Sometimes, I surprise myself.

There are times, just every now and again you understand,  when I surprise myself in a good way.

Oh trust me, there are plenty of times when I surprise myself in  a not so good way.  Times when perhaps I think or respond in such a way that is contrary to how I like to conduct myself or like to think.  And whilst these times are disappointing, even concerning, I seem to have almost accepted them as part and parcel of who I am.  That is not to say that I like them or simply accept them. Because I don’t.  And yes, they still bother me.

But when I surprise myself in a good way these times do tend to have a bigger impact or be more noteworthy somehow.

And yesterday (rolling into this morning also) was one such a time.  Let me explain…

My daughter Janey has flown in and is visiting with me at the moment. and one of the things that she is keen to do, whilst she is here, is to get me out of the house more.  And so she was keen that we did a few road trips, hiring a car just for that purpose.

At the same time, I have been really wanting to make this visit really special. And so – knowing that there are certain things which she has never experienced in life (or things which she only experienced when very young and thus can’t really remember) – we got in the car very early yesterday morning and went on a road trip.

I hadn’t told her where we were going, just that we were going on a road trip.  Which, I kind of thought was important for her to know, since I don’t drive an d thus Janey would be doing all the driving.

IMG_1081Off we set, bright and early in the morning and drove across Ireland – which, as most locals and visitors would know, – is particularly beautiful, stopping for an  early morning coffee at New Ross.

Before heading off again on our travels.  I have to tell you that I love these times in the car together. As additional to the wonderful scenery that we experience, it also gives us time to just sit and chat with little to no distractions.

IMG_1084Our fist main stop was at the wonderful seaside town of Dungarvan. As I wanted Janey to see a small Irish coastal castle.

Dungarvan Castle is a polygonal shell keep. An Anglo-Norman  fortification founded in 1185 at the mouth of the River Colligan.  ‘Shell keeps’ are fairly rare in England and Ireland alike and this one is even rarer as it is one of the few ‘Royal’ castle to be built in Ireland.

But this was, for Janey, on our road trip to be but a small taste of what was to come. As from here we drove the short 20 minute drive over to Lismore and to the much more spectacular and breath-taking Lismore Castle.

Lismore Castle

Here is a smaller IMG_1085pic that we took from the car as we drove up to it.

I can’t even begin to tell you the joy I got from seeing Janey’s eye’s light up when she first saw it.

It really is a very impressive building  The Irish home of the Duke of Devonshire.  Sadly it is not open to members of the public but can be rented out if you have the mind and wallet.budget to do so.

Suffice to say I decided not to rent the castle for the day on this particular occasion, LOL. And so, once we had viewed it, we drove on and to the destination that I had in mind for us that day.

One of the things which Janey only experienced when she was very young and thus has very little recollection or true appreciation of, was going to the zoo. And so when we drove up to the Fota Wildlife Park in Carringtwohill, County Cork and once she had realised what kind of attraction we were at, it was a real delight to see the joy on her face.  And that was something which continued as we experienced her seeing all the different animals up close (only 3 or 4 feet away) and personal.

Fota Wildlife Park – which I have never been to myself before yesterday – is set in some 70 acres.  And man was that one heck of a long walk.  Especially when you are built as heavily as I am and with the mobility issues that I have.

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But the wildlife is extremely well cared for and have ample room to roam and to have a good and healthy and also -0 from what we could see – and interesting and well-cared for  life.

I have to say that I personally, am not a fan of zoos etc. Nor of keeping wild animals in captivity for that matter. But this is, as far as I could tell, a very well managed Wildlife Park with an excellent ethic when it came to animal care and offers an excellent education and presentation  of over 30 mammals and 50 bird species.

But that ‘ample room to roam’ that the animals enjoy whilst being excellent for them, did mean one heck of a hike for me.  And that is the part which surprised me in such a good way.

Thankfully the park also has plenty of benches and seating areas dotted about along the route.  And certainly we took our time going round the path. But man did it ever take a lot out of me an d this morning I am walking like a zombie.

BUT, and this is the huge one for me, I managed it! And additionally I am not in as much pain and not struggling as much as I thought I would be today.  Of course, I accept that it is still early and I realise that I usually get worse as the day progresses after such things.

Fota Wildlife Park

But I am claiming a victory here!  And I am so grateful to Janey for the encouragement and support that she is.  So yes, I have pleasantly surprised myself, and I am determined to achieve even more things today as well!

 

 

 

 

It really is OK to struggle.

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quote-on-mental-health-63-healthyplace“It really is OK to struggle.”

It has been a thought which has been going around – the spaghetti junction thought highway which is  – in my brain for some time now.

Well I say that it is a thought, but to be honest it kind of yoyo’s between a thought and a consideration. Leaping into a possible conclusion one minute and then crashing into a deeply serious and concerned question the next.  Do you ever notice how such ‘deeply serious and concerned questions often take on the feel – even the familiar vocal tones and inflections of authority figures from your childhood?  Or is that just me? LOL.

But I digress.  So yes this one has been circling around inside my brain (and if I am totally honest my heart) for some time now.  MME Look Right

And I can’t help wondering if poor old Mini Mental Me (pictured left) – he who is the keeper and filing clerk of all my thoughts – isn’t just about frazzled with this one by now.

You see different folk, most of whom really are so very well intentioned, have different ideas about this one, don’t they? Especially if, like me, you are a Christian and especially, like in my case, those ‘folk’ are also Christian.

In which case you tend to get a very specific and peculiar brand of responses and opinions on this particular subject.

No, struggling means that you are not trusting.”  is one response I have heard a number of times.

You aren’t letting go of something if you are struggling with it.”  Is another supposed pearl I have often been offered.  And I have to be honest here, I have mixed opinions as to both the validity and the usefulness of such responses – especially when it comes to mental health and mental illness.

And of course the whole “It really is OK to struggle” consideration gives light – well to the observant amongst us at least – to the fact that I really am struggling at the moment. The lesser observant amongst us – along with the too busy or too easily fooled among us – get thrown by the mask I feel the need to apply whenever in public or in company.

But masks get sticky and sweaty and uncomfortable and heavy don’t they?  And so behind closed doors, in the solitude of our own homes, we tend to take them off, don’t we?  And besides, perhaps keeping the mask on – even though seemingly essential at times – is a dangerous thing to do.

See I understand the concepts and thought processes, even the – often erroneously applied – scriptural instructions behind such opinions that I mentioned above. But where the struggle is – even if only in part – as a result of mental health issues or mental illness they belong on the ‘best not expressed pile’.

You see, on Tuesday last I did something different.  I let my guard down (removed the mask a little) whilst at the Psychiatrist.  Something which – I have to be honest here – I don’t usually do.  And the psychiatrist – who was someone I hadn’t seen before, (Here in Ireland you seldom see the same psychiatrist each time) was really caring and really compassionate.  And what is more he actually took time to listen and to communicate – which again is in itself a rare thing here – due to the pressure of demand that they are under.

And that simple act of kindness – that caring and compassion – has made the mask feel somewhat uneasy to reapply.  So much so that in a totally unrelated conversation with someone from church I even let my mask down and admitted the fact that I was struggling to them.  And now – and again let’s be honest here – here I am sat writing a blog post on my personal blog when I haven’t posted on here for some months now.

You see struggling doesn’t have to demonstrate or to be perceived as a sign of weakness. On the contrary, in fact.  Sometimes, and I cannot express this too clearly or too firmly here, it is a sign of strength and of perseverance.  Especially when it comes to mental illness and mental health related issues.

Yes I am struggling and yes – when the mask comes off and when the doors are closed and when solitude and I keep each other silent company within the echoes of the thoughts and voices – it is sometimes difficult to see any point in going on, or to actually connect with, take ownership of, feel validated in accepting and assigning to yourself, the reasons to go on.  But this is nothing new and this has been the case for a good many years now and this is a part of my mental health and this does demonstrate perseverance.

And yet here’s the deal about perseverance. It is an indicator of what you have been through and in  many cases still are going through.  It is a guarantee that you have made it this far. BUT – and this really is important here – whilst it may be a guarantee that you have made it this far and may well be an encouragement to go on it is by no means a guarantee that you will go on.

I need to act!  To take decisive steps to enable that ‘going on’, that continued perseverance.  And yes, to be honest, at this point, continuing perseverance is all I can even imagine being able to achieve, and even that seems a somewhat distant hope.

Over the past few weeks my strength, my resolve, has weakened and even at times – especially just recently – taken a battering. And at the same time those harmful, those sabotaging thoughts and voices have increased and intensified.     Even my kids, and those closest to me, have asked if there is something wrong or if I am upset with them.

Old harmful temptations echo from the past yearning to get reacquainted. Exit strategies – how’s that for a nice simple oh-so-modern and socially acceptable term or face for something oh so dangerous and sinister – seem even more appealing.

And yet still I know that I am not intended to face this  alone or to struggle alone in all this – except that is the other – often unnoticed – side of masks, isn’t it? They not only fool others and prevent others from getting in and hurting you. They also fool yourself into stopping others from getting in and helping you.  And they most definitely add to and at times create a false and negative or harmful perception of yourself.

As the title and my earlier comments tell you. I am convinced that “It really is OK to struggle.” but it is most definitely not OK, most definitely not advisable to struggle alone. And trust me, when it comes to mental illness and mental health issues, even your faith and that absolute belief that God will never let you down is somehow clouded from your view.

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And yet can I truly allow myself to allow others to draw me out from what can – if I cut all the sugar frosted coating – only be recognised as the oh so old, oh so familiar “me, myself and die” mindset that has somehow secretly become such a part of me?

Somehow I have to.

So yes, “It really is OK to struggle.” but…

 

 

Suicidal Thoughts – The Old Man Comes A Calling.

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hidden-face-in-meadowsThere are many patterns in my life it seems. Many hidden pictures, subtle indicators.

Hidden pictures, subtle indicators which – when noticed – tell us that things are not quite what they may at first appear.

Hm. I wonder if you have the same?  Perhaps you do and are aware of them.  Or perhaps you do and are not quite aware of them?

One such pattern, with hidden pictures and subtle indicators is that sometimes – actually often – I experience episodes where my mental health slowly slips. Doing so in such a way as not to arise any major concern on anyone’s part. Just slowly, gradually, until I reach a point where I mentally withdraw and where my mind slips into ‘auto-pilot’ mode.  The mode where I am; simply surviving, simply being, simply (and only basically) functioning.  Aimless and purposeless and without direction, lost within the confused fussiness of whatever is happening within.

To all intents and purposes I appear to be fine.  And, thanks to the ‘auto-pilot’ mode I have switched into – often unknowingly and yet sometimes (I must admit) deliberately in order to not cause concern to others or in an attempt to seem fine whilst I process what it going on – to the casual onlooker I appear to be just fine.  And yet that is far from the truth.

It is a ‘pattern’ because of it’s reoccurring frequency in my life.  And last night – well actually about four this morning – I realised that I am yet again just coming out of such an episode.   And so the ‘catch-up’ and ‘repair’ process begins.

LostAnd to be absolutely honest I have no idea what caused this latest episode – nor do I know how long it has lasted.

But I do know is that is was in some way linked to my physical health and that due in part to both I had withdrawn – both mentally and physically.

And I do know – as along with this early morning’s realisation that I had once again withdrawn and slipped into ‘auto-pilot’ mode  – came the realisation that I had also – once again – not been alone during all this time.

Now for all my Christian brothers and sisters who might be reading this post and who might therefore be thinking that this is the point where I introduce my faith and the fact that Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit were with me. Yes of course this is true.  My faith was always there and I have no doubt that Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit was also right there with me.

But that is the thing about mental illness and with having difficulties with your mental health.  Those facts often get somehow distorted, somehow faded, dimmed, perhaps the best description is that the become gradually eclipsed (not like where one  celestial body does to another but as with clouds blocking out the sun) until they become concealed, taken and robbed from you.

Your connection with them – just like your connection with true awareness – becomes somehow stretched – concealed and even consumed.  As if within your mind, within your cognitive awareness of it all – foggy night has fallen.

scary-wallpaper-man's-figure-in-fog-730x400And within that ‘night-state’, within the grey fogginess of it all the ‘old man’ comes a calling.  The ‘old man’ – those suicidal thoughts which ever linger – who has been ‘waiting for the night to fall’, finds stronger, clearer, more convincing a voice. And more receptive a target.

For in this your ‘night-state’ he has your attention, he has connection in your solitude – even your sometimes self-imposed solitude or sometime self-inflicted confusion.

Let’s make no mistake here. And let’s not try to dismiss or diminish the importance of this with twee comments or seemingly Christ-centred and yet actually all too often compassion-less and thus Christ-less platitudes or clichés.  It is a terrible, potentially tragic state of mind to be in, to fall or slip into.  And let’s be very real in acknowledging that actually it is one where escape is often far less possible than rescue.

Isolation and solitude can be potential killers.  I am convinced of this.  It something – a truth – of which I have long since been aware of.  And yet a truth which I often lose sight of and often slip away from.  And just like the truth that Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit are always – subject to the unthinkable of course – there for the believer, it is a truth which needs feeding, which needs recognising and holding onto.

Actually it is a truth – these are truths – which I have thankfully, I think, been becoming more and more aware of as I started to come out of this latest episode.  And so the task now becomes (once again) repairing any damage that may have been done during this last episode and catching up with things in order to get to a state where we can once more progress.  Where once again the light – the strength that comes from that light – becomes the focus and the direction provider.

In truth I don’t know how long it will be before the pattern repeats itself.  How long, if at all – and I am, as always, praying that the pattern ends here – before the next slip. And I remain ever hopeful (well outside of these episodes where hope, along with that awareness of the light, seems to fade) that this pattern will one day end.

But I am painfully aware that I am not the only one who experiences such episodes, who experiences such hopelessness.  That I am not the only one for whom ‘the ‘old man’ comes a calling.’  So to all those out there for whom ‘the old man comes a calling’ I want to share that there really is hope.  A hope which is worth fighting for and which is – despite the night – real and true and also available to you.

And for those who have never experienced something like what I have – albeit inadequately – tried to explain here, I want to invite you to put aside your preconceived ideas or opinions and to – just for a few minutes – try to imagine what it must be like.

And for both  – those who have experienced something along the lines of what I have described above and those who haven’t – I would like you to invite you to view and listen to the following video by Casting Crowns and to – whilst you do so – focus and reflect on the lyrics and message of this song.

I am grateful for the ‘dawn’ that came in the small hours of this morning. And I pray that others may find a ‘dawn’.  For some, like myself, some of the lyrics of this song may be hard to take and yet truth can sometime be like that can’t it? But whichever way it speaks to you. I truly hope it blesses you.

For me personally – this side of the dawn – I cannot in, all honesty, say that the old man is dead, but I can say that I am not willing to feats at his table or listen to his lies. And I can at least say that I once again have seem to have the strength and the clarity of thought to let the light grow once more.

 

 

The Smiling Face of Depression

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tumblr_m94as31J9Y1r04xyvo1_500When I sat at my computer determining whether or not I really did want to write this post – I can’t speak for other ‘bloggers’ but for me personally sometimes there is some deliberation that takes place between the idea and the execution when it comes to blogging.  And to be truthful today I really wasn’t sure I was up to writing this posts.

You see thoughts are mainly private and thus there is an apparent safety in them.  I say ‘apparent’ because not all thoughts – certainly not mine at least – are safe or healthy. But in the main, they remain fairly harmless unless you either a) act upon them or b) in some cases, share them.

And smiles, when it comes to the latter of those two – the sharing of them – can be the same, can’t they?

In truth I could smile all day long in the solitude of my home and it would effect or (as the above image suggests) confuse no-one.  (Other than my dog TJ perhaps. LOL)

But the minute I share that smile with someone else, it has all the potential – does it not – of having an impact on them.  Unless of course they are so pre-occupied with other things (or other thoughts) that they really don’t notice.  But then arguably the process of sharing of the smile is incomplete.

