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Blog Mental Health Musings Poetry

Mental Health Awareness Week

As it’s the start of Mental Health Awareness Week I thought I would share this poem I wrote earlier this year. 2020 has been a challenging year hasn’t it.

Threshold

At the threshold of sleep
Falling asleep and waking
I encounter the biggest challenge.

To step over that threshold
Is like a giant leap for mankind
Not a small step of ease.

But the threshold serves a purpose
To contain the scattered grains
Which are beaten loose on the threshing floor

Just like the thoughts in my mind
Which are sent flying by the hard blows
And I am grateful that they are contained.

To take a step, even ever so slight,
Upwards and lift one’s foot
Is a great action indeed.

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Blog Mental Health Musings Philosophy Poetry

Shocks to the System

Poetry is beautiful and I couldn’t live without it. Sometimes though it feels like an isolating pursuit because generally I tend to read and meditate on poetry in solitude, particularly when I’m getting to grips with the subtleties of Gaelic poetry which I have to look up in the dictionary. It can feel doubly isolating when you feel as if you have been ostracised by your peers, not in all circumstances but in certain aspects. Yes, poetry can be a social activity and there are plenty of events happening in the literary world which one can go to, if there is the opportunity, unhampered by responsibilities or financial constraints.

Isolation is a state which causes vulnerability to the knocks which life can sometimes hit you with. Shocks to the system are best handled when you have a nurturing and supportive network of relationships such as family, friends and colleagues, in short, a community. And community is really important, perhaps even as important as poetry.

Philosophy Brings Strength

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Blog Mental Health Psychology

World Mental Health Day

As it is World Mental Health Day I just thought I’d share a bit on my blog. I have had personal experience of this and it is something which I realise has been a feature all of my adult life. I had my lowest point when I was admitted to hospital (the only time I’ve ever been an inpatient) and thankfully through the support of family, friends and the NHS I have steadily been recovering. I have been on medication for a long time and I’ve also had counselling, all of which were provided by the NHS. I would have found it impossible to have done it all privately. Ironically I also trained as a medical herbalist so I found it very tough reconciling my desire to stay true to my training as a herbalist and use plant based medicines with the necessity for me to take the conventional medicines I was prescribed by my consultant psychiatrist and GP. But it was necessary and sometimes you just have to accept that.

Acceptance has been a key feature in all of my recovery. I think a lot of the major triggers and eventual breakthroughs were based on the fact there were things I felt frustrated in not being able to do but that eventually I had to accept I had no influence over. Counseling was a key feature in coming to realise, through talking to someone who would listen, that I have a complex psychological makeup that is influenced by many, many relationships, both from the past and the present and even from the past through generations. Medication alone cannot help you to realise these insights as you have to work through them and the best way to do that is through dialogue and self-reflection.

I have also come to the conclusion as well that although each of us experiences our mental states individually, and thus we feel the phenomenon of mental health or disease, that we are also part of a larger society which exerts an influence on us and our mental states and therefore we are not wholly responsible for them. I like the analogy in Scots Gaelic where emotions or illness are described as “on” you, as if they come from something beyond you which is pressed upon your being not from your own volition. This is why in our age we also have a responsibility to recognise that what we put out there will come back to us in one way or another. To express it another way, we are all building a society and what we choose to build will have positive or negative repercussions. In my youth, the society was very self-centred, egotistical and materialistic. Not much has changed you might think. However it has changed a great deal because now we are seeing the consequences of that attitude which is causing climate change and environmental destruction and the current younger generation are seeing these effects as well as experiencing the attitudes which caused them. Little wonder then that the young people of today are also struggling with mental illness which seems to start earlier and is even more intense.

So, how to solve the crisis? Or how to solve the many crises? Because they seem to be inextricably interlinked. Investment and services for young peoples’ mental health is not enough on its own. That is merely trying to put a plaster on a scratch that is being continuously affected by a source of infection, like a dirty shard of rotten wood. The shard must be removed and the wound cleaned before it is dressed. Or to put it more directly, our harmful society of greed, hate-fuelled invective, both online and in person, and violence towards the vulnerable must be transformed before we can tackle the long lasting trauma on peoples’ minds this causes.

However this being said, if you are experiencing a mental health crisis right now, do something about it. Talk to someone or go to see a medical professional. Things will get better but it takes time. And if you know someone who is struggling then help them out and don’t ignore their suffering because we all need some support. Don’t feel that you can’t offer a hand because sometimes just having a chat can help. And to the wider world, don’t stigmatise people who are suffering from mental health problems, because until it is recognised that mental illness affects people in the workplace and in society generally it will continue unabated.