The mental health cement mixer

The mental health cement mixer

“I have a dream………..”

Since I started blogging one of the things I have always desired is to be able to help other people. I thought training to become a therapist would be the answer, unfortunately it was not. I still wish I could complete my hypnosis training as I do believe it to be a good tool in helping people with mental health problems, but it is only one tool and not a good all around tool. They say that all hypnosis is self hypnosis, I agree, you have to want to believe in the therapy.

I think this stands for most therapies though. Bringing about change when you are suffering any kind of mental health problem, short or long term, is often more down to your willingness to accept change, and/or be in a position to enable that change. There are three forces at work in all of us, the biological or physiological, the psychological, and the social or environmental. If one of these three is off balance it can/will? Affect the others. For someone who is depressed due to financial troubles, might find that seeing a financial advisor more beneficial to their psychological well being than seeing a therapist.

But what happens when all three collide? When it happened to me, I did not have a clue what happened. In the space of several months I went from having a good job, a partner of ten years, property, but the snowball was rolling and got big enough to knock me off my feet. All aspects of my life changed, I hit the plateau hard, it has taken several years, the reading of countless books on psychology, sociology and mental health therapies, not to mention cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy training and undertaking my degree, to see things slightly more clearly.

I learned that once you have been knocked to the bottom, it is damn hard to get back up again. I have read the same thing on countless blogs and forums, people unable to work because they have lost all belief in themselves. There are also those who have been deemed unfit for work, trying to survive on benefit payments, knowing that they could work but not able to commit to a regular job. I have seen the change in people when they are. Finally able. To get back on the ladder, pride often swallowed, but just to earn, more so just to feel needed, that change seems more powerful than therapy.

Now some of you might be saying “the. Purpose of therapy is to enable people to change their perception of whatever event is causing them psychological distress and to be able to form new views of the event” (desperately worded to a) encompass the core essence of most therapies and b) address both short and long term illnesses). Yes, as I have said I do not discount the value of therapy, but, in the UK like many other countries actually getting some form of therapy is increasingly hard and often to short or out of the price range of those in need.

My biggest gripe with hypnotherapy was that not only was it mainly aimed at the breaking of habits and phobias, it was also BUSINESS. How much do you intend to charge your clients? Make sure they have enough money to pay for the full treatment, and my favourite of all ‘get the money up front’. Hell, I would.  Happily skype with someone in need, record a hypnotherapy script to help them, devise and formulate a care plan and ‘homework’ and I would do it on a donation basis! No win, no fee, seems to work for the PPI folk.

As usual I have digressed, though not far from my point, (yes, I do have a point), rather I have a question which maybe you can help answer. The question being, do you think that despite past history, past careers and education, learning a trade skill, painting, plumbing, electrics, etc and being able to do a few hours a week, where you can stand back and wipe the sweat from your brow and think “I did this”. That step (possibly into unknown territory) back into building self confidence and possibly a life changing event, coupled with an environment of peer support and mentoring, how effective do.  You think.  It would be as a form of therapy?

It is late, I have rambled, I have left you with a question to ponder. I hope that you have peace and love,

David

PS. The offer made above regarding skype,hypnosis and peer support was not a joke. If you are interested drop me an email morethandsm5@gmail.com

Mental health mentoring – How can we tame the beast within?

Mental health mentoring – How can we tame the beast within?

I remember back when I first started blogging about my struggle with mental illness I used a lot of metaphors to describe how I was feeling. The most frequent, and one that sticks in my mind even today was the mountain and the abyss. I thought of my struggle as like climbing a steep, sharp, craggy mountain, dark and imposing. It became symbolic of how I felt, desperately clawing my way up the sheer side, bloodied and battered, exhausted, desperate.

Below the mountain was a flat plain, cold and dark, lit only by a purple-red glow of the abyss. I was never alone, there were always others, faceless shadows, somber and silent. The abyss called to me, and like the others I was drawn to its edge. Silently standing there surrounded by shadows, all staring into its depths. For the abyss was the end, those who have been close to ‘the end’ know that it is very calm, almost peaceful, the decision has been made, all arguments rectified, only the final act left, to plunge oneself into the abyss for ever.

