A Guest Blog, by Daniel Tandy.

A while back, my dad told me of a Taoist story. It went as follows:

An old farmer had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbours came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “May be,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbours exclaimed. “May be,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbours again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “May be,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbours congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “May be,” said the farmer.

Human Nature is to sometimes find it easier to concentrate or remember the negative thoughts or experiences. If we make a conscious decision to see or imagine the positive, it can have a real effect on our mental health and subsequently our lives.

If there is one thing I am guilty of, it’s focusing on the perceived negative: this is a thought process which conjures up an abundant source of anxiety.

The Stag Do…

I attended a friend’s stag do in Amsterdam at the weekend. For the weeks prior to the trip, any time anybody asked me about it, I would roll my eyes and sigh. I was worried. I was worried if I’d be taking enough money, I was worried about the early start and that I’d not sleep worrying that I’d miss my alarm clock, I was worried about passing through security, I was worried that we may not all get on, I was worried about my cats (despite the first-class service my parents always give them when I’m away.) In my skewed anticipation, I’d almost written off the entire experience before we’d even set off!

People suffering with mental health issues, especially anxiety, can often live in the future of what might be, and this usually manifests in the form of negative thinking.

As it turned out, we all had an absolute blast; it was fantastic to get together with a group of my oldest, best friends and catch up, have a few drinks, laugh, sing, drink, eat, drink, eat, and even dance! Negative anticipation can be the vampire of joy.

The Cat…

Similarly, my reaction to a situation can also be total misapprehension. The other Sunday, my adored cat, Kira, in a very rare display of behaviour, appeared to have taken exception to my gym bag and, shall we say, ‘marked’ it.

For an obsessive, obsessively clean, obsessive compulsive neurotic, when I discovered the crime, I of course had a full on melt down. Before I could detach my own head in grief, however, my impossibly patient and calm as Clint Eastwood fiance had emerged up the stairs carrying a bucket full of warm water and cleaning products. “What about the rug and my gym bag?” I whined. “Anything can go in the wash, just put them in,” was the calm, practical, non-panicked response.

Mental Health issues are unfortunately a long term thing. It is often human nature that when we see something suffering, we want to solve the problem. Sometimes we just need to accept that our loved one is suffering and simply help with the little things. It can mean so much.

Needless to say, the carpet and rug are spotless and my gym bag had a long overdue clean. The fact my iPod and headphones hadn’t been removed first was my own undoing in a needlessly over-anxious state (the headphones survived.)

The Washing Machine…

Yesterday morning, I put a wash on and returned to the kitchen to witness a trail of water gently traversing the floor.

Now, in this case, there was an initial panic, but then I mopped up the water and before assuming the washing machine was broken and needed to be repaired/replaced, I noticed a single sock had simply managed to wedge itself into the base of the door! Problem solved. No need to panic on that one. And it gave me an opportunity to give the kitchen floor a good clean.

The Hardwood Floor…

Next on the worry list is the impending installation of a much needed hardwood floor in my front room. This will ensure the cats can’t scratch or deface the decor and in the rare event of any ‘spillages’ (namely Harold, gobbling his food down quickly, then reintroducing it to me) the offending substance can be wiped clean.

There is a real benefit to training our minds to think differently. Instead of concentrating on the negatives that change in our lives can bring, we should try and look at the positives and benefits to change.

Of course, this will involve minor disruption – another hallmark of the obsessive compulsive’s handbook. I’ll need to move the TV upstairs and disconnect my games consoles, Sky box etc. Oh no! This will be the worst thing ever… But maybe this means I can clean and dust the TV stand, the consoles, the Sky box etc.

The Breakthrough…

Maybe this won’t be all that bad after all. Maybe this is a first world problem that although pops into my head and causes anxiety ahead of the event, it maybe won’t actually be that bad at all.

‘May be.’

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