She greeted me with a warm handshake.
I smiled, unsure of what I had signed up for.
She asked had I ever done this before, to which I replied once but not as intensive as this course had promised to be.
Over the years I have tried a few things to help myself cope with the stress and anxiety which I have.
People tell me “Don’t forget to make time for you too”; and that is probably the hardest part of my life. Making time for me. Just me.
I wanted to be able to make time for myself and to mind myself but every single time I tried, floods of guilt would open up and ravish through my mind then my body – are the kids being looked after? Did I spend enough of my respite time with them too? Am I selfish?
With the guilt came mind wondering.
I don’t know about you folks but when I am alone and having time for myself my mind starts reminding me of everything I should have done before I left the house or it reminds me of all the things I have to do after I have had time for myself.
These thoughts can go on and on until they become quite mean Oh you are such a selfish mother! Are you even a real mother if you’ve time to be sitting doing nothing? Oh really, how lazy were you that you didn’t put on that wash before you left, you should have…. Did you even think about Ethan and that tickle cough he has today?
I got tired of this behaviour towards myself. I wondered was there a way in which I could be kinder to me. Yes me. And if there was a way I could have ‘me time’ without all of my usual guilt.
This is what lead me to her.
We sat. She shared a little about herself with me then asked what I believed “mindfulness” was all about.
The truth was I didn’t really know. I thought it was “hippy dippy” stuff but worth trying all the same.
Eight weeks later with one and a half hour sessions each week; I can tell you what “mindfulness” means to me.
It for me was about calming my mind. Learning how to be in the moment, really be in it by taking a step back and noticing all the wonderful things we are often far too busy to acknowledge or worse, we take for granted. Even a cold drink on a hot day.
I learned how to let my mind go into those awful thoughts I have about Ethan and our life without him; and how to be with such horrible feelings yet I was able to accept them but let them go.
I learned to understand that inner voice which says nasty things to me; I now know that those are fleeting thoughts that carry no weight unless I allow them to.
Why do we speak so unkindly to ourselves? We would never say even a quarter of what we say to ourselves to the ones we love, or even to strangers. Why do we allow those thoughts to burrow into our minds?
With mindfulness I can see those thoughts for what they are, simply a learned reaction; which I am changing daily through meditation.
When we are told to look after ourselves and reminded that if we don’t mind ourselves we can’t care for our children, I don’t think people realise that a spa treatment isn’t the solution; while that’s always welcome.
I think we all need to be saying things like – look after your mind too, your mental health. It doesn’t matter which way you chose to look after your mental health, find something that works for you and stick with it.
It is worth it.
I myself, see a counselor, practice mindfulness and up until a few months ago I was taking medication – my panic attacks were so severe that I believed I was dying.
Today however, I understand that while I will always have stress and anxiety in my life, that they can be managed through mindfulness exercises, by talking and for me personally writing.
There are no cure for mental health issues but there is help.
There are ways to learn to live with mental health issues. We don’t need to be clinging on to the cliffs edge saying “we are coping” while hoping our grip doesn’t loosen.
It’s 2018; there’s nothing wrong with saying “my mental health wasn’t too good there for a while but I am in control again” or “I am not coping. I need help.”
If there is one thing I would like you, the reader to take away from this, it’s this: Life is beautiful, hard, sad and brilliant – we all take hits but remember we each have a bat too – hit back, smile and do indeed dance in the rain.
This was originally published on Firefly