It’s #timetotalk day: on #depression and staying well

So its time to talk day once again and the mental health  charity Time to Change is asking the UK to talk about mental health in a bid to reduce stigma.

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Personally I have lived, either well or ill with depression since my late teens. During that time I have had four major depressive episodes, three lots of face to face councelling and done the lightening process course (all private, the latter I held a cake sale to raise money for my own therapy). As well as a six week over the phone cbt course and ongoing medication from the NHS.

If I hadn’t had sypathetic family, friends and work colleagues, I would never have been able to be so proactive.

It saddens me that  there is so much out there that can be of genuine help to those suffering from depression and other mental health difficulties, but the government doesn’t even cover the cost of extreme crisis.

There aren’t even enough services for fire fighting, and as a consequence, people are going up in flames.

And people forget that even when you are well enough to go back to work, it isn’t over.

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I continue to keep an eye on what I eat and how much sleep I get. I exercise regularly, do mindful meditation and pray. I also take antidepressants and work part time.

It means I am well and productive most of the time. And and yet when it comes to talking about mental health to others, I find I get pigeon holed – it’s “my thing” (just like environmental care is apparently) and yet surely it’s all of our thing?
I expect I need to learn better ways of approaching the topic, but also I have a plea – please remember it really is your thing too.

When I try to discuss my own mental health, I find people tend to panic if I say “I’m not so well right now” and respond by parenting me.
You know the kind of thing “no you can’t do that it’s too much for you ” um, how would you know what is or isn’t too much for me when you haven’t asked?

Of course, people are kind and we’ll meaning, but I have discovered it is easier not to say anything unless I am so ill I feel I can’t do my job properly.
On the flip side, I have never suffered from serious prejudice – I told my present employer that I have depression and they still employed me.

So there you have it, I have talked and shared. If you would like to continue the conversation, feel free to comment, I will of course read and reply to you.

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My new #blog offering #mindful workshops and courses

I work four days a week at the moment, and it has given me the chance to think about and now finally act upon an idea I have carried for a long time. This is from the new blog,

Blue canary bird house 

I hope you might go and take a look 🙂

For fifteen years or so, I have carried a dream. To begin with, it looked like a retreat centre, but how expensive is that? Now I am attempting to go to where people already are.

I long to provide a space where people can find rest for their minds and souls, a place where they might find skills to help them in their everyday lives and a little oasis of calm in the meantime.

Hence the Blue Canary Birdhouse. It is an obscure reference, but if you remember the80’s song by they might be giants about a little blue canary night light, it makes more sense:

“Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch

Who watches over you

Make a little birdhouse in your soul”

So here I am, offering courses and workshops for community groups and churches in order to help people build their own birdhouses for their souls.

Its #timetotalk young people and the #mentalhealth train wreck

Today is time to talk day. I thought about talking about my own journey of learning to deal with depression, but I realized there is something far more pressing.
At this point, I would like to say, what follows is my personal point of view.

I’m a youth worker, and have been full time for 15 years. Mental wellbeing always was a challenge though the teenage years, it’s the time when we wrestle with who we are, stepping out from the cocoon of childhood and into the identity of our adulthood.

But its so much harder now than it ever was. The 24-7 pressure of media, expectations, austerity and the like has become a poisonous cocktail for many young people.

EVERY DAY I come into contact with young people either with diagnosed mental illnesses or simply weighed down with anxiety, worries and fear.

The other day I was helping a young person with techniques to deal with anxiety. They are not diagnosed, just suffering. In the same hour another young person expressed their stress at being in a class detention. They were worried it would have a long term affect on their career.
Sounds foolish doesn’t it, but that’s what society is doing to young people.

Don’t get me started on the young people I know who self harm or have depression or just simply need someone outside family and friends to talk to.

There is no money to support young people and what services are available are stretched beyond breaking point.

I would sound the warning siren for the train wreck of young peoples lives.

But it is already here.

As a youth worker, part of my job is helping young people out if the wreckage.

So I have a request. If you know ANYONE between the ages of eleven and twenty, take time not only to talk..

But to listen.

Without judgment, and with compassion. Please, take time to listen to young people. Let them know they really matter, that they are visible, valuable and wanted.

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What #meditation is teaching me about #faith

I have just completed the book Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Prof Mark Williams. It has been of real benefit to me. Like many people I have tended to live in my head, always thinking about what I am doing next or worrying about what might be, rather than being present to the life I am actually living.

And like many people, it made me ill.

Not just through the depression I have had a running battle with for years, but also making my faith life unwell, causing me to struggle to grow with Jesus, who I have handed my life over to.

Meditation has taught me how to pray again. The two can be the same, but often are not. I meditate on my breath and body, when I pray, that being present is turned towards God.

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And that’s what meditation is teaching me. How to rest my full awareness on God. He who is ever present, while I have been absent, to my own life and to His central place in it.

I feel like I have come home again.

And my mind begins to heal, I find my spirit is waking up to the presence of Jesus, right here, right now, because as C.S. Lewis says:

For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity

It’s February 6th, which means its #timetotalk

I have suffered from depression for nearly the last three years.

I hope this statement doesn’t make you want to click on. You will be glad to know the story is having an ongoing happy end. But all the same, dear followers, it is time to talk.

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As it happens, I am on the up and up. I have had therapy like CBT and the lightening process, I walk the dog, I run, I have a job with hours that I can manage. It’s all good.

But it hasn’t always been like this, and how I wish someone would have brought up the topic first. Over the last three years people at work and in my private life have seen me struggle, watched me take time off work, have prayed for me, helped me financially with some private therapy, been compassionate about my sick leave.

I am so very grateful for it all. So thank you. Truly.

But it seems to me, that each time I have been unwell, I have, on the whole (with a few notable exceptions) had to make the first move, tell people I am in trouble, or bring up the issue in some way. You have no idea how utterly terrifying that is. Or perhaps you do know. I have been afraid I would loose my job if I mentioned depression at work, afraid my friends would get bored of my unwellness.

Of course none of that was true, but I didn’t know that, and being unwell really didn’t make it any easier to ask. When it takes all your strength to just leave the house, those kinds of questions are agony.

So today, my plea is, make the first move.

It doesn’t have to be a massive conversation. A friend of mine invited me round for a cup of tea and to talk about weaving (its my kind of thing, and his). We didn’t talk about mental health at all, but he did come and pick me up so I didn’t have to struggle to get to his house, a few miles from mine, on my own.

Seriously, one of the worst things about having a mental illness (there, I said it) is that you become invisible. All you really need is a bit of normal, with someone who will have the kindness and patience to understand that some things in your life are harder than they are for people who are mentally well.

A cup of tea, that’s all it takes.