It’s no secret that 2016 into 2017 was the lowest point of my life, but also the best. I was fortunate enough to be struck down with poor mental health. How the heck can that be a fortunate thing? It allowed me to step back from my chaotic life, see it for what it was, and do something to make it my own.
Let me make it clear here that under no circumstances do I suggest you force yourself into a place where you have to suffer with poor mental health. It is so debilitating and the fact that our country still has such a stigma around it infuriates me beyond belief.
It’s a well-known fact that if you were in a wheelchair, had cancer, or were otherwise physically afflicted, there would be more support and care out there. Before anybody leaps down my neck, I’ve family members who have and are going through each of the aforementioned so I’m not completely speaking out of turn. With a physical condition, people can see it or at least understand it and tend to show sympathy, compassion, understanding. The uninformed see those with poor mental health as dangerous, unstable, suicidal, a threat to others, and not worth being around. Maybe they’re contagious.
I’m lucky. I really am. So mental health crept up on me, hit me with its massive stick and made me want to crawl under a rock for ever more. Enter Mind, and Restore. Two fantastic charities that, were it not for them, I wouldn’t have got my life back on track. I’m grateful too for family and true friends. Why specify TRUE? Because there are far too many people who when I was in my darkest times said they didn’t contact me because they didn’t want to make me worse. Really?! True friends were the ones who did contact me and asked me how I was, whether I needed anything, did I actually want to be bothered, kept things normal. One sure fire way to know whether somebody with poor mental health needs support or wants you there is to ask them. Many will tell you, because, yes, you guessed it, they’re not insane and to be confined to the mad house.
What did I want a year ago? I wanted my illness to go away. Leave me alone. Whoever you are, remember, poor mental health is an illness. That’s all it is. People fall ill with mental health in exactly the same way you contract the flu. It grabs you, it hurts you, it makes you feel worthless, and you just want it to clear off and go away.
Since my low point, which turned out to subsequently be a high point, I’ve regained my life, I’m off the meds, I quit a thankless job, I went self-employed, I gained a part-time job alongside this, I’ve worked with amazing people, I completed my degree (with a 2:1, which I never even dreamed I’d get), I’ve been on networking events and courses, worked with amazing people, been approached by others to help them, including big charities, started a youth club which just today (three months after opening) received a Quality Assurance Award, and have had time to enjoy life doing what I want, when I want. All the way along, the TRUE friends have remained, but having recently become a Mental Health First Aider, and also joined the training team at Oxfordshire’s Recovery College (for mental health), I’ve been able to do what is missing in nearly everybody’s lives. The chance to be creative.
We all get so consumed by using the left hemisphere of our brain, which deals with the day to day logics of life, that we switch off and lose the use of the right hemisphere, which is assigned to creative tasks. You know, they’re the ones that let the imagination run wild, allow it to explore, excite the senses, relax. Why would you want to switch that wonderful part of the brain off and not use it? Why would you not want to use one half of your brain?
Creativity is inside all of us. Some of us aren’t as creative as others, we need a bit more help. Others of us are more creative than we realise but are so stuck in a rut, it’s easy enough to trundle through life doing, well, the same old thing.
It wasn’t until recently when I was given permission, by a course I attended, but also by my inner self, to take time and be creative. I got back into creative writing. I felt wonderful, but then just this morning, it happened again. I’d signed up for a workshop a few weeks ago. I woke up this morning and didn’t want to go. Was I slipping back? Possibly, but the big black dog of disablement wasn’t having his own way this time. I forced myself out of the house and the fruits of my labour can be seen in the picture above. I created, for the first time ever, a Christmas wreath. This one is with a difference though and I’ll tell you what it is if you really want to know, but you have to contact me – tee hee. What a tease!
Wherever you find yourself in life at the moment, whether it’s a good place, a not so good place, or somewhere in between, be creative. Stop, let your mind be free. Take up a hobby you’ve not done for a while. Don’t listen to any inner demons telling you you can’t do something. If you want to do it, darn well go out and do it. Be brave, be strong. Each of you has it within you. Take control. Something as simple as colouring or taking pictures can give a new perspective on life. Slow life down and enjoy it. It’s a truly marvellous thing that we should embrace. You never know where it will lead you if you do.
Have a great Christmas and New Year.