Smiles are all around us, aren’t they?  I live in Ireland and you only have to walk down any street and pass folk and you are still sure to be greeted in one friendly fashion or another. (Something which I have noticed does sadly appear to be in the decline)  And usually with a smile.  But are those smiles real or are they often masks that people wear as a  result of social etiquette or as a result of other people’s expectations?

Some smiles are – let’s say – simply natural, an involuntary or subconscious bi-product of how a person is feeling.  Maybe long-term in existence or momentary and fleeting as a result of some thought or event which has just happened.

But other smiles, well they are more deliberate, more connived, more manufactured. Placed on the face of the wearer by the wearer as a result of deliberate thought and with a deliberate purpose in mind.  To offer you the viewer what you want or (as is often the case) to dissuade you the viewer from seeking deeper knowledge or further information.

smile maskAnd there is very little wrong with offering others a smile when they expect it or want it. Is there?  Or when you simply can’t face or bring yourself to explain or share the hurting or the depression that you are really feeling?

After all, not everyone cares or wants or even needs to know about the depression you are going through. Or the hurting you have inside.  And indeed not everyone should know about it. Trust me on this, there are those out there who would do so much damage if they did know.

But what about your desperate need for some to know? Someone to understand? Someone to still accept you, even love you, despite that depression, those thoughts, that hurting?

And what about those who should know?  Those who should be told, who should be there for you at such times.  Those for whom the truth and your ‘freedom to be real’ should be more important than social norms or everything ‘appearing rosy in the garden of life’.

I cannot even begin the explain  or describe the importance of having someone in your life with whom you can be real – especially if you do suffer from depression (in any of it’s forms).  Some person, a friend or a loved one, a family member, who will not only offer you the freedom to be real but who also accepts you and yes who still loves you when you are real.

The problem is that sadly, unless you suffer from depression, in one of it’s various forms, it is so very hard to understand (and thus to fully relate to) what it is like.  Which is why I believe that online communities such as the Mental Health Writers Guild and blogs such as this one are so important.

Because all too often even those who really do care and who do still try to understand and love you through the difficult times.  Those times when despite your best efforts you cannot escape the impact of the (often altered) realities depression forces upon you.  Can’t understand and feel so helpless.  They stand – if you like – at the edge of a world in which they see you suffering and which they know they cannot truly enter in order to try to ease your suffering.  No matter how much they may want or need to.  Or at the edge of a world which you seem to have suddenly forced upon them and which they do not understand.  Of course for the person – like me – who suffers the depression and who is involuntarily going through that latest episode it is not a case of forcing our world on others but of desperately trying to reach out from within it and be held, be accepted, be understood, be loved.

And so all too often we try to hide that world in which you cannot belong, should not belong.  We try to protect you from the world we know we cannot protect ourselves from. And often we do so by hiding that world behind a smile.  Behind a mask. After all, is not a smile far more acceptable than a sign which reads (as my mind [Mini Mental Me] often tells me I am) “Danger! – walking Minefield – Keep Clear!”.

For me personally – as a Christian who suffers from mental illness – I see the smile (and yes even the laughter) that I try to offer others, not as a lie or a mask to hide the pain or the depression within.  But more as a way of my offering my Christ and the joy that He offers me despite my mental health issues.

But I do need and want to be very real and very honest here.  Sometime my depression and my mental health smothers and impacts me so much that even my finding my Christ and my faith  – which has brought me through this far – is so very hard.  And so yes, sometimes my smile, my laughter and joking, is indeed a mask to hide that which I don’t think you either need or want to see.  And I am certainly not alone in this and certainly not the only one who struggles and yet paints on ‘the smiling face of depression.’

Despite Myself or Despite Mini Mental Me.

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me myself I wonder how many of you experience the same kind of thing as me?  Time when it seems that you and your mind are at logger heads or at least not singing from the same song sheet?

This, I have to admit, happens to (or with) me a lot.    And whilst admitting it could very well make some of you think I have completely lost it, I would politely remind you that this is a mental health blog and thus such a thing really isn’t to be treated with such shock, nor indeed any alarm.

And let’s be honest with ourselves here.  Don’t a lot of us have conversations, dialogues with ourselves?  Normally when we think others are not looking.  “Who ever are you talking to?”  “No one dear, just myself.”  Must be (or something very similar) a familiar snippet of conversation to a lot of readers, I would suggest.

Of course regular readers will know that I have for a long time now put forward the observation and proposed the suggestion that a great deal of mental health or mental illness ‘symptoms’ are simply; exaggerations, magnifications, intensifications of what many of experience.

And, as such, it is less about the fact that these things are experienced and more about to what degree they are experienced, how or when they are experienced, and the impact that they can have, which is relevant or indicative of any mental health or mental illness issues.

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And regular readers will also know that because of the frequent disconnect and indeed the constant separation that I often have with my own mind, I have taken to naming my mind and to calling my mind ‘Mini Mental Me’.  Trust me, this makes explanations so much easier.

(Mini Mental Me actually being the little man inside my brain who likes to: disagree with me, antagonise me, confused me or taunt me – along with other behaviours – each day.

More recently, as my last post indicates, one of our disagreements was whether or not I should attend my scheduled psychiatrist’s appointment this morning.

Mini Mental Me put forward a number of observations concerning previous visits, suggested a plethora of potential disastrous outcomes of my attending said appointment.  And did his best to generally dissuade me from such course of action.

But I am pleased to report that reason, plus the encouragement of others – including my kids – won out and I actually did attend as arranged.

And it went really well, despite all the thoughts and possible scenarios flooding through my mind (thanks Mini Mental Me, NOT)

In truth, one of the main reasons why decided to go is that one of my daughters – who has been home visiting with me for the past weeks and who has done  a wonderful job of redecorating some of the rooms of my home, – for which I am extremely grateful despite the disruption and extra work this also caused for me🙂 –  is schedule to leave and fly home in a a day or two.  And I know that this could potentially have a big impact on my mental health.

A possibility which the psychiatrist also recognised this morning and so she has increased the dosage level of my meds.

Just what good this will do and if the increase will have any effect in time for my daughter’s departure is of course unknown at this time, just as what impact my daughter leaving will have.  But at least some preventative measures will have been tried and at least I (and my psychiatrist) recognise the potential for an impact to be experienced.

And if nothing else, at least Mini Mental Me has once again been proven wrong.  Not that this seems to have too much impact on his zeal for disruption.

But because I had previously shared my struggle over whether or not to go to this morning’s appointment.  Because folk had kindly encouraged me and thus deserve a report as to the outcome of their encouragements.  And because I have promised to write more, and this is one way of achieving that (or at least contributing towards that) I thought I would let you know.

Fulfilling A Promise and Writing again.

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Well it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Since I last posted anything significant I mean.

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The thing is that I have been fairly busy doing other stuff and well, if I am honest, I kind of lost my zeal for writing after I was hurt by some people.

But a lot has happened since then and I have written some things, just not on here and I apologize for that.

One of the things (or should that be several of the things?) that has happened recently is that I have been encouraged to start writing on here again.  And since I made a promise (to someone who’s opinion and support I truly respect and appreciate) that I would write again.  This post is the fulfilment of that promise.  Or at least the beginning of that fulfilment.

And so, I thought I would start of by asking a general question to all those readers out there who have to see a psychiatrist on a regular basis.  And that question is…

Are there times when you really don’t feel like going to see your psychiatrist? But are not sure if that is because of where your mind or mental health is at that time, or because you have lost all confidence or hope that they can actually do anything to help, or because you simply don’t see the point of it all?

Because I have to be honest, that is pretty much where I find myself at the moment.

(And yes, for all those out there for who details and accuracy are really important. I do realise that actually the ‘question’ that I asked is actually a collection of questions all joined up in one.)

I have documented my opinion or at least my recent experiences of visiting the psych before. (You can check it out on my poetry blog if you like. A Trip to The Psychiatrist)

And the fact is that I am pretty sure that I could simply sign myself off of the local Mental Health service and still get the meds that I need prescribed by my own doctor – my General Practitioner.

But for some reason – despite my apparent lack of confidence in or enthusiasm to go to my psych appointment scheduled for a few day’s time – that (signing myself out of the system) seems to be just a step too far for me.  And I find myself feeling like a trapeze artist who would have no safety net.   And that safety net seems so very important, doesn’t it?

When-Things-Get-Uncertain-Get-Creative-A-Safety-Net-is-Great-When-You-Need-One

And there are other factors which come into play here and which I have to take into account.  My mental health is not that bad at the moment and I have been ‘coping’ fairly well.  Although the age-old problem of not being able to shut my mind down enough to sleep properly is still there.  Which means that physically I am exhausted and this is turn effects my mental health.

Additionally over the past few weeks I have had company as one of my kids has been home a visiting with me.  And this is due to end in a few days time which will, no doubt, leave me crashing a little and my mood declining.  And I have to be aware and do what I can to counter that.

I feel it is a pivotal time right now.  Or at least at the edge of one.  And common sense says that I need to prepare for this.  And yet common sense itself is sometimes not enough, is it?  We need motivation as well. And perhaps that is what I am seriously lacking right about now.

And this, I feel, can be a common theme if you suffer with poor mental health and especially depression.  It is like there is some sort of disconnect there.  A disconnect that we somehow have to fix or at least momentarily bridge – long enough to get us moving.

So yes I wondered if others have the same issues?  And indeed how you cope with them?

Hm. Funny Word It Is… ‘mumpsimus’

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Hm. Funny word it Is… ‘mumpsimus

Originally coming from an error with the Latin word ‘sumpsimus‘, it was.

From the saying ‘quod in ore sumpsimus‘ meaning ‘we have taken in our mouth‘, it was. Part of the Eucharist, it was.

Believed to have been started by an illiterate priest who mispronounced the original ‘sumpsimus‘ as ‘mumpsimus‘ it is.

Refused to correct his mistake once alerted to it, he did.

So ‘mumpsimus‘ came to mean ‘a person who obstinately adheres to old customs or ideas in spite of evidence that they are wrong or unreasonable‘, it did.

Or it can be ‘the traditional idea or custom itself which is adhered to although shown to be wrong‘, it can.

So both the view that “People with mental health issues are dangerous‘ and those who hold it are ‘mumpsimus‘, they are.

 

Daring To Venture Beyond The Face of The Clown.

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EMGN-Robin-Williams-Quotes-10 Yesterday would have been, had he still been alive, Robin William’s 64th birthday. But of course tragically he isn’t still alive, as on August 11th last year he took his own life.  An act which shocked millions of people and which begged many a question concerning depression and suicide. As well as how someone so famous, someone so well known; for his sense of humour, for his comedy, for spreading such happiness, could get to a place where he would take such a step.

Questions which in many ways, or so it seems to this writer, were like the rolling credits at the end of one of his numerous movies.  Noticed but hardly considered by many and soon forgotten by many many more.  But questions – none the less – which so very much still require asking and which each one of us would do well to consider.

Robin was, as I said, such a gifted entertainer, such a gifted actor, such a gifted comedian.  In many ways he was such a loveable clown.

williams 1 And that, it has to be said was one of the problems.  For that is the way we all saw him, was it not?  That is the expectation we had of him and the expectation we placed on him.  That is what we expected to see and thus, perhaps, all that we looked for.

And whilst I recognise that Robin was to so many of us ‘a celebrity’ and thus a detached and almost untouchable figure.  I find myself asking the questions, “But what about those who aren’t so detached, or so untouchable to us?”  “What about our friends, our family, our neighbours?”  “What about our work colleagues, school or college mates?” “What about that guy or that woman at our church?”  Are we not perhaps also guilty of placing expectations on them?  Are we not perhaps also guilty of seeing them in certain ways and only seeing or looking for what we expect to see?

You see in many ways I can relate to Robin Williams.  In many ways and to a lot of folk perhaps and to some extent, I am that clown. I am that entertainer.

In many ways I am that joker. And yet, just like Robin, I also struggle with depression and yes at times, and I am not afraid to admit it, with suicidal thoughts.

And in truth, I am that friend, that family member, that neighbour, that guy at church, who many folk see a certain way and yet never venture to ask or look beyond what they first see or what I first present.

And thus they never get to know about – or have an impact on – that depression, or on those suicidal thoughts which often plague me.

That is not to say that ‘one or two’ don’t know about my depression or my suicidal thoughts.  But what about all the others?  Is there a reason (or reasons why they remain oblivious to these struggles?

For some, I think, it is a case of being too busy to have time to ask, or to look beyond what they first see.

For others, it is perhaps a fear of rejection or of being shot down in flames and having their caring – their compassion, thrown back in their face.

For some it is simply not knowing how to approach the subject.  And yet for others, perhaps it is a fear that actually if they do dare to ask – if they do dare to venture beyond what they first see with someone – that person might do the same in return and then they would have to be honest and face the truth in themselves?

But what ever the reason for never venturing beyond what we first see, something just has to change if we are  to truly tackle and combat such issues as depression and suicidal thoughts.  In truth we cannot simply sit back and leave it to others or rely on that person’s faith or their strength of character or their will power.  And we cannot be lulled into – or allow ourself to remain blinded to, or indeed simply be persuaded by – the masks that others put on in order to ‘survive’, or ‘exist’ or to please others.

In truth we must be more daring.

williams

Daring to venture beyond the face of the clown.

Beyond The Block – Rising Above It All

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writerblockSomething which I feel most bloggers experience at one point or another, and certainly a read through other blogger’s blogs would seem to  confirm this, is writer’s block.

So here I am, having not posted anything on this blog since April, sat in my study, coffee to one side and keyboard in front of me determined to reach out ‘beyond the block‘ which has been oppressing me of late.

Oppressing me of late“.  Now there’s an interesting way of putting it, isn’t it?  Webster’s offers a number of different definitions of the word ‘oppression’, one of which being – “A sense of being weighed down in body or mind.” and certainly that definition would seem very apt for what I have been feeling of late. (Although I personally, as a Christian, would want to add to that definition, but more of that later.)

This blog (like so many of the blogs which I read) focusses on Mental Health and is a way of my sharing my experiences with my mental health in the hope of; a) understanding my mental health more and b) helping others to understand mental health more.  Mental health which can, let’s be clear about this, present the sufferer with a whole plethora of different experiences and of different highs and lows.

So when a mental health writer (such as I) experiences what many writers would simply consider or label “Writer’s Block” it is important, I feel, to look beyond that ‘block’ and to consider both where that block came from and indeed, what it signifies or indicates.

autopilotYou see, something which I personally have come to realise, and something which we all (in my opinion would be wise to consider when such blocks appear) is that it is possible that something has happened which has forced or lured  us into a state of relative autopilot.

That state of life where we ‘exist’ more than ‘live’.  Where we simply go from; task to task, chore to chore, obligation to obligation. routine to routine.

And please understand that I say this not with a sense of defeatism, but with a sense of awakening and of commitment and determination.

For me personally, a number of factors seem to have contributed to this oppression and therefore simply engaging my ‘autopilot’.  My physical health is without doubt one of the largest factors, but also personal relationships and financial concerns seem to be contributory factors.  And all of these seem to impact each other – at least in my own experience.

And truly I do understand the engaging of autopilot in an attempt to stop or at very least to slow down that crippling ‘free fall’ that so many of us have experienced.

 

tumblr_lq244rNRdf1r1ycr8o1_1280But I am convinced that this is not the way that we are intended to live.

downloadAnd I am also convinced that all it inevitably does – if we are not mindful of it and if we do not take measures to disengage it an to come out of it – is cripple and imprison us.

Doing so in such an often subtle and debilitating way, that the longer we are in this state the more damage is being done beyond our awareness and thus the harder it is to get out of it.

Which I think brings me back to that original definition of oppression which I mentioned and to the fact that I personally, as a Christian, would want to add to it.

You see, I am convinced that there is also a spiritual aspect to it all.  That the definition should not only be, “A sense of being weighed down in body or mind.” but more completely be “”A sense of being weighed down in body or mind or spirit.”

