I sat in the garden today, bathed in sunshine, marvelling at the beautiful blue of the never ending sky and I thought about love.
About how love gives you those blue skies, and on grey days helps you remember them.
How love helps you see the humour in tough times and smile like a Cheshire cat.
How with a partner you love you build memories together, share experiences with, enjoy the good times and comfort you in the bad.
How love means you have someone who listens to the little things, someone who lets you vent, someone who always seems to know the right thing to say at the right time and is always there.
Someone who would do anything for you, from the small seemingly insignificant cup of tea, through telling you that you are beautiful when you wake up before you are ready to present yourself to the world, to the grand gestures, the trips, the experiences.
That person, that one in XX billion who will be there whenever you need them, who thinks of you every day, who can’t go in a shop, hear a song or see a view without thinking of you and wishing you were there with them sharing it.
The voice that you long to hear, the smile that lights up a room, the hand in yours, the gentle touch. The arm around your shoulder. The fan club, the supporter, the best friend. The confidant, the carer, the listener, the rock.
The strength to support, the courage to stand up for you, the never ending undying type of love that can never burn out.
Love makes you feel things you felt less before love. It makes blue days bluer, cold days wam, music sing louder, tulips smell more aromatic, days too short and absence too painful.
It has no limit, it has no end, you know when it's real or when it's pretend.
“Love is a many splendored thing,
It’s the April rose that only grows in the early spring,
Love is nature’s way of giving a reason to be living,
The golden crown that makes a man a king,
Lost on a high and windy hill,
In the morning mist two lovers kissed and the world stood still,
When our fingers touch my silent heart has taught us how to sing,
Yes, true love’s a many splendored thing.”
When love leaves it leave a hole, a hole in your heart, your mind, your soul, your life, your future. A massive gaping chasm of a hole. A hole in hope, a hole in positivity, a hole that seemingly is unfillable.
I need love.
All you need is love.
If you have love hold onto it.
Grip it tight.
Make sure you kiss it goodnight.
And when the day is dawning.
Kiss it again in the morning (even if it hasn't brushed it's teeth yet).
Striving for perfection is hard wired into who I am. I have a number of close friends who have the same hard wiring. It;s exhausting.
My laptop has this sticker on it
It was spotted yesterday in a team meeting and commented on 'do you think that would actually be acceptable'
I think if I was a rocket surgeon or a brain scientist then maybe perfection would be the aim, but in most other parts of life, home or work it's not actually necessary, or indeed healthy to have such high expectations of yourself or of others.
Perfectionism, as this great article explains affects your level of joy in life, and the level of self satisfaction and self worth you attach to your actions and achievements.
Got a to do list? Maybe have a i've done list too?
Think about tasks you've yet to complete? Maybe have a progress list?
Not completed everything or not done it to an exceptional standard? Give yourself a break, you're human.
My works approach to performance has 'exceeds expectations' as the highest standard you can reach. I have reached those dizzy heights before, but struggle to accept that I have, because there's always more to do and opportunity to do it better isn't there?
Lots of my work has long timescales for completion. Home life is similar.
It's clearly important to have an eye on the destination, but don't forget to both recognise and enjoy the journey.
I'm working on that. If you're a perfectionist maybe you could do as well. You'll feel better.
i might have shared this before, so apologies if I have (I'm always saying sorry for something) but today I wanted to talk about religion and its impact on my mental health.
I was brought up Catholic, I didn't go to Sunday school like at my C of E mates did, I went on Saturday instead, this meant I missed Tizwas and the phantom flan flinger (google it), and then on Sundays when all my mates were being religiously educated I was hanging around the road, having slow bike races on my own, or playing 50:50 or off ground it.
I was baptised, i took first holy communion, I was confirmed (although shamefully and with some associated guilt I can't remember my confirmation name), I got married in a catholic church, my boys were baptised in the same church I was.
I stopped going to church many many years ago, but I still believed, and still believe in some higher power. I find it helps to have some sort of faith, it's reassuring. But last year I reassessed my religious relationship.
The thing is that I used to pray every night before I fell asleep. I stopped this last October. After praying every night from the age of about 5 to 45,
That means (ignoring leap years) I prayed around 14,600 times. If I forgot at night I said my prayers in the morning, it became something of a, um, religion. I had OCD, obsessive catholic disorder.
Now I'm not setting out to criticise religion, or specific religions, but just to talk about how I think my relationship with it affected my mental health, and to explain why I stopped.
