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Purpose

2016

 

I have chosen to write an article reflecting upon this year because it has been so poignant.

I have observed many issues which have been caused by poor mental health and the ensuing repercussions this has had on those around me.

My passion therefore towards mental health has been inflamed and my awareness and perception of these issues is evermore sharper.

My knowledge and understanding of depression is ever more greater and being able to connect with others around me who suffer this depraved illness I believe is ever more vital to establish forms of hope and recovery. The ability to be understanding towards sufferers is so important.

I can only describe depression as a perception, a state of mind, an overwhelming feeling. A feeling whereby there is uncertainty, elements of fear, hopelessness and most of all and more fear inducing, the feeling of entrapment, like a caged animal with nowhere to go.

Material surroundings or possessions do not compensate for such a state of mind and it is both powerful and compelling. It is like being lost in the middle of a dark and lonely forest with no way to get out and where the sunlight of day cannot penetrate the vast forest of the overbearing trees.

Only those who have experienced this feeling will know about it, because to some it objectively seems ‘black and white’ or misunderstood.

It is the same with feelings of trauma. The flashbacks and nightmares, the crippling fears, the night sweats. Another form of perceived entrapment, embodied within the nature of your own soul, the echoes of memories haunting the present but somehow imprinted within the schema of the cognitive mind from the past.

I write boldly and I write bluntly about these feelings because the misunderstanding and lack of care towards such issues can be a huge barrier towards people seeking the help they need or deserve.

As human beings we are all valuable, unique individuals and deserve love, care, and respect from our own self and those around us. ““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““

By creating more awareness of areas such as depression, anxiety, substance misuse (drug/alcohol addiction) we remove stigma surrounding these issues. Addiction isn’t the misconception of poor or lost willpower. It is a constant battle to stay alive, a fight for your own sanity and wellbeing, a fight for a proper state of mind.

Addiction is a disease that cripples, erodes, destroys and kills both the mental and physical body by deception through a false and transient sense of wellbeing, but longer term becoming a placebo, a crutch that eventually collapses, leaving the confused victim like a collapsed heap immersed in the devastating consequences of such a pernicious illness.

All of these issues can lead to depression and worst case self-harm and suicide.

There is a fallacy that suicide is ‘selfish’, however for the individuals whom have ever been misfortunate enough or lacked the coping mechanisms to deal with life’s trauma or misfortunes , often suicide has appeared to be the only option.

Suicide isn’t the coward’s way out, but probably one of the hardest decisions an individual must face when overwhelmed by life’s troubles with a sense that there is no other way out and no one to turn too.

The impact of a suicide, from first-hand experience is both catastrophic and traumatic for all inviduals involved. The range of emotions that supersede such a major event in one’s life, such as guilt, anger, depression, bargaining and unresolved grief, to name but a few.

My aim following this year is reflecting upon my own life experience to create and highlight more awareness amongst fellow peers with goals to create more connection amongst those suffering anxiety and depression through this website.

Individuals I hope this website may impact, include young people and adolescents and educating them through this on areas such as experiencing depression and anxiety and often the reasons why, such as low self-worth, failure to feel validated or accepted by those around them, the entrapment of society’s values and constant obsession with social media that we constantly measure ourselves against and equally our own self-worth; material possessions, life experiences, popularity, success.

We measure our own self-worth and value against this as though it were criteria to be acceptable or valued as people, but this can only lead to a sense of failure, disappointment, insecurity and consequential depression.

If we can create measures that are more stable for the next (younger) generation we can create a more robust foundation for the future, more positivity, more hope. Enabling those around us to explore both positive and negative feelings within and becoming more self-aware , utilising healthier coping strategies to deal with life’s failures and disappointments and having a strong , steadfast core within and stronger resilience to embrace life’s challenges and obstacles becoming stronger , more emotionally stable individuals .

This can also be said of those suffering PTSD (war veterans) who struggle with feelings of isolation and often loneliness as they go from a harsh traumatic environment supported by individuals living in same conditions back to civilian life with expectations that they would be able to adapt and function back into society as if they had never been away and exposed to such harsh conditions.

I believe the answer for both these specific groups is in supportive communities and the safety to discuss and reflect upon feelings.

Young people too should be able to freely express themselves without judgement or their feelings being dismissed.

This year I learnt about the values of being self-aware, the impact of serious mental health issues but also how to manage more effectively with the volatility of life and its fluctuating circumstances. Most of all I learnt assertiveness and gravitating towards positive people and environment and away from negativity. Most of all that I cannot change the behaviour of other’s only my own reaction and changing for the better. Learning from the past. Growing into the future to become a better person and the value of helping others too have insight into their own thoughts and feelings. The main value is not looking back at static factors but at engaging with faith and positivity towards gaining positivity from the negative circumstances or events in our lives and learning to change mindsets. Gaining self-awareness, seeking connection from others who understand similar feelings and having courage to seek professional help and also knowing how to cope in healthy ways.

