Tag Archives: depression

Lifestyle | But, am I doing okay? Really?

15192616_10153957418182617_4700111268043211696_nI’m struggling lately. I’m not afraid to admit it. On the face of things, I have my shit together, I’m one of the most together people I know most of the time. Always sure of myself, always knowing my next step and what I want out of life. But these past few weeks, I’ve just found myself questioning everything. I don’t know what set it off, perhaps it was the exhaustion of the post-festival comedown and working over 50 hours a week that has left me an emotional mess, perhaps it’s just a mid-twenties crisis. But let’s be honest, sometimes all it takes is the news of how everyone else is progressing around you – in their relationships, careers, travels and lives – to make you really question everything you are doing and have achieved. I’m not one to compare myself to others, I know I’ve chosen a very different path to most people, but it’s easy to look at that without a heavy dose of perspective and think you’re not doing as well as you should be.

I said in a previous post how I was struggling to find the words to put on the page and I was taking a short break from writing until I regained my mojo. But it was only the last few days when it suddenly hit me that perhaps the reason I had lost my mojo was because I wasn’t writing as much. Spending so much time focusing on work, the gym, friends and enjoying Melbourne meant one of my biggest passions was pushed to the wayside and I was left with no real outlet for all those thoughts that swirl around in the back of my head. As a creative individual it’s easy to not realise the huge impact that has on you as a person, the challenge of being a creative is always finding new, and more satisfying ways to express yourself. But if that mode of expression is taken away, all that creative energy can just eat you up inside. I can see it even now as my fingers fly across the keyboard, just how much I have missed writing and sharing every facet of my life with you wonderful people.15203347_10153970687092617_759818856468780508_nSo what sparked this huge realisation? Well, last week at work (I’m working at a rooftop bar in Melbourne CBD) I had a visitor – a lovely girl who had travelled all the way from Germany, apparently a huge fan of this blog, and just had to meet me in person on her last night in the city. I can’t even begin to tell you what this meant to me, I’ve had a few real down days these last few weeks so to know that someone appreciated me and my work so much was an incredible boost. It hasn’t automatically fixed everything, but it has brought me back to writing and it has made me realise my priorities. I love exploring the world around me and living life to the max – I will always be a workaholic who struggles to maintain a work/life balance that doesn’t push my body to extreme exhaustion. But I also need to give myself time to reflect and enjoy, to appreciate the amazing experiences I have had rather than always surging ahead towards the next.

But, am I doing okay?

It’s the question we all ask ourselves all the time, whether we say it out loud or we let it eat us up inside as more friends announce new homes, huge career progression, engagements, marriage and babies. It’s so hard not to judge yourself by the standards of others, and it’s so easy to forget your own individual huge achievements that others just can’t compete with. Now several years down the line, I know that giving up my nine-year relationship to travel the world solo and build a freelance journalism and travel blogging career was the best decision I have ever made in my life. But I still can’t help but compare it to friends who have done the opposite and gave up everything for the one they love – putting aside their career and life plans. Likewise, giving up my working life at a newspaper was something that was long-overdue but going freelance and travelling long-term has also thrown me back into a life of temporary hospitality and casual work. I can’t help but both love the freedom and easiness of it while hating the transiency and the lack of progression. There is no future in it and it sometimes makes me crave the excitement of seizing career opportunities.15181360_10153970688762617_7809531450665387419_nI mean, technically I’m doing amazingly. I’m in a great job, earning good money, I’m complete independent, the fittest and physically happiest I’ve been for a long time. I have a great apartment, incredible friends and family on every side of the globe, and plans for the future. But right now, something just isn’t sitting right with me, I can’t put my finger on it but whether my life is missing something or I’m in need of something different, I know that something has to change. I’m not one of these people who mopes around and complains about the way things are, I prefer to be a little proactive and make things better. Being a solo traveller, you have to be willing to get off your arse and to do things for yourself instead of waiting for someone else to make you happy. I like to apply that attitude to every aspect of my life and so I always get impatient with myself when I’m having a few down days – I’m not a wallower, I’m a problem solver. So my next mission is getting myself out of this funk and finding my new happy, the change that will help me regain what I feel like I’ve lost lately.

So, how do I do this?

