“Of course you should do it” my mammy had said . My husband too had given me his blessing. I explained to the boys what taking part would involve and once it was explained to my middle guy J, that he would not be required to speak on camera, he gave me his blessing too.
My friends laughed at me when I suggested I may be very nervous when the camera crew called , “Sure, you should be a pro at this stage. You will be fine Ger. This can only help you”.
This was to be the third time I allowed a camera crew into my life.
Like most people , if a camera crew are coming into your home to film you for a day, you clean the bejesus out of the house.
I cleaned and cleaned , then I gave them the instructions “Don’t film this, I didn’t get around to cleaning it” . That was our icebreaker ; me asking them not to film this or that.
They laughed and promised not to aim the camera at the places I had blacklisted.
They were as I expected; friendly, engaging and genuinely interested in me and my life.
By the end of our day of filming I had forgotten they were even in the house.
My youngest took a shine to the cameraman Ronan, who in between filming took the time to show him how the camera works and how he could hear me even though I was in the other room. Ronan, you may have heard some bad language when I was changing Ethan that night, but like a trooper you said absolutely nothing about it but did remind me to take off the mic before I went to the toilet …
The producer of the show Christine, was always a phone call away throughout the process ; she made it very clear that they were not in the business of adding to my stress – so , it was me who decided when I would see my mindfulness coach Sue , and I got to decide the best days to have a meet ups with Christine.
Mindfulness really wasn’t something I had tried before. I touched on it through counseling but never really dove into it.
Sue Redmond of ‘Unwrapping Brilliance’ sat with me for one and a half hours a week for eight weeks and showed me what mindfulness was all about.
We did mindful yoga ;Sue looked like an elegant bird perched on a branch without a care in the world, I was more like an elephant trying to do ballet . But as Sue encouraged me , I became ,over the eight weeks …stable…I won’t say elegant because that wouldn’t be true.
We did body scans which helped me refocus my mind to the parts of my body which I completely and utterly take for granted. The more I done these body scans the more I could forget about the constant pain in my back, shoulders and neck …I found that to be amazing. What I was doing was accepting that there was pain there and mentally being ok with it. I found that when I gave attention to my legs for example, I could no longer feel the neck, shoulder or back pain.
My favourite part of Sue’s course was meditation. Sue will probably kill me for this; but I could listen to her voice all day long . She is just so calming and softly spoken that her voice makes you want to be that way too.
Over the eight weeks , Sue brought me on a journey like never before ; I can’t help but say wonderful things about her and mindfulness because if you put your all into it, you do get it all back and more.
I did have a small panic throughout the eight week course due to Ethan having tremors at respite and school. I got a phone call to meet him and the respite staff at the doctors one Tuesday evening.
I was able to calm my mind and keep it calm all the way from Athenry to Galway city. I didn’t replay the word tremors over and over , I didn’t let my mind go to panic stations and death. (Because that is where my mind would have gone , death is always lurking around in my mind)`Instead , I watched the cows with wonder as my father drove the country roads back to Galway.
My panic attack came a day later. That’s me and my panic; she likes to show up after the situation has passed.
I was able through breathing and keeping my mind on my breathing to calm myself down. I didn’t get sick. I didn’t have to ring my husband. I didn’t have to get my 13 year old to help me up the stairs..I sat with the knowledge that this was a panic attack and it will pass but until it does it is me who is in control. My mind was not allowed to wander into more panic . I forced it to stay on my breathing.
And it passed.
I was so excited to tell Sue all about it at our next session.
The camera crew showed up here and there to do a few more interviews and filming , by then I was used to seeing them and kind of looked forward to it.
I had no idea that I would be putting mindfulness to the test , while it was mentioned I didn’t think much about it.
Ian Roberston (who is a neuroscientist ,a clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology; aka a very very intelligent man; I was a tad intimidated by him, but I really shouldn’t have been, he was wonderful) was on hand to help explain what I was going to be doing , one week after I finished my eight week course with Sue.
Ian was very gentle with me and explained that there was no pressure, they simply just wanted to monitor my brain while I did a few mindfulness exercises .
You’ll have to watch the show to find out what my results were but , what I will tell you is ; I had no clue that the camera was that close to me while I was in my mindful ‘zone’ – I did have a giggle about that with Christine and Sue while the show aired late last week on RTE one.
The whole experience for me was absolutely amazing, nerve wracking at times and very eye opening.
I think the most nervous I had been through this process was speaking to Ray D’Arcy from the Rte Studio in Galway while he and Jennifer O’Connell (the amazing presenter of the show “Stressed” – who by the way did everything us volunteers did and more. I have to say, watching her keep her hand in ice cold water had my stress levels up, well done Jennifer for that one, especially ) and another volunteer John were in the Rte Studio in Dublin.
I couldn’t see them but could hear them, I found that hard but then I quickly did some deep breathing (away from the mic) and got over my nerves and really enjoyed speaking to them all and listening to Jennifer especially, as she had done all the science behind stress too; which by the way is fascinating.
After that it was all done and my Tuesday mornings were my own again.
I’ll miss seeing Sue but I will continue with all she has so kindly shown me .
I’ll miss Christine who kindly came all the way from Dublin on a Sunday for Ethans birthday party two weeks ago . (There she is In the picture below, delighted with meeting Santa and Ethan )
I will also miss Tom, Seamus and Ronan who were always so friendly , upbeat and well able to laugh ; I won’t miss the camera though !
I think Lola will miss them all too; she did take a shine to Tom who was trying to ask me questions on camera but Lola kept jumping on his lap and demanding attention. Poor Seamus then had the job of keeping her quiet, which didn’t work out and that is how Lola ended up sitting on my lap during the interview, she is indeed currently enjoying her five seconds of fame.
I would like to thank Firebrand , who are the production company behind the programme “Stressed”. (They also did ‘Autism And Me’ , which I adored and felt like they really let the people tell their individual truth about Autism)
This was definitely one of my better ideas and I am eternally grateful to Sue for bringing mindfulness into my life and a tad proud of myself for keeping mindfulness in my life.
I have learned that stress is here to stay ; it is how I personally deal with it that can improve my relationship with stress …Panic , anxiety and all those ‘lovely’ feelings that come along with my stress can be managed , can be to a certain degree controlled and I am delighted to now have the tools to do this for myself .
Below a picture of Tom, my youngest and Ronan all ‘editing’ late one evening during filming .