 

 

Portofino

I did not become a mental health nurse by accident, nor was this blog set up by coincidence.

I believe it was a collection of incidences that led me to my current path.

In the early stages of my adult nurse training, I attempted several times to access the children’s nursing course, believing in my heart, that this was what I truly wanted to become. But the courses were too full and the timing was all wrong, even the experience I had gathered as a nursery nurse assistant seemed insignificant in my applications and I was rejected quite painfully and with great disappointment.

I certainly never contemplated becoming a mental health nurse because in truth I feared the unknown realm of mental illness and the perceived stigma surrounding it. I was too immature to cope with those struggling with depression and certainly lacked any ability to engage with those in the midst of such darkness. I lacked both knowledge and awareness of conditions such as schizophrenia and ‘psychosis’ and invented illusions in my own thinking reinforced by negative media that incensed me with my own preconceived misperceptions that only gave way to my own ignorance. The thought of nursing an alcoholic provoked unsettling imagery of a drunk on a bench hugging an empty vodka bottle, like a lone destitute. However, this skewed perception would soon change.

Several years later I found myself working in an Accident and Emergency Department, nursing those who had attempted suicide. I nursed several teenage girls admitted into the unit due to overdoses, most commonly as a result of bullying. I felt that I enjoyed relating to this age group and discussing the impact that the bullying had had on their lives and how it had led them to the emergency department. I felt empathy towards their helplessness and emotional distress, but also anger that there could be such cruelty in the world.  I also nursed several patients with schizophrenia and I met some vulnerable people suffering great distress who really just needed some care and understanding and most of all non -judgment.

However the person that had the most profound impact on diverting me towards the avenue of mental health nursing, and in the creation of this blog, was a dear friend whom I met roughly 9 years ago. He was very successful, intelligent,  kind and he was a very deep thinker. However, sadly I think he lacked a belief in his own sense of self- worth, despite his achievements. He suffered from a disease called alcoholism. During the short period of time I knew him, his disease progressed, his episodes of sobriety lessened and his relapses became more frequent until sadly he succumbed to the illness and passed on.

The most significant attribute my friend possessed that captivated me was his ability to engage with those around him, and his great passion in helping those around him wherever he could. He was probably one of the most passionate people I ever met and one of his focuses was research in science to develop breakthroughs in both medical and military applications. I admired his intelligence greatly and his devotion in wanting to help others through his focus on disruptive technologies.  I think he inspired me also and challenged my thinking towards the world around me and wanting to contribute to those around me.

Witnessing his deterioration at a distance and the powerlessness to be able to help him or his inability to save himself from slipping into his own sea of self -destruction through an illness that bound him and he was unable to break free from, was like watching my friend fall into a fast flowing river as I stood helplessly on the shore, watching him drown. This was heart breaking.

This changed my whole perception of caring for someone with a mental illness/ addiction and how I related to those with mental illness. And this tragic event , propelled me towards a mental health degree and the path I am on now. I speak of him in this blog and remember him, as he was also a very spiritual person who enjoyed travelling to the Portofino Coast, Italy. Last week, I also travelled there and lit a candle for him, in the same church he once said he lit a candle for me, on what would have been his 50th birthday.  I will never forget my wonderful friend and the impact he had on my life, who I am, where I am now and where I am going in the future, because his positivity and belief in me, helped affirm me onto a road towards my destiny , a bit like the walk I took to get to Portofino harbour from the Rapello coastline, on a rugged, sometimes steep and bumpy, but beautiful path to where I am now. My only wish was that he had had the same belief in himself, which I hope I can encourage those reading this to believe.  In life, no matter where we are, what trials we face, HOPE does lie ahead and  we must  push through adversity like a strong wind, not being thrown off course, but standing firm and looking ahead, to the goal that lies ahead using what lies within to align us with our true destiny, which often lies within our hearts.