Well my first changes were pretty instantaneous, I cut a few toxic people out of my life in the last few weeks, people who were’t bringing anything positive into my world. I came back to writing, determined to let it heal me and to find my way back to this blogging world. I took some time for me, I went treated my body well and allowed it to recover, I indulged in my passions without stressing about doing things for other people. I planned a much-needed escape to nature with amazing friends and I refused to feel guilty for putting myself first. It hasn’t changed my world yet, but it has eased my mood and has given me hope for the upcoming weeks. Now all we can do is watch and wait.15179224_10153957417787617_6807561513212356488_n

Are you struggling at the moment – how do you cope with these feelings? Have you got any tips for getting back on track?

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Coping with feeling homesick at university

31753_410273967616_1446477_nSometimes university isn’t quite what you expected – perhaps you don’t make the friends you thought you would, or your accommodation isn’t the best. Or sometimes it all works out and you have the best university experience possible with great friends, a fantastic course and the best accommodation going. It can all turn out very differently depending on where you are, who you meet and how you do things – but one thing that can hit all of us at times is homesickness. Even the strongest, most independent individual can feel homesick at times and just want to catch the first train home to mum and their own bed. When Freshers Flu strikes, we all just want to curl up in a ball under the duvet and have our mum bring us chicken soup – so how do we deal with this when mum is hundreds of miles away?

Here’s my top tips for combating homesickness while at university:

  • Don’t be afraid to call home, your parents will love to hear from you but at the same time, make sure you are not calling every day. Sometimes indulging yourself is the worst thing you can do, so try limiting to once a week, or once every few days if you can’t cope.
  • Photos of your family, friends and pets on your walls are great for making your feel like they are with you and they make your walls look good.
  • Don’t just sit in your room crying and feeling sorry for yourself or you will never make any friends and you will feel even more homesick. Get busy – throw yourself into your course, join societies and generally keep yourself busy and moving. The busier you are, the less time you have to think about missing home and the more you will realise you can cope.
  • Spend time with your flatmates or other friends – put time into new friendships because these are the ones that will become your adopted family over the next three years.
  • Talk to friends, chances are they’ve felt the same as you at some point and you’ll both feel less alone for chatting about it.
  • Arrange for your family or friends to come and visit for a weekend – it will give you something to look forward to and you can have a huge catch up when you see them which means you are less likely to feel homesick in the meantime.
  • Likewise, arrange for a weekend when you will be going home to see everyone – make sure it is not every weekend, but once a month or so should be enough to make sure you feel less homesick.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to take along something that makes you feel comforted like an old teddy or blanket, it’s great for when you feel a bit down and you can always hide it in your wardrobe if you don’t want anyone to see it!

What helped ease your homesickness the most? Have you got any other top tips to share?

Ab Lucy sign off

Guest Post: Reclaiming your life and finding happiness

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Something very special for you guys today – the first guest post on Absolutely Lucy and I’m so happy to share this incredibly powerful post with you guys. Reading it for the first time brought tears to my eyes and I know there are so many people out there who are struggling a bit and who need to read this to help put things in perspective and to show that ray of light at the end of the tunnel. This piece is by an amazing writer who luckily stumbled across my blog thanks to Twitter – thank goodness for social media if it means getting to find such amazing writers and sharing their work with a new audience.

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Meet Nixie Dust a writer and photographer who runs two blogs including Nixie Dust, where she shares her everyday life, experiences, thoughts and ideas. Both are well worth a look and a follow – or find her on Twitter. Read on for her take on taking back control of your life and finding your own happiness:

 

I remember the moment I gave up. It was a grey day by the sea, slowly turning into evening, the eerie keening of the gulls pin wheeling above me. Hove is famous for starling murmurations in the early evening, and I stood watching a huge one shape shift over the rooftops, each bird in perfect harmony with the bodies of its fellows. I stood too close to the road, tyres threw dirty water up my legs as people drove home, the occasional horn blaring through the drab, grainy twilight. I didn’t care. I watched the starlings dance until they had exhausted their airy stage. They flew on, towards Brighton. I thought, ’I’ll catch up with the rest of you.’

