Take Your Time

Take your time and drench your pillows in it.
Let the tears flow like rain.
Take your time and feel the pain, will you
Let it wash over you in waves
Wounds heal with time
This too shall pass
When walking through the valley of the shadow of death
Let it be

Routes to healing

Art by Elena Gaul

Three routes to healing
1. You must let the pain visit
2. You must let it teach you
3. You must not let it overstay
– Ijeoma Osike Umebinyuo

Journaling saved my life. For real. Because the route to healing involves sitting with yourself, listening to where it hurts, asking your pain the right questions so you learn why it hurts and finding ways to be in care with yourself so you can heal the hurt and replace it with something else – something good.

Therapy allows you to do all of this through talking to someone who is trained in the art of healing and can guide you in your introspection, help you figure yourself out. Journaling allows you to do the same thing by pulling out your thoughts and feelings, putting them on paper so you can better see and untangle them by yourself.

I have kept many electronic journals during my journey to wellness. I love them for the ability to customize how I re-organise the chaos in my head and lock  away the horrors of my heart with a secure password.

You can also track your moods with smileys or words and get a better sense of what your happy/sad ratio is. This is especially important because feeling sad is a normal feeling for all of us and generally a 60/40 ratio between positive feelings and the negative is considered healthy.

I highly recommend making journaling a part of your life if you want to be well and happy. It’s a really good way to get to know yourself, to pick up things that are stressing you and start to find healthy ways of dealing with them. And if you are not much of a writter most journal apps let you record voice instead.

What’s not to like?

Well & Good

Art by Elena Gaul

I was looking back on my journey with wellness over the last couple of years and marvelling at it all. The things I had to learn about trauma & healing. The unlikely connections I made with others who were struggling and in the pursuit of happiness too. The calm waters I have found right here amidst all the chaos. We don’t talk enough about the things that keep us awake at night, that drive us to drink, the things that break us and how we can overcome all of that and flourish.

This week I will share parts of my journey in a series of blog posts. I want to tell you about the things I have learnt and the wonderful people I have met.

Maybe this could be start of a beautiful conversation and healthier lives for us all. Because I really want for us all to be well and good in every possible way.

In the words of Gabrielle Union, “We are going to need more wine.”


The soles of her feet

I had a bit of a moment as I was taking an evening bath the other day. An epiphany of sorts. The kind of sudden realisation that feels like divine revelation and can be completely life altering if you let it. The thing happened as I was scrubbing my feet, banal as that may sound, I swear something absolutely profound happened. Let me tell you.

Self love is a funny thing with me in that it’s seasonal. Sometimes I am so in love with me and taking great care of myself, happy and at peace. During these times I take long elaborate baths and love on myself with scented products, salts and all the paraphernalia of self care. When I feel down, fat and ugly the lack of love shows in my routine. Most days I can barely drag myself through the shortest of baths. The thing that suffers most of all during these down seasons is my feet. One look at the soles of my feet can tell you all you need to know about my state of mind.

So with the hope to turn a particularly shitty day around I planned a long, elaborate bath. Doing the complete opposite of what you are feeling has a way of making you feel different. As I soaked, washed and scrubbed, a heaviness I had been feeling began to melt away. My head cleared. My muscles let up and in the excitement of it all I set about tending to my feet.

And while I was massaging them I felt so loved, so taken care off. I mean, touch is definitely a love language here. Then it occurred to me how long it had been since I did this for myself and what that says about how I have been feeling about myself. If tending to myself makes me feel so loved then taking time to give TLC to my feet , which I care zero for, is the ultimate act of love isn’t it? Caring for the least is the ultimate care there is, it’s a high form of love for the self.

In that moment I realised there’s a love we give to ourselves that’s due to even the parts of ourselves that we hate. The ability to do that consistently shows just healed we are, how whole we are as we move through this life. I have a ways to go here but I am starting. A daily practice was born out of this experience.

Shedding fatigue

They said after hardship comes ease
So I toiled and waited
Still nothing
Now I want to shed this fatigue
It’s heavy and doesn’t feel like it’s meant for me

Learning to breath

When you are co-dependent, it’s always about the other person. Always about “us”. You get so used to putting others first, you see, that it feels as natural as breathing. Only you do it for a lover, a friend, for family, for the collective.

When you expect others to put you first always the way you do for them and they don’t return the energy you give it makes you angry. Except it’s unnatural for anyone to love like you do. Can you really ask it of another?

When it’s you who feels like you are underwater and running out of breath it’s you that has to come up for air. It’s you that’s gotta breath or die.

So you make a mad dash for the surface. You come up gasping, lungs burning fit to burst. You take one hungry gulp of fresh air, and then another, inhale, exhale, choke! Inhale again, exhale. Learning to breath for yourself, just yourself.