An Oak Tree

Often in our own lives, it is so interesting how we allow past experience to define who we are and therefore our current state of mind.
So often, we allow bad experiences to mould us, and shape our frame of thinking , which then influences our own actions and sense of self.
I am learning that the human mind is a powerful entity. It is influenced by so many factors, including our own upbringing, childhood, life experience as well as our own genetic susceptibility to how we deal with life events around us.
It can be an amazing source of power in terms of knowledge, creativity, success , ambition and other qualities, but it can also be our greatest adversary. If we allow, it can become the most dangerous and deceptive part of our own being that we are bound to.
I always tell people, that the greatest barrier to anyone’s achievements or successes or development, isn’t anyone else, but themselves. ….self doubt, low self worth, low self esteem…the list is endless.
The interesting thing is most of these feelings are shaped by our own thinking, which has been moulded or chiselled into our own schema and has become so concrete it is difficult to realign.
Lately, I have visited some animal sanctuaries to take abandoned dogs out for walks, they have been rehomed because they were either found neglected or mistreated. It is interesting to note that when they are first taken on by the volunteers at the sanctuary, the most prevalent behaviour is a mistrust and timid presentation which is often an illustration of past abuse /neglect. But, it is also an interesting observation, that after several months; much care, love and nurturing, the dogs seem more responsive, brighter, affectionate and happy animals and are often not recognisable as the frail, vulnerable animals that first appeared several months prior.
I also wonder about the capacity of an animal’s retention in it’s historic episodes of abuse. Some animals remain weary and some, not so weary. One thing that is very clear is the value of care giving and love from the carer’s perspective in helping the dog rebuild it’s trust and sense of worth.
I think this is an important illustration and a theory that can be applied to the concept of how fragile we all are at some point as human beings.
It is very easy to allow experiences in childhood, or teenage years, such as being bullied or perhaps not feeling loved or respected, define our sense of self worth. They especially are delicate years where our own sense of identity and frame of thinking is being developed, therefore difficult or complex relationships can possibly disjoint our frame of thinking and create an unstable sense of self worth. This often creates a ‘snowball’ effect, in which our self esteem is low and our own boundaries become fragile so we allow the wrong types of relationship into our lives which can erode our sense of self worth even further and so a ‘domino’ effect can be created and as humans we can lose our sense of true self. When we are mistreated we feel this is all we deserve because we don’t even know our own value or sense of self worth or we would never have allowed such mistreatment in the first place.
Thoughts are a powerful phenomena, because they guide our own feelings which map our actions in life. But the most important thing that influences our thoughts is words spoken over us. So I feel it is so important to sieve negativity out of the mind.
It is so easy to dwell on past negativity, unkind words or criticism spoken over us, which if we ruminate upon too much can swamp the mind and have a detrimental impact upon our own self perception and self worth.
This is why the value of encouragement; encouraging ourselves and encouraging others is so vital in our lives.
Criticising someone is as destructive as felling a tree. It quells the life/the potential the tree had.
A tree gives out beauty from its everchanging leaves through the seasons, it also brings shelter in the storms of life, it is a nesting place for many species of life and most significantly it’s purpose is to deplete the atmosphere of it’s sources of carbon dioxide, which has a detrimental impact as we know on environment, hence the tree has a purpose and needs nourishment , not destruction!
We can liken ourselves to a tree by producing fruit in our own lives as we too are nourished as humans through kindness and love that surrounds us. And overcoming hurts, negativity and bitterness surrounding us that would extinguish the beauty we have the potential to exude.
An encouraging kind word is like a tree planted by water, that is nourished and quenched at the very roots in order to grow , flourish and blossom. The branches and blossoming leaves are an outward reflection of the health of the root of the tree.
I think the portrayal I try and illustrate is evident, the objective is how to achieve positive thoughts regardless of our past and upbringing and how we allow our thoughts to shape our own lives.
In life, I think through meeting people with complex lives and from my own experience it is the value of truly letting go of what has gone before, forgiveness and not looking back on life. But living in the present here and now, starting each new day positively, hanging onto positive thoughts, memories, kind words that linger and nurture a positive spirit and forgetting negativity and bad experience. I think the most valuable gift is in forgiveness and trying to see positivity in each individual , goodness in those we have met in life, despite their apparent failings or misdemeanours and learning to see own self positively, managing our own sense of self and having an inner identity as firmly rooted as that of an oak tree and that is a daily choice of meditating on the goodness in our lives , forgiving and forgetting the things of the past and embracing the future and believing in the power and greatness of love that exists beyond our own imagining through the gift of faith.

The Butterfly

Today I wanted to write about how we can change ourselves when we are powerless over circumstances around us.

Often in life, unpredictable events can happen, that can often cause us to react negatively or pessimistically depending on the circumstances we face.

Life can often seem volatile and there is often a lack of indication to which direction we face or how to arrive at our chosen destination, wherever that may be.

Daily, I meet people both personally and professionally with turbulent lives and therefore confused ideas about themselves and how to move forward positively.

How can we allow adverse circumstances to change us for the better?

People often struggle to find a sense of purpose in the midst of despair or tragedy in life and it can feel hopeless to those faced with such circumstances.

But I feel as human beings we have elements of our own inner resilience and strength available to us, if we are willing to look into ourselves.

In the dense expanse of our own universe , on a clear winter’s night filled with deep darkness there are twinkling bright lights igniting the sky with stark beauty. We can choose to focus on the expanse of the darkness that surrounds us,  or the beauty of the beacons of light piercing the sky.

Noone knows what tomorrow will bring, but if we continue to focus on the guiding lights in our own life, we will always be moving forward and not looking back.