A few hours later I was in a hospital bed, having again been admitted for suicidal ideation and planning my death. It was the first time I’d been admitted for mental health problems in a long, long time. Even when I lost the use of my legs for two years and was plunged into the despair of seemingly permanent disability at 24, I didn’t let the tide engulf me. I went to Italy despite it all, had a steady job, moved in with friends, found love, lost it again. This time was different. I’d fallen back into a bottle, into the comfort of too many painkillers, too many nights spent alone with only the rattle of my thoughts in my skull like dice in a game I’d rigged to lose. Despite every challenge I’d overcome; Valium addiction, crippling mobility problems, mental illness; I hadn’t reached the top of any metaphorical mountain. I’d been told by inspirational websites and movies and books that once I’d faced my demons I’d rise up like a hero in the last seconds of a Gladiatorial showdown and K-O unhappiness right out of the ring. But it wasn’t like that. Unhappiness was doing press-ups in another room, and I was face down in the dust still spitting teeth, waiting for an on-call psychiatrist to thumbs up, or down.

After I was released, I had a lot of time to think about why I kept plunging back into the familiar misery and hopelessness of depression. Partly, it’s chemical. I have rapid-cycling Bipolar type II, with co-morbid Borderline Personality. It’s hard to think of two conditions that lend themselves to instability more. I don’t build on shifting sands, I am shifting sands. I take my meds every day like a good patient and for the most part I’m doing alright. Most days I don’t just cope, I thrive in spite of it all like a wildflower growing in the gutter. But partly, it’s habitual; the vestiges of learned behaviours whose ‘use by’ expired long ago without me throwing them away. When faced with difficulty, my brain automatically shifts down-gear into a myopic tunnel-vision; a place where light struggles to get in, showing the same film over and over – the ‘You’re not Good Enough’ franchise, with its infinite number of sequels.

It isn’t just me. From the number, the overwhelming number, of people I know with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts; long, weary days of feeling not-enough, too-much; I’ve had a hall of mirrors to look at and learn from. Not all of these people have clinical diagnoses, because most of them aren’t suffering from DSM-V tick-box mental illness. I think that’s what’s so frightening about it – that it’s seemingly normal. Dear god, ‘Stop hating your body’ is seen as revolutionary. And even worse, it is.

But you know what? Despite the hospitalisations and walking aids and bottle-dependency, these days I’ve got everything I could need or want: Happiness. The one elusive thing I was taught I could buy, or earn, but not find inside myself: Happiness. The world can be a sticky, painful place, and I don’t have a list of ten neat bullet points like ‘let go of judgement’ or ‘follow your inspiration’ or ‘care less about what other people think’. I just have my own experience, and the one concrete thing I’ve learned about the whole deal is that old cliche (because they’re true, am I right?) that the only thing to fear is fear itself. And tidal waves and your teeth falling out and serial killers.

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Reclaiming your life and your power isn’t, for most of us, a fire walk, or Everest, or epiphany. It’s a long slog through neck-high bullshit we’ve been fed since we we were old enough to realise there was an ‘I’ in here that other people had expectations about. I never had my melon merrily twisted by a self-help article that told me to ‘care less about what people think,’ as though I could snap my fingers and glide along the street, suddenly, gloriously, giving no fucks; because it doesn’t really deal with conditioned fear, that habitual depression, in a realistic way.

The last time I checked, we were all being conditioned from a very young age to care what other people think so much that their opinions about us take precedence over our own. School for most of us was nothing more than a years-long vicious popularity contest in which we pitted ourselves against each other to find out where we belonged, egged on by adults who projected their own fucked-up conditioning about self-worth onto our budding sense of person-hood. And it doesn’t stop, even when you’re an adult slaving away in a job you despise, worrying about your waistline. Everything you’re told about how you ‘should’ live your life comes purely from what other people might think about it, from the way you look to the job you take to what you eat.

The thing I’ve learned about other people’s judgement is that it always, always comes from a place of fear. Shaking out your wings reminds them of their own prison, and most people would rather not be forced to think about that. Judging myself also comes from a place of fear, because I’ve been told that upsetting the equilibrium of a self-loathing hive by being happily myself is somehow selfish. Anyone with an ounce of common-sense can see how stupid that is. As Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

Where, then, do you go? You happiness seeker? You Fool poised on the edge of the Tarot card? You can’t live to please other people, and even if you could, it turns out you can’t please them anyway. All you can do is nurture the faltering little weed of defiant self-esteem that just won’t die in the face of it all. For me, it’s taking that trip despite the physical challenges, or walking out of the hospital doors again into another dawn, or sending off that new story even though I’m sure the editor will hate it. I make sure I take the time to do the things I love, with or without other people’s approval, because even though it took me years to get here, it’s true that radical self love and acceptance has absolutely nothing to do with them.