With great effort, I could turn my back on the abyss, from the desperate calm I could turn to face the mountain once again. All the fear and sadness within me was embodied in that mountain, the more I hurt inside the more the mountain grew, But I always felt that salvation lay at its summit. So I would gather what strength I had, and sometimes with the help of other shadows around me, I would start the climb, we would start the climb. And yet the abyss still called silently behind me, the offer of calm and serenity its drawing offer. I climb harder, slipping, scraping, desperation, mental blood, sweat and tears, although tears have never come to my eyes, I can no longer cry.

This was my metaphorical struggle with mental illness for a long time. Until one day, I realised that I was actually moving in the wrong direction. The mountain was my illness, the abyss the sanctuary. The more I poured out my anguish, the more I let myself be mentally ill, the more I let it rule my life, that was the brutal climb. The calm of the abyss, was not the final act, it was in fact the first act, to go into the abyss was to face an uncertain future. The calm feeling was not real, in fact in those moments, those days of resolution, the abyss was choice, to step into an uncertain future or turn and continue to fight against something that could not be beaten. I realised that I would never beat my illness, it is in me, it is there for as long as I breath. There is no route up that mountain, I was always destined to end up a crumpled heap at its feet.

I could however turn my back on it, knowing it was behind me, laughing, calling me pathetic, daring me to try fighting it again. Or I could walk silently across the plain to the edge of the abyss, and stare into the infinite darkness of the unknown, to take one step into the abyss would be and was, the taking of one step into living with the beast behind me, every step into the unknown was a stronger step, I did not know what would be in front of me, nobody does, but I knew with each step I could tame the beast behind me by being strong enough to accept it, and try my best to live with it. I have looked back at times, I have felt a draw to face the mountain again, but I look forward, no matter how bad I feel at times, I know that behind me lies more pain.

I still take steps, I stumble at times, but I move forward into the unknown. I do not know how many steps I have left to go, but I am learning to enjoy this journey. The mountain is still there, but I prefer acceptance to denial.

I hope you understand

Love and peace

David

If I was your mental health mentor, what would I discuss with you first?

If I was your mental health mentor, what would I discuss with you first?

Session one

How much do you believe in yourself?

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being totally self-assured, and 1 being a feeling of complete worthlessness, where would you place yourself?

I would guess your somewhere in the 1-5 bracket, otherwise you would not need help. As this is kind of a one-sided conversation, I would ask you to make yourself comfortable. As you are sat reading this, maybe just thinking about yourself might have raised some anxiety, or even some sadness. Take a second now to relax, is your jaw tense? how about your neck and shoulders? Take a moment now to just take 5 deep regular breathes and allow your body to relax (NB don’t relax so much you fall off the chair).

  1. As you breath out relax the jaw
  2. As you breath out relax your neck and shoulders
  3. As you breath out smile a little
  4. As you breath out relax even more
  5. As you breath out enjoy the feeling of being relaxed.

I hope that now you are a little more relaxed than you were before. I find that simple exercise to be so beneficial when I am anxious or upset. It is surprising just how much tension we hold in the jaw, I have been told it is hard to think negatively when you relax your jaw. is it true for you?

You may be wondering what this little exercise has to do with believing in yourself. Well, hopefully you managed to relax a little, maybe I should put some emphasis on the YOU managed to relax a little. I did not make you relax, you chose to try the exercise, you managed to change your state of mind, even if it was only a little. When I use this exercise it is normally because I need to take back some control, I need to stop whatever is going on in my head at that moment, I need to confirm my belief that I am able to control me, even if it is only a little. With this in mind try the exercise again, this time;

  1. As you breath out think I am relaxing my jaw
  2. As you breath out think I am relaxing my neck and shoulders
  3. As you breath out think I want to smile
  4. As you breath out think I want to relax even more
  5. As you breath out think I am in control

How did that work for you?

I sincerely hope that this simple exercise work in some way for you, just as it does for me. For me the biggest fear of my illness is losing control of myself. I know that nobody else can change me, only I can change myself. When I am manic, my mind is going at a thousand thoughts per minute (estimated), From the outside I may even look motivated, yet inside I am in turmoil, just waiting for my mind to overload and send me spinning off into intense anxiety. When I am depressed, I can go to some very dark places, mentally I beat myself until I am curled in a ball, desperately wishing I could cry and wail.