Such like, the analogy of the caterpillar that doesn’t seem so significant or vivid, but it begins to build a little wall around itself in the form of a metamorphosis, creating a silky bed in which it transforms through a process into an adult, it undergoes a transformation, just as we do as human beings, that enables a new beautiful creation as it becomes a butterfly.

I am not sure I know of anything so miraculous or attractive in nature as a butterfly, filled with joy and freedom, despite its previous journey to become such a distinctive specimen of nature so handsome.

I sometimes think we can follow the example of a caterpillar allow events that occur in our own lives and circumstances to transform us inwardly despite our powerlessness to the outside world, to become like the butterfly and allow ourselves a greater sense of purpose in live beyond  our wildest imaginings if we would only believe in ourselves and our own inner resources, as well as perhaps for those who may have a faith in something greater than themselves.

For me, this is my own spirituality which is love, I think this is the greatest and most powerful force there is and it can overcome everything, if we allow it into our lives. The greatest gift we can ever give to those around us is love, but also to ourselves and being aware of how valuable and worthy we are as human beings and valuing each other and those around us.

And like the butterfly, we are also as beautiful but also as fragile and just like the butterfly has to use time cautiously as it has a time span as delicate as it’s tender wings, so we too as humans should value our time on earth and those we allow into our precious lives, so that we only allow the goodness of those to permeate around us and for those who have a negative impact create a barrier around us to protect our fragile souls from the damage this could create. We are valuable and precious like the butterfly and we should see ourselves no differently or less favourably.

(With special thanks to my beautiful cousin Susan for allowing me to use the photograph of this butterfly on my site x)

The tip of the iceberg

I often wonder why some people cope with the often volatile circumstances around them and some people don’t.

Why , far too commonly , the balance between obstacles that cross our paths can tip the scales towards the depths of despair as opposed to  help available to us and that which lies within us, and in just one moment, over years of collateral negativity, a decision is made, where there is no come back, because it is perceived to be the only way out. Out of pain, suffering, mental torture and anguish.

My biggest wish, is that noone ever felt so distressed that this was an option, but that somehow, through some possibility, glimmer of hope, ray of enlightenment, there was a reason for that person not to feel in such overwhelming despair they could terminate there lives in a second, but in stark contrast , that they would find a reason, a purpose that would keep them alive for there appointed lifetime.

People are like icebergs that we can see very visually., in a physical sense. But beyond the depths of the sea, beneath the surface of our very beings lies a unique capsule, encasing the thoughts, feelings , desires ,goals ,hopes and dreams of us all, individually.

The epitomy of emotional distress however dissipates  and erodes those hopes, goals and dreams and leaves something of an empty shell, filled only with inner distress and lack of peace.

However we all hold human resilience if we can look within ourselves. This is where I think the key lies. Within ourself to our own success, own achievements, own contentment, most significantly our own inner strength.

Noone can change the past, but we can change the circumstances around us by changing the way we think about it.

Often tragic or unfortunate circumstances in life can impact us and often without warning, where we have no control, warning and the only thing left is hindsight and what ifs.

But I learn this too is resilience and in our nature, every time we fall down, to keep getting back up; wiser for the lesson learnt, stronger for the pain endured, more resilient to future circumstances, without allowing those circumstances to pull you down.

I do believe we all have an inner strength that will carry us through life’s adversities and stressors if we allow., if we are available to our own resources and those that our available to us. This is where I believe we all have accountability to maintain an insight into our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours and triggers that cause us to feel low, sad or depressed and control we can maintain over these or strategies we can implement when we reach our own boiling point.

The mind is a well known powerful tool, but just like a desktop computer , it can accumulate too much information, lets say, when running too many programmes at the same time. It slows down. It can be susceptible to viruses without the appropriate security software and then suddenly it crashes and it is often very complex and troublesome to repair.

I feel like the human mind is very similar, which is why it is so important to value ourselves, what we think, how we think, what and who we allow into our minds.  Whatever we input into our lives, often has an outlet. So a negative input, will often result in a negative output, unless we protect ourselves accordingly.

This is why boundaries are important in our lives, implementing these in an appropriate fashion and incorporating these steps into our lives to enhance the quality of our lives and what we are able to attribute positively to the life around us.

Investing in our own self, self worth, being is paramount to live effectively and have more fulfilling lives and relationships with those around us. Family life, working relationships, Romantic relationships.

This starts at the core of ourselves as humans and addressing our own needs, emotional, physical, spiritual, psychological.

We are like myriads, like plants that require lots of water, nourishment,  environmental conditons to grow, and not wither.

I’ll focus on the value of physical health in another blog, but I am raising the value of self awareness and the importance of choice and responsibility in our own lives and insight into who we are and grasping life, to achieve who I believe we are destined to become, by being, overcomers, able to withstand that which happens around us, remaining firm as people, standing strong and established and focussed on the goal that we all have ahead of us which is that which again lies within us.