Overcoming over a decade of insanity and addiction didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t find God or build African wells or ‘follow my bliss’ and become a best seller. I just lived through it all a day at a time, taking down the bars of the cage one by one, letting a little more light in with each painting, or poem, or quiet act of creative bravery. It wasn’t extraordinary, or heroic; it was a slow dismantling of a wall I’d let the world build around me with ’shoulds’.

Let us all kick away the bricks of that wall. Let us gaze at the view when it comes down. Let us all find our happiness within. Let us all, in our smallest victories, raise each other up.

 

 

Those wobbly teeth are back haunting my dreams

Photo by TarynAfter all these festivals, it’s been pretty strange but a totally amazing feeling to be back in my own bed. I don’t think you ever truly appreciate how comfy and cosy your own bed is until you’ve spent this many weekends sleeping in a field. I’m lucky that we have such a good, waterproof tent and some nice sleeping mats that keep us about as happy as could be while staying at the festivals, but it’s always a good feeling to come home and crawl into a bed with fresh, clean sheets on it. Especially when you get it all to yourself after being stuck in a small sleeping bag in a crowded tent for four nights. So needless to say, I’ve been pretty keen to make the most of my lovely bed and have been trying my best to catch up on some serious shut-eye since the last festival – after doing three in a row, I was seriously behind on my zzz’s. But for some reason, I seem to be struggling with my sleeping pattern.

When I first came back from BoomTown Fair, I actually settled straight back into sleeping at the right times, but as the days rolled by and I returned to work, I seem to have slipped into a rubbish pattern of going to bed really late and having a pretty disturbed sleep thanks to some odd and rather traumatic dreams. Going to bed late is all my own fault, I can’t put that on anybody else, I just have so much to do and I have definitely taken on more work than there is time to do it in. Working all these extra hours means I go to bed and I’m already overtired and exhausted, but because I’ve been working full pelt, I feel really wired and can’t seem to wind down early enough to get a good night’s rest before starting all over again. In the mornings, I find myself pushing it later and later to get out of bed, then rush like a madwoman to get out the door in time to get to work – just praying for the morning I get a good lie-in.Photo by Pedro Ribeiro SimõesIt’s pretty exhausting because there’s also lots of other stuff happening at the moment, and being the busy bee I am, I just can’t bear to turn anyone down. Everyone seems to want to do something, and having so many different groups of friends means I want to spend time with everyone, but it gets to a point where it starts cutting out my me-time and more importantly, my sleep-time! I keep telling myself it will be over when August finishes and I know that is the case – so that thought is keeping me going, but in the meantime, it seems I might be stuck with some odd dreams to deal with. The latest one is a dream that I have always had, on and off, throughout my life. It’s one that I’m sure many of you will have experienced and it is a horrible feeling because they seem so real. It’s the one where you dream that your teeth are wobbling in your mouth and eventually fall out or crumble in your mouth.

Loose teeth in dreams signify that you are facing a difficult decision or transition time in your life. Common dream scenarios involve discovering that a few teeth have come loose; you may feel that a tooth is not stable and you’re worried is will come loose. These dream images point to concerns about the stability of your foundations in life and the prospect of letting go of something important to you.

Photo by Susan SermonetaThese dreams couldn’t be more apt at the moment if this is what they truly mean, and I do take dream interpretation quite seriously. I just figure that we constantly have so many thoughts in our heads, just flying around, that there must be loads left over and that there are so many we spend our time trying to squash. At night when we are most relaxed they are free to roam around our heads, but they often get confused and these feelings represent themselves in different ways. The teeth dreams are ones that seem to come to me when I am stressed, overworked and tired, and guess what – bingo! I’m all three at the moment and with lots of bigger issues to think about with travelling and various other things, it’s clear that I have some big decisions to make. I guess now the reality of going travelling by myself is starting to hit me as I now have less than five months until I head off into the great unknown with nothing but my backpack for company. I’m not worried about it, I actually can’t wait, but it just shows me quite how much time I have left to organise, save and book my trip and I’m starting to panic a bit because I know full well how quick time flies.

