I have recently received some online abuse for my work with Huckleberry Grove. It’s the first time this has happened to me.
I’m genuinely not doing this blog for sympathy – and I know that statement can be met with cynicism – as it begs the question why do it then? Please read on and I’ll attempt to explain.
In this blog I want to raise awareness for: those supporting people with mental health issues; those who wish to understand more about mental health, and of course; those who are suffering themselves.
To understand that blips are normal and happen to us all, setbacks can impact mental health ‘recovery’ and it is easy to slip back into old ways. So specifically:
- My Old Ways and Thought Patterns (trying to walk the walk)
- Coping Strategies
- Kindness, compassion and self care.
My Old Ways and Thought Patterns (trying to walk the walk)
So this experience brought back some of my old ways, thought patterns and habits, that I’ve not experienced in a while – and it was instant which at the time I didn’t think too much about, but afterwards did surprise me a bit.
OK then so what were the old ways etc?
Well first off, it was the emotion taking over. Through my mindfulness training, practice, education, meditation, readings, counselling – the list goes on but you get the idea 🙂 – I thought I had this pretty well boxed off. I have been able to notice my emotions and observe them, rather than let them take over and impact my thinking and reactions.
The anger rose, my need to defend myself and prove this person wrong was overwhelming. Not only is this not how I want to be, but it then leads me to self criticism – after all how can this still be happening to me? Will I ever change?!
Next up, I started to doubt my self. Confidence is something that depression is very good at removing and preventing from returning. You may have heard people say “they’re a shadow of their former self.”
This also means that people suffering with depression will resort to hiding it by ‘wearing a mask’ which is very dangerous, I know this first hand. People may say things like “I would never have thought they would suffer from depression and anxiety, they always seemed so confident.” When that couldn’t be further from the truth for the person suffering.
I told my wife immediately, “I’m OK, it’s fine, they’re entitled to their opinion, I’m not bothered.” The reality was I felt physically sick by it and angry. I guess I wanted to not look weak again – one of my previous issues with not speaking up about my mental health – and also prevent my wife from thinking I’ve not made any progress in this area.
The self doubt also led to doubting what I was doing with Huckleberry Grove which now sounds bizarre, but it just goes to show how irrational thinking can occur with mental health issues.
This crisis of confidence also made me question my worth to others, things like “who am I to do this, I’m nobody” etc. It’s a horrible place to be, you may call it irrational again, but for the individual it is very real!
My next bad thought pattern to kick in is the dreaded ‘Overthinking!’ Specifically adding a story to the emotion and fuelling it. I’ll explain this a bit more.
OK, so this incident happened, and it made me feel angry. It made me feel low, feel worthless and feel like I am wrong to be doing what I am doing.
Did you just notice that all those things are feelings. I said “made me feel…”. Well that’s all they are, just feelings. I’ve come to realise that they are not right or wrong, just my way of telling myself something isn’t right.
But here is the problem with overthinking. You create a story in your head. This story then fuels those feelings and makes you feel worse! “Maybe I’m not good enough, if someone has said it then it has to be true. But I’m working really hard with this, I don’t deserve this treatment, how dare they treat me like this!” And so on.
That internal story in my head is fuelling my self doubt and anger!
So there are some of my old ways and thought patterns that don’t do me any good. I wonder if you can relate to any of them?
And the worse bit is, I know I’m doing it, I know it’s not right and I’ve been working hard on them all, but I’m not walking the walk because I’m doing them all again!
I thought it might be useful to share some of the things that work for me. I realise that they may not work for everyone but here goes.
First off, and most important for me, talk to someone about how you feel! It’s such a relief and feels like some of the burden has been lifted. Make sure it’s someone you trust. If you ever wonder if you trust a certain person, think about if you trust them to keep your confidence? And another good one is, would you go to them for advice?
If you don’t have anyone who fits that category, the are numerous phone lines you can reach out too.
Next up for me is to write down how I feel. My counsellor a while back introduced me to this idea, and it’s one of the main reasons why I do this blog. Studies have shown that by writing down how we feel, it helps us to think about the issue and process it. Nobody needs to know and you can throw away what you have written if you want.
Lastly for me is to take a break. Focus on a bit of you time. Take 5 minutes, 10 minutes an hour, whatever. Just some time, doing something that you enjoy, to give yourself a bit of head space. You can always come back to the issue at a later time if you so want.
Kindness, Compassion and Self Care
Now I guess part of this could probably fit under coping strategies. Certainly the self care bit. But I wanted to give this subject a bit more of a spotlight, because it’s something we can probably all give some more to ourselves, but also to others.
Be kind to people, show them compassion. Try not to pass judgement on them. Basic psychology says that we judge other people to make ourselves feel better. Well there are loads of other ways to make ourselves feel better, without hurting others in the process. There’s no judgement here from me, I’m far from perfect in this area. But at least think about it and try to act on it.
Also, be kind and compassionate to yourself. You’ve read above how within the blink of an eye, from words typed online by one person, I resorted back to all my old ways. The recovery from serious mental health issues is a long road with many ups and downs.
I still remember my counsellor telling me that even though we experience setbacks in our recovery. That doesn’t mean we are back to square one. It just means that when it passes, and it will, you’ll be starting from a stronger position!
Take care of yourselves.