Sometimes in life, unfortunate things happen, we have a choice, to allow it to change us, to become stronger people and like ships, change the course of the sails, which would propel us in a direction,to  a higher level to which we could never be at , without enduring what we had to go through to get there.

Effective strategies for stress management.

In current society, there are many pressures which face us all on an individual basis.

These can be various, but often include family life, relationships, financial pressures, pressures at work and health, to name but a few.

In terms of mental health, I believe we all have a certain resilience to coping with the daily stressors of life that we face on a day to day basis.

There are certain psychological and biological models which may predetermine some us to mental health problems, more than others when our own resilience and inner strength is stretched to it’s limits.

I am rather a believer in a model attributed to a stress vulnerability model, in that when faced with multiple stressors at one time , we can feel more fragile as human beings than when only coping with just a few minor stressors not on a large scale.

This is difficult to quantify or measure, because how one person copes with stress, may be totally different to how another copes with stress.

The most important factor, is being self aware enough to recognise when we are not coping with everyday situations around us , being aware of our own mental health and coping strategies most useful in dealing with these situations.

It is well known that there is a significant rise in behaviours such as binge drinking and self harming behaviours, particularly in younger people but also binge drinking appears to be most significant amongst a larger more diverse population.

I personally feel, binge drinking is a coping strategy used as an attempt to bury or hide away from the stressors of life we face, escapism, once again as addressed in previous posts.

This may appear ‘helpful’ on a short term basis, but in the long term can have extremely destructive and devastating consequences to relationships, employment, magnifying the pre existing stressors to a significant level.

There are effective coping strategies and I am hoping to add a personal subjective element today to highlight the beauty in the most natural aspects of life.

Currently, I am learning to embrace nature in my life and new experiences. In nature, I have learnt to grasp the concept of inner peace.

Very recently I drove up to the north western coast of Scotland, called Ullapool.

This is the most stunning place I think I have ever discovered in my life.

Arriving at this place, was like stepping away from the pressures of the inside world, to the most tranquil destination on earth.

As I the sunset, I stood on a delicately pebbled bay, watching the gentle crest of the waves roll in , the clear , still sea and embracing the gentle breeze that softly abounded with each wave, in that moment, I was filled with deep peace and an amazing sense that reinvigorated my spirits and captivated me with the awe of such a beautiful, tranquil special place. Deep profound happiness filled my heart and spirit because I felt so close to this beauty and so grateful that it surrounded me. Being so close to something so special, as I watched the sun descend over the stark wildness but amazing scenery and the lighthouse in the distance, I embraced a moment of happiness I have chased after for years and in that moment, I found it, like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No amount of money could buy me that and nobody could give me it.

There is so much more beyond what we see and what we already think we know as we chase after what we believe makes us successful or happy. Happiness is found in the most beautiful and simplest and precious of things that already exist but they just await to be found if we search long enough and hard enough we will find the road to the peace we search for.

That night , I stood by my bedroom window, watching the bright moonlight beaming over the glassy ripples of the loch below and there I felt more freedom and escape, in this , than any other form of escapism that had been available to me in my life.

There is so much beauty and peace to embrace in our life, if we just take a step back and ask ourselves, what really matters and what is most important?

I learnt that life doesnt have to be overwhelming or challenging, it can be very simple, the greatest gift I have found is in prayer and letting go of things I cannot control and then I always find my answers. The answers don’t often lie externally. They lie internally and as I embrace each new day and move forward, as we as people overcome every battle faced with instead of succumbing to the easy option or choice we find we become stronger and learn to develop a new shell , a new character that creates a beautiful new beginning and a beautiful new chapter in our lives and suddenly we are grateful for the pain that we ever faced, because without it we would not have found such beauty in the journey we faced along the way.

Self harm and effective management

Addressing barriers to effective mental health care

What I felt compelled to write about is, what I personally perceive to be barriers to effective delivery of mental health care in more general environments.

My first ever profound encounter with someone experiencing mental health problems was when I worked in accident and emergency as a general nurse . It wasn’t uncommon to witness the admission of those who had self harmed or taken an overdose and I felt that the attitudes of those I worked with were very accepting, kind and empathetic towards these individuals. I was very happy to work alongside such a strong team that radiated kindness and compassion in such a dedicated manner.

The encounters with the individuals I cared for in this environment are very vivid.

The most vivid encounter was with a young lady whose arms were visibly scarred and badly maimed due to repeated attempts at cutting herself , a desperate outward expression of inner angst and perhaps self loathing.

We engaged in very deep conversation as I recall, she divulged personal details of a troubled past, highlighting periods of being bullied very badly at school. I am sure there are many people who identify with being bullied through life, whether at work or in school or other situations, and the resulting feelings of rejection, isolation and worthlessness that ensue.

