Christmas…In the past, before any of this happened, I never really understood why people always felt worse around this time. It is a period of joy and happiness, sitting around the fire with your family enjoying food and stories. Now I can see why there are always more issues around this time and I think the crux of the issue lies in the fact that we are bombarded by ideas of how Christmas should be. That idea puts massive amounts of pressure on those feeling down, and in fact, makes them feel even worse. When I returned from NZ Christmas became a time of merely waiting for it to be over. When you are leaving the house, going to the gym etc you have some of your time occupied. You have your minds eye focused on something other than how shit you feel. Christmas comes along and you are stuck in your house, no where to go and less to do. Suddenly you see images of others enjoying themselves and you can see that difference between the two. My advice would be pretty simple. Try and find things to enjoy in your spare time. This may take a little time to figure out, and some determination, but it will be worth it in the end. During Christmas of that year I found that I was a dab hand at wood carving and enjoyed playing the guitar. Two activities I hadn’t even thought of nor tried since school. When I picked up a chisel or the guitar I managed to forget about myself for a while. At first it was a few minutes, then, I forgot about myself (and my ‘problems’) for four hours. I remember thinking that I’m onto something here. I managed to find peace of mind in a normal, achievable activity for a whole four hours. So, I sat down and with the help of the WRAP programme (see below), I wrote myself a timetable that incorporated those activities, the gym, eating, cooking, walking in Rossmore Park and seeing friends (known as my Wellness Toolbox in the WRAP programme). I had chosen to focus on the things that I enjoyed doing for more and more parts of that day, rather than focus on the hole I was in and the mountain of anxiety that remained ever present. What had I got to lose? Definitely not my sanity, I nearly lost that in the preceding 18 months.
I attended a mental health recovery programme in St Davnet’s Hospital, Monaghan over 12 months ago. During that ‘WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) Programme’, they presented information to people who suffer with a range of mental health issues in a group setting over the course of 6-8 weeks. As part of that programme I learned about things that I can do on a practical level, on a day to day basis that help to keep me feeling well. As part of that information I discovered that everyone needs at least five ‘key support members’ for good mental health. Those five people could be friends / family / health care professional / counsellor / sangha member / work colleague, anyone who provides you with support. The idea is that you can speak to different people about certain subjects so as to not overload any one person at any one time. Over the past 2 years I have been lucky to have a few good friends (or key support workers) to turn to in moments of difficulty. Friends who have enticed me to go walking in Rossmore Park when I didn’t want to leave the house, friends who have made me go out in town and drive them home (while hiding plastic forks in my car), friends that have sent emails and cards from NZ, and friends who have sat, sometimes in silence, while I have been feeling like crap, and said nothing more than ‘don’t worry, it will be ok’. When I say friends, I also mean family in that statement, because over the course of the last 2 years, I have become really good friends with my family again. Living abroad for long periods of time can leave you feeling disconnected from home, especially from your family, and a large part of feeling better is that connectedness that close friends and family give you. Love is the most important part of that recovery. It helps to keep you present, and in the end you hopefully can see that there are those that will always be there for you no matter how bad you may feel. When you feel anxious or depressed your thinking becomes skewed and thoughts like ‘I don’t want to burden people with my problems’ or ‘they would be better off not knowing about …’ become prevalent. But the opposite is actually the truth. Opening up and being honest with yourself and others is the thread of hope that, when in the hole, you need to get you through. Sometimes, you just need a push to get it started, and then you might just find yourself talking about it in a blog by the end of it! Without that love from others and the love I had for myself I’m not sure I would still be here. So, thank you to those who have stood by me, listened, gave advice, remained present, completed reiki on me for free, bought butts and chained smoked them with me and generally made me feel like myself again. I don’t need to name you, you know who you are!
Much love to all
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