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Beachy Head

This week I decided to explore the area that inspired my passion towards suicide prevention. Beachy Head-Eastbourne, which has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world according to statistics.

I write the following blog in memory of all those who have chosen to end their lives at this landmark;

I first visited the landmark in 2008 by accident when travelling around the south coast with my mother. I was aware that it is in fact a recognised beauty spot, but she neglected to tell me of it’s far more darker appeal. The memory of that day is still imprinted within my mind and I shall never forget it.

As I admired the spectacular coastline, I became aware of a continuous pattern of flowers, benches with individuals names inscribed on them, memorials all scattered along the path that marked the edge of the cliff.

I decided to take a few steps closer towards the looming edge of the clifftop and my heart sank as I saw the rusty shell of a car all crumpled up, desolate on the ledge of the lower cliff below. I was paralysed with horror when I realised it wasn’t just a well known beauty spot, but also a notorious suicide spot.

This week I wanted to visit Beachy Head to remind myself of why I chose my path in life, why I became a mental health nurse and why I feel suicide prevention is of paramount importance.

As I stood close to the edge , I tried to imagine how it must feel to want life to end. The utter hopelessness, desperation, entrapment of life.

I believe life  is such a precious , valuable and wonderful God given gift, it is difficult to comprehend why anyone would want to wilfully terminate it.

However in that moment, I reflected upon times in my own life when I had felt those feelings, as I speak as honestly as I can to reach out to those who may be feeling this way .

But when I have felt this way; the feelings that consumed me were feelings of being suffocated by my own sense of self with nowhere to run, rationally (to the outside world), there is always an apparent ‘way out’ , but when you are in that mind set everything that is negative and dark about the world become encompassing to a point that death actually appears appealing.

I once went through a really tough time for over a year when I seriously imagined death would be better than being alive, I visited the local cathedral , lit a candle , said a prayer and thought about how I could rid myself of my own feelings of self hatred and inadequacy. My own failures and inability to overcome everything that was going on around me, my desire to ‘self destruct’ when I could not manage my inner emotions.

Suddenly , after praying, I visited the church gift shop and picked up a book, the words said something along the lines of ‘when you die you don’t feel anything bad, but you can’t feel the good either’.

I am not sure what I think of this statement, because I believe in God and I believe in heaven.

But all I thought about was those precious things that filled my life with happiness,

my beautiful nephews and niece laughing , my family, my friends, and the people I had met in my life that always believed in me and told me to keep going.

To anyone reading this who feels sad in life or is struggling, let me reassure you;

I understand how it feels to be rejected by those around you, feel inadequate , a failure , feel worthless, humiliated, criticised, used, hopeless , frustrated, like everyone is judging you and laughing at you.  And I know many of these things have contributed to my own self destruction. My own need for approval from others, validation that I have a purpose that I am worth something.

Many people try to prove this through material possessions, cars, houses, clothes, levels of success, wealth, I myself am guilty of this because it is how the world has skewed people’ sense of their own self worth. And so people become followers of the same crowd, of the same shepherd , like lost sheep without and idea of there path and the consequences of there destination. I never met anyone with enough money, who didn’t always want more.

But I always met people who never complained about being loved, because you cannot measure love, not true love. And if we all had love around us in the world perhaps we wouldn’t measure ourselves up against parameters none of us can ever meet.

Except the one thing that gives me hope and a sense of self worth, is focussing on spiritual things. Beyond superficial , fickle, competitive ideals of this word.

I try to focus on a spiritual world, which I do believe exists where only unconditional love prevails.

So in conclusion these are the things I believe have got me through life,

My faith in God-spirituality

The people around me who TRULY care, love and accept me, not for any other motivation except for the goodness of there own hearts.

Meditation

Knowing that I have a purpose in the world, as we all do; not of a self seeking , materialistic nature but more of an altruistic purpose which I believe we were all born to have. To use our own pain and hurts to help others .

So ;

If I was the person on that cliff edge this is what I would want someone to say to me ;

STOP

Take some deep breaths

Relax

Meditate on the people in your life who you love care for and value .

Think about how much they love you and how much you mean to them.

Try and talk to someone you trust and tell them how you feel, try to avoid people you think will be judgmental, negative or critical towards you, but gravitate towards kind, warm and empathetic people, if you look carefully you will find them in your life, like little beacons of light.

Like the view from the cliff top, you can look down and see the abyss, or you can look forward and you’ll see the lighthouse.

Try to contact a helpline; Samaritans, Papyrus . (Phone numbers are available on this site or google them)

See your GP if you feel at all low in mood or simply ‘not yourself’ – be honest with yourself

Most of all we all are born with a choice, to allow negativity , hatred, the insecurities of others flood into our lives and erode our own sense of self worth because they are fragile themselves. Because we live in a world that I believe has lost it’s ability to love in some respects…but it can still be found if we look in the right places, in the hearts of the right people.

We need to stand up and fight as human beings and know our own value and self worth. We are created with value and purpose and one of my favourite biblical quotes is this;

‘I know the thoughts I think towards you, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope .’ (Jeremiah 29:11).

At my darkest moments I cling to this the most with faith and trust in God and I hope that if you are reading this with a sad heart, you will find love and goodness in your life too. Avoid people who you feel bad around, no one should ever make you feel bad. You are worth more than that, once you know your own self worth you will realise that how precious you are as it also  says in the bible ;

 

‘Do not throw your pearls to the pigs ‘ Matthew 7:6.

I think there is a very symbolic meaning in this about valuing one self and steering clear of people who don’t love, value or respect you as you truly are.

They will never recognise true worth because they are far too focussed on other things. Birds of a feather flock together (so my mum always said!)

I’ve learnt that lesson many times and it has always made me a stronger more focussed individual.

Believe in yourself, self worth and own inner strength and as you pray and believe , you will get stronger, just don’t give up, because every thing has a season, and no season lasts forever, the sunshine follows the moon, spring follows winter, its a cycle of growth , cultivation and new life.

I hope somehow this will resonate with some who read it and I pray you gain something positive from it.

Most of all I really pray for every individual who never found an answer to their inner pain and torment , I pray for their souls that they may now have found the peace they were is so much desperation for and for the families that somehow they may find some comfort in believing that those they loved are now in peace in a world no one could comprehend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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