After a while you look around and realise the lovers, the friends, family, the collective – they are all doing just fine. This entire time you were breathing for everybody, making sacrifice after sacrifice, stretching beyond your limit, they could cope by their own damn self!

My weekly mental reboot

As the days blur into each other even more and we wonder how that is even possible I have been thinking about how to transition between the weeks in a meaningful way. Often we just move from Sunday to Monday with all the buggage and hangover of everything we dealt with and felt the previous week. As a result we carry all our stress and anxiety into the new week and stain the experience.

I could not find a ready made system for processing things, making peace with them and exorcising ourselves beyond the usual “What worked?”, “What didn’t work?” and “What are the lessons learnt?” framework. I am desperate for something that digs deeper though and surfaces all the turmoil of our being not just the doing.

So I looked to positive psychology and the narrative therapy technique. This technique is based on understanding that reality is relative to how we interpret it. In the end reality is the narrative we tell ourselves based on how we see things. So for example a negative performance review to one person may cue need for improvement while to another it means they are failure and triggers anxiety.

Taking time to actually look back at what our story is about what happened in the week, whether how we perceived things holds true, deconstructing problems to actually see the issues behind happenings and thinking through alternative narratives could be a great way to reboot as each week ends.

By definition rebooting is restarting the operating system in order to allow a machine to work normally again. When you reboot the machine runs all initiation processes again and correct errors. There are many errors that come up in how we interpret the world around us and how we see ourselves in the world. Our minds need to reboot regularly in order to correct these.

I have developed a very simple weekly reboot that involves reflecting honestly on the following questions every Sunday evening or Monday morning latest:

1. How did the week go? What happened?

2. What did I achieve and what helped me reach these milestones? Where did I drop the ball and what was the problem?

3. What made me feel good? What can I do to feel this way more often?

4. What were my triggers? How can I handle them better next time?

5. What occupied my head space? How did it influence me and how I showed up in different aspects of my life?

6. What am I looking forward to next week? What am I going to do to make it happen?

My hope is that by sifting through our narrative about each week we get to see where we got it twisted, detangle the tale and craft a new narrative for the next week. This way we show up empty and ready to write a new chapter every week. This way we make peace with the happenings and feelings of life as we go and can put them to bed so they do not interfere with the new as we forge ahead on this journey of life.

This is all still very new in my head, of course and untested. It will likely improve as we go. Give it a try if you are interested in moving through life free of baggage and let me know how it goes.

Letting go of stress

I took a stress test today. Rather reluctantly I must say. And the score left me shook, more shook than I have been in a while. I went from lazily responding “so-so” when asked how I am doing to “Oh Gosh, I need to do something about this!!! in an hour. And I am so glad for the wake up call.

You see, I keep a digital diary that also has a mood tracker and gives weekly and monthly overviews. Looking at it I had been noticing more “Meh” days than “Good” or “Rad” days lately. But we are in the middle of a pandemic, right – and economic recession. Nobody is really doing okay, frankly. Add into that the myriad tiny details of my own life. So I hadn’t really been giving much weight to all the strain I have been taking.

Don’t ask how I am unless you are prepared to hear the truth

When asked how I am doing I have been replying very honestly “Hanging in there. Literally.” Because I have been hanging by a thread, barely holding on in actual fact. Today a friend suggested I take a stress test and I did – my results were off the charts. As in almost 200 points past the highest score! Complete with a tense warning to see a specialist for treatment.

Naturally bring told you are stressed us stressful right?! So for a while there I just felt worse.

After that sunk in I took a couple of hours reflecting on how I got here. Thinking of how to let go of this stress and become more peaceful and happy. Naturally, I surfed the net for answers but all the sites I came across give the same advice:

1. Sleep more

2. Eat more healthy meals

3. Exercise

4. Meditate/pray/yoga

5. Connect with family and friends

6. Practice self care

It all seems such fluff right now and not helping me much with what I need to do next if I am to slide this veil of heaviness off of my shoulders.

I am going to begin searching for peace and calm. Searching for more practical ways in which we can let go of stress and find joy from day to day.

I am not Ok, Ok: Thoughts on Depression

I had everything a girl could want. Or so it seemed.

I had graduated university. Immediately got a job. Lived in a big house and had just bought a car. I had a beautiful family. A man that loved me to bits. Yet there I was sitted in my car watching the sun set, money in the bank, Brazilian weave and all – crying my lungs out and wishing I was dead.

I thought of my kids. Thinking of those you love who would miss you if you were no more is supposed to help. It didn’t .

I tried positive affirmations. Those are supposed to make you feel better. Right? They didn’t.

As a last resort I prayed. Soul rending, heart felt prayer accompanied by groaning of the spirit. Then I waited .