For me personally, my faith is central to who I am and crucial to me.  And even in this I seem to have been gone into ‘autopilot’ as the factors I mentioned above and also everyday pressures of life seem to have taken their toll.

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But who says we have to ‘free fall’ in such situations?  Who says we have to be crippled and imprisoned?

The past?  The lies we have bought into and which were introduced way back when and which were then reinforced by our damaged and corrupted self-image and by a world which is as self-centred and uncaring as it seems intent to be?

What is to stop us soaring?  What is to stop us climbing up on the very block which is designed to oppress us and keep us down and launching ourselves into a new more determined future?

So yes, I recognise ‘the block’ which has kept me down of late, but I refuse to take ownership of it or to simply exist within it.  And I am determined to reach out and claim back my life beyond it and to rise above it all.

 

Right Now

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kevinbykevinHe sits.  Not doing anything in particular and in fact particularly doing nothing.

That weird, inexplicable nothing which seems to consume time, simply regurgitating a world of emptiness in it’s place.

As if all the personal loans of purpose and direction have been consolidated into one more manageable loan of nothingness with periodic repayments of yearning.

And yet still the salesmen and saleswomen call, suggesting that he switches from his current plan to one with ‘greater benefits’ or ‘easier control’.

Some call with sincere care and a heartfelt belief that their plan, their world, offers more.  And yet do they really understand, can they understand, that his world is not one which he wants to live in but one he can’t yet escape?

Border Control1But then that’s the thing isn’t it? The difference in worlds.  His world and theirs.

He doesn’t doubt their sincerity, nor even their caring and their love.

But caring and love belong in their world and seem exiled from his. At least right now, at least for the time being.

And caring and love are not – perhaps they need to remember – the visa which affords them right of entry into his world.  They are but the application which might yet gain them that re-entry into  his world or even – could it possibly be? – his re-entry into theirs.

And what of the journey?  His journey?  Perhaps, just perhaps, there is a reason for his being where he is right now.

Perhaps, right now, he can’t face, can’t handle their world?  Except perhaps for occasional forays.  Short visits, investigative trips.  Errands and peregrinations of duty and obligation.

But what if this world, right now, is where he is meant to be?  Perhaps there is some hidden reason, some hidden purpose for his captivity here?  Perhaps some lesson to learn, some destination he is meant to find before he can truly leave.  Before he can truly settle on an exit plan?

And what if that is the case?  Who’s need is greater?  Their need to rescue him from that world? Or his to journey through it and to determine his own port of exit from it?

See that’s the thing about caring – within the nobility of love don’t we also have to recognise our own need to give it? To show that love?  Truly noble, truly selfless acts are so rare are they not?

True selflessness does not come from the need to reach out.  Nor does it come from the need to isolate.  For, either way, it does not come from the need to protect or be protected.  Any more than the need to do good works comes from the need to show God we love Him.  It flows from the very centre of who we are and is a natural [even supernatural] (needless, and thoughtless) response to who we are in Him.

So he sits. Not doing anything in particular and in fact particularly doing nothing.

That weird, inexplicable nothing which seems to consume time, simply regurgitating a world of emptiness in it’s place.

Yes, right now he is lost. Lost within that world.  And yet what is his real need right now?  Salesmen and women to call suggesting that he switches from his current plan to one with ‘greater benefits’ or ‘easier control’?  Or someone who will simply sit with him and love him in the silence, someone who will show him it is ok to hurt, ok to struggle, ok to look up and believe.

Yes.  Ok to look up and to dare to see the Father’s tears.  And even dare to believe, yes perhaps even to believe that some, just some, of those tears could actually be for him.

And within that realisation to release the healings which have to, just have to, be held within them.

And who knows, perhaps to even give himself permission to free his own tears?

 

 

 

 

Fatally Flawed Thinking – My Own Worst Enemy.

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TW SIGNIf you could do anything with your life, what would you do?” Was his opening question.

End it.”  Was my instant, simple but very sincere and heartfelt response.

On reflection – since we were sat in church and he had just earlier delivered a very inspiring personal testimony of how Christ can move in your life, if you allow Him to – I doubt very much that this was the response he was expecting to receive.

And to be totally honest I am absolutely convinced that it was not the response I expected myself to give.  But give it I had.  And the fact that I did – since I am being so open and honest – scares me somewhat.

The fact that I suffer from suicidal ideation is no secret to those who know me well.  But the fact that this had progressed – hm. should that more accurately be ‘regressed’? – to a level where I had virtually accepted that this outcome was inevitable, if not imminent, is known to very few people indeed, perhaps only one or two people.  And I am not sure even they truly know or understood the significance of it all.

It was Sunday morning and I had gone to church.  The fact is that I have been fighting with myself about pulling away from church (and church activities) for some time now. Sometimes attending and sometimes not attending, depending on which pert of my thinking was winning at that particular moment.

John Edwards (The ‘he’ in the opening snippet of conversation above) had been in town that weekend and was the guest speaker at our church that morning.  He had shared his testimony and then had prayed with folk afterwards.  And despite my being in the process of pulling away, I had agreed to go along that particular morning because I have some responsibilities in respect of editing and publishing the sermons each week and because – again if I am honest – I have recently been trying to make sure that, as and when I do pull away from the church, what little I do do can easily be taken over by someone else.

The praise and worship that morning (this past Sunday) was wonderful and there were actual moments within it when I was able to lose myself in worship and where what goes on inside my head lost all significance or even presence.

Likewise, John’s testimony (which – if you are interested you can listen to here) was certainly inspiring and I listened to it intently. Afterwards many people went up for personal prayer although I personally, despite numerous encouragements from folk, avoided doing so.  What was the point when in your own mind it was just all part of putting off the inevitable?

My buddy (also called John)  – who had driven me to church that morning and who was driving me home again afterwards – had also suggested that we both go up for prayer. But I convinced him that he should and that I was quite happy waiting until he had done so. Actually, as it happens, he was the last to go up and so after they had finished praying John Edwards came over and said hello to me and that is when the conversation – the opening snippet of which I stated this post with – took place.

The truth is that John Edwards is a lovely guy and very caring.  And the fact is that he made a lot of sense in what he and I talked about in our very brief conversation.  But I was not in the right mindset to offer any positive responses to what he was saying and so the conversation didn’t last very long at all.  And for that I am truly sorry.  I am sure he needed my negativity that late morning/early afternoon about as much as he needed to hear my fatalistic response to his opening question to me.  And that is what both scares me and has got me to thinking really.

Have I become so defeated, so jaded, that I have simply accepted my perceived fate and in turn simply refuse to accept that there is any hope?

Kevin1See there within lies the problem which I think a lot of us face.

Maybe not to the same extent or in the same context as this.  But certainly one which I think a lot of folk will be able to relate to.

When you are arguing with yourself – with your own thoughts.

For a Christian, doing God’s will is (or at least should be) paramount in your life – even and especially in the face of your own personal struggles.  And we are called to go through those personal struggles and to ‘press on towards the goal’.  But sometimes, those personal struggles can become so all consuming -0 especially when you can’t seem to control the thoughts in your head.

Sometimes, it seems that ‘taking captive every thought’ is the battle – or at least the only part of the battle you can bring yourself to deal with.  As I told Kelvin – a really nice guy who was accompanying John Edwards on his visit – when he and I were chatting whilst others were going up for prayer and when he told me that ‘taking captive every thought’ is part of the battle.

And that really con be so very true.  It is, I added, like playing chess with yourself.  You can be pretty sure that you will both win and lose in that situation.  And I am so incredibly tired and arguing with my own thoughts that winning doesn’t even seem worth it any more. And that is what is so scary.

mental-illness-artwork

The truth is that I love God and Christ and I love my church and my family. And I also openly and fully recognise that so many folk suffer far more than I do.  But when your thoughts consume you and when you can’t seem to even control them – let alone ‘take them captive’ – you do lose all sight of any hope.  At least any hope for the here and now.

And along with that comes so many thoughts and thought processes.  So much so that you can (I am convinced) fail to even recognise those thoughts and those thought processes which are harmful and even fatally flawed.

FatallyFlawed.16289That conversation (the opening lines of which I shared above) happened this Sunday.  And the fact that I so quickly, so instantly, responded the way I did.  And to someone who was effectively a complete stranger, worries me.  Especially given the setting it took place in.  And I have not been able to get it out of my head since,

I have, as I said before, over the past few weeks been trying to pull away from everything and almost every one. Participating in things only out of a sense of duty, or in order to facilitate putting my affairs in order, or in order to not cause concern to folk or to raise any alarm bells.

I think closing my sites/blogs, and trying to put my affairs in order have all been a part of that self-same fatalistic mindset.  But where do you go?  What do you do?  When you can no longer trust even your own thoughts? When you have tried get help and can’t seem to even adequately explain how desperate you feel or the confusion in your own mind?  And when you are frightened of contributing to anything or even trying to explain where you are at, for fear of hurting or negatively impacting others badly?

I find myself so very conflicted.  On the one hand I am actively doing things which all work towards a better future for myself health wise.  And yet on the other hand I am doing things which – whilst designed to protect others and to reduce the potential harm and impact to others – are probably not healthy for me mentally.

The Christian message, the gospel of peace is, I am convinced – and yes I am still convinced even in all this – one of hope.  A hope, in Christ, that we can hold onto in the face of the fiercest and darkest of storms.  But that does not mean (and trust me here) that those storms will not come or are not possible.  Because they are.

Since closing this blog (and others) I have found no peace over doing so.  And I have to recognise that perhaps doing so was part of that fatalistic mindset I seem to have spiralled into.  And it is interesting to me that – since closing this blog – the past two guest posts over at the Mental Health Writer’s Guild – which I am involved in – have been about or included suicide or suicidal thoughts within their subject matter.

Am I any the less lost, confused or conflicted today than I was when I decided to close this blog?  Does my having decided to reopen this blog and to share this post mean that there is some progress being made here?  The truth is that I have no idea.  Perhaps it is all part of the self-same conflicted sense of being lost and confused?

But I do know that I have not been at peace about having closed it and I do know that that conversation I had on Sunday – or more accurately the fact that I even had it, where I had it and with whom I had it – does concern me.

I am (or perhaps I am better off saying my own fatally flawed thinking is) my own worst enemy it seems.

 

 

 

 

 

Closing Down.

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closingI have decided it is time to close this blog (and others) and to go into a time of personal retreat and reflection.

I have really enjoyed blogging and being part of the blogging community and have been blessed by all of the support that it offers.

And I want to thank everyone who has contributed in some part to this.  The mental health blogging community is a wonderful community.

I will however, make every effort to ensure that the Mental Health Writers Guild will  continue, as I truly feel that this is an important resource.

Again, thank you all for your support and for allowing me to be a part of your community.  God bless you all.

What Constitutes Suicidal Thoughts and…

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TW SIGN… when and how do you healthily respond to them?

Is one of the questions which keeps going around my head at the moment.

To be totally honest it is a question which arose from my state of mind at the moment and one which – seeing as my mind is obsessing over things at the moment  – something that I just don’t seem able to let go of.

Additionally, since I am being out there and open with it all, I am OK letting my mind obsess about this question at the moment.  Because it is a heck of a lot healthier than actually obsessing on the harmful destructive thoughts going on inside my head right now.

And speaking of being out there and open, I apologise to anyone who knows me and who may be concerned as a result of this post.  That really isn’t the object or purpose of this post at all.  And I really do want to be clear that whilst I am in a very fragile state I am not contemplating suicide at this moment.

But I have to do something to defocus my mind from those other thoughts right now and besides, this really is an important question.

See here’s the deal.  Something happened on Friday which completely distressed and disturbed me.  And which my mind just won’t let go of.  It keeps replaying it over and over and it just won’t let go of it.

No one is to blame for this, but me.  And no one set out to intentionally hurt or distress me.  And in truth there is no way they could have known the landslide of destructive thought processes which they inadvertently started or triggered.

But the landslide started and they – the destructive thought processes – simply won’t stop. But when does a destructive thought – even and especially repetitive and obsessive destructive thoughts constitute actual suicidal thoughts?  And more importantly when and how do you healthily respond to them?

Its a very difficult question isn’t it?

At The Edge 1In the rational I can see them for what they are.  I understand what caused them and I even understand and can recognised the flawed and twisted logic and arguments that they put forth to accompany and support their suggestions.

Likewise, in the rational I know that they also come in waves of intensity and that said waves increase as it get later and later in the day and peak when the night falls.

At The Edge 2I know and recognise the pattern here.

The way it all works within this ideation within my mind.

I know only too well the observations and arguments my mind throws up to bring me closer to the edge and I know the counter observations and counter arguments that I will state in order to slow that process down.

At The Edge 3I know the facts and myths and the statistics concerning this.

How suicidal thoughts, also known as suicidal ideation are thoughts about how to kill oneself, which can range from a detailed plan to a fleeting consideration which does not include the final act of killing oneself.

I also know that the majority of people who experience suicidal ideation do not actually go as far as attempting it (let alone succeeding).  And that according to studies only just over a fifth of people who died by suicide had actually discussed their thoughts or intentions prior to the act.

And I know that my own thoughts are not of how to commit suicide.  In truth I worked that out a long long time ago.  (And I think a great many of us have made similar considerations or had similar discussions without any intention of actually doing so.).

At The Edge 4No for me it is not a case of actually doing it, it is a case of trying to stop it from happening.

It is so hard to describe.  It is like my mind – the obsessive, destructive thoughts process – is trying to push me towards the edge and all I can do is fight with it.

And the longer the fight goes on the weaker and more tired I become.  (Minds with obsessive thoughts don’t shut down long enough to allow sleep, let alone sleep of any quality.)  And the closer to the edge I know I am getting.

At The Edge 5

 

Now I need to  make this clear again, since I blog openly and not anonymously.  Yes I am experiencing very harmful and destructive thoughts which are also obsessive and relentless.  And I have been now for three days ever since what happened on Friday.  But I am still able to fight them to varying degrees of effect despite becoming more and more tired and less and less able to function properly.

And the purpose of this post is not to concern anyone.  It is instead to invite comments and opinions from other bloggers and readers about such obsessive harmful and destructive thoughts.  When do such thoughts constitute suicidal thoughts?  When should we really be worried about such thoughts?  How do we respond (healthily) to them?

 

 

 

Sorely Tempted

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It’s a common enough phrase, isn’t it?  ‘Sorely Tempted’ I mean.  “Honestly, he got me so mad I felt like slapping him.  I mean it. I was sorely tempted.”  Is a line from a conversation I remember having with someone about how their husband had behaved one morning.  (And of course I am not advocating hitting husbands here.  I just wanted to demonstrate the common nature of the phrase.)

Boils-03However I want to use it in a slightly different way within this post, and am deliberately playing with words here.  What if I were to write it as ‘Sore’ly tempted and to tell you that this post is as much about sores and boils as it is about self-image and self-confidence?

About two and a bit years ago I wrote a post entitled “Sometimes, what it al ‘boils’ down to…” and in that post I wrote openly up about the boils and sores that I frequently have.  And I  even went as far as displaying pictures of the state of my skin as a result of these boils and of some of the boils themselves.

And I did so because I felt that it was an important issue.  And the truth is that I still feel the same way.  Especially since I am still receiving comments and emails concerning this issue and the experiences that others have with the same issue.

Boils-02The truth is that as well as the physical difficulties which can result from such a condition (pain or physical discomfort, discomfort or difficulties walking, additional laundry requirements, the ruining of clothes. etc) there are other difficulties as well.

Things which perhaps we would not initially consider.  Such as the impact it can have on who we are as a person.

And the truth is that whilst I do personally believe that often, the presence of mental illness or poor mental health can complicate – even exaggerate – the impact of such a condition, the fact remains that so many different things can play into and impact our self-image and self-confidence regardless of whether mental illness or poor mental health is present.