From the outset, in many circumstances she could have been perceived as a prolific self harmer or someone ‘seeking attention’ as I feel some people enduring this condition are so easily mislabelled or stigmatised. I have read many articles on those who have felt misunderstood in relation to their self harm attempts, which has led to deep frustration and further psychological distress.

However the root of such behaviours is often very much misunderstood and dismissed so easily, as opposed to addressed effectively.

I don’t believe there is an easy solution to such a phenomena as ‘self harm’ but I do believe reduced stigma, clearer knowledge and broader understanding would elaborate a more stable connection between the person who has personal experience of self harm and those who are able to deliver elements of a therapeutic nature which could produce a positive therapeutic relationship and therefore a stepping stone towards recovery.

I often believe that in life, it is so easy to view people with prejudice or based on our own misconceptions, I believe that people are people, bubbles of human spirit, an entity of unique thoughts, feelings, beliefs, life experience that so often can determine the path that ensues.

I think people are a product of their past, roots associated with genetics, family upbringing, relationships with others, parents, siblings, childhood friendships, the turbulent teenage years where emotional development is constantly in transition towards adulthood and therefore what we experience enables thought processes that can become fixed and inflexible as we grow older.

Unfortunately, the negative experiences of life can so easily effect our relationship with others and most significantly with ourselves. If those around us mistreat us, it is often difficult to accept that we are worthy of love and respect. If we are judged it compounds our inner frustrations and diminishes the feelings of being understood enhancing inner helplessness.

Often this feeling of inner helplessness is projected in very overt outward behaviour, symptomatic of inner roots of distress.

Such symptoms are reflected in self harm, not just physical forms of self harm, but other forms of self destructive behaviours, such as addiction; drugs and alcohol, gambling, shopping addiction, etc.

All forms of self harm, whether perceived or not, are a form of inner escapism, from roots that lie within.

This is my analogy of self harm in the form of addiction…..

It’s like planning a journey, let’s say from Edinburgh to London.

My destination is London, I am not that excited about driving through London because it is arduous and painful sitting in miles of traffic Jams. The M25 can be a very scary place, and tedious at the same time. And even though I really like being there and enjoy the pace, it can sometimes evoke opportunities and feelings I’d rather not face due to the swift pace of life, so it’s easier to prolong the journey and delay the journey as long as possible.

So in order to drive to London from Edinburgh and avoid all the hassle when I get there, I’ve decided I need some transient avoidance and excitement from the reality of a situation that is uncertain and complicated to face within.

I’ve decided to hire a car with a 3 litre engine for my journey and a bit of rapid acceleration. Adrenalin is also very addictive. I’ve decided to hire a nice Subaru Impreza Turbo for my journey., but I am not thinking too far ahead, I just enjoy living in the moment, it’s more fun. So I am not going to bother enhancing my car insurance, I’ll not worry about that.

So, I’ve started this journey and it is going really well, it is a real thrill tearing down the A1, possibly breaking the speed limit and knowing I am pushing myself to the limits, averting all types of responsibility., knowing I won’t get caught and currently there are no consequences.

Or so I think…..

The gyst of the story can continue as I want it too, but the excitement soons dries up, particularly after a few speeding tickets, points on the driving license, the quadrupled cost of fuel due to the poor judgement in choosing a car and an accident resulting in excess costs because the insurance wasn’t fully covered.

For such a thrill as the hypothetical set out above, there are many detrimental consequences.

Unfortunately every type of act of self harm or addiction is the same, it ends with detrimental consequences, a cost to ourselves, not just financial, but at a much deeper level, our own emotional and spiritual health, because we are always avoiding the very things we need to face without realising those things are not going to disappear, nomatter how much we try and escape and what methods we use to avoid them.

The destination of London still remains, but instead of a more simplistic chapter on arrival, it is filled with deeper complications and excess baggage I have bought with me as a consequence of a previous journey that I now have to carry with me on what could have been a chapter that was faced, dealt with, unpacked and resolved.

Is life really that simplistic?

Possibly not, but if we want to improve as people and not get sucked into behaviours that will deplete us emotionally, mentally and spiritually and allow us to grow as human beings in order to embrace the life we have ahead of us, facing up to life, is often the only option we have.

One of the wisest pieces of advice I ever heard was not to live a defeated life, not to become a victim of life’s circumstances, by living in self pity, doubt, fear or hurt. But by using pain to enable change and growth on a much deeper level. Developing new coping strategies to manage inner distress, without forming unhealthy ones, using pain a platform which would propel ourselves to a higher plain!

Staying in patterns of addiction, does not elicit change. It promotes a stale mate. It hinders emotional development., because it diverts emotional pain, which is actually an inner symptom of unaddressed/unmet need.