I waited to feel better. Waited to hear a still quiet voice say everything would be okay. Still nothing.

So I wiped my years, put on lipstick, drove home and got back to playing happy families.

I was in this state for years. For a while would be semi-fine then on and off the waves of despair would hit me and drag me under. I focused all of my energy on going through the motions. Invested my effort into being to loved ones what they needed me to be. Happy, strong, carefree and all that.

I locked my negative feelings away in a corner in my heart and hung the key on a long chain around my neck. I had managed to get over myself I figured. Settled into the numbness and thought I was winning.

But feelings are things. Live, breathing organisms. Monsters. Beasts. You can only cage them so long.

Things came to a head a couple of years later after I added into my hurt locker a second bout of post natal depression, burnout and a massively stressful job. I became very ill and the depression took over my life, finally.

I couldn’t sleep and when I did I didn’t want to wake up.

Getting up in the morning became my biggest struggle. I had no reason to get out of bed. No motivation to get up and go. All the usual “think about your family, they need you” nonsense wasn’t working for me.

I found myself sitting in a food court one day waiting for my order tears streaming down my face. I wanted to shout at the top of lungs – I am not ok, I am not ok, I am not ok until my voice got hoarse.

Doctor prescribed medicine. Friends advised natural remedies. Others prayed with me. Mr Man was googling testimonies of survivors and how they made it through the darkness I was ok in.

I tried exercise. Diet changes. You name it. Nothing.

Earlier this year, 2019, I went in to the GP with yet another headache and a long list of physical ailments as usual. The doctor that I saw was new and really looked at my file with fresh eyes and interest. For half an hour we spoke about my medical history, my life and this constant hollowness that accompanied me everywhere.

“You know what? I think you are clinically depressed. I am going to refer you to a psychologist” she said.

“Well, I am a psychologist you know. It’s just going to feel strange having another person in my head” I replied in a cheap attempt at humour.

Honestly speaking I was horrified that someone had finally called my feeling but her name. Depression. And if I was to get past this I had to do the work.

In the months since then I haven’t seen a psychologist but I have done some things that got me out of the woods.

1. Break the silence

The thing with depression is it will have you sit in dark corners drenching your carpet in tears alone and take you away from conversations with people. Part of the reason why seeing a shrink helps is they get you to talk. And that’s half the battle. You get out of the dark into the light when you talk about what you are going through. You squeeze the pus out off your emotional wounds when you share what’s on your heart.

Initially I started opening up to a few trusted friends about my condition. They got it. Imagine!

When I shared publicly for the first time on a Facebook page I had created just to get my thoughts out off my head there was such an outpouring of love I was amazed so many people cared. And you won’t believe the number of people who sent #metoo messages. People struggling with the exact same demons I was. Just knowing this was such a weight off of my shoulders.

2. Identifying the root of the problem

The best way to kill weeds is of course to pull them out by the root! I had never really thought about how the depression started, what may have caused it or was fuelling it. But if we look at our lives we can see the patterns so clearly. Be it rejection, failure, hard knocks – if you take the time to look back at your life you can see what the significant moments have been where you were lifted up or pulled down.

I did this kind of reflection and it sobered me up real fast. I realised I had taken quite a lot of very hard knocks and my mental state was actually okay for a person going through all of that with no break. I was finally able to say, “Hey it’s been tough but you are still standing. Good going girl!” and give myself a high five.

3. Cut yourself some slack

After learning to call my depression what it was and acknowledging what led to it something profound happened for me. I was finally able to cut myself some slack. Given the circumstances I was doing mighty fine actually. With that new understanding I made a decision to shift my focus to creating the happiness that I want in my life.

4. Project Happiness

I am in a phase of creation now. Visioning new dreams, new future plans, finding new interests . It is an interesting experience. Did you know we can create happy feelings? I would wake up dreading the day then put on my favourite upbeat music to listen to as I forced myself through my morning routine. Everyday bathe, pretty up, make the bed, eat breakfast, get some sun. Someway into the ritual I would find myself singing along, dancing even. Because music is my first love. I am addicted to the bass and ever ready to sing along

This post would be in complete if I did not talk about prayer. In my long winter I swung from prayer warrior to cynic to almost atheist and back again. Amazing thing in all of it was I prayed for peace, joy, happiness and my very sanity but didn’t seem to get any answer. My existence continued to be one long flat E. But I would pray for others and get immediate answers and elaborate dreams. Looking back I realise I was where I needed to be. Sometimes we are in God’s workshop and he is taking us apart to put us back together again. He is kicking us across the river to greener pastures. Sometimes He is carrying you across the valley so you can get to the peak with the lovely view on the other side.

May you grow from whatever you are going through and someday share testimony of how you made it – how God saw you through.

Be blessed.

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