For example I recently received a comment (on the previous post I mentioned) which really brought this home to me.  And I will share a part of it here with you…

I, also, have suffered from this issue for nearly 15 years. I am currently 24 years old and at the age of 11 or 12, I noticed painful, large boil-like abscesses regularly appearing on my inner thighs. Within a couple of years, the issue began to get so much worse and as a cheerleader, I had to do stretches at practice that made this issue visible to all of my friends. I tried to hide it as best as I could, but sometimes friends or family members of mine would question why I had a “rash” on my inner thighs. It was so embarrassing and definitely put a damper on my confidence as a teenager.

I can so relate to what was being shared in that comment and my heart went out to her.  I may not be a cheerleader (trust me I never have been).  Nor am I a teenager. Nor does my life present me with many situations where anyone would see the sores or the boils which I still experience.  But I certainly do remember and still (on the very rare occasions when someone is likely to see my boils and sores – such as at the doctors or the hospital) know and understand the impact, embarrassment, and even the sense of shame which we can allow ourselves to feel when they are seen by someone else.

psoriasis body mainAdditionally, I also have an adult daughter who suffers from Psoriasis.  A condition which causes plaque like blotches all over her body including her most intimate parts.

And I know, from dealing with this with her, just how this has impacted her self-image and self-confidence and indeed her willingness to have intimate relationships with anyone.

But here’s the deal, and it really is a question which we all need to ask ourselves.  So many of us who experience mental illness or poor mental health will actively speak out about the stigma that is often wrongly attached to us and to others with mental illness or poor mental health.

“It is wrong.”  We shout.  Or “You cannot treat people who have a mental condition, one which is, in the main, beyond their control, differently.” And we say,  “You cannot (justly or fairly) look at them as being somehow inferior, somehow damaged, simply because of their condition!” And the truth is that we are right to do so and it is tragic that even in this day and age we still have to say such things.

But what about our unsightly or unappealing physical conditions?  Such as boils and sores, Hidradenitis suppurativa,  or psoriasis or other such conditions?  And what about the way we allow having these conditions (and other people’s reactions to them) to impact the way we see our selves.

Often these conditions last a very ling time and all we can do is try to manage them.  In respect of the boils and sores, as the young lady whose comment I featured above also noted…

I do have one HUGE tip I could share that may help some of you…. ALWAYS, ALWAYS try to keep the crevices of your body as dry as possible. Moisture always seems to trigger the onset of boils. If you work out or notice that you are sweating a lot, immediately shower if you can and following this, apply medicated baby powder to your thigh/buttocks area, underneath armpits, under breasts, or any other crease in your body. If you have to, blow dry your body.

So there are things that we can do to reduce their physical impact and hopefully to prevent the physical scarring such as mine…Boils-01

 

But as I said, it is not only about the physical effects and physical scarring is it?

Like I said, I may not be a cheerleader (trust me I never have been).  Nor am I a teenager and nor am I concerned about either having intimate relationship or the way my body looks within those relationships.

But I am concerned about how we see ourselves and how loving and accepting we are of ourselves – warts and all so to speak.

The world – media, social sites, advertising (or so it seems to me) is obsessed with physical beauty and even physical or cosmetic perfection.  But aren’t we so much more than this?  Shouldn’t we all be looking deeper than the (often artificial) exterior?

As I mentioned above, my heart went out to the young lass who commented on my previous posting on this subject.  And so if you are suffering from such a condition as the one I experience and have illustrated above, I so deeply want to say this to you.

I fully accept that I am older and that I no longer suffer the same kind of peer pressure that many youngsters still experience.  But I have – over the years – learned two very important things.

Firstly, we are so much more than just what is presented on the outside, and actually very often what is present on the outside – no matter how aesthetically appealing it might seem – is nothing like what is on the inside.

And secondly, true friends, true loved ones, people who really care and thus who really matter in life, will look beyond what it on the outside and love you, care for you for who you are on the inside.

So today I really want to encourage you.

No matter how bad things may seem, no matter how much your condition may impact the physical, love the you beyond the physical.  Love the you inside and never let anyone or anything judge you purely on the outside.

Never allow the outside to hide your love and your acceptance and you caring for the you on the inside.  No matter how ‘sore’ly tempted you may be!

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Lord, now it’s turning into a foodie blog! NOT

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In my last post I wrote about ‘Mini Mental Me’s’ apparent addiction with ‘Thought Jenga’ and how it impacts my life.  But I also wrote about the steps that I am taking to try and counter these effects and to get and keep my life on track.  And one of those steps was to eat healthy and regularly.

So in this post I thought I would share something that I cooked up for myself🙂

IMG_2094The evening before last I decided to cook myself a bacon and mushroom Carbonara.

And I have to tell you that it rally was so very tasty.  And also far healthier than a lot of food that I usually eat – containing fresh ingredients instead of processed stuff.

Although the picture doesn’t show it very well, as well as the bacon it contained mushrooms and scallions. (Spring onions to those from the uk)

And I was delighted with the result and the minor achievement.

So much so that I determined that the following day I would cook myself a Beef Casserole!

Getting up nice and early I had my normal cup of coffee, took my morning meds, checked my emails and updated my blog comments and then went to prepare the meal for that evening.  I was determined that I would do this and that I would get it write – despite any efforts to sabotage my plans on behalf of Mini Mental Me.

IMG_2095 Also determined that this casserole would contain fresh vegetables – something I am not renowned for eating.  I took three large carrots, two medium to large potatoes and a parsnip. And I stood and washed and then peeled them.

I then went and sat down for a while as standing for any length of time is not easy for me.  That is something else that I am learning to do.  Pace myself properly.  As one of the difficulties is that often I don’t know that I have done too much until it is too late.

IMG_2096Once I had sufficiently rested I then returned to the kitchen and diced the vegetables into (roughly) equal sizes.

I decided to sliced some of the parsnip in order to roast them separately.

I had also decided that I would be cooking this Casserole in my slow cooker and so the need to ensure that all of the vegetables were about the same size was greatly reduced.

And so – having diced the vegetables – I put them in my slow cooker and turned my attention to the sauce for my Casserole.

I had decided that I would cheat a little when it came to the sauce/cooking liquid and so had bought a packet of Beef Casserole Mix and I already had a packet of Oxtail Soup mix in the cupboard (Or press as the Irish like to call them).  And having mixed them I added these to my slow cooker also.

IMG_2097 I then turned my attention to the meat.  400 grms of prime Irish beef and I seared this in order to give it a little bit of colour.

And I then also added that to my slow cooker.

I have to be honest and admit that beef is not something that I often eat and so I thought that it would make a pleasant change.  Which, of course is why I went for a Beef Casserole instead of a Lamb Casserole.

Once all this was added into my slow cooker I stirred and seasoned it and then placing the lid on it left it to cook away slowly.

IMG_2100And it was about 20 minutes of doing this when I decided that actually I also fancied having some onion in the Casserole.

And so I took a fairly large onion peeled and sliced it.  Whilst at the same time crying a little – obviously lamenting the loss of such a proud  specimen  from my newly acquired vegetable provisions.  And added that to the mix.

And having done so I then stirred the mix one last time, replaced the lid on the slow cooker and then went back to my study to get on with some other stuff as it slowly cooked away.

And I have to tell you that whilst to most folk this would all seem like so much of a nothingness and such a normal everyday activity.  As I sat there in my office enjoying the fragrant cooking smells coming from my kitchen, I could not help but feel very pleased at the fact that I had actually gone through with my decision to cook a fresh healthy meal for myself for that evening.

And more importantly I was delighted at the fact that nothing had gone wrong and that Mini Mental Me had not managed to cause me to forget to add something, or caused me to burn the meat – or even to forget to buy the stuff that I needed for this meal.

And it was at this point when my mind (and Mini Mental Me) through out the realisation that actually this was the day when I was going out to eat at friends before prayer meeting!  Curse you Mini Mental  Me!

So up I got and I went and turned the slow cooker off, resolving that actually I would not be dissuaded by this minor revelation and that I would simply have Beef Casserole for dinner today instead.

IMG_2106And that is exactly what I did.  And to add to the dish I decided that I would even make myself dumplings to go into the Casserole.

8 dumplings to be precise.  (But only because that is how many the recipe that I had would make and I really didn’t feel brave enough to stand there and give Mini Mental Me another chance to sabotage the meal as I tried to divide quantities of flour and suet and such.

So this morning I made said dumplings and placed them in the fridge until this afternoon when – having earlier remembered to turn the slow cooker back on i order to finish of the cooking of my Casserole – I added then this afternoon just 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

IMG_2109And there you have it.  My Beef Casserole which I not only had for dinner this evening but will also have for lunch tomorrow.

Oh and this morning I also added some baby new potatoes into the mix.

I have to tell you that this was soooo good and probably the best Beef Casserole that I have had for a good couple of years now.

It is also the only Beef Casserole that I have had for a good couple of years now.  But even so, I was delighted with it.  And I really enjoyed it!

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And the really good part is that not only do I have enough left over for some for lunch tomorrow but I also have enough to freeze for reheating on one of those inevitable days when my physical health is too bad for me to stand an d cook.

Which of course means one less take out or microwave meal and thus again helps with my plain to eat more healthily.

And so, as I said, whilst I know that to many this would seem like an everyday thing and nothing special, I am claiming it as a victory and am delighted with having done this.

Next step in my healthy eating plans – Healthy Homemade Soups! Something else I can cook up a batch of and then freeze and reheat when I am not well enough to actually prepare and cook myself a meal🙂

Mini Mental Me’s Apparent Addiction to ‘Thought Jenga’

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MME Look RightI have, over the years used many metaphors in order to try to describe or explain my mental illness and the way in which it impacts my life.  Some have been dark and sinister by nature and some (I hope) humorous and light hearted.

My favourite way of describing or explaining my frequently struggling mental health is ‘Mini Mental Me’.

For the uninitiated or unfamiliar with ‘Mini Mental Me’ he is the little man who lives in my brain and who is charged with the responsibility of ensuring it’s correct and efficient functioning.  But who – for a myriad of reasons – constantly fails at this task – often to varying degrees of spectacular.

One reason his frequent inadequacy at the role which which he is charged is – or so it seems to me – appears to be his addiction to ‘Thought Jenga’.

MME JENGA‘Thought Jenga’ appears to be a game which he plays where he takes all my different thoughts and thought processes (represented above by the different coloured bricks) and instead of organising and stacking them neatly and correctly – as my OCD requires and as any normal mind would – decides to see just how much fun he can have by stacking them all higgledy-piggledy in order to (I can only assume) watch them (and of course my peace of mind and sometimes my life) wobble and shake and subsequently tumble.  A past-time which is obviously a a spectator sport egged on by both the internal dialogue and those pesky  destructive (seemingly) external voices.

[OMME Look Leftf course it is entirely possible that I do not have mental illness at all and it is Mini Mental Me who has mental illness.  But don’t tell my psychiatrist that as it would no doubt instantly be recorded on my file as me being delusional in some way LOL.]

So where does Mental Mini Me’s apparent addiction to ‘Thought Jenga’ leave me and what is the prognosis for it’s impact on my life.

Well I guess a lot of that – whilst part of it is of course outside of my control – is down to how I approach it, I think.

So what I have decided  to try to do for the rest of this year – the beginning of year already being fairly spectacular in it’s madness and mayhem – is to try to take control of the things that are important and which I can take control of.  And I am doing so in full awareness that they will at sometime go awry and will therefore need repairing.

But my thought process (hopefully this one isn’t flawed or foolish) is that the more control I take of things that can and often to wrong, and the more I maintain control of them the less damage that can be done and thus the less repairing required when things inevitably do mess up (Or should that be when I or Mental Mini Me inevitably messes up?)

And to do this I have been identifying weak spots, stressors and areas of need.  These are the areas where the most damage is often done and which often cause a downward spiral in my physical or mental health.  Of course living alone makes controlling – heck often even recognizing – these glitches all the more difficult.

But I have at least identified the key areas.  Which are as follows…

Keeping my home neat, tidy, clean and orderly.  My environment has, I have learned, a direct impact on my mental health and one sign that things are not good – either with my mental health or my physical health is a decline in the general good order of my home.  And this in turn then adds to the problems.    I am determined to try to keep my home a lot cleaner and tidier this year.  Not that it is usually that bad but can get quite bad when my physical or mental health declines.

Eating Healthily and Regularly.  I tend to forget to eat and I certainly don’t eat regularly or healthily enough.  In truth I can not only go hours without even thinking about food, but even a couple of days without thinking about food.  Additionally, other factors play into this.  Financial difficulties, physical health, memory issues, focus issues, to name but a few.

For example, if I screw up my finances – something I tend to do a lot – I often don’t have enough to buy food, let alone healthy food  And this can last for some time as often when I screw up my finances I am left desperately paying all my money to bills instead of buying essential food.

Likewise, if my physical health is bad, and (as regular readers will know) I have a number of physical health issues, I can find myself unable to stand long enough to cook a healthy meal and so resort to microwave meals, take outs or fast food deliveries. Something which I am determined to change this year.

Actively fighting the compulsion to isolate.  Whilst isolation or at very least limited socialization appears on face value to be my most comfortable approach and certainly reduces the ammunition available to the  negative internal dialogues and paranoid and destruction external voices, it is probably true that it is in the long wrong not healthy for me.  So I am going to try to socialize more this year and at very least leave my house more.  At the moment, apart from going out for a coffee and a little shopping twice a week with my carer Sinéad (something which only began last year) I tend only go out to church on Sundays, sometimes a bible study once a week, and if necessary essential doctor, hospital or psychiatrist visits (and even them I tend to avoid if possible). Although thanks to Sinéad’s encouraging and efforts I did get out much more last year.

Also being more active (when I am able) will no doubt help with my weight and health.

Having a regular and recognisable routine.  This is another area which really helps with my mental health and indeed my physical health.  The more I have a routine the better I am.  And at times when my mental health starts to slip into a decline or a crash, having and keeping to a routine can delay or slow this decline or even prevent a crash.

Keeping my mind active and healthily focused.  This is a big one for me,  As often when my mental health suffers (and Mental Mini Me plays ‘Thought Jenga’ my focus, memory and comprehension suffer.  Which means even the simplest of things like reading becomes difficult. (Sometimes I can’t even remember the start of the paragraph by the time I am two lines into it.  And so writing is therefore even harder and often impossible.  Posts which I would normally write fairly speedily can take me numerous hours to complete.  And I get frustrated with the situation (and thus myself) and lose interest.

Additionally – as part of the ‘Thought Jenga’ games that Mental Mini Me plays, and the resultant increased internal and external dialogues, I can slip into harmful or unhealthy thought patterns and processes,

But I am convinced that the more I engage in healthy mental activity the less this will happen.  At least that’s the theory.  (Just as long as I watch for signs of compulsive thought patterns)

Taking my meds regularly.  Is another huge one for me.  But thank fully there are some improvements on this score.  Because I struggle so much with my finances I often forgo buying my meds and pay off my bills instead.  Additionally because of my frequent memory and focus issues I have often (actually frequently) forgotten my meds.   And then of course there are the fairly common ‘do I really need these’ or ‘can I actually be bothered to take these’ syndromes when it comes to meds, which a lot of us seem to experience.

If I go for a while without remembering to take my meds and am not cognitive of any slipping in my mental or physical health (which of course are often there but I just haven’t seen the signs) I question if I really need them at all.  Which of course I do.

And if I am totally honest.  To add to all this I simply don’t trust and don’t like the effects of my psychiatric meds.

But, as I said, there have been huge improvements on this score.  I am (thanks to the support and encouragement of a couple of dear friends – you know who you are) at least taking my physical health related meds pretty much as I am meant to.  And so that is a good sign at least.

Managing my finances properly.  Is perhaps the biggest of all of the weak spots, stressors and areas of need.  There is a recognisable cycle here.  My mental health (or even my physical health) declines and my memory, focus and comprehension decline along with it.  I forget to pay bills and spend my money on other things or simply spend it on other people.

