I am my own employee

Having stress induced vertigo migraines got me thinking about stress and standing on my feet.

In thinking about my feet I’ve drawn the conclusion that mine aren’t the ugliest in the world, and that my two littlest toes are cute.

In thinking about stress I’ve determined that there’s lots of it. Some of it is external, most of it is internal, and a good measure of it is unnecessary.

The aim of all this thinking was to rid me of this vertigo.

I’ve done research. I’ve read through what the doctor gave me, and googled — there is no cure, it’ll follow me to my grave, but with good management we might just make it there as friends.

Well, I always enjoyed being a nightclub manager — the importance of an earpiece and burly security, and the power (oh my God, what a thrill!) — and I was pretty good at the whole people management thing, and I loved admin; cashing up and spreadsheets — woo and complaints, I loved investigating those…

Repeatedly, I slapped the sides of my hands together — a match made in heaven! I could use my past skills on me…

I am my own employee!

I’m going to manage this shit out.


Like all good troubleshooting managers I need an idea of what I’m dealing with before I can set any plan in motion. I need to know all about the problem, the conditions, and the people I’ve got to work with.

Well the people are easy, they are me — some of the team are more helpful than others.

The conditions are varied — chaos in fine weather until tossing seas and seasickness.

The problem is the vestibular migraines (proper name) — attacks of severe vertigo that cripple and disrupt.

The doctor has said that they are ‘stress induced’ so solving stress is the solution.

But I ask myself, do I have any other triggers? Yes:

  • Alcohol — lots, shots, and if varied
  • Stress — all types of stress, especially anger
  • Early mornings
  • No obvious cause

And ‘warning signs’?

  • Blurred vision at corners, creeping in
  • A ringing in the ears
  • Nausea rising up, folding to crouch in a ball
  • Light-headed, like I can’t keep it up
  • Wobbly on feet, like I’m drunk

And what should I do in an emergency?

  • If out, go home; if unable, go someplace quiet
  • Sit. Sitting is very important; lie down if super-emergency
  • Water. Sip not gulp, make nausea feel better
  • Don’t get into the ball position — resist

And what do I hope to achieve?

  • Alcohol, find a happy medium
  • Stress, determine the sources and adjust reactions
  • Early mornings, I suspect the number of hours asleep so try and get to sleep
  • No obvious cause, find the cause

And I’m ready to go. I’m ready to get managing!


From what I’ve heard, the place has been madness — KA BOOM! took a manager, stress took the next — and I’m not left disappointed. I think ‘well here’s a stress’ — the floor is strewn with all off the shelves and the furniture is overturned — and I can’t help but choke on the dust. Thick dust billowing like clouds forming over the mountain ranges of crap.

The walls are holed and charred — the ceiling is dangling and flapping — joists exposed — and scrawled all over the place are the words:

Time needs to slow.

I need control.

I don’t know.

Too soon.

(Some of the holes cleverly serve as the fullstops.)

The place is still, like grave-silent — I’m wrong, a dripping tap. A gentle hum. An ever so slight ring to the air, like angels caught on a high note.

It smells strange, too — like scented candle but stale, but frail, but dispirited somehow.

I don’t know what to make of the place, if I’m honest — I figure I have the wrong address but no, this is it. I check. This is Tomos James inside his head.



And then the vertigo comes and nothing can be found.

The chaos deepens.


It’s plainly clear that this vertigo needs to be nipped in the bud.

solve stress = solve vertigo = sorted

Simple, right?


It’s not the act of getting stressed that triggers a vertigo migraine, according to my research. It is the act of calming down. I figure, when stressed everything is raring to go so once that passes, drop and so comes vertigo.

There are outside stresses, mainly from people, and there’s not much that can be done about these. Call them ‘the spice of life’ — life would be easier without them but damn near dull.

Their mis-said things that I mishear, we misunderstand

The rudeness of strangers caught in their own time

The nerve of some folk, vile in spirit and mind

And there are inside stresses, a lot of them being reactions and non-actions, and there’s something that can be done about some of these. Call them ‘the tang of life’ — life would be tastier without them and not as bland.

The things I should do but don’t

My reaction to things done

My grip on what I know

Boredom is a stress, and chaos too — choosing food — leaving my keys in the flat. The train being delayed. A change of plan. Upstairs elephant man. The leaking fridge. Forgetting milk. The alarm clock. The fox suddenly screaming. The ringing phone…

There’s lot of stress. A lot of tiny little stresses — big stresses — and medium-sized ones, too. Past stresses, future stresses — all stress is present, very at this moment in time. Very increase heart rate, very flight or fight, however subtle.

Someone says something — their tone and attitude — and they do something and so you want to rip out their arseholes through their throat, well that’s a stress.

Someone lets the door swing closed in your face by accident, they didn’t see you, but you get miffed — stress.

The news and social media — if there’s not some crisis then there’s some other tug and twang of my heartstrings, a response provoked. A stress.