Numbing that pain with either self harm strategies, alcohol/drugs does not remove that pain, it merely anaesthetises that pain. There’s a big difference between the surgical procedure and the anaesthetic involved in that procedure. The surgery involves the extrapolation of the dysfunctional tissue/organ hindering growth, the actual anaesthetic is used to depress the nervous system and to block the pain. But if we never had the surgery and only the anaesthetic the dysfunctional tissue would still remain problematic only now we are unaware of it, which is even more of a critical position to be in than when we began.

Emotionally, spiritually, mentally we have an accountability to ourselves, to be responsible for our own emotional health and wellbeing, to allow our circumstances to propel us to ‘victory’ from a stance where previously we could not recognise our own need for help.

And victory in our lives comes from, addressing our inner angsts, raising our own self awareness, choosing to recognise our own inadequacies and imperfections, embrace change and growth in our lives and connect with those around us, those who are compassionate, warm, understanding , who incense us with peace and happiness and not aggravate our own feelings of self loathing or self defeat.

On a spiritual level, reaching out to a power beyond our own understanding, (a power motivated by the spirit of love and peace) as expressed in previous entries. when we choose to rid our lives of the negativity, addiction, anger, resentment, helplessness, by believing that only a power greater than ourselves could allow us this inner strength , than nothing is impossible and we can engage in a life much more meaningful and peaceful and deeper, than we ever knew was possible as that love and peace flows through our lives, as opposed to the toxic devastation we knew before.

A diamond in the mud

I think one of the most challenging aspects of life, not just for myself, but for people I meet in life; friends, work colleagues, people I meet on a daily basis through work and generally in life, is the concept of ‘self belief’.

In a competitive world, measured by success, popularity and particularly the inability to escape the influx of social media, coupled with media marketing aimed at flawless physical attractiveness and beautifully toned physiques, it only seems inevitable those with fragile egos and those with a more delicate ‘self image’ and sense of self, can be left feeling sometimes, inadequate and self doubting.

I personally believe the current rise in self harm amongst adolescents and young people which is becoming a common theme in certain age groups, could be related to a disjointed sense of self.

Nobody would build a house on sand, so why do we as human beings allow the foundations of our lives to become so imbalanced, that we lack a concrete foundation.

I believe there are so many people living with bad feeling about themselves and their own lives consumed by guilt, resentment, self doubt, self criticism and perhaps this is affecting how they view themselves. Drawing comparisons to others who appear possibly more attractive, more intelligent, more successful, more powerful. The only outcome this can ever lead to is a sense of failure and disappointment.

But here is my analogy that I hope will help others change the view they have of themselves, at whatever point they may be…

Imagine the most beautiful diamond you have ever seen, so bright that your eyes squint because it hurts your eyes. Imagine yourself as that diamond. Your whole being.

If that diamond was dropped in some mud, or scratched or somehow disfigured somehow, its internal worth and value would always remain static.

So the point is, on the outset, no matter what we do ; our failures, let downs,misgivings, inadequacies, should not dictate how we feel about ourselves.

Our true value and worth is like the diamond in the mud. It shines within us, no matter what lies behind us and what lies ahead of us. People are human, people make mistakes, life is about taking mistakes that have been made and using them as stepping stones to build the bridge across what can sometimes be a turbulent river.

But with the right tools and right perspective, anything is possible! It isn’t about looking back and it isn’t about anyone else. It’s about having positive goals and positive visions and being able to stand firm within oneself.

Sometimes in life, the storms of life will prevail. And if I imagine myself in a little boat amongst the storm , my boat does not capsize and I will not panic. Because within that boat I have found the most valuable asset I will ever know, my own spirituality. My own safety net.

You don’t need to see love, to know that it exists, all around us.

It the most powerful force I believe there is and the strongest asset we could ever own. Love for ourselves and love for other people.

And for me spirituality is an amalgamation of faith, hope and love. All powerful and unseen forces that require a belief in an existence greater than our own being.But at the same time, living within ourselves.

This in my own opinion to be the true core of a stable inner base. The freedom letting go of our own negative self perception, which enables us to love again and accept the love of others, expanding our faith in something beyond our own understanding, which charges hope of a more empowered life and enhanced awareness of ourselves, strengths, greatest assets and abilities birthing the concept of a reframed self belief and robust inner sense of self.

Love, hope and human connection

It often amazes me that we live in a culture so governed by stigma and social norm.

I think there are a lot of people that are governed by what others think of them and that what or ‘who’ society does not regard as ‘normal’ are often disregarded in socially unacceptable terms.

Often people can be so easily dehumanised as people, according to the expectations of society.

I still think there is an evasive attitude towards certain behaviours, such as the outward expression of human emotion,  which often means open expressions of thoughts and feelings are buried within for ‘self preservation’. This however can have some harmful effects on the individual.

For example, if a person trips up on the street and cuts their leg, then unfortunately a mere plaster will not promote delivery of effective healing of that wound.

