Doing things, different things and pushing your boundaries makes you realise that life is really worth living. It also helps build your resilience and your ability to cope with uncertainty, which is a major cause of anxiety.
[Yeah yeah here he goes again talking the talk but not walking the walk I hear you say (you're probably not but that's my anxiety whispering it in my ear).]
Fixing yourself requires (unfortunately) a certain amount of discomfort. The same way that doing a couch to 5k will make your legs ache, doing a 'anxious to less anxious' will make your mind ache (and probably give you that horrible churning feeling in your stomach too). But it's worth it, it may not feel it at the time and you may not (probably won't) be immediately fixed but it will help, and it will help by topping up your bucket (dear liza) or making the hole a bit smaller.
Last week I went on holiday on my own this involved going on a plane on my own. I've never done either of those things before. It was weird and uncomfortable and I didn't come back 'fixed' but I did top my bucket up and coped with uncertainty and proved to myself that I can do things and be ok.
I've done quite a few things this year for the first time, or the first time in a long time like:
Now these things might be small things to you, but to me they were all uncertain things and came with associated anxiety because of that uncertainty. And they were all alright, I mean I was rubbish at salsa but it was alright and I came out of them all relatively unscathed and with more experiences under my belt.
Off the back of this I've decided to do some more things I've not done before which will make me anxious, but I was lacking inspiration as my typical past mindset has been to avoid the uncertain, so I set about googling some bucket list ideas and found this one bucketlist which has just over 1000 ideas!
These range from things I know are a step too far, things that would be a good stretch to easily achievable things but things I've never done (bake off next year maybe).
What do you do to challenge yourself, to challenge your uncertainty and anxiety?
Could you do something?
Today I spoke to someone about someone they were worried about. The second someone wasn’t seeking or using the help that was on offer. We wondered why.
I then remembered that realising and accepting that you have a mental health problem is an ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE STEP. It’s a massive step to accept things when you’re thinking straight but it’s even harder when you’re not, and I’ve blogged before a few times about anxiety and it’s impact on your pre frontal cortex (the decision making part of your brain).
So why won’t they accept the help?
Well I’m not them so I don’t know but perhaps they aren’t thinking straight, perhaps everything feels overwhelming even picking up the phone to talk to someone, perhaps they feel that because of the stigma of mental health illness (remember it’s an illness) means that they feel useless, shame, guilt and a host of other emotions that the simple act of picking up the phone and talk to someone is too big.
A friend told me that when they shared at work about depression that it was a bigger step than when they came out. Saying this stuff is BIG.
So how can we help people accept that they might need help?
And importantly we can try and help people build their personal resilience so they feel more able to make that massive step.
Imagine you can’t dance, have never danced and can’t think of anything worse than going and dancing in front of someone you don’t know. Perhaps you're on Strictly. Feels scarey, makes you feel anxious. Ok well then just ring the helpline. There’s help out there. Off you go. Make that massive step. 'Now messing up the Argentinian tango with Flavia is....'
Now imagine you have to do that dance but you’ve spent some time beforehand building your confidence, working to reduce your anxiety, understanding that uncertainty about what might happen is normal and is ok, realising that the catastrophe you think might happen will very likely not, taking some time off to relax, doing some exercise, writing a diary about your thoughts etc. Is it a bit easier to make the step, when you feel a bit more resilient, a bit more in charge?
Ok so you don’t like dancing so perhaps it’s a big sports match, you’ve been thrown in the deep end, you’re taking a penalty, you’ve not practiced enough, your mind isn’t in the right place, it’s bloody hard, you feel so much pressure, you’re worried about being viewed as a failure. But with practice, and coaching, and healthly living and a host of other things you can do it. It’s still scary but you can do it.
It’s essential for recovery that you do accept you have a challenge to overcome and that you might need help.
Enabling yourself to make that huge acceptance step by being kind to yourself, taking care or yourself and giving your anxious / depressed / insert other condition here brain a rest is just as important.
So if you’re struggling, maybe try being kind to yourself first and build up to that step.
If you know someone who is struggling help them by guiding them to build their resilience so they can make that step.
Some will find it easy, like the dance, some will find it hard. Saying the words out loud that you have a challenge and need some help is massive.
Appreciate and understand that, be kind to yourself and be kind to others, maybe try some stuff in the wheel below.
This weekend, much to my embarrassment I was subject to an Ebay scam.
I bought or thought I bought a nice VW Transporter van on Ebay. It was the dream van. It cost me £20,000. I was all ready to take the kids away for a weekend. I even paid the fucker £100 extra to deliver it.