In these times all the psychobabble I know, all the brilliant therapies, it all goes, the only thing I know that might save me, is the simple exercise above. Over and over again, until I get that foot in the door of self control, then, right then, I believe in myself. For me believing in yourself, myself, when you have a mental health problem, finding that point where you say to yourself “I’m in a bad place here”, and you manage to get that sliver of control, that is where you can believe in yourself.

It takes a tremendous amount of strength to ride out these bad times, we have been through them before, we know the pain, mentally and physically, but we know they will end at some point. Me personally, those five deep breaths, they do not make the mania or depression instantly disappear, not by a long shot. What they do for me is to remind me that I must believe in myself. We live everyday with this, and we move forward, each new day, not knowing how we are going to feel, So if you put your belief in yourself in the 1-5 range, think again, I hope that I have in some way allowed you to believe in yourself a bit more, there is only you, and I think you are amazing.

I wish you peace and love, if you look you can find it everywhere

David

The Daily Post
A life running in circles with mental illness.

A life running in circles with mental illness.

The one thing that defines my illness is the constant feeling that I am running in circles. I find myself repeating the same patterns of self-destructive behaviour, I find that no matter how hard I try I end up back at the same point. As Sisyphus was condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain, only for it to roll back down, I often feel the same.

No matter how hard I try to bring order from chaos within my life, it creeps back in, so frustrating. I really can not complain about my standard of living, I cope, I have family and friends who support me, but I want to stand on my own two feet. Maybe I want the impossible, the one thing that is for sure is that I do not want what lies beneath.

There is a me that must not be allowed to live, a me that I am scared of. Not that I am violent, but then violence can come in verbal and mental forms not just the physical, so maybe I am. It is the me that sit drunk in the corner of a pub for eternity. I have seen it with my own eyes, the son must not follow in the footsteps of the father.

Over the past couple of years I have learned a lot about mental illness in general, and a lot about my own mental health. I have learned to spot triggers and warning signs, though not always, and sometimes a little bit late. The more I learn, the smaller my circle gets, however there are circles within circles. A change in one circle, let us say for example, leading a healthier life, can have effects on others, such as money, change of daily routine, I could go on.

Cycling from mania to depression is another circle in my life, with medication these episodes can be mild and easily recognised, if not actually dealt with. Other times the can be intense, both can be quick (a matter of minutes) or slow (spread over a few weeks). No matter what, once you start looking deep into yourself, you soon see the cyclic nature of prolonged mental illness.

I know that I will never break these cycles, the best that I can hope for is to increase the up cycle and decrease the down side. I believe self-knowledge is the key to better ‘recovery’ from the worst of mental illness. I strongly believe that my quality of living is getting better, the gap between father and son grows. Maybe the more I keep trying, the more subtle changes will stick. What ever happens, it will happen in circles.

This post is inspired by The Daily Prompt 

 

 

Drawing strength from the past

Drawing strength from the past

 

I wrote the following blog post 12 months ago today, I am moved by what I wrote then and wish to add a little bit more……….

I find myself wondering if those that end up being committed to hospital because of their actions are actually in a better position that the rest of us? Imagine being able to turn yourself inside out and all the rage and frustration that we keep contained within was to just be allowed to be free. What it would be like to just sit in a corner and just stare for hours in silence, to scream at the top of your voice to vent. I wonder if on the inside they have calm because they can release?

We are expected to sit on a powder keg of emotion and yet present the world a normal exterior, to behave like drones. Right now I do not know what emotion is going with which problem I have, I have so many worries right now maybe they are all interrelated. All I know is that showing calm is now a separate entity to the one inside, I exist as two people and where one is cold and numb the other is crying softly in the corner of my mind. I am still very much broken and coming to realise that it is probably easier for me to crumble completely and rebuild than keep trying to patch myself up.