What happens next is that either a) I then get angry letters telling me I haven’t paid bills – which alert me to the fact that my mental health has slipped somewhere along the way and I haven’t noticed or b) my mental health improves and I myself realise that I have messed up again.  And I then of course, go into a lengthy phase of trying to repair the damage already done.

And this long pattern of financial mismanagement has often taken its toll and often leaves me feeling like a failure and both demoralized and defeated.  Which of course then only provides ammunition to those internal and external harmful and negative dialogues.  Which then in turn complicate matter further and induce a further decline in my mental health.

And those, amongst a plethora of other stressors, weak spots and areas of need are (I think) the main ones.  They can be so destructive, can’t they?

MME HopeBut I am convinced that there is hope – even with Mini Mental Me and his apparent ‘Thought Jenga’ addiction.  Not only for me, but for all of us suffering with poor mental health or with mental illness.  And yes even those of us who suffer from paranoid or non paranoid schizophrenia or (like me)with schizoaffective disorder.

The fact is that I have seen an improvement in almost every one of the key areas that I have mentioned above.  But, of course, the biggest one – my finances – is a huge challenge and the one I seem to struggle with the most.

And of course if I could just cure Mini Mental Me’s Apparent Addiction to ‘Thought Jenga’ life would be soooooo much better.

 

 

New Hope For The Suffering Heart.

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I wonder how you view life?  And subsequently how you view yourself within your life?

I wonder if, like some, you view your life with wonderful colours – with excitement and optimism and anticipation?

Or perhaps that is just a step too far for you? Perhaps you view life as a series of greys which are punctuated with moments of colour.  Times of joy and of excitement and happiness?

Boy Balloon HappyOr perhaps like me, you experience poor mental health or mental illness and perhaps like me, and many others like me, all the colour seems to have left, seemingly drained, from your life?

You see, I truly believe that somewhere along the line that is what has happened to me.

That somewhere along the line, (and I really can’t say when it happened) the colour left my life.  And I am convinced that it did so, not in one instance or in entirety but through a series of disconnections. A number of dis-ownerships.

Yes I still see joy.  I still see happiness, still recognise excitement – still understand and notice colour, (and yes when I really try I can even reach out and almost touch them.  But all too often I am just so disconnected from it all.

And this kind of experience, (and yes mental illness and poor mental health and the resultant experiences like I have expressed here) can have so many implications for us, can’t it?  It can impact so many areas of our lives.  And I am sure I am not alone in what I am sharing here.

One area where my mental illnesses – my poor mental health – impacted me was in respect of my physical health.  You see along with the draining of the colours came the draining of the motivation and the quality of life.  And without quality of life why bother investing on sustaining that life.

And as sad and as tragic – even fatal – such a thought pattern can be.  And as embarrassed (even ashamed) as I am to admit that I (probably subconsciously and most certainly non-deliberately) had that thought pattern.  The plain simple truth is that I did.

And as a result of that every-day essential things suffered,  My relationships suffered.  My home and also my personal hygiene became less of a consideration for me.  My diet and eating patterns also suffered and became so much more unhealthy.  Even my attention to my personal physical health suffered as I struggled to find the interest, let alone any motivation, to face it and deal with it.

Boy Heart Balloon SadAnd for someone who is as morbidly obese and who has my heart conditions – among other physical conditions – that was so very dangerous. .

As the depression and the struggle with my mental illnesses increased so my motivation decreased and my life – my heart – and yes even my attention to the health of my already damaged heart became deflated.

Not only did I stop eating healthily, I stopped eating regularly, and often – even on the few occasions when I did eat – I simply couldn’t be bothered to cook and so lived off of take-out, fast food or microwave meals.

I stopped taking my medication.  And additional to the psychiatric meds I am on some six different heart-related medications.  Not to mention the diabetes meds and other things.

All of these fell by the wayside – the same wayside which I seldom noticed as along with everything else my activity and exercise levels dropped and became almost non-existent.  The only saving grace in this being my faith and my belonging to a local church and only that and my children actually kept me going.

I wonder if you can see the pattern that I am describing here?  And even more importantly, I wonder if you can relate to the pattern that I am describing here?

Perhaps you are reading this and thinking that what I have described here, sees very extreme?  But even if you see some similarities in your own life and are not yet as far gone as I was in this downward spiral, I urge you to do what I did and to act and to turn thing around.

I have, and I am so grateful for the encouragement and support of those few who have motivated and encouraged me – even at times (times when I needed it the most) lovingly nagged me into action.

Boy Heart Balloon HappyAnd it is a tough road, I am not going to lie to you.  Not least of all because of all the damage that I have done to myself and my health and heart throughout this time of depression linked hopelessness and apathy which I experienced for so long.

But no matter how it may seem, no matter how colourless our mental health may make our lives feel, it really is worth it.

I am (when my mental illness doesn’t confuse me and mess with my memory and focus) now eating properly and regularly.

Likewise, I am taking my meds regularly and being more active – walking more, even socializing more.  And trust me, with my health and at my size, these are no simple things to do.  But it truly is worth it.  And I am even losing weight and now able to do the relatively small, seemingly minor things, which so many people take for granted. But which, for me, previously have ether been either impossible or too much effort to make doing so seem worthwhile.

And I promise you, the more I allow myself to be motivated the more I myself get motivated.

So why am I sharing this with you?  I promise you it isn’t in search of any pity or recognition.

HeartHeaderThis month (February 2015) is American Heart Month and (wearing one of my other hats as part of the Mental Health Writers Guild) I was contacted by the American Recall Center and asked to highlight the need for positive heart health and the need to have a strong, positive and healthy approach, focus and attitude to the health of our hearts.

And they have done an excellent info-graphic on this which can be found here

Something which I am more than happy to do and which I wanted to also do here on my personal site/blog.  Because I know, only too well how mental illness and/or poor mental health can also impact our physical health and because I know first-hand, just how important having a good attitude and approach to the health of our heart is.

So that is why I am sharing this with you today.  Not for any pity or any personal acknowledgement but in order to encourage those who like me so desperately need that encouragement.

I am so grateful that I (through the love, encouragement and support of other) was able to wake up to what was happening to me and to where I was going.  And so very grateful for the fact that I now have new hope.  New hope for me, for my life, for my mental and my physical health and through that, that I have found new hope for my suffering heart.

And it is my deepest hope that in some way, through what I have shared today, you – if you can personally relate to some of the things I have shared above – will also find and reach out and claim and take ownership of New Hope For The Suffering Heart – your heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere, from within the silent emptiness…

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offense-oI think many of us who suffer from mental illness or poor mental health can well relate to how this animation of a what is termed as a ‘flatline’  – normally used to indicate activity in the heart – could also represent how we feel, often both mentally and emotionally, during a particularly bad episode.

It can be such a distressing time – especially (and often more so) for those who have to witness our going through these episodes.  Episodes where we seemingly cease to function, cease to even feel.

And certainly it is very hard to explain or describe – to anyone who has not experienced it or been through it – just what that is like.

And likewise it is very hard to explain or describe the wonderment which can often come when you suddenly, unexpectedly, somewhere from within the silent emptiness of both thought and emotion, realise that you have begun to feel something.

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Did you really feel it?  Was it really there?  Did you imagine it?  Somehow create it out of your own desperation?

These are all questions which I have to admit I have asked myself at times such as these.

And of course even the realisation of your being desperate – were you but to have had clarity of thought enough to know it at the time – is in itself an indication of improvement.  An indication of some breakthrough. Some sign of life within the death-like emptiness you had previously been experiencing.

But then of course comes the nervousness, even the fear, that actually this new awareness, this new feeling, this new ability to think once more is only fleeting. A momentary blip before you mentally and/or emotionally ‘flatline’ once more.

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It’s a harrowing thought isn’t it?

And indeed perhaps you are reading this and can relate to exactly what I am describing here.  Either because you have experienced it yourself or watched someone you know, perhaps a loved one, go through this kind of thing.

And if either of those are the case for you, then I am truly sorry.  And likewise I am truly sorry for those who have witnessed me go through it in the past.

cardiacarrestventricularfibrillationpaddlesBut of course – when it comes to the heart and to ‘flatlining’ in the physical – we have learned so much and have developed such equipment as defibrillators to help kick start the heart back into action.

Something which we are not quite so developed, not so good at when it comes to the mind and the emotions.

Although I have little to no doubt that many have tried ‘shocking’ even ‘shaking’ their loved one’s out of such a status.  Even despite the obvious and very real fear that doing so might to more harm than good.

And I yearn – oh how I yearn – to be able to offer some sage advice, some wonderful key that would instantly unlock such situations as the ones I have described above.  But alas I know not of such a key, because I recognise that we are all unique and the very things that drive or drag us into such states can be as unique and personal to each of us as the personal pain and distress that it causes those who have to witness them.

But I do know this.  That pain and distress comes from your love.  And I truly believe that love can reach into the deepest and darkest of circumstances and offer hope.  A hope which can save lives and which can change the tides of desperation.

After all, as a Christian, is that not what I believe that God’s love through Christ has done for me, and for so many others.

And after all, is that not one of the reasons why we – those of us who experience mental illness or poor mental health – blog about our experiences?  In the hope of reaching out and helping someone else?

So I want to encourage you, if you are going through this or witnessing someone else going though this, to persevere and to continue loving them through it.  Who knows, perhaps one day that very love which you selflessly give will be the very thing which reaches into the deep darkness of desperation and touches the person going through it, so that somewhere from within the silent emptiness of both thought and emotion they can see and find their way out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine Him Having Imaginary Friends At His Age!

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This is the third in my additional challenge set within the ‘Little and Not So Little Things From Childhood‘ game I came up with as a result of reading one of the posts by Pim over at Pride In Madness.

imaginary-friends-13And today I am re-looking and also expanding on my answer to question 2 of that game.  Which was, “Did you have a imaginary friend or friends when you were a child?”

Something which some children do have and some children don’t have.

Actually, Psychology Today states, in their article on Imaginary friends, that…

According to Marjorie Taylor and her colleagues at the University of Oregon, by age seven, about 37% of children take imaginative play a step farther and create an invisible friend.

And my initial answer to that question (which obviously places me in the 63% majority) was very true and very accurate.  And was that…

I really don’t think that I did.  At least I can’t remember actually having any.  I had two brothers and a sister and maybe felt that was enough.

But it is perhaps interesting to consider why I didn’t.

In the same article Psychology Today also states that…

It seems logical that children who invent invisible friends might be lonely or have social problems, but research doesn’t support those assumptions.

But it then also goes on to say that…

Oldest children, only children, and children who don’t watch much television are more likely to create an imaginary friend. This probably reflects opportunity. Children need unstructured time alone to be able to invent imaginary friends.

And certainly I was neither an oldest child, an only child or one who was limited in the amount of television that I watched.  But there were also, I think, other factors in play here.  Those factors being the thoughts and voices in my head and my relationship with my siblings.

The thoughts and voices in my head seemed to me to separate me and even in some ways isolate me from my siblings.

Although I do readily accept that this separation and isolation took more of the form of a perceived separation than anything else.

The fact is that in my own mind and in my own perception I was ‘different’, ‘not normal’, ‘weird’.

Basically I think that I really did feel as if I didn’t belong.  And actually this is something that has remained with me all of my life.

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Ad when I look at images, like the one to the left and notice how happy the boy with the imaginary friend seems to be, and hear stories and accounts of other children with imaginary friends, I do wonder why I didn’t have an imaginary friend.

I also wonder why the boy in the photo seems to have blue skin?  Is he changing into a smurf?  (But hey, that is just the way my mind works)

You see whilst some may think that loneliness might cause a child to invent an imaginary friend, I do understand the point made about above about “oldest children, only child, and children with limited television viewing being more likely to create an imaginary friend as a result of having more opportunity.”  I also understand their point about, “children needing unstructured time alone to be able to invent imaginary friends.

And whilst I would accept that having two brothers and a sister did mean that I had less time alone than say an only child, in truth I believe that I did have lots of “unstructured time alone” and certainly enough to invent an imaginary friend.  Had I had the mind to.  And likewise I certainly had the imagination and creativity necessary for this.

But here’s the deal.  If you are a small child who is convinced that you are; ‘different’, ‘not normal’, and/or ‘weird’, and that you don’t belong.  Why would you want to create an imaginary friend who is more than likely to have the same attitude towards you that others seem – at least in your mind – to have towards you.  And why would you want to create an imaginary friend who would “not belong” along with you?

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Additionally, having the voices and thoughts inside my head as a child meant that I often had enough difficulty determining actual shared reality with my own perceived reality.

So having additional imaginary friends would, I think, have seemed just a step too far.

And there is, at least I think, an interesting study here somewhere.  Children having imaginary friends, according to the aforementioned article in Psychology Today, is “not evidence that a child is troubled.”  And that in fact…

Surprisingly, invisible friends don’t necessarily disappear when childhood ends. One study that examined the diaries of adolescents plus questionnaire data concluded that socially competent and creative adolescents were most likely to create an imaginary friend and that this type of friend was not a substitute for relationships with real people.

So my questions would have to be, “Why then do these imaginary friends end in adulthood?” and, “why – since all the evidence suggests that actually, having imaginary friends in not harmful or a negative thing in and of itself – do we treat the idea with suspicion and caution when it comes to adults?”

ec6172476638a4c372516cbd82db55f5As I mentioned before, I personally don’t have imaginary friends.  I have had experiences in life where I have known someone and ‘imagined’ them to be my friend only to be proven wrong LOL.  But hey, haven’t we all?

And as a writer, I have also known characters within my books and/or stories who seemed to have taken on; a life, a personality, a presence, of their own.

But then that is a different thing entirely.

I have also known people who – as some form of comfort or inspiration – out of their loss, continue to talk to their mother or father, gran or grandad, brother or sister, who has died.  And I even know folk who do this with absolute conviction that this person really is there and really is looking over them and talking to them.

And I have to be honest here, I also know other Christians who have such a passion and such an intimate relationship with Christ or God that they communicate and envision Him in the same way.

(How’s that for opening up a whole hornets nest of comments from non-believers about God actually being an imaginary friend?)

But the thing is that I am just not that way inclined.  And even though I am a Christian and absolutely do believe in the historical and biblical evidence of Christ and in the presence and sovereignty of God, and even though I have personally witnessed and do believe in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the believer.  I have never had an approach or experience similar to the ones I have spoken about above.

And furthermore I am not prepared to judge those who do.

In truth I believe that we still have a very limited understanding of faith and still have a very limited understanding of the abilities and complexities of the mind.  And I am still very much convinced that some of what is considered to be a sign of ‘mental illness’ is not a sign of mental illness at all, but rather a reflection and indication of our lack of understanding.

imaginary friends

 

 

My Worlds Beneath The Covers

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I wonder what you thought when you first read the title of this post?  Perhaps you thought this post would be all about bed bugs and mites and things?  Or perhaps your mind took you in a different direction?  Well actually it is about books and reading.  And about the worlds which are often only found beneath the covers of a book. (Or in this technologically advanced age – under the shiny screen of a kindle or e-book reader or iPad or whatever.)  And yes, as a child, they were also worlds I found as I secretly read under the covers of my bed.

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Actually, this post is the third in the additional challenge I set within the ‘Little and Not So Little Things From Childhood’ game that I set in a previous post and this morning I am focussing on my answer to question 9.  ‘Favourite book as a child?’

The answer I gave was as follows…

The first and probably my most favourite as a child was a huge old family King James bible. It had wooden covers and golden edges to it’s pages and beautiful full page colour pictures within it.  I loved it!  And I read it endlessly.

The second is the Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien.   I would have been about 10 years old when I first discovered it and devoured both it and the whole set of books in the series.  I never imagined it would ever become a set of movies or that it would become such a popular story.  But I simply lost myself within the pages of those books.  And again I now own the set.

I absolutely loved reading!  And from that love came my love of writing and has no doubt contributed to my love of blogging.