In actual fact what could potentially happen, is that the wound may contain some harmful bacteria which if allowed to harbour under the blanket of a plaster, the pathogens would multiply, spread through the body via an outlet in the lymphatic system and circulatory system, spreading to vital organs with potentially disastrous consquences, unless treated accordingly!!

So why should our mental health be treated any differently to that of an open wound?

Sometimes it is easier to envisage the open wound as our hearts, the dirt as anything that we feel that obstructs our inner peace and imagine how we will release that pain so that it does not spread to other avenues of our lives. This would often develop into symptoms such as depression, worry, fear, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, which may lead to other forms of self destructive behaviours such as a wave of negative thinking and patterns of behaviour that may have harmful consequences in our lives.

I am a great advocate for the power of talking therapies and how advantageous they have proven to be. Actually within a trusted relationship, such as friends and family, the power of open communication, I believe is essential.

I am not sure if I am being naïve, but as I understand it, the consequence of a deep  emotional/spiritual/psychological  ‘infection’ if I can use the metaphor appropriately,  can be deeply  distressing encasing feelings of severe inner psychological pain. In a lot of studies I have read, the impact and intensity of the inner distress outweighs an alternative to a solution . This isn’t a weakness or selfish. It is a lack of internal validation and unmet inner needs, or so I believe in my own opinion.

And unfortunately the end result is as disastrous as the person who becomes a fatality due to a bacteria that engrosses the immune system of the physical body because of a weakened immune system or poor defences or lack of intervention at the correct time or the correct treatment.

Hence, I believe in not addressing our own inner psychological distress/grief/pain/anger we are allowing infection into the roots of our lives that will eventually spread, constricting our own minds and skewing our perceptions with negative thinking .

Often, there is no greater power than the power of human connection. Opening ourselves up to a person we trust who we know will treat us with love, warmth and kindness. Because in the times of our lives we most want to give up because we feel there is no hope and nothing to look forward to, love is our greatest comforter. It gives us a deep sense of belonging and need regardless of who we are as individuals and it is universal.

In this life, many people search for power, success, money, material wealth, but they forget to pursue the greatest gift of all…..LOVE.

People have become cynical about it, because the world is so full of hurts and disappointments.

So we lose our faith in each other and even ourselves and our ability to carry on.

I think for me personally, love comes from many sources;  family, friends,  work colleagues, interpersonal relationships,  support networks, exercise/fitness clubs, every day people that can often be taken for granted that we meet on trains, or tubes, or on aeroplanes or in the most random of circumstances.

There is no disconnection between the fact that isolation or being isolated from others can lead to feelings of loneliness and therefore lack of internal validation. We are not born to live dissociated lives from each other. But society can so easily distract us from what matters most I all of our lives.

So to conclude, I will again reinforce the value of human connection. The ability to communicate openly with those we love and endeavour to have a greater belief in ourselves as human beings, that there is always a positive solution to our pain if we take a step back and envisage what really matters to us.

For example, the economical crises over the past few years in UK and Ireland lead to an increase in male suicides. I’m no suicidologist, but the link between this increase and financial insecurity is fairly evident. I would endeavour to say in my own opinion that most of the male ‘ego’ is incorporated into one’s level of success and financial security,  so if this is threatened and the male visualised as the main provider in a family, for example may lose that, the ego and one’s sense of self worth is at risk of imploding. So too, is similar for divorced or separated men particularly, who may feel unable to express feelings of low self worth or rejection, or innate emotional helplessness and therefore feel overwhelmed , lonely and isolated unable to reach out due to fear or being perceived as weak or whatever they feel is ‘expected’ of them in terms of what they can provide.

I think the view is twisted. People are people. Human beings are all equal. And the one thing we all have in common is we all have the same blood flow.  So why should we be expected to conform to social expectation like puppets on a string for fear of those who may judge us or people that do not truly recognise the value that lies within us.

Are we as human beings not so much more valuable than this?

Imagine if we didn’t care what people thought of us. If it didn’t matter that we were going to lose our security or had suffered a relationship failure. Imagine if we didn’t have to live fearful lives or depressed live,  because we had a little faith in ourselves and the love of those around us.

Imagine if we believed that despite how impossible our circumstances appeared, in order of finding a way of escape, there was in fact resolution, that would enable us the strength to face what we fear most, instead of running away from it, growing as people as we dealt with that pain through coping strategies that gave us hope and a new sense of who we truly were which would enhance self worth and self growth and find a new sense of direction so much more powerful than what we had before. I believe this is a life worth living. You have a life worth living. Just look inside yourself and see yourself as a tree. Prune away the areas of your life that are not helping you, making you feel bad and giving you negative thoughts and focus on the areas of your life that make you feel good, that will allow you to grow in a more positive, meaningful and purposeful direction that you ever thought possible.

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