So every night I would rattle off an Our Father and a few Hail Mary's, something I'd learnt from the confessional booth, and then I would say a special prayer at the end. It kinda went like this:
"Dear God, please let this person be ok, please let that person be ok, please let this thing go ok, please let that thing go ok, sorry I did this thing, sorry I did that thing. Amen"
If you're an important person in my life you will have featured, maybe a few times, maybe hundreds or thousands and some every single night. You might not realise how important you are to me, you might think you're not important to me (at all or any more) but you'd still be there every night. I might have prayed that you're ok, that you get that job, that you're pregnancy is ok, that your kids are ok - you get the picture.
I realised last year that going to bed every night focussing and apologising for all the things I had done wrong, and seeking spiritual reassurance that others things would go right was probably (definitely) not doing me much good on the old MH Anxiety stakes. I was told I have generalised anxiety, well I'd be bloody surprised if I didn't with the worrying I was doing EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.
Stopping was hard. I've lost an outlet. I think I'll probably reassess this in a while, but not yet. Faith can be really important in helping people cope, but it wasn't working for me, certainly not the way I was doing it. I've ended up leaning on friends and family more to help me out.
George Michael famously sung about Faith, he said he had to (or gotta) have faith.
When asked why he went on in the song to explain "Cause I gotta' have faith, I gotta' have faith, Because I gotta' have faith, faith, faith
I got to have faith, faith, faith"
An interesting insight I'm sure you'll agree.
If faith helps, then that's great. But if you're like me and faith, or your relationship with it, didn't help, then the best thing you can do, which I'm sure any God would agree with is to change your relationship, this might just be a simple change or something more significant like mine. I think I've thrown myself into all relationships in my life and striven to be the perfect partner, and maybe I was trying to do that with this relationship too.
Whatever your relationship is with your own personal jesus, whether they hear your prayers, or is someone who cares or someone who's there, then that cool.
Take Care, Keep the Faith (or don't)
I spend a lot of time alone, sometimes even when I'm in a room full of people I'm alone. I understand that's quite common and it boils down to either not feeling like you're understood, or cared for, or more prevalent in my case that my self confidence has peaks and troughs.
But conversely I'm never alone coz I've always got that bloody annoying gremlin in my head telling me everyone else is having a better time than me.
Loneliness isn't defined as a mental health problem, but you're more likely to be lonely if you have a mental health problem and feeling lonely can impact on your mental health.
You can do lots of things to try and feel less lonely:
Importantly don't expect yourself to magically feel less lonely overnight. Like many things in life changing who you are, how you feel or what you do takes time, so just accept it and it will be more comfortable. Also look back at where you've come from, not always forwards towards some magical nirvana.
One of the biggest challenges I have (because of low self esteem) is what happens if I reach out and get rejected, so it's also about tolerating uncertainty.
It's important to put up with the distress associated with rejection as this can actually build confidence. Things are very unlikely to be as catastrophic as you will have predicted and you'll lean that it really is a case of 'nothing ventured, nothing gained'.
I've connected more to people recently, said yes to doing things I wouldn't normally have done (i'm going trampolining on Thursday) and worried less (but still worried some) about what the response might be to me making a suggestion to do something.
So, the solution to loneliness lies with you, either to reach out and do something with people, or to reach out to someone who seems lonely
As well as being Mental Health Awareness Week it's also Business Continuity Week.
So what do businesses need to maintain continuity of their business:
The other thing they need is people, us, the ones who work there, or are customers.
I may be wrong (because I'm no expert in business continuity as you can tell) but if your staff can't come to work or their work is affected due to mental health issues then I assume that's a business continuity risk. I
We have fire drills a few times a year because we understand the consequences of fire.
We have computer security and virus software because we understand the consequence of breach.
Do we do enough to ensure business continuity for when our people might not be there?
The following is a lift from the HSE website
We have DSE assessments and chairs with 5 star bases and adjustable lumber support to help ensure that we don't get musculoskeletal disorders, but that's only the silver medal cause of days lost and risk to business continuity.
So do we do enough for mental health? Do you? Does the company you work for?
Why not make sure you have a mental health discussion every time there is a fire drill, or every time your computer installs some new virus software, or every time security challenge you for not wearing your name badge.
This needs to be talked about every day, ands to become normal, like fire drills are.
So the start of another Mental Health Awareness week and me trying to write something vaguely interesting and relevant every day.
I think today I'll talk about awareness, and in particular how you become properly aware of mental health challenges, what they feel like, how they manifest themselves and how you can help someone who may be struggling.
I don't actually know if there is a magic bullet for this. You can be aware of how hard it must be to walk up the stairs with a broken leg because we've all hurt our legs at sometime, you can understand how it feels to have the flu and how you just want to stay in bed all day.
Empathy is easier when you've had experience, but with mental health its often harder because of how the conditions are often unseen and very often hidden due to the stigma.