And I have to tell you that whilst as a writer and someone who therefore benefits from the additional royalties earned through the ease and accessibility of my books also being available to download as e-books on Amazon kindles and the such, I do mourn what seems to be the long and somewhat painful death of actual printed books.

I truly believe that there is; an intimacy, a feel, a smell, a physical connection that is gained by reading an actual printed book which is somehow lost within the microchips and motherboards of electronic devices.

Opening the cover of a book was like opening the lid of a treasure chest, opening a portal to another world.  And importantly – for me at least – it was a way of losing myself from the world I felt trapped in and which didn’t understand me, into a world which offered escape and adventure and which I never needed to understand me.

Many worlds actually.  Worlds which broadened not only my horizons but also my understandings.  Understandings of; life, of people, of relationships, of love, and of me.

family_bible_restoredAnd more importantly, in respect of that huge old wooden covered family bible, understandings of a God.  A God who wasn’t the grey and angry and invisible and detached old figure that was portrayed in the  mono-toned  sermons of the church I was sent to each Sunday.

But one who was instead; loving, caring, hopeful, compassionate and who sought not to see us, to see me, fail but one who yearned for, longed for, reached out for, us, for me, to succeed and to come home to Him.

Yes, beneath the covers of books I found new worlds.  Not only in the fantasies conjured up in the imaginations of such writers as: Enid Blyton.  J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, A. A. Milne, Mark Twain, Beatrix Potter, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Richmal Crompton, Geoffrey Chaucer and the such – but also worlds which are held in the single tear drop of a loving heavenly Father.

books-art-7I am, as you can probably tell, so very grateful to books and to all the people who take time to write them.

And it is my fervent prayer and hope that books – printed actual ink on paper books – never become a thing of the past.

I embrace technology – anyone who knows me will know that and that I have a love of gadgets.  But I so desire for children everywhere to catch hold of the tactile joy of books and the wonderment of the stories and adventures that they contain.

tumblr_mj8s10lwrh1r1tzc9o1_500 And it is my fervent hope that all parents will encourage their children to read as much as they can.  And to any parent out there I would like to say this…

if you go into your child’s bedroom at night and find them hiding under their covers, torch in hand, reading a story.  Please don’t shout at them, chastise or discipline them.   Why not climb under the covers with them, take them in your arms and search out new worlds together with them?

Who knows perhaps you won’t only find a doorway in to the worlds that they are exploring but also a doorway further into their heart.  And who knows perhaps by finding that extra special place in their heart they will start sharing with you the world within their mind and bringing to you even more of their own story.

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Different Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Wrong or Broken.

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Following on from my The ‘Little and Not So Little Things From Childhood’ game post the day before yesterday, here is the second of the five answers that I have chosen to write about in more detail.

Question 1 in the game asked “What is the first childhood memory that comes to mind?”  and my answer was as follows…

Letting off a fire extinguisher in the church hall.  I think I was about 8 years old at the time and it was on the side of the stage in the church hall.  Everyone else was in the church hall doing stuff and I was bored so had gone exploring on the stage. I found the fire extinguisher tucked away at the side of the stage and wanted to know how it worked.  (I had a very inquiring mind.)  So when I was checking it over and trying to see how it worked I accidentally set it off.  This would have been some 44 years ago now and it was the kind that once you had set it off you couldn’t stop it.  It went everywhere and I and the surrounding area was covered in the stuff.  Man did I get into trouble for that one.

I remember it so well,  and indeed I also remember the hiding (spanking) that I got at home from my father as a result of it.   But what I also remember, even more than any of that – and trust me that hiding was memorable enough – was the injustice I felt over it all and just how misunderstood I was.

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You see in my father’s eyes, my father who was a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy and who firmly believed in discipline and that all misbehaviour needed to be addressed and paid for, I had done something very wrong.  And thus he reacted according to his belief and his parenting method.  And I really am not wanting to debate (nor indeed to start yet another debate on corporal punishment) or whether the level of discipline applied was appropriate to what he felt I had done.

Instead, what I am discussing is how in my eyes I had simply had an accident as a result of doing something new and different.  And, let’s be realistic here, as a result of having a very inquiring mind and trying to learn.

The fact is that what we see isn’t always what is happening.  As this little clip from the BBC television program QI will demonstrate…

I openly agree that – had I deliberately set off the fire extinguisher as a gesture of some rebelliousness or displeasure, or even as an act of mischievousness – some form of discipline would have been called for.  And, as my children will no doubt attest, I am in no way opposed to discipline.  But isn’t it important to find out the facts and to understand the motivation behind things before you actually judge those things and indeed the person doing them?

And that is the point isn’t it?  To a lot of people what they would have seen was simply a fire extinguisher.  But to me, a young lad complete with an inquiring mind and yet with the absence of the filters that many others seemed to  have, I saw a device which I needed to understand the mechanics of.  Why?  Because I simply see things differently and had a hunger to understand things.

And isn’t mental illness or poor mental health sometimes similar to that?  Don’t those of us who have it sometimes – if not often – see things differently, perceive and understand things differently?

If we are ever to bring about what we term as a ‘healing’ or ever to truly help those of us who have mental illness or poor mental health don’t we first have to realize and accept this.  And having done so isn’t it important that those who don’t see, perceive or understand things in the way we do, try to understand, to catch a glimpse of, our perception.  Isn’t it important that they look beyond the behaviours or the comments or the attitudes and try to find the person, the people, behind them and to see things from our eyes.

Because how else are they ever going to be able to truly and fairly judge?

And isn’t it important to understand that maybe, just maybe, sometimes they are the ones who have it wrong?  After all, doesn’t history show us that many of the greatest minds and greatest discoveries and advances mankind has made have arisen out of seeing things, thinking things, approaching things, differently?

Extinguisher boyMuch is made about the stigma attached to mental illness and I absolutely agree that this stigma is so very wrong.  But that stigma, much like the damage that was done in the situation of the young boy I once was and the fire extinguisher, arises out of a misunderstanding and a failure to see that “different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong or broken.”

 

 

Why Can’t You Be More Like…

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Yesterday I decided, as a result of reading a post written by Pim over at Pride In Madness‘, that I would post a new game.  The ‘Little and Not So Little Things From Childhood’ Game.

The game asks for you to answer some questions about childhood and then offers an additional challenge to pick five of them to write in more detail about over the coming week.  And so this post us the first in that additional challenge.  And I have chosen, for today’s post, the subject of question 30.  ‘One thing said about you as a child?’

I have often heard it said, and I think there is a lot of truth in the statement, that children can be extremely impressionable.   Certainly I know that I was at times.

But I also think that not only are some children more impressionable than others, but that circumstances of life can also effect just how impressionable a child is.  And, I am convinced that the presence of mental illness or poor mental health can certainly be one of those ‘circumstances of life’.  And for the record, in my opinion, that ‘presence’ of mental illness or poor mental health doesn’t always have to be in the child his or her self in order for it to have a deep impact on the child.

But in my case, I am convinced that it was.  I say that I am convinced that it was as mental illness was not so well understood back when I was a child and additionally I can’t remember much of my early childhood and so no actual diagnosis of mental illness was made about me back then.

But that having been said, as I look back I do remember how I thought and how I felt.

And I do remember having a duality of personality.  And, for the purposes of this post, let’s compare that duality to the characters ‘Tigger’ and ‘Eeyore’ from A. A. Milne’s ever popular Winnie the Pooh stories.

tigger-ideaThere is little doubt in  my mind that these two characters are good representations of what I was like as a child.  And I have little doubt in my mind that it was this duality of personality which often caused my parents to say the words, “Why can’t you be more like your brothers or your sister?” to me.

Now, let me explain, I am writing this not as a way of complaining or criticizing my parents.  Not am I writing this in order to suggest that I had a bad childhood.  The truth is that my childhood was no worse than many other kids and the fact of the matter is that I recognise that I could at times be a very difficult child to understand, let alone love.

TiggerOn the one hand there was the ‘Tigger’ side to me, or my frequent ‘Tigger’ moments.  The bouncy, fun, side to me and moments.

Moments when I was full of happiness.  Times when I could be  funny, cheeky and mischievous.  And in truth this was the side of me that most people seemed to like and to accept the most.

And I would think – although I can’t really be sure – that if you asked anyone who knew me as a child, this would probably be the way that the would describe me.  And indeed it was the ‘mask’ that I would most often put on. The role that I would most often play.

eeyore-rain-cloudBut then there was also the ‘Eeyore’ side to me.  The often and frequent ‘Eeyore’ moments.

The moments (and side to me) which I learned to hide or to keep private as it wasn’t as acceptable, wasn’t as appealing as my ‘Tigger’ side.

And the truth is that statements like, “Why can’t you be more like your brothers or sister?”, no matter how exasperated the person who asked it may have been at the time, simply don’t help.

 

 Why can’t you be more like your brothers or sister?

 

Consider this, if you will.  Each child is unique and is uniquely finding not only his or her place in the world but also who he or she is in the world.  Growing up is part of that, isn’t it?  As a child we have to find who we are.  And who we are is very much impacted and influenced by those we are in contact with the most.

And yet I am convinced that who we are is not always who we are allowed to become.  And furthermore, I am convinced that when who we are is not who we are allowed to become this can sometimes lead to what I terms as ‘uncivil rest’ and what others often terms as mental illness.

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I think that is why I like (and can relate to) this particular picture of Eeyore so much.

Because despite it seemingly being bright and sunny all around, there is a rain cloud which only Eeyore sees and feels.  Now admittedly others may catch a glimpse of it through the way Eeyore acts or even by what Eeyore says.  But only Eeyore actually sees and feels the rain clouds.

The question is, where do the rain clouds come from?  Are they of Eeyore’s own making or are they as a result of external factors and influences.  Or are they, as I suspect, partly as a result of external factors and partly as a result of Eeyore’s own making?  Because Eeyore has grown to expect and to know them and because Eeyore has not been equipped to handle those external factors and influences in a healthy way?

As a child I looked forward with a sense of excitement and hope but I have to be honest and admit that so much of that excitement and hope grew out of a sense of uncertainty and feeling lost within the childhood I was living.

As an adult I look back on the child I was and I still see the confusion and in many ways the sense of being lost.  I still see the duality in the child I was and I see the way that duality was expressed and indeed how it was misinterpreted and indeed mishandled.  And I really do do so not apportioning any blame. And as an adult I can now answer that statement, that question, “Why can’t you be more like your brothers or sister?” with the words, “Because they know and understand and are happy in who they are.  I don’t and I am not.”

And I really do make that statement apportioning no blame to anyone.  Because as a parent myself now, I can also look back at how I was, how I am, with my own children and I can also see the mistakes I myself have made.

So I end this particular post (apologies for it’s length) with an open statement to all parents, (which I am sure I read somewhere) and then a final thought on mental health.

Never prepare a path in life for your child to follow.  But instead prepare the your child for the path they are meant to follow in life.

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In this world we live in, there are some of us who are desperately searching  through the debris of the child our mental health never let us be, in the hope of one day finding ourselves and becoming whole.

 

The ‘Little and Not So Little Things from Childhood’ Game.

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This morning, as I do most mornings, I got up, washed, dressed and then went and made a coffee before; going to my office, taking my meds and then reading through my emails.  Among the emails that I get each morning are notifications of posts made on the different blogs that I follow.  And among them was one entitled ‘The Little Things‘ from my blogging buddy Pim over at ‘Pride In Madness‘.

In it Pim talks about something from her past which is seemingly little but which has obviously had an impact on her.  Its an excellent post and well worth a read!  And it gave me the idea for the following game…

Little and not so Little things from Childhood

Simply answer the following questions in your own way. Giving as much or as little information as you want to.  But where possible, and applicable, please remember to tell us what age you were at the time relevant to each answer.  Don’t forget to link back here so others can see your answers.

  1. What is the first childhood memory that comes to mind?
  2. Did you have a imaginary friend or friends when you were a child?
  3. What was your favourite television program or show as a child?
  4. What is the first lie you can remember telling?
  5. What is the first good thing or kindness you can remember doing?
  6. What was your most favourite meal when you were a child?
  7. What was your least favourite meal when you were a child?
  8. First book you can remember reading?
  9. Favourite book as a child?
  10. Were you ever part of a gang as a child?
  11. Favourite toy/teddy bear from your childhood?
  12. What was your most favourite sweet or candy from your childhood.
  13. Tell us about the first school trip that you can remember going on.
  14. First record/track you remember listening to?
  15. First record/track you ever bought for yourself?
  16. Favourite comic read as a child?
  17. Favourite movie as a child?
  18. Favourite place to visit as a child?
  19. Favourite subject/class at school?
  20. Did you ever insist on being called by a different name or nick name?
  21. An adult neighbour you MOST get on with?
  22. Favourite smell from your childhood?
  23. What place or area did your parents say was ‘out of bounds’ but that you used to go to anyway?
  24. Did you ever shoplift (steal from the local store)?
  25. First dare you were ever given?
  26. Most embarrassing moment you remember?
  27. If you could show us one place from your childhood where would it be?
  28. Were you sporty, geeky, arty? How would you describe yourself in those contexts?
  29. Favourite article of clothing?
  30. One thing said about you as a child?
  31. Favourite game you played as a child?
  32. Favourite childhood pastime?

Additional Challenge:  Over the next week pick three of those answers and write posts about them sharing more about them and how you think they have impacted your life.

And in the interest of fair play, here are my answers to those questions…

1.  What is the first childhood memory that comes to mind?

Letting off a fire extinguisher in the church hall.  I think I was about 8 years old at the time and it was on the side of the stage in the church hall.  Everyone else was in the church hall doing stuff and I was bored so had gone exploring on the stage. I found the fire extinguisher tucked away at the side of the stage and wanted to know how it worked.  (I had a very inquiring mind.)  So when I was checking it over and trying to see how it worked I accidentally set it off.  This would have been some 44 years ago now and it was the kind that once you had set it off you couldn’t stop it.  It went everywhere and I and the surrounding area was covered in the stuff.  Man did I get into trouble for that one.

2.  Did you have a imaginary friend or friends when you were a child?

I really don’t think that I did.  At least I can’t remember actually having any.  I had two brothers and a sister and maybe felt that was enough.

3.  What was your favourite television program or show as a child?

I am sure that I had several, but the one which came to mind first was ‘Paulus the Wood Gnome.”  I looked it up on Youtube and here it is.  I can’t believe I actually enjoyed it! LOL

4.  What is the first lie you can remember telling?

Oh now this one came readily to mind.  I have very few memories from my early childhood, but this one survives.  I must have been 5 years old, and it was my first week at infant school.  But I ran off instead of going to school and when I got caught I lied and said that on the way to school I had been chased by some older boys.  I remember being really upset and crying – actually because I had been caught – but the teachers thought it was because I had been frightened by the older boys chasing me. (of course they didn’t know that I had made them up).  The teachers were so concerned for me and so nice to me and fussed over me.  I do remember that I felt horrible that they were being so kind as a result of my lies.  So the nicer they were the worse I felt.

5.  What is the first good thing or kindness you can remember doing?

It was at Junior school.  I think I would have been 8 or 9 years old at the time and I caught another boy my age bullying one of the first years (7 year olds) and forcing him to hand over his money.  I stopped him from bullying the kid ad forcing money off of him.  We had a big fight in the playground and got into all kinds of trouble,  But funnily enough that bully became my best friend and wasn’t a bad kid at all really.  But that’s a different story.

6.  What was your most favourite meal when you were a child?

That just has to be the Sunday Roast.  It was a feature throughout my childhood and then into my early adulthood.  And became something that, no matter what else was going on in the world, we would all do as a family.  Sit round the dinner table together and enjoy Roast Pork, Beef or Chicken.  Both Roasted and Mashed potatoes, Vegetables, Yorkshire Puddings and gravy.  Followed – very often – by trifle for dessert!

