As Fiona and I started to think about how we wanted to recognise MHAW2020, we talked about vlogs and blogs and collaborations and we thought perhaps I could maybe do something?
I had a real sense of unease about this but I do a lot of writing to support my management of my anxiety. So I thought yeah I can do this.
However deciding what to do, or feeling strong enough to undertake doing it has been quite daunting for me. Its been a vulnerable task with filters off, but this is what felt right to share.
The theme for MHAW2020 is “Kindness” and it’s fair to say that when I saw this I was somewhat disappointed as I feel it’s an overused word and in the last wee while I’m not sure I have actually seen the masses being kind or demonstrating kindness. Although, this is understandable when we are all fearing COVID19 or are experiencing changes to our livelihood and being restricted in our day to day lives.
A difficult journey to kindness.
My own mental health has once again been challenged. In February we had our sixth pregnancy loss, with what we now know was a little girl. For those of you who have experienced any type of grief and particularly that for a child you will understand the grief associated with the lost hopes and dreams. Our fertility story is a long one and for another time but what has happened in the preceding two and a half months led me to be kind to myself.
We all went into lockdown exactly a month after our pregnancy loss. My husband was offshore and it was myself, my little girl and our dog at home. We were trying to get into a routine, I was trying to work. I felt overwhelmed and could not get a holiday from my thoughts in the evenings. My insomnia kicked in, my resilience was at an all-time low and I withdrew. I didn’t talk to anyone much, I asked my family not to call me, I think I spoke to my husband twice in 21 days which is not the norm for us.
My little girl would ask if I was sad and ask if I wanted to speak to daddy and get a cuddle from daddy. She is four and she told me “mummy you miss daddy? You will be fine when daddy gets home and gives us a cuddle”. She is the light in my life and on the dark days she kept me going.
I hid what I was going through from everyone by not talking, but they knew something wasn’t right.
I am very proud of our business and we are extremely lucky to have empathy and compassion for each other. As a result, Fiona and I offer each other so much support. Not so long-ago Fiona and I went on to a video call and I broke down. I described myself as being beaten and shared that the pregnancy loss and those that had gone before were front of my mind every moment of every day. Being in lockdown I had too much time in my own thoughts, I really felt broken and the emotional overwhelm was debilitating.
After a long conversation, with Fiona using all her Mental Health First Aid skills, as well as empathy, and friendship, I came off the phone with my own plan of what would happen next. That was to call my GP and seek some help. I really felt like I was experiencing a level of sadness that I hadn’t experienced before.
My GP, who is awesome by the way, always takes the time to talk to me and listens to what my wants and needs are around my mental health. Over the years, while managing my anxiety, I chose not to take medication because we were on our journey to increase our family. Now though, depression was cheating me from doing the single most important thing to me, being present with my husband, little girl, family and friends.
My GP diagnosed depression and I was prescribed medication. What a relief I felt. I was taking control and being true to myself that I needed a little help. The biggest act of kindness I could ever give to myself.
Medication isn’t for everyone, but for me at the moment it is helping. But more than that it is helping me be kind to myself whereas before I had no motivation.
So, what does being kind to myself mean? I have lots of tools in my tool box however, for me being kind to myself normally means supporting my emotional and physical health with my essential oils. It’s not witchcraft as my husband jokes, but again, it works for me.
I get to my desk, ground my feet and inhale and exhale, bringing awareness to my feelings and emotions. I then consult my oil bibles and choose oils to support my emotions to help me be productive throughout the day. I feel I always benefit from the use of my oils.
I also have to remind myself to be mindful. Mindfulness is a new practice for me, one which I’m now practising what I preach. Every day in my work we encourage leaders and individuals to be mindful to help them manage their own wellbeing and transform their leadership and culture.
So, what does Mindfulness mean to me?
I make every effort to practice 9 steps of mindfulness from Maria Gonzalez’s book “Mindful Leadership”
- Be present. This means I live in the moment. I aim to be in the now rather than look to the past or worrying about the future. This is tough when you manage anxiety but does work.
- Be aware. I take time to recognise what feelings and emotions are in my body each day. So I’m not blindsided or triggered by any of them and can put in place my coping strategies.
- Be calm. I try to do this so I don’t get overwhelmed and let the anxiety or sadness overpower my day.
- Be focused. This helps me concentrate and apply myself to whatever the task is at hand. I must be honest this can be difficult at times particularly when I’m fatigued.
- Be clear. If I don’t have clarity, I can’t make decisions or good choices.
- Be equanimous. Firstly, I had to look this up so I knew what it meant! What it means to me is that I accept “what is”, I focus on what I can influence and let go of what I cannot.
- Be positive. Very difficult for someone with anxiety and depression. However, I do try to practice gratitude, thankfulness and forgiveness each day when I write in my journal. It makes me smile and reminds me what is actually important in life.
- Be compassionate. I do MY best each and every day and value forgiveness in myself and always try and take the perspective of others so I can give to others and myself.
- Be impeccable. I don’t strive for perfection because I will never be perfect and my imperfections have been the architecture of my life. However, I do everything with integrity, honesty, courage, and I accept responsibility for my actions
However you define it, ‘being kind to yourself’ is so important, especially right now. We’re all different and we all have different ways of supporting our wellbeing. This is how I am being kind to myself. What does being kind to yourself mean to you? And, more importantly, how are you going to do it?