One excellent way you can understand more and raise awareness is by learning more about (and hopefully becoming) a mental health first aider
Educating enough people means we will get to a tipping point (not like the terrible ITV 'quiz' show) where mental health becomes normal, and we don't need awareness weeks because its just an accepted part of who we all are.
But until then, do some learning or listening or do some sharing
I was sad to see the news this morning that the police had discovered a body thought to be Scott Hutchison, singer from the Scottish Band Frightened Rabbit. I'm listening to one of their albums as I type this, that's one of his lyrics in the title.
It's sad, tragic in fact when anyone feels that they need to take their own life.
Scott tweeted this.
When tragedies like this happen people ask why a lot and I guess the answer often won't be known.
People likely ask 'why didn't they ask for help'. And the answer to that is likely to be in part because of the stigma that remains about mental health, the frightened person not knowing how to talk about it, and the friend not knowing how to listen or what to do.
The MIND website has lots of excellent information about suicide, about help you can get if you have those feelings and about how you can help someone who may be feeling that way.
Please take 5 mins to have a look at it.
Want to know why?
84 men take their own life each week in the UK.
75% of suicides are by men.
The highest rates are in the 40-44 age bracket.
Men need to talk more. Men need to feel comfortable to talk. Men need to be able to encourage other men to talk and to listen to other men.
If you're a certain age you'll remember the TV Show M*A*S*H. The theme song was called suicide is painless.
Take care of yourself and others
Well that’s not entirely true but I hope you’re sitting down because I’m going to write a happier blog!
This week I got a promotion.
This is the first time in 13 years I have been successful at interview. I’ve met the bar at most but someone else always clears it by a bit more. So this is pretty momentous.
And it’s momentous for a number of reasons.
First, I really need the validation of this for my own self worth. Sad maybe, but true.
Second, I’ll be good at it so it’s nice to be recognised.
Third, I didn’t over-prepare and try and be perfect like I usually do. I tried to be myself and show my strengths and the real me. In fact I had very little time to prep.
Last, this feels like a victory for openness, truth and being who you are.
By this I mean that I am delighted my mental health challenges have not got in the way of me getting this opportunity. That it doesn’t define me. That whilst I can be anxious and down that’s not the whole picture. That I have real worth and value.
I’ve got many congratulations messages from colleagues that have really touched me. They still believed in me. I think my anxiety had stopped me believing in myself.
So don’t let yours stop you believing. If you need others to help you believe as you build yourself up and get rid of that negative gremlin then ask. If they’re decent people they won’t mind.
On Monday after lunch (cheese sandwiches) things got on top of me, not literally but mentally. There were just too many plates spinning and I couldn’t spin them all, even the one with the sandwiches on.
Home life is tough, my divorce paperwork is progressing, I had an interview last week for a job I really want (if I don't get it then I have 4 weeks left till I go back to a role that I can do but it doesn't suit me or use my strengths), my best friend relationship is still in a tough place, I've got no money and there's a whole host of smaller plates too.
I've just got a lot on. A lot of plates.
It's not weak to feel overwhelmed from time to time and it's actually a real strength to notice it and do something about it and put your resilience first.
So I did the right thing and mailed my boss and took the afternoon off sick, not physically sick, although anxiety plays havoc with how my body feels so maybe physically sick.
I went and sat in my car in the work car park and had a bit of a cry. I needed to let it out and that was the best safest place to do it.
I then started thinking that Metallica should re-record a version of Nothing Else Matters with these words.
After sitting in the car for an hour I went back into work and dealt with some of the plates and got them re-spinning again. That felt better. But it was probably only a sticking plaster.
What I really wanted to do with my sick leave afternoon was to either go for a swim or go for a walk. But I was having an afternoon off sick (or should have been) so was I ‘allowed’ to go for a walk.
I spoke to a friend about this. Their partner has been off sick with stress for a few months. Medically signed off. On a week day he/she asked them if they wanted to go for a walk, and they were worried about being spotted by someone when they were off sick. Because when you're off sick you should be confined to the house, right?
I understand this. But we need to all recognise (me included) that when it’s not a physical illness that means you cannot work then sometimes the best thing might be to do some exercise. Or go sit on a hill. Or meet some friends and talk. Or play some sport? Basically doing any of those things that help your wellbeing and resilience.
So this is a challenge to you as a person, as an employee or as an employer.
If you or someone you know is struggling mentally. What will you do? What should they do?
Can you use your sick leave to go for a walk?
If you can then try and go with someone else and connect and try and laugh too, because connection and laughing help with mental health too, so try walking differently, maybe like an Egyptian.
Mr Paul Wyse