7.  What was your least favourite meal when you were a child?

Liver!  Oh how I hated the stuff.  I recall one time ( I was probably 9 or 10 years old) when I defiantly refused to eat it.  My father refused to let me leave the table until I had eaten it and I sat there refusing to do so.  Come bed time I was still sat there and was sent to bed having first been disciplined.  But as sore as my butt was, I felt I had won! Believing this right up until breakfast the next morning when the same plate of food now all dried up and cold was served up to me again.

8.  First book you can remember reading?

adventures-of-the-wishing-chair-2Enid Blyton’s ‘Adventures of The Wishing Chair.’ I am not sue this was the first book I actually read but it certainly is the first book I can remember reading.  I was about 7 years old I guess. It inspired my imagination and was part of a collection of books that she wrote. Actually, I later bought and still have the set in my library.

9.  Favourite book as a child?

OK. I have two…

The first and probably my most favourite as a child was a huge old family King James bible. It had wooden covers and golden edges to it’s pages and beautiful full page colour pictures within it.  I loved it!  And I read it endlessly.

The second is the Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien.   I would have been about 10 years old when I first discovered it and devoured both it and the whole set of books in the series.  I never imagined it would ever become a set of movies or that it would become such a popular story.  But I simply lost myself within the pages of those books.  And again I now own the set.

10.  Were you ever part of a gang as a child?

Yes, the Graveyard Gang.  I would have been 9, 10 or 11 at the time and we lived next to a graveyard/cemetery, with our back wall also being the surrounding wall to the graveyard.  You would not believe some of the things we got up to!

11.  Favourite toy/teddy bear from your childhood?

This would have to be toy soldiers.  I would have had them from about 5 years old to about 13 or 14 I guess.  I used to spend hours setting them up and hiding snipers and things in the rockery in our garden.  Lol I often spent so much time hiding them and setting them up that I never actually had time to have the actual battles with them.

cirpean12.  What was your most favourite sweet or candy from your childhood.

Mmm. Candied peanuts.  I loved them. ( Again I would have been about 8 – 10 years old)

13.  Tell us about the first school trip that you can remember going on.

Interestingly, I don’t remember any school trips in any level of detail.  I know that we went on them. I just can’t remember any of them. Other than I do have a very vague recollection of us visiting the Dockyard and also the Roman Mosaic at Fishbourne I think. (As for my age?  Well it would have been sometime during junior school so between 7 and 11 years of age.)

14.  First record/track you remember listening to?

I do remember that I used to listen to a couple of story LPs.   It was of course back in the days of vinyl and actual records.  I was around 8 when I got them and had two – probably handed down from my older brother – which were: ‘The story of the Alamo’, and  ‘A Tale about Davy Crockett’.  For a small boy growing up in Southern England they were extremely exciting.

15.  First record/track you ever bought for yourself?

Killer Queen by Queen.  I would have been about 10 years old.  I think a lot of my musical tastes were influenced by my older brother.  And I absolutely loved this song and indeed the group Queen.

16.  Favourite comic read as a child?

This would have been, “The Beano” or “The Dandy”  and again I would have been 6 – 10 years old.

17.  Favourite movie as a child?

KesI think I would have been about 10 years old when I first saw the film ‘Kes’.  It was a recently new film (at that time it would have been 1972 and the film was made in 1969).  It was shown in school during one of our longer English classes and it really impacted me.  Based on the book ‘A Kestrel For a Knave’  written by Brad Hayes, it was the story about poverty and a young boy who has and looks after a kestrel.  We had been reading the book in our English lessons and then watched the film.

18.  Favourite place to visit as a child?

This has to be the beach.  I have a real fondness for the beach and for rivers.  When my depression really kicks in and bad thoughts take over that is where you will find me.  At the beach or at  the river.

19.  Favourite subject/class at school?

Has to be History.  I just loved history, but Art, English Language and English Literature came close to it.

20.  Did you ever insist on being called by a different name or nick name?

No.  Not that I remember.  When I lived on the streets later on I went by the name Danny and my street name was Doc.  But they aren’t really from my childhood.

21.  An adult neighbour you MOST get on with?

Hm.  No-one really comes to mind.  My friend’s parents all seemed to like me though🙂

22.  Favourite smell from your childhood?

LOL Roast dinners.

23.  What place or area did your parents say was ‘out of bounds’ but that you used to go to anyway?

The graveyard over our back wall.  But since we had a little gang called the Graveyard Gang, going there was all part of that.  (7-12 years old)

24.  Did you ever shoplift (steal from the local store)?

Yes. From the local sweet shop and I do remember doing ‘bob a job’ week when I was a cub scout (8 years old I would guess) and getting a small job in the local supermarket.  ‘Bob a job’ week was a week where cubs and scouts from the local cub or scout troop (of which I was one) would do odd jobs for people and get paid and the money went to charity.  I got a small job folding up and flattening old cardboard boxes in the local supermarket.  Which meant me working unsupervised in their warehouse out back.  The same warehouse where they stored chocolate.  You can guess the rest.

25.  First dare you were ever given?

The first one I can remember was to go skinny dipping (swimming naked) one evening. (I was about 8)

26.  Most embarrassing moment?

I would have to say the first time I got naked in front of girls.  We (a group of us local boys and girls – probably all around 7 or 8 years old – sometimes used to play a game called “Cat’s got the measles.”  The game isn’t important but basically it was a form of strip poker just without the need for cards.  The loser being the one who ended up being naked.

27.  If you could show us one place from your childhood where would it be?

A place called Portsdown Hill.  I used to go camping there (9-16 years old) and I loved it.

28.  Were you sporty, geeky, arty? How would you describe yourself in those contexts?

I guess I was an arty geek.  LOL Nothing has changed much there.

29.  Favourite article of clothing?

Again nothing springs readily to mind.  But it would probably have been my Royal Marine Cadet uniform. (7-11 years old I think)

30.  One thing said about you as a child?

Oh there were lots of things and plenty of them not so nice.  The most repetitive thing at school (7-16 years old) was “He has a brilliant mind but just won’t apply it because he gets bored with what we are teaching.”

Outside of school it was that I was ‘weird’ and too much of a ‘loner’. Preferring adult company to that of my peers.

And the one repeated statement that I have always remembered, (but which wasn’t intentionally designed to be nasty) was “Why can’t you be more like your brothers or sister?” (7-16 years old)

31.  Favourite game you played as a child?

I have no idea what it was called.  But my mother was a seamstress and so had lots of reels of sewing cotton around.  I used to take some and then we would tie the end of a real of cotton to one door knocker, run across the street to the house opposite wrap it round the door knocker of that house and then follow that pattern zigzagging up the street.  Then you would knock the door of the first house and run.  When they opened their door it would pull the cotton thus knocking the door opposite.  Of course the cotton would break as the door opened wide.  So no one knew what had happened.  The game was to see who could cause the most doors to open in a series.

32. Favourite childhood pastime?

Reading.  From the age of 7 right through my childhood I loved to read.  It is a pastime that has stayed with me.

Ok So there you have them.  My ‘Little and Not So Little things from Childhood’ answers.

I hope you weren’t too bored by them and I hope you will play the game on your blog/site.  Don’t forget that if you do play it, comment below and include a link back here so I can read your answers.🙂

The Ostrich and The Sand

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ostrich Images such as this one (or certainly people seeing this kind of Ostrich behaviour) are probably what gave rise to the saying “Stop burying (or don’t bury) your head in the sand.”  and refers to the habit of ignoring oncoming troubles or deliberately not seeing warning or danger signs.

And, as far as I understand it, the saying was first recorded by Pliny the Elder (a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher AD 23 – AD 79) and it is believed that folk saw ostriches burying their head in the sand (or in bushes) and thought they were doing so in order to try and hide from or avoid danger.

Actually it is a myth.  Ostriches do not bury their head in the sand (or bushes) for this reason but do so instead in order to find food or to dig a place for their eggs.

2ns6h55But whilst Ostriches burying their head in the sand to avoid or ignore the warning or danger signs may be a myth, the fact is that people doing it is not so much of a myth.

Sometimes hose of us who suffer from mental illness or poor mental health (in terms of that saying) can be the Ostrich can’t we?

And certainly we are not alone in this.  The temptation to avoid or to ignore warning or danger signs is not unique to those of us with mental health challenges.  But I do wonder if the presence of mental illness or poor mental health can increase our tendency to do this?   And from that comes the question, “Do we sometimes wrongly  allow our mental health issues, or our mental illnesses, to become a justification for not attempting things or facing things which actually with just a little more effort we really could have faced?”

It is for me an interesting question.  In this context – if I am the Ostrich, are there times when my poor mental health or my mental illness becomes the sand?”

And not only is it a very interesting question but I believe that it is also a very difficult question. Because just as I am sure there have been times when I have actually used my mental health issues as an excuse to not attempt or face something which I could have done or faced.  There have also been numerous times when I have attempted or faced stuff which I really should not have.

And that is one of the problems with mental illness and poor mental health.  Some things can be a veritable minefield one day and a chance for personal victory another day.   And knowing which is which can be very difficult.  And sometimes we face things believing we are up to the challenge and within a few moments of having done so realise that it really was too much and we really should have avoided it.

headsandmine

And that is also the challenge for those who love us and support us through this.  Because if we can’t always know (or tell) the difference, how then can we blame them when they can’t tell either?

But here’s the deal, and there really isn’t any way around this one…

How do we know that Ostriches don’t bury their head in the sand to avoid danger?  Because doing so for any prolonged period of time would kill them as they wouldn’t be able to breathe. And the same – metaphorically speaking – is the same for us.  We cannot – if we actually want to live, if we actually want to grow and to have any quality of life – afford to bury our heads in the sand.

Yes, we need to watch and to learn and to identify what are potential minefields for us.  But we need to do so knowing that minefields are always impenetrable, some can be negotiated with the right approach and with the right care, guidance and support.

The Road To Recovery – Demoralisation or Hope?

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Recovery main
The ‘road to recovery’ is, I think, a very strange road.  And it is also, in my experience, a road leading from a very strange places (or places).  But I do, of course, also accept that it is also a road which is very personal and can be so very different for each and every person who needs to walk it.

For some it is a road trodden perhaps only once or even only a few times.  Perhaps that need arises as a result of a single event or circumstance, and one which will never be repeated in their life.  Hence there is no real need for them to return to it – to walk, (crawl, stumble, fall, repeatedly pick themselves up) again.  For example, if a person breaks their leg, their ‘road to recovery’ (in this example) may be defined as working towards a point where their bones have mended and they can walk properly again.

But for others (especially in terms of mental health), that ‘road to recovery’ can be one which we regularly have to enter. For some, the ‘road to recovery’, is not one which stems from one single event or circumstance – one single place – but from a myriad of different events or places.  And let’s be honest here, sometimes – for some of us – it isn’t a road leading to a place which is ideal but simply to a place which is more tolerable or more acceptable.

And that is one of the things about ‘recovery’ isn’t it?  Very often it isn’t concrete or absolute.  The truth is that each of us understands and defines ‘recovery’ differently, personally.  And perhaps that is because each of us understands and defines our mental health differently and personally.  And indeed for some it may seem as if they have spent most of their life camped out on that ‘road to recovery’.

Recovery Camping main

And that can get so very tiring and demoralizing can’t it? Not only for those of us who repeatedly have to return to it, but also for those who love us and who have to witness us doing so.

And yet a lot of it is about perspective isn’t it?  Yes, having to repeatedly return to the ‘road to recovery’ can be very demoralizing but the very fact that we have returned to it means that we have – at least – left the place we were in.  That we have – at least – come through our latest episode.

For me personally that is where I am as I sit and write this post this morning.   And in that one recognition there is hope to be found.  Hope which, I have to be honest, I didn’t have when I was in that dark place before.  Hope that I didn’t think I would ever have again whilst I was in that place before.

And that is what seems, I think, so very important.  You see in the darkness, in the confusion, in the hopelessness which often accompanies and signifies the episodes that I experience as a result of my mental health I seem to have little to no control and thus little to no choice when it comes to seeing and grasping hold of any hope.  My mind – or at least the mental illness – increasingly takes over, pulling a deep. dark, heavy blanket of confused nothingness over me.  And – depending on how quickly (or often how sneakily) it does so – I, and the battle, seem lost.

But this side of it all, I get to make the decisions. I get to have a say.  I get to make the choices.  And I refuse, whilst I have the strength and the mental where-with-all, to surrender that hope which is so very important to us all.

So yes I am on that road to recovery again and yes I still walk it with hope.  Yes, I may need to walk some of it on my knees, and yes I may stumble and fall along the way.  But I know which way I am heading and I know that I do not walk it alone.

I am so very blessed and so very grateful for those who have helped me back onto this road.  And I am so very blessed by and grateful for those who are willing to walk, if only in part, this road with me or to encourage me along it.

How long I need to be on it, indeed where it will take me – this side of eternity – I just don’t know. But I am so thankful to be on it once more and I am so thankful for my faith and that hope.

Road to

 

 

 

What If You Were To Dress Your Thoughts?

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Somewhere in the wee small hours of the night (more like very early morning really). Within the troubled yoyoing of being asleep and being awake which played with me all night last night, a  questioned formed within my mind and then simply sat there defiantly until I paid it some attention.

My thoughts often do that – not leaving me until I have at least acknowledged them and walked a little, down what ever path they seek to take me.

dec09meder5_lg-434x580And this one came in the form of a question which simply would not, has not gone.  That question (as the title of this post would suggest) was, “What if you were to dress your thoughts?”

I seem to remember that when I was a child my older sister had paper dress up games.  She would have a figure – which would be a push-out or cut out piece of cardboard and some pictures of different clothing – complete with fold over tabs – and she could use each clothing to make different outfits for the cardboard figure.

And when I first decided to actually give some sort of attention to the defiant question in my mind that is what I first thought of.

Of course I then lay there – awaiting the next sporadic visit of sleep – wondering just what I would ever want to dress my thoughts for?  (Did I mention that my thoughts often desire for me to acknowledge them and walk a little, down what ever path they seek to take me?)

“Not all your thoughts.” I determined, somewhere along the line.  “Just the repetitive, recurring, harmful thoughts.”  And certainly that made a little more sense to me. Because perhaps in the process of doing so it would reveal something to me?

We all have those internal dialogues don ‘t we?  Those recurring thoughts that somehow wont go away?  And is it not true that for some of us – with poor mental health – these harmful repetitive recurring thoughts play into and impact our mental health?

So what if we were to dress them?  What if we were to take each of them, in turn, and to find; an outfit, a clothing, an identity, which suited them?

For me personally, so many of my internal dialogues are – due to my mental illnesses – mixed up with the seemingly external dialogues that I hear.  But there are some which are evidently internal in origin and which are recurring and repetitive and which evidently do cause harm to my mental health.  Indeed, I have to ask myself – since my mind was so insistent that I considered this whole thing – if clothing them would bring them some clarity?

So what if I were to ‘dress’ them?  What if I were to find an outfit which suited them? Could finding an outfit which seemed right for them (Individually I mean) actually help me to identify where they originated?  And indeed, if I knew where they originated from, would I be better equipped to address them?  To dismiss them if they were unjust or unfair or to learn from them if they were justified?

I have to be honest with you.  The way my mind is at the moment I am not sure I am even thinking rationally but it is something that does interest me.

Take captive every thoughtAs a Christian I am  particularly mindful of the scripture in  2 Corinthians 10:5 which basically tells us to “Take captive every thought” and yes I am paraphrasing there.

But it is a real encouragement given to all Christians and one which does link directly into what I have been considering.

Perhaps in dressing the thought I am giving the thought the identity of it’s origin and thus can see it more clearly and can therefore take it ‘captive’.

Certainly the very idea of taking all the thoughts, internal and external dialogues, etc captive and stopping their free run of havoc within my mind seems so very appealing right now.

And who knows perhaps I, and my mind would even be able to get some sleep!

comfort-zone-paulo-zerbato

Isolation – Preservation or Prison?

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TW SIGNI want (initially) to share three images with you.