Am I a failure to want to press pause on life and step outside it for a while? So many people I know are battling their problems each and every day, what right do I have to cheat? Why should I just give up in the hope that by starting from scratch I can rebuild it right this time. It wouldn’t be the first time I have done so, build, destroy, rebuild, destroy, why will it be different this time? Maybe the fact that at least I have at last faced the fact that I am not well and rebuild with that in mind might help, maybe accepting that who I am is vastly different to who I was. Maybe I should sit at the table with my demons and have a meeting, see if we can come to some kind of arrangement that best suits us all.

I have moved in a direction to clear the way but I am sat surrounded by guilt and doubt wondering which way to proceed. I do not regret but I do suffer, I just know that the job is not finished yet and that I am not going to give up on life but I do need to clear away everything for a fresh start. I need to let the last bit of my old self crumble and restart. I long to find that moment of inner peace like that moment when meditating that for a second it all disappears and you are at one with yourself before you realise and smile but it goes because you have seen it. I want to be able to smile because I am smiling inside, be able to frown because I am frowning inside. I want to be able to know that what I feel is real and not the result of some other issue, to never have to lie and pretend I am someone else.

So where does it leave me? A coward for wanting to just let go and say to hell with it all and just rebuild. Or do I keep patching up each damaged bit as I put it right and hope that one fix does not create another problem? It seems such a soft option to just turn around and say look, I am not okay, I am damaged beyond what you could believe but then who would understand. Can I handle the looks of pity and being treated like a child? I can’t seem to find anymore words………………

It would be nice to sit here and continue this with many positive statements, to say that reading this has shown me how far I have come. The sad thing is that even after a year, reading this still brings a lot of pain. The most painful thing about reading this is that I seem to have lost the ability to express myself like I did back then. True, I have progressed, I have started my degree and other courses focusing on mental health. This knowledge has and continues to help me help myself. I understand myself better now, but I am still not far from the man who wrote the words above.

The scary part of learning about mental health and the ways in which it can be managed is that you have to reflect upon yourself. For several months now I have been to scared to blog, I feared that what I write would contain to much of my new insights, become a source of debate. I have learned so much about myself, so much so that I realise there is much I do not know. A year ago I was tormented by demons that I did not understand, I know now that the demons were me, and me alone.

I do, however, draw inspiration from what I wrote, the line “I am damaged beyond what you could believe but then who would understand.” is especially poignant. Through this very blog and Twitter I found a whole world of people who understood, people who even thanked me for writing what they themselves felt. The people close to me, my family and friends took time to understand, I have been moved on many occasions by the positive feedback that I have received. I still doubt myself, I worry too much that I will fail once again.

The time I feel has come though to stop hiding in the shadows. I once vowed that I would learn how to help myself and help others. That conviction stands! The road is still long and bumpy but I draw strength from the knowledge that once I had the power to share myself openly, to say the things I felt. I must find that power once more, this blog, my journal, my story.

One year on

One year on

It is now 11:20 on the morning of the 18th of May 2016, I am writing this on a bus to London, a long journey but I must admit I enjoy it. I have time to think, to work, even to sleep, but it is not as long as the journey I have taken in the past twelve months. This time last year I was sat on the floor, facing a wall, staring at a picture of my daughter. I was in the office of a member of the local community mental health team, a man was trying to reach me. I was broken, when I spoke it was the language of hysteria. That day, I was no longer a person, I was not a father, son, lover, friend, human. I was a shell, it was not so much that I wanted to kill myself, I just could not face living.

I, today, accept my actions that day, and the days, weeks, months that followed. The guilt I have carried, the embarrassment and the shame, today, I lay them to rest. I know now that my actions that day, were the actions of self preservation, the last act of a desperate mind. I do not think that even now, a year later, I could describe how much mental damage I felt. I can only say that I knew nothing, felt nothing, I was no longer a person, I was a ghost.

I have always been able to lie, both verbally and physically. On that day there was no lies, I laid my soul out for all to see, and it was not a pretty sight. Today, I sit on the bus, wanting to write about how much I have achieved in the past year, wanting to share my fight back against mental illness. The sad truth is, I don’t think I can. There is still so much of me that is mending, others fragile, to fragile to even try to fix in fear of it breaking again. Few people will understand, unless they have been there. Looking healthy, happy and content, does not mean that I am, it means I have started to rebuild from the outside inwards.

