ANOTHER Bump in the Road

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?

Sometimes in life and especially when recovering from mental health issues, setbacks can make us feel like we are going backwards. “One step forward, two steps back.” If we can try and think of the setback as a learning experience, that will serve us well in the future, then it has to be a step forward right?

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!

A lack of confidence can hit us all, you are not alone in this. The important thing to remember is not to hide how you are feeling.

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!

Coping Strategies

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.

You don’t have to be suicidal to speak to the Samaritans. There are also numerous other free phone lines you can call if you need to speak to someone about how you are feeling.

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.

Being kind to others really isn’t that hard! We can however find it hard to be kind to ourselves, but it is just as important if not more. If you don’t look after yourself, you cannot hope to look after others.

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.

3 Replies to “ANOTHER Bump in the Road”

  1. Hi Dave. You are doing a fantastic job with this blog. I for one find it really useful, empowering and empathic.
    People who make those comments you refer to are not worth worrying about or even trying to relate to in my opinion. However, it’s not that simple I know as their comments trigger our thoughts and feelings that we may struggle with.
    I’m with you all the way with huckleberrygrove.com.
    You just carry on, don’t beat yourself up because you are doing a great job. You are helping people….. that is invaluable.
    So thank you 🙏 x

    1. Hi Sharon
      Thanks so much for your comment and kind words, comments of support like this really do help when I’m low. I’m also really happy that you find the blogs useful, makes it worth while for me. Take care and thanks again,
      Dave

  2. Hi Dave
    Thank you for sharing your latest blog. I really like the way your personal journey is also universal and you share to help others.
    As you know my insights come from Buddhist teaching but can be used by anyone. I hope you don’t mind me adding something to the excellent points that helped to get you back to feeling better.
    I agree that what may feel like a setback is actually a step forward on your spiritual (inner) path.
    I don’t know exactly what happened but it seems what threw you was in response to criticism. This is typical of our arch enemy the self cherishing (ego) mind. Masquerading as a friend it latches on to anything about itself – if it’s good we can become proud and haughty or if bad it destroys our confidence and feeling of self worth – it doesn’t really mind which it is just as long as it’s the centre of attention! In this case it convinced you to take more notice of the negative response than all the loads of positive feedback you’ve received.
    This absolutely is not your fault or indeed anyone’s fault – it’s just the instinctive way all of our minds work.
    I think you were insightful and recognised this was the cause of your unhappiness- this is the first step.
    Once we recognise this destructive mind which btw is the root of all human misery we can begin to reduce it and then finally destroy it.
    This all consuming self that sees itself as supremely important doesn’t even exist at all – it’s just a thought arising from our mind like any other. Meditation on this is selflessness. Very deep and very powerful
    Until it’s eradicated the self and the misleading thoughts it generates can’t be boxed off quickly – it takes time and patience and it will keep coming back to test us – we will meet it again and again but that doesn’t mean we’ve slipped back. Over time we can start to recognise it and think ‘Aha – I know you – you’re a ****** liar – you don’t even exist!’ And it will dissolve away into space from where it came. Finally when we hear words of criticism, they will be just like the breeze around our face or the song of the birds through the window 😊 and all we will feel for the person responsible is compassion ❤️ I’m looking forward to it.
    Thanks again for writing Dave (sorry this is long)
    Lots of love P xxxx
    This is a link to some free books on selflessness :
    https://tharpa.com/uk/how-to-transform-your-life.html

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