But it’s okay – after all of the lovely comments and messages I’ve had over my Drowning in a Tea Cup post, I’ve been reminded not to feel alone or to let myself get overwhelmed as I did before. I’m keeping on top of things, just about, and am trying to prioritise so that if there are some things that can wait, I can put those off until after the next two busy weeks. Fingers crossed the dreams don’t return as I really do hate feeling so vividly that my teeth are wobbling and crumbling – it’s awful!

Have you had any strange recurring dreams – share them below? Or do you have another interpretation for me, or even some advice for how to get back on top of planning for travelling?

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A stranger inspired me to share my own love letter

tumblr_kq9tj9gd2A1qzyxvpo1_500It’s strange to think how isolated we have become as a result of having so much technology, which in turn was designed to bring us all closer together. As a blogger, I am lucky to feel I have a network of blogger friends who are there when I need help or advice, or when I just fancy a laugh or to share something with them. But living in Norfolk, I can’t help but feel slightly isolated from them with so many living so far away from me. In this circumstance I am so grateful for the internet and for social media which have allowed me to become close to these people without worrying about the physical miles between us. When watching Hannah Brencher’s TED talk on her love letters to strangers, it made me realise quite how many people there could be out there who are entirely isolated from society, who are lonely and sad, or even depressed. It made me think how many lives these letters could save, whether from suicide or just from falling further away from society. It made me realise the value of reaching out to everyone around you – how just that one smile to someone in the street could change a person’s whole life around. Watch the video and see how it leaves you.

So what can we do to ease the lives of those around us? To help stop loneliness, to prevent the sadness and to help ease depression of those who are struggling? Well the love letters are a truly beautiful idea and I imagine they really mean the world to those who have found them, but there are so many other ways we can reach out to those around us. Forget a picture, if you ask me, a smile  is better than 1,000 words. A kind word here or there, a please or a thank-you. Holding a door for someone, giving someone what is left on your parking ticket, letting someone else go first at a junction, compliments, favours. All of these things mean so much to the person on the receiving end and if you ask me, they are not done enough. Growing up, I went to Brownies every Thursday and they taught us the importance of helping others and making people happy – a true value if ever I heard one. We were expected to do good deeds and report back each week, at first it was an expectation to be fulfilled, but soon it was something we strived to do as often as possible, to help as many people as possible. Even today, it stays with me and, probably unconsciously, I still do it.fitzgerald-beauty-of-literatureI wanted to write my own letter and figured the best place to do it was on here, I would have a much greater chance to touch the life of someone I don’t even know. So here goes!

Dear stranger,

I know we’ve never met before, and that’s probably a good thing – it means we can be so much more honest with each other. It means I can tell you that even though I’m lucky enough to have family and friends around me, that sometimes this just isn’t enough. It’s not enough to stop me from being sad, or feeling alone. I guess we all feel like this sometimes, when life gets a bit much and we don’t feel like anyone else will understand, like no-one other than us has ever felt this way before.

It’s so easy to get caught up in work and various commitments to others that we end up with a kind of tunnel vision, we forget to look outside the box and it feels more like the walls are closing in. I know lately I’ve been working so hard on so many different things that I have felt so scattered – it can leave me worrying that I’m just not doing a good enough job in each area. I’m sure you know the feeling, whether it is at work or at home, sometimes you end up stretching yourself so thinly you feel you might snap.

I guess it’s important at times like these to take a step back, to put things in perspective and to realise all the good that you have been doing. All the good you are capable of. To remember to not get bogged down in those small worries and stresses, the ones that give you those little creases between your brows and the ones that leave you staring into the dark past bedtime. When it all feels like it is getting on top of you, to take a deep breath and to smile. I always tell myself this, even if you don’t feel like it – smile. That smile will grow inside you and if you keep doing it, you will start to mean it. And even if you don’t, you might pass it on to someone who really needs it – because there is always someone out there who is having a worse day.

