many people have to live with.

Now is not the time for me to be setting goals for myself. I’m trying to eat healthy foods, I’m sleeping loads and I’m trying to get out running a couple of times a week. I’m learning a bit of Russian in a half hearted fashion and spending time with my youngest before he goes off to uni next year. That’s enough for now. I will get back to smashing my goals, but for the rest of 2021 health is the priority and not putting any unnecessary stress on myself.