It was a very clever scam, I mean I’m super intelligent and I fell for it (more details are available on request). But I do feel a tit and a much poorer one now.
I waited in all of Sunday. He didn’t arrive. I even bought insurance for it, but fortunately they waved the £25 cancellation fee 12 hours later.
As Tears for Fears said “Shout shout let it all out….” But I didn’t want to, and I still don’t want to, which is a bit weird, but I think is strange but demonstrates how far I’ve come in my MH journey (cue Coldplay music, that one about clocks probably that they always play on X factor when someone talks about their journey, metaphorically, not in a transport sense).
The bank have said I probably won’t get the money back. That’s a bit of an arse, but it’s not the end of the world.
It does shows how far I’ve come. I'm quite impressed with myself to be honest.
I could be really worried. I could be really anxious. I could be really fearful. I could go mad, punch walls and be really frustrated.
I spoke to my best friend. She was worried I was going to punch walls. But the walls were safe, as am I. I don't punch walls anymore.
There’s little point being frustrated, worrying about the past or fretting about the future. What’s the point? Some things in life are shit, they just things are. I’m ok, no one died or got hurt. Everyone is ok, apart from my bank account.
In the present, in this moment, I’m ok. The people I love and care about are ok. So to be honest that’s all that really matters.
I could live in a tent with the people I love with nothing of any material value and I’d be ok. It’s people that matter. It’s health that matters. It’s relationships that matter. It’s memories. It’s holding hands. It’s staying up late talking. It’s playing Bananagrams till the small hours.
Things are, well things. People matter.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, even if it’s expensive. Value the people. Value yourself.
And if you find yourself in times of trouble, let it be.
Take care (and be careful on e bay)
On Friday I was Inspired.
Inspired by the growth of a community who support one another, a community who offer a safe space to talk and to share, a community of honesty, compassion, empathy, time, understanding and friendship.
On Friday I met with colleagues who are struggling with, have experience of or were interested in finding out more about mental health.
We held our first mental health umconference at work. Around 100 attended the day in Bristol from as far away as Preston and Cornwall. Unconferencibg is about setting the agenda on the day about subjects people want to talk about, and helps people find their tribe. Essential for this sort of event. I was a little worried, or anxious even that we might not get enough content, but boy was I wrong. Around 20 sessions were pitched and resonated with those in the audience.
I didn’t attend any of these as I was busy making sure the event ran, but feedback so far has suggested they worked really well.
The biggest success of the day for me was the sharing at the start. First video messages from our senior leaders including about manic depression, the importance of talking and the impacts of suicide.
Then stood on a small stage, watched by 100 people with more hanging over the balconies above, 8 people shared their mental health story. Introversion, breakdowns, supporting others, trying to be superwoman, depression and bi polar.
These stories touched people. They made them realise they are not alone. They built courage. They built understanding. They were incredible.
A special mention to Jason who had told me he would find sharing hard. Visibly shaking as he shared the impact bi polar has had and continues to have on his life, we had agreed I would leave him to wobble, and compose himself, and compose himself he did.
If you don’t understand or believe about the impacts of mental health talk to someone who has struggled, talk to me, talk to Jason, or Nev, Helen, Estelle, Betsy, Clare, Kevin or any of the 100 people who were there.
I heard there were a few complaints about the noise we made (sorry about that but we need to be heard) and also heard someone say they were sorry they couldn’t come down and play with us.
I walked away from that conversation as they pushed my buttons with a poorly chosen word. I hope they reflected and I'd be happy to talk to them or anyone about the realities.
What I should have said is “We were not playing, poor mental health is not fun, it’s not a game, it’s a real thing, it’s a disability, it keeps you up all night, it stops you doing things in the day, it ruins lives, families, jobs, relationships, it makes you hurt yourself, it kills people. It’s definitely not playing.”
We've still got a lot of work to do and the more people that share the better understanding will get.
Aside from the pride I felt watching people talk, share and open up, amongst many favourite moments I had one favourite.
The evening before I met Jason and Stephen for the first time ever. We went for a drink and a curry.
Three men, all of a similar age, sat talking openly about feelings, about tears, about challenges and about the strength to be drawn from being open. The strength to be drawn from talking.
Three men, in a pub, then a curry house talking about mental health, not whispering but talking. We might have even got a little bit loud after the 3rd or 4th pint.
We’re making real progress.
Mr Paul Wyse