My challenge now is how to move forward. I am training to be a therapist, yet I am still broken, who would accept help from someone who is possibly as damaged as they are?. I desperately want to strive forth into the world. Big and bold, look at me, I can help you, I want to help you. The desire is growing every day, I want it so very much, but there is a part of me that is holding me back. The part of me that fears the worst, the part of me that still sees the damage being repaired. It tells me “not yet, you are not strong enough”, “you will break yourself again, and next time you might not…….” (NB I can not even finish that sentence in writing).

Despite my conflict, I have found peace. I am mindful of the value of time, how much beauty and wonder I can find in a second. What started as a way to control my anxiety, has now become my happy place. Maybe it is because I have found this place that I am scared to move forward, what if I lose it. I have found ‘my plot’, I now need a way to bring the life that I want to me, to my ‘plot’. I can no longer afford to chase dreams, I must listen to that part of me that protects me. I must never forget what can happen if I become complacent. Every step I take from today will be towards the future that I have started to shape this past year. I will strive forth, I am ready, I think…………..

Opinions are like A**holes

Opinions are like A**holes

There is a great saying “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and most are full of shit”. I like it, and being a very opinionated person (although nowhere near as bad as I used to be) it does me well to remember, am I being full of shit?. You see I, like many others, easily fall into the trap of thinking that what the other person wants to hear is my thoughts on the subject, often not the case. It is a fine line though, and it also depends on the circumstances. Let me give you two examples.

I have a friend, let us call him Mark. Mark, like many of us is travelling the road back from the dark place to more pleasant surroundings. Now Mark has found help in the form of a well-known self-help therapy that is on tv etc. Now Mark, likes it, feels it, and what is more is feeling the benefits from it. When I found out my first reaction was……. well to poo poo the idea. Yes, gasp you may, I, the person training to be a hypnotherapist, casting scorn upon another form of therapy. Okay, well here I stand, hand up, YES I AM A BLOODY HYPOCRITE. I do actually feel shamed, not just because I poo poo’d another form of therapy, but more so, that I practically rubbished it to the friend it was helping.

So that is my little example of why opinions can often be full of shit. Sometimes, (and I hope I have learned this lesson) it is best if we keep our thoughts to ourselves and not be too quick to judge. Especially when it comes to things that people find that ‘help’ them. Okay, I know what your thinking, “what if they are actually being a bit daft?”, well, I guess my answer to that is, “make sure you are there for them if it does not work out”. FYI saying “I was going to tell you but didn’t”, probably will not go down well, keep it to yourself.

My second example is slightly more serious, talking someone down. We have all, in our lives had that phonecall from a friend when the shit has hit the fan and they have had enough. Probably spent hours on the phone, talking, listening, consoling and agreeing that, yes, Tom, is a complete cockwomble and needs to be beaten with a horse whip (NB Tom is a fictional character and horse whipping is not to be condoned). The issue I want to raise is the one where, the person is not a friend, in fact, the person is someone you know next to nothing about, but, through the magic of the internet, has found you to be the one (or one of ones) to unload on.

The beauty of the internet is the anonymity that it provides. People can find it much easier to tell a complete stranger their troubles than a person they see every day. The trouble comes when those troubles are of such a magnitude, how do you cope? Take Mary for example, same as Mark, been down the road and back again so is no stranger to the darker aspects of life. Mary got talking to someone, someone who was in a bad way and like a good person, Mary tried to help. The long and the short of it being, that Mary actually felt bad for doing so. Now Mary went above and beyond to help. In my humble (and yes I am still humble from paragraph two) ‘opinion’, Mary was amazing. Mary however did not see this, she felt that possibly she had done too much, she actually felt embarrassed!

So I guess what I am trying to say, in my usual long-winded way, is that sometimes to help people you have to keep your mouth shut and just be ready if a person needs you down the line. Other times, you can never do too much, what you do might just be the thing that stops someone going the last step down the wrong road. Those that know, will know who they are, I just wish that again to one I can say I am sorry and to the other I am very proud, and that both of you are amazing.