Even going from arranging funerals to setting up direct debits — smelling black matt paint and smelling an embalmed body, and being taken back is a stress. A lonesome word, a little memory — denying I was bullied at The Co-op is a stress. Admitting it, too. Especially when I’m proud of my years and I’m proud that I stood up for my truth.

Grief is a stress — loss and those quiet moments…

Love is a stress — my family and loved ones all stress me out, our little nuances and habits — especially when the love is unconditional.

There are even good stresses. Happiness is a stress, and so is enjoyment — satisfaction is a stress of sorts…

Being alive is even a stress. Standing (blood pressure drop), needing the loo — banging a toe — having a cigarette…

And to think a lot of this stress is not noticed — I’ve grown accustomed and so shrug and carry on — but it still plays it part, still undermines while pretending to be a part of the team.

And then their moment passes and calmness falls.

So if all this is the case, if stress is everywhere and a lot of it is unavoidable, what the hell am I supposed to do?

Admit the list is long

Eradicate what can be gone, if possible

Listen to myself — hear and do

And be kind — in the spirit of what Winston Churchill said after declaring war on Japan:

… when you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite.


I have a habit of thinking things over — I like to see things from every possible angle, and even from the outlandish; and I like to assess and suppose, and action plan whatever out. I’m not opposed to reconsidering things from scratch; in fact, I do that. And again, on repeat.

This is fine but then one must eventually do — I don’t do. I think. I mull. I ponder and plan.

I’ve determined that I’m not satisfied — the way my life is unfolding is not how I want it to unfold. Put it this way, if I died tomorrow I’d be a little pissed off that I hadn’t done what I could’ve, should’ve, and needed to do before I was gone. Dead would be too late. I’d be lying all grey and cold and gaunt with regret.

Looking back, I don’t regret what I’ve done. Some of it had to be done and the rest had to be said — I moved forward the best way that I could, my decisions assembled with my best tools, and they weren’t bad decisions. Some of them improved things but overall nothing changed.

Time needs to slow.

I need control.

I don’t know.

Too soon.

Slowing time is tricky — the second hand keeps going. It keeps on going until the battery stops, and even then it doesn’t stop. So fill it and keep a note of the date. Nothing fancy just a simple ‘seeing Myles 11am’ and I’ll always know that that day was great.

Control is taking control — I have created the following admin spreadsheets:

  • Blog
  • Diary
  • Money
  • Stock
  • To do

They are bright and colourful, all singing and dancing, and they are easy to use and easily at hand.

Too soon is when, exactly? — this originally concerned going back to work after leaving The Co-op, I felt 4 weeks was too soon after all the turmoil, but that was because it was all change, and big change. I don’t mind change, but I like it in increments. Like I said back then: Too soon can quickly become too late, so that’s something for me to remember when I deliberate. Death and regret, quite the spur into action.

I don’t know is ‘oh but I do’ — my go-to phrase, my default. I don’t know — I know what I don’t so by a process of elimination surely I know what I do. And even if I don’t know, is that so bad? Means I can go out there and find the answer.


Having vertigo migraines really got me thinking.

It got me thinking about my life and how it is — at the time of an attack I can only think about the migraine, the nausea, and repeat the words:

Please just stop. Why won’t you leave me alone?

It’s hard not to notice where you suffer most — when, too — and it is a suffering. It saps the passion for things away, debilitates, tires, and won’t just end.

As manager, it is remiss of me to not know just how disruptive these vertigo migraines have been over the past few months. I asked work for their record of my sickness and it proved very enlightening. Since March 20th I’ve managed a whole 32 days in work, plus 5 half days. It would’ve been 33 in work if not for the doctor’s admin error.

That gives, according to my ‘DIARY admin’ spreadsheet, 68 days of sick or 67 if you deduct the error, plus 5 half days.

(I should note that it is company policy not to class weekends as ‘sick’ so the above totals exclude weekends — I know, but a policy is a policy. You’ve got to take it up with head office.)

That’s an awful lot of sick.

The problem is, I feel better at home, at my own pace. When I feel really bad I can control it, sit down, not move without the expectation of working — work say I can take as long as I need whenever I need but I’m not being paid to hug the toilet. I’m being paid to answer the phone. To set-up direct debits and move people in and out.

So in answer of the question, this vertigo has been highly disruptive.


New managers have so many pressing tasks to do first, and only one thing can be done first because that’s how numbers work — 1, 2, 3, 4 — so we all have to weigh up the options and decide.

Because I always deliberate and consider and ponder and mull, and repeat a few times until I’m certain, my first order of business as manager is to do. If the decision’s been made, and made again — or if the thought feels right, feels natural — I do. I just do. No more thinking, action.

In this spirit of do, I’ve handed in my notice to Portsmouth Water and given myself 6 months to a year. I figure a little ‘no choice’ will answer the aged old:

I don’t know.

Because oh but I do.

All I want to do is write — I love to write — but I have nothing to say, so I’m going to go out there and discover something unwritten. That’s what I’m going to do.


Tomos James