[Not including the trigger warning triangle (left) I have just used to notify you the reader that this post may contain difficult subject matter for some]

All three images are quotation based and on the same subject.  That subject being ‘Isolation’.

Isolation 1

Why three images? And why isolation?

Well I have chosen three images as they give differing perspectives on ‘isolation’  and I have chosen isolation as I know that I am isolating at the moment.

But also, and mainly, in the hope that others who are experiencing these things will know that they are not alone and that there is hope. 

This first quote is by the French novelist, poet and playwright Jules Verne and you can certainly see how he feels isolation not to be a good thing at all.

The source of this next quote is unknown…

Isolation 2

And whilst agreeing that isolation is not a good thing, the author (whomever that may be) has quite cleverly directly linked the subject to illness and wellness. And certainly you can see where he or she is coming from and what message he or she is trying to convey.

The third of my initial three images – the third quote – that I want to share with you also has no specific source linked to it.  Likewise, it also seeks (in my opinion) to see isolation as a negative.  But also not only to recognise the effect of isolation, to also offer some hope from it.

Isolation 3

But what if the isolation is not inflicted upon you but is instead chosen by you?  Chosen – if you will – because it seemingly provides some safety some security.?

And what if, even in ‘social’ isolation there is – because of the ever present voices and the internal dialogues – no real isolation, no real safety, no real security?  Only – or so the mind tells you – less danger?

And indeed, how do you get others to understand that?

deadlyweaponsI found this image – which is designed for use in the anti-bullying campaign – and it really does convey something essential.  Something that we all need to be mindful of.

As a parent, I have always been mindful of the effects of bullying.  The effects of other people’s harmful and critical words on my children.

My son, was bullied at school by one of his teachers and it impacted him so very deeply that it completely changed his personality and outlook on life, for quite some time.

And I cannot begin to express just how much this saddened me and even angered me.  And I am not someone who angers that easily.  Thankfully we manage to put an end to it and my son was able to slowly but surely recover from it.

Bullies seek to inflict their poison, their hatred, their anger, even their own hurts and pain – on their victims.  To invade and impact their victim’s life in a negative and harmful way.  So much so that you seek to do all you can to avoid them.

 

But what if the bully (or the bullies) are not external but internal?  What if they are not outside your head but inside your head?  What then?  What if they are the voices (which admittedly do appear external) and the internal dialogues that you just can’t silence?  Because, trust me, for some of us that is exactly how it is.

And yes – since this post is about isolation – I can completely understand the logical and natural question, “Then if it is inside your head how will isolating from others help?”

Well it is because mental illness can do that.  In my case, the voices – the internal and seemingly external dialogues – twist and turn, manipulate and corrupt, so much of what happens or what is said.

If words can be a weapon, my mental illness is the one holding that weapon, and thus   ‘words’ (as well as actions) are ammunition to my mental illness. So by isolating I remove so much of the fresh ammunition available and all my mental illness has available to use as a weapon is conjecture and suggestion and memory.  Albeit that all of those are also twisted and manipulated in their use.

And, in the interest of honesty, I should also admit that just as my son’s personality changed when he was bullied, I am also very much aware that my personality, my behaviours, change as my mental health declines.  And I don’t like the results of this or the potential for harm that it can bring with it.

And that therefore, leads to the tendency, the compulsion to isolate.  And it is a compulsion that I dislike and know is also unhealthy and yet find so hard to fight.  For the truth – and without truth there is no true healing – is that in isolation there is little healing only darkness and amidst social interactions, whilst yes there is ammunition for the bullying voices and dialogues, there is also ammunition to be found to fire back at the voices.  Evidences of acceptance, of purpose, of worth, of hope.  Evidences that lay amongst the spent shell casings of snipes and jeers, ridicules and threats my mind has already fired at me.

And yet finding them within the battlefield of my mind, picking them up within the mental Mêlée of madness  that sometimes takes over can be so very difficult.  So you seek to reduce the onslaught, to lower the level of attacks or potential attacks, to cut-off the enemy’s (your mind’s) ammunition source.  To find, a quieter, more stable battlefield.  But the alternative always offers darkness, a world of internal sniper-shots.

your_words_are_a_bullet_to_my_brain__suicide_by_wolveskin-d4r8fn6And also, potentially (and yes I recognise this) a world of self-destruction.

Will I self-destruct?  No I really don’t think so.  Thankfully I still have some strength and thankfully a very strong faith.   And thankfully I am aware that Isolation can be as much a prison – death row – to some as it can be preservation to others.

And so I fight on.  prayerfully, carefully, I fight on.  This is nothing new and nothing that will defeat me.  There is hope. I know that there is hope.  And thankfully there are folk in my life who are watching out for me.  As long as I let them.  Something which I have never been very good at doing.

No matter how hard the fight.  No matter how great the battle.  No matter how strong the apparent need or compulsion to isolate, I need to try not to.  To at least keep some communication – real face to face – communication and interaction going.  And I urge others, who are in a similar situation, to do the same thing.

If you are feeling like me at this time, or ever, if nothing else, please please feel free comment or to contact me.  You really are not alone, no matter how alone you feel or alone you feel you need to be.

 

 

 

An Ocean of Happiness I Cannot Baptise Myself In.

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Do you like the title of this post?  I hope you do or that, if nothing else, it has pricked your interest enough for you to read on.  But I want to make it very clear from the ‘get go’ that it is not one of my lines or a statement of my own construction.  (Although it could very well be.)

It is instead a line from a ‘button poem’ written by Sabrina Benaim and you can ( and I truly hope you will) view her reciting this poem in the YouTube video below.

I sat at my desk this morning just flicking through my Facebook page and came across a video about a homeless man who was given money to buy himself stuff but who then, instead of simply keeping it, used that money to buy food for others.  (You have probably already see it as I believe it went viral and got a lot of media attention.)

Anyway, once that video had finished, I noticed another one which caught my eye – the Sabrina Benaim one entitled ‘Explaining My Depression To My Mother’ and I decided to click on and watch that.

I love all things ‘arty’ and write poetry myself and since the subject matter was mental health/mental illness it was of course of great interest to me.  And I am so glad that I did watch it and I am delighted to be able to share it with you now.

Depression – the subject of the poem (and that which Sabrina was trying to explain to her mother) – hits those of us who experience it or duffer from it in different ways.   And trust me, although I am a Christian with a very strong faith, I know only too well just what havoc it (and indeed other forms of mental illness) can reek in a person’s life.

I also know, first-hand, just how confusing it’s presence (in a believer’s life) can be to other Christians.  And indeed the conversation which Sabrina has formed into her poem is not unique.  And it is perhaps because of my faith that that one line – which I have used as the title of this blog – leapt out at me and resonated with me so clearly.

Of course, my mind – which all too often behaves like a four year old being set free and unsupervised in a candy store (sweet shop), running all over the place grabbing and unwrapping and devouring things – has already started to take me down a whole plethora of different thought processes and deliberations as a result of the poem and indeed as a result of that one line.

But that (exploring those thought processes and trying to bring my mind back into line) is something I will attend to once I have finished this post.  But to give you some idea of said thought processes here are just a few of them:

“Can one baptise one’s self?” “Does such an ‘ocean of happiness’ even exist?”  “Is faith meant to give us happiness?”   “Is ‘happiness’ even the right word or is it ‘joy’ that we need?” “And indeed what are the differences?” “And hey, even with that ‘joy’ do we experience, are we meant to experience, oceans of happiness?”  “Does anyone truly experience oceans of happiness?”

Of course all of those (and trust me there are many more) are linked to my faith and not the purpose or focus of Sabrina’s poem.  But isn’t that how our minds work?  Often taking things – the actions and statements of others and making them, shaping them, filtering and receiving them, in a way which is personal to us?

So I close this post (and wander off to my mental journey of deliberations and reflections) with the video of Sabrina reciting her poem (And I commend and thank Sabrina for her bravery in making and publishing it, or allowing it to be published) and I invite you to comment on what it said, how it spoke, to you…

 

 

Beyond The Baubles

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complete baubles

I wonder what Christmas means or (given that it is now December 29th) what it was like for you?

For me personally Christmas is usually a time of conflict and duality.

Conflict and duality which comes from a) my heart-felt desire, as a Christian, to celebrate the Saviour’s birth (and yes I know it didn’t really happen at this time of year or on December 25th – but this is the time of year and the day when a lot of mankind chooses to celebrate it and I am ok with that) against b) the other side of me which is that I really am very uncomfortable around people.  And Christmas is one of the times of year when there is a great expectation that we will spend time with others.

Normally I choose to, and can usually get away, with spending Christmas on my own and pretty much not (apart from church services and buying immediate family members presents etc) even really acknowledging it’s existence.  (How’s that for earning extra Grinch or Scrooge points?)

And yes I am fully aware that some folk will be horrified at the idea that someone would actually want to spend Christmas alone pretty much ignoring it’s presence.  But to you folk – who I am sure are good folk with legitimate concerns – all I can say is try to look beyond your own experiences and all the tinsel and baubles and try to imagine what it is like for those of us who suffer from mental illness and for whom social gatherings really are uncomfortable, even threatening.  And try, if you will, to imagine just how much additional stress or pressure such a festive holiday full of expectations can place on us.

bah_humbug_anti_christmas_penguin_cartoon_postcard-r27cd1fe9e7c74dc4b2d2b397656f790d_vgbaq_8byvr_512And the truth is that I am by no means against Christmas, nor indeed am I a Grinch or a Scrooge – although I admit I do do a very good impersonation of both.

Actually I love Christmas.  I just recognise the fact that I just don’t do well with the additional pressure that often comes with it.

And this in itself poses us (those of us with mental illness and who do not do well in social situations) with a problem.  Do we simply refuse to get involved and seek the familiar sanctuary of isolation?  Or do we venture out of our comfort zone – our personal safety bubbles – and get involved as others seem so intent on having us do?

This year (unlike previous years) I relented and accepted the very kind invitation of Sinead – a friend from church and my carer – and went and stayed with her family for a few days over the Christmas period.  And in fact I even agreed to accept her and her husband’s invitation to stay an extra night.

And in the interest of honesty and objectivity I have to admit that I really did have a lovely time and that none of it was ‘too much’ for me to handle.  And I make that statement not only in testament to Sinead and Tony and their family and how loving and caring they are, but also as an encouragement to others (who may have similar difficulties as me) and to say that sometimes it can work and can very much be worth while.

That is not to say that there weren’t associated difficulties.  All of which I accept came from within me and none of which being as a result of anything anyone else did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say.

I find that I am mentally exhausted at the moment.  Quietly dealing with the voices and the internal dialogues whilst trying not to negatively impact anyone else’s Christmas can (I assure you) be very draining.  During the day – with the activities and conversations and even the distraction available in the company of others – I found that I was very much able to cope.  But at night time, when alone in my room – the mind had a field day and did what it could to sabotage it all.

And additionally, when I returned home, the very first thing I wanted to do was to keep everyone else out.  And additionally I have an extreme need (or perhaps it is just an extreme desire) to completely isolate for a while.  Something which I was aware of even before I came home, and so decided not to even attend church yesterday.

And yes I recognise that isolating it not a good thing and again I want to emphasise that none of this is as a result of anything anyone else did or said and that I do truly believe that it was worth it.

baublesBut that can be the nature of mental illness can’t it?

Even when we feel we have achieved some victory, some progress over it, it can come back at us with vengeance. Even trying to rob us of what achievements or victories we may have just had.

As I said, I am extremely grateful for the Christmas I was able to share this year and I really did enjoy it and have a lovely time.  And I am convinced that it was totally worth it.  And I would encourage others to think very hard about actually trying to reach out beyond the comfort zone.

But we need to do so being very mindful that there is no doubt a cost involved in this and that we (both those of us with mental illness and those who are caring for us, or encouraging us to go beyond our comfort zones) have to be very careful.

outside-comfort-zone

Comfort zones are not always a good thing.  And I will even go as far as to recognise and acknowledge that sometimes they are a very unhealthy thing.

BUT, I do so in the strict understanding that I also know – from very real first-hand experience  – that sometimes, just sometimes, our comfort zones are an absolute must if we are to survive.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and the encouragement to have stepped outside of mine this Christmas.  But with the New Year festivities fast approaching, and the way I am at the moment, I am also very grateful that my comfort zone is still available to me🙂

If there was one thing that you would have me learn from your battle with mental illness, what would it be? – QTAPWMI Day 30

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Well it is 6 in the morning and I can’t sleep.  This darned flu is really kicking my butt at the moment and, since I can’t get comfortable any which way, I thought I would answer the last question in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge that my daughter has set me…
DD 30

Hi honey,

Well this is the last of all the questions that you have asked me within this challenge and I have to be honest I am saddened that this challenge ends today, honey.  I have really enjoyed answering the questions in this challenge although many of them have been so very insightful and challenging.  So I really want to thank you for this challenge honey.  It has meant so very much to me and I hope that it has benefited you as much as it has benefited me. (Although I am fairly sure it has helped you from what you have said.)

So to answer today’s question. And honey I have to tell you that I have spent quite a while this morning, just wondering what answer I should choose, from so many legitimate choices, as my answer to today’s question.

But I have made my choice and it is this one…

Honey, if there was one thing that I would want have you to learn from my battle with mental illness it is that, “No matter what; illness, condition, situation or circumstance presents itself.  We should never lose sight of either the person or people involved in them, nor of their right to; respect, understanding, hope and love.  Even when that person is yourself.”

Mental illness can do many things to a person and indeed to the families of those suffering from mental illness. And indeed it can bring many challenges and yes even trials into their lives.  But if there is one thing that I have learned – both personally as someone who experiences mental illness and more indirectly as someone writes about mental health and who has worked in the field of mental health – it is how easily the mental illness (and its resultant behaviours or situations) can become the primary focus.  And I am convinced that this is always such a harmful things when it happens.

And isn’t this so often the case with so many things?  That the illness or the condition or the situation or the circumstance can become the focus and the person (or people) involved somehow get lost in it all?

Heck you only have to consider stigma (all forms of stigma not only mental illness related stigma) and how it works and where it comes from, and you will soon realise that within it the individual, the person at whom it is so harmfully and so unfairly aimed is always ignored, discounted, lost.   Look at all the prejudice and injustice in the world and you will see the same pattern there also. 

Honey, one of your questions within this challenge was worded something along the lines of, “To me you are just Dad, but how do you think others see you?”  And to be honest I don’t even remember how I answered that question.

But that is not important.  What is important (and the reason I mention it now) is that within that question you demonstrated that what you see when you see me – what you think of when you think of me, is not my mental illnesses but is the person, the father – the me – behind my mental illnesses.  And honey you have no idea just how much that blesses me.

At times, even in my own thought patterns honey. (And yes this is no doubt also directly resultant from and part of the mental illnesses themselves.) I can lose sight of myself, of me. And I only see the mental illnesses or their effects.  And this loss, this disconnect, from the person, from the individual, from the personal and the intimate, can have such a devastating effect honey.

So yes honey the one thing I would have you learn from my battle with mental illness is that,”No matter what; illness, condition, situation or circumstance presents itself.  We should never lose sight of either the person or people involved in them, nor of their right to; respect, understanding, hope and love. Even when that person is yourself.”

By seeing the person or the people involved.  By keeping our eyes on them.   We can offer; that respect, that understanding, that hope and that love which is so invaluable, so essential.  And in doing so we can break through all the debris, the fall-out and confusion.  We can reach the heart of the person – the people, involved and say, “no matter how things may seem, no matter how dark or dismal things may appear, you are loved and you are understood and I do respect you and there is hope.”

And honey, I want you to know, more than anything else this morning.  That this is something that you continually do for me, even without your realising that you are doing it.

That is the one thing would I have you learn from my battle with mental illness, honey.  And from it, the one thing I would want you to know – more than anything else, is that despite my mental illnesses, despite the fall-out and confusion and debris that they can sometimes bring, I do, always have and always will love you.

With all my heart,

Daddy.

 

 

 

 

 

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