Hi, I’m Sharon and sometimes, I write

I’ve never really been asked to describe myself before outside of cringey icebreakers at work meetings. You know how it goes.. “Hi, I’m X, I am a Y and I’ve worked at Z for…”

I am intrigued to see how it goes when I introduce myself here. Hi, I’m Sharon and sometimes, I write.

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There are other details of course. I’m 31, married to my best friend, I’m a mum and I work full time as a software engineer. I play video games, I colour, I crochet and bake. I have a totally healthy interest in my cat.

I used to be scared of the dark until very recently. I’m not sure what changed to be honest except for maybe having to check on my daughter in the night. Exposure to a fear usually makes it go away, right? …

You can’t apply the same best practices as before and expect them to work now.

Hands up who has tried to pair program 100% of the time while working from home? I know I have. At some point or another it becomes exhausting. You feel this overwhelming urge to carry on as normal, because we all know that this is the best practice and “I’ll be damned if my productivity suffers just because I’m working from home now”.

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Iteration 2 of my working from home setup, and incredibly depressing

Even at the best of times, in a pre-covid world, no-one enjoyed pair programming all the time. There are exceptions to the rule, obviously, but before covid hit and the world was turned upside down — pair programming was a very different experience to how it is now. Breaks were common, expected and timely. You could see the person you were working with, get a sense of their body language, their temperament and know when it was time to try something else. You could do something as simple as point to something on a screen and say “No, not there, there”. You could allow for comfortable silence, or random conversations to break the task up. …

I’ve had this conversation before, more times than I can remember, whenever a friend or a colleague finds out that I play video games.

Hi, my name is Sharon and I play video games every single day. I am a 31 year old woman with a full time job and a preschooler.

Reactions usually vary from “Oh cool, what games do you play?”, and “How do you find time for that?”, to “That’s a waste of time”.

I explain that I find time for it because it’s something that I enjoy, and outside of working full time and being a mum, I have to have things that are just for me too. …

I used to write all the time.

Often my friends ask me why I’ve stopped writing… I don’t really have a great answer aside from “I don’t have anything to say right now”.

This year hasn’t been a good year for many people, putting it mildly, but, for me at least, it has been so much better than the previous one in an overwhelming way. 2019 was the year of mental health challenges, difficulties at home and challenging times in my professional life. I lost friends and self esteem and I made a lot of mistakes. …

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A smiley face we made on one of our daily bouts of “exercise” (slow walking) in the village

It has been quite a while since my last attempt at writing something down. I guess because it was not really clear to me what I could say to make things better. Everyone is doing their bit by staying home, watching the news, worrying, calling loved ones and trying to keep busy and most importantly, sane.

I am happy to say that I am largely OK. …

I can’t really remember when I first recognised that I felt anxious, but I was always known as a sensitive child, and a bit of a crybaby. I now know that mental illness usually manifests in childhood or adolescence but at the time I just thought that this was just “who I was”

My parents told me how I would watch the news as a child and that there was this one story of a child who was having a heart transplant. I followed the story for weeks, crying every time the news was on and worrying for the child’s safety. …

No, I’m not a grinch. I just don’t have a Christmas tree!

I do have a toddler, a cat, and a penchant for a living room that makes sense and is easy to keep tidy, so this year we have decided not to have a Christmas tree.

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Our “Christmas Window”

That doesn’t mean we haven’t decorated, or we’re not celebrating in our own little way. We have a “Christmas Window”, which I find very soothing and an “advent truck” with drawers that my toddler enjoys opening every day. I’d happily keep the string lights out year-round.

My husband placed tokens and jewels from his many board games inside each drawer and she has the choice each day to keep the token or exchange it for a chocolate coin (she always goes for the coin, that’s my girl). That’s not the only thing we’re doing differently this year though. …

It’s chaos

I had very different ideas as to the sort of parent I would be before I had my daughter. I imagined endless patience, a loving and gentle demeanour and lots of quality time with home crafts and outdoor adventures.

I had no idea what it would really be like, when we got into the nitty-gritty every day stuff that every parent (stay at home or not) has to go through. …

This may be an unpopular opinion, but constantly being “on it”; in counselling, taking medication that alters your physical and mental state, and exercising self care is exhausting.

Some days, I don’t win. Those days, I choose instead to retreat and accept that in spite of my best efforts, I didn’t come out on top. I will lick my wounds and try again another day. (I guess that’s still me fighting the good fight, but it certainly feels like I am taking a break from it when I’m not doing all the things I’m “supposed to”)

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Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Along with the overwhelming stigma that surrounds mental health sufferers, there exists the pressure to constantly fight to be better, to get better and to always do your best on the road to recovery. …

In my most recent round of counselling (thanks for that, anxiety — I’ll send you the bill sometime), my counsellor suggested that I read a book called “The Happiness Trap” . I’m only a couple of chapters in but I wanted to share a technique from the book that I find quite interesting — and not so “new age” or embarrassing as to turn me off from it entirely.

It’s called “defusion”. Defusion is a technique you can use to create some space between you and your anxiety. …

About

Sharon Russell

Software Engineer, expert worrier and mum

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