Whatever it is that’s getting to you this week – remember that it will be something different next week. Stress is fleeting and constantly changing, but it only affects you how you let it. Don’t let it get the better of you and don’t be afraid to share it with others, they want to help more than you realise.

Yours,

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photo_3 (5)The next time you’re having a bad day, remember the people who are having a worse one and do something about it. Why not write a letter of your own? Or tell me about your experiences of feeling like this and how the actions of others pulled you out of your own loneliness by leaving a comment below.

Drowning in a tea cup

Photo by Max Charping

Photo by Max Charping

Life got just a bit out of control recently. A lot has been happening, too much to deal with really so my response was to stop blogging, because quite simply, I didn’t know how on earth to put it all into words. It’s very rare for me to be speechless, or for anything to put my life on hold, but the shock of everything really did just stop me in my tracks. The shock hasn’t completely worn off yet and things are far from settled, but I’ve missed blogging and I didn’t want all my hard work in creating this little world to go to waste, so here I am.

I’m sure all of us have felt overwhelmed by life at times, I know that I have, I just try not to let it take over and start making plans to deal with things. I’m an organiser, someone who deals with a situation and moves on quickly by finding a solution. It’s just the way I am programmed. So it’s been hard the last two weeks to have my emotions up the wall and feel so scattered – I’ve been getting annoyed at myself for moping around. But when those feelings engulf you, it is very hard to see a way out. I know you all know what I am talking about – if you have ever experienced any real pain or suffering in your life, whether you’ve been bullied, lost a loved one or been through a bad break-up. All of these are devastating and turn our lives from the steady and calm waters to stormy tidal waves that rock the boat we once thought was so safe.

It is so easy to get caught up in our everyday lives, with work and relationships, and to let them seem like greater problems than they actually are. We are all guilty of letting a bad situation take over at times, some react by letting it plunge them into depression and others throw themselves into work and other matters to take their minds off it. Normally I am the latter, I throw myself into anything else in order to deal with the problem and move on, but this time things just caught me by surprise and I started to feel like I was drowning in a tea cup.

You might be thinking at this point “what a depressing post, get over it love”, and I am, trust me. But what really helped me was a heavy dose of perspective. It is important, when you start to feel like this, to take a step back from the situation, which can be the most difficult thing. But taking a deep breath and taking everything into account can really make a difference to the way you view things. My perspective came in the form of a terminally ill man who I had written stories about over the past year after he was given a shock diagnosis of a brain tumour and only 18 months to live. He died at the weekend, but only after squeezing every tiny bit of beauty and fun out of life. Writing his tribute was the hardest thing after seeing him so full of beans only a matter of months ago, but it helped to know that I was doing my bit to help the family to come to terms with things.

Something else that has helped me get a grip on things was hearing, from someone I highly respect and have learnt a lot from, that I am an example that he uses of “someone who will go very far”. We had a chat that led to him telling me this and giving me some interesting career advice that has certainly influenced some of the big decisions I’ve been making lately. It was great to be told from someone who is such an expert in their field and has so much experience that he agrees with my plans for the future and encourages them. Definitely gave me the boost I needed to firm up these plans and to make the first move.

I just want to highlight the importance of saying things like this to people we work with, people we have relationships with, our friends and families and anyone we come across in life. It really can make all the difference to share a positive and constructive opinion on peoples’ work and careers. When we put so much time and effort into things, it is important to reward this with praise and encouragement because it could give them the push they really need to make their next move. Don’t be loose with false praise because that benefits no-one and only hurts you in the long run when you have to explain people’s failings as a result of these words. But kind words and support when you can see the hard work that has gone in, that can mean a lot to us twenty-something’s and graduates who are working our way up the career ladder.

If you ever feel like the walls are closing in and you’re taking on water at the same time, like it’s all just getting a bit too much for you – try taking a step back. Speak to people, my friends have been a saviour to me the last two weeks and I don’t know what I would have done without them. Talking about it all also helps get a grip on the situation and to work out your next move. Don’t just go into a black hole of despair and suffer alone – I nearly did and it made things even worse. What are friends for at the end of the day?

Photo by Jill Justus

Photo by Jill Justus

Have you been in a difficult situation lately – what did you do to find a solution and reach the other side?