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.

August Review

It’s time to see how I got on in August, both in terms of my money and working on my goals.

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 used 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 £91,392.92 (£91,885.11)


Cash £29,026.93 (£34,725.71)

Defined Benefits Pension £130,653.60 (£130,653.60)

AVC’s £15,431.04 (£14,534.87)

Shares £71,318.81 (£66,050)

House £269,000 (£250,000)

Total £515,430.38 (£495,964.18)

Net Worth including house equity

£515,430.38 – £91,392.92 = £424,037.46 (£404,079.07)

AVC Fund vs Mortgage Balance

£15,431.04 – £91,392.92 = -£75,961.88 (-£77,350.24)

A couple of things to talk about in those figures. I took £6k out of my savings and put them in my Vanguard Stocks and Shares ISA. As a single parent I really like having a good chunk of money in the bank “just in case”. I figured £29k in savings is probably still enough to let me sleep at night, but has a bit more of my money working harder for me. Definitely a good decision, but I think that’s probably as far as I’m prepared to go for now.

Putting that extra money into my Vanguard account has the added advantage that I now have more money in index trackers than I do in work shares. I still have far too many of those shares, but at least I’m going in the right direction. My plan is to sell about £4k worth of the works shares before the end of the tax year to max out my ISA for the year. I’m going to try and wait for the share price to hopefully go up a bit, but no matter what I think I’ll stick to that plan. Considering only 18 months ago I only had £650 in my Vanguard account and everything else was in my work shares, I’m pretty pleased with my progress. Of course I’ve not actually bitten the bullet yet and sold any shares, but I will.

I’ve put a higher house value in there this month. It’s just based on a Zoopla figure, so I’m not sure quite how accurate it would be. It doesn’t really matter anyway as I’m not planning on selling any time soon, and although I include my figures with the house equity in there, it’s not really something I’m particularly focussed on.

Let’s move on now and see how I got on with working on the goals I set myself. Here’s a quick reminder of what I was working on.

  • Do at least one 13 mile training run. DONE. I managed a 14 mile run last weekend. It was only supposed to be 13, but I got lost in the woods and ended up running a different route to what I expected. I managed to keep going till I found my way home and was happy to get 14 miles in the bag.
  • Get down to ten and a half stone. FAIL. I’m actually back up at 11 stone again. This is a bit of a recurring pattern for me. It is what it is.
  • Get at least seven and a half hours sleep a night at least five nights a week. PASS. I’ve really made sure that I focussed on this. I just need to keep this going now.
  • Climb Scafell Pike. PASS. I loved, loved, loved this. It felt relatively easy, which was great, but still felt like a great achievement.
Photo by Eric Sanman on

I’ve done well with my goals this month. I’m not setting any goals for September. My mental health has taken a bit of a battering recently. It’s certainly strange times that we’re living in, and work is also proving incredibly stressful. I’m normally pretty resilient, but I think it’s fair to say things have been getting too much for me for a while now. There’s only so long you can just plough on pretending everything is ok. I’ve finally been to the doctors and have got some help in the form of a prescription and a bit of time off work. I’m hoping I’ll start feeling a bit more like my usual self quite soon, but in the meantime I’m going to hunker down, get myself in a better place and be a bit nice to myself. The only thing I want to achieve this month is getting the Great North Run done and getting myself in a better head space. If I can manage that then I’ll be happy.