Anzac Day for me, as for all Australians and New Zealanders, is a day for reflection, remembrance and gratitude.
Like many, I think about the millions that paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for our freedom. Additionally, I also think of those who survived and came home, many with physical and often debilitating injuries, and without doubt, the emotional lives of all of our returned services personnel were and continue to be changed forever.
In addition to the physical scars, they carry the emotional and mental scars. After World War I and II they called it ‘shell shock’, more recently we’ve become to know this as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and more recently, the move to replacing the negative connotation and the word ‘disorder’ and calling it Pots Traumatic Stress Reaction (PTSR).
For me personally, each year I use the day to remember my family and friends that have proudly served, and continue to serve in the armed forces. Furthermore, I remember those friends and colleagues from my policing career in Cheshire Constabulary and Western Australian Police who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving on ‘the thin blue line’ proudly protecting lives, property and public safety.
At the same time I’m also grateful for all of the emergency services personal that go to battle everyday on our streets, often facing the worse that society can throw at them, for our safety and wellbeing.
I am extremely proud to have served in the Royal Navy, Cheshire Constabulary and Western Australian Police, honoured to have worn the uniform alongside my friends and colleagues; whom many of which I will hold dear for the rest of my life.
I read an article over this week in The West Australian written by my friend Tasha Broomhall - Director and Mental Health Strategist at Blooming Minds https://bloomingminds.com.au
In the article I wasn’t surprised to learn that suicide rates increase by 13% when personnel have left the armed services and that unemployment rates are 5 times higher for services personnel after leaving the services. Read the full article here: https://www.pressreader.com/australia/the-west-australian/20180425/281865824077519
This made me wonder how many of our veterans and emergency services workers past and present practice ‘Self-Forgiveness’?
I haven’t done any research into this, but I would take a guess based upon my own experience and my interaction with veterans and former emergency service workers that the number would be quite low. Additionally, when attending the PTS17 Conference last year in Brisbane, working on improvements for personnel 'transitioning' from the services is now at the forefront of the Australian Defence Force.
This year, I chose Anzac Day to commence the next chapter of my personal re-discovery as part of my mental fitness recovery, through the practice of ‘Self-Forgiveness’.
We hear a lot about the importance of forgiving those who have harmed or wronged us.
My personal belief currently is that certain things, which are beyond reason, such as the most despicable crimes, cannot be forgiven. You may feel different and that’s ok.
But what about forgiving ourselves? Isn’t that important as well? I believe that it is.
Shame and guilt make us feel bad about ourselves.
You see when we feel guilty we should take time to learn that it is ‘okay’ to make mistakes and when we feel shame we should time to learn that it is ‘okay’ to be whom we are.
‘Self-Forgiveness’ is essential if we want to practice mindfulness, or being present. The more ’Self-Forgiveness’ you practice, the more shame you heal, and the more you will be able to see yourself clearly. Your relationships with others and within yourself will improve.
So how can we practice 'Self-Forgiveness'?
For me I have learned that understanding the trauma I experienced created many of my symptomatic behaviours. Dealing with this through psychological therapy has gone a long way toward forgiving myself for the ways that I reacted and behaved. Behaviours such as self-medicating, with drugs and alcohol to cope with anxiety, pain and fear, and the subsequent flow-on effect that had on my loved ones.
Self-compassion helps us understand that as human beings we are all in fact vulnerable at times, that during times of difficulty and stress it is inevitable that we may make wrong choices and experience bad feelings.
Self-compassion can release you from the guilt and shame that prevents ‘Self-Forgiveness’ and free you to take positive action towards recovery with clarity.
Who we are, our thoughts and behaviours are intrinsically related to other people and events. When we feel shame it can close our minds and hearts to others and your sight becomes blurred and even blinded to your behaviours.
When we begin to understand we can be affected by an infinite number of factors, we can be less judgmental of others and ultimately ourselves. Sometimes we just need to stop, take a breath and reconcile with the fact, that often we’re really doing the best we can, given the hand life has dealt us at that particularly moment in time.
Although we must accept we can be fallible and vulnerable, we must not lose sight that we are also extremely strong and resilient; we human beings are the perfect imperfection. As such we must embrace the dignity of risk while striving to thrive but this must be done without disrespecting yourself or others.
Taking responsibility may also include admitting to others, such as other family members, by spend time explaining about the reasons (not excuses) behind your actions and behaviours.
When we are able to develop hope, self-determination and courage to work past the ‘force-field’ that our fears create, we can build a deep sense self-respect, which in turn fertilises our self-esteem, grows our self-confidence and we’re able to refocus on purpose and belonging as we bloom.
Over the last week since practicing ‘Self-Forgiveness’ through writing, affirmations, exercise and conscious thinking, my family and I have noticed that outwardly my mood has become more stable, my motivation to tackle things has improved, I have begun to sleep better.
Internally I’m not having as many conversations with myself about things I felt guilty and shameful about, in short I’m not beating myself up so much.
Do you practice ‘Self-Forgiveness’?
Please let me know?
Please fell free to contact me, to become a guest blogger or provide feedback via email at: The KiltedRogueRunner@outlook.com
https://www.beyondblue.org.auTel: 1300 22 46 36
https://www.lifeline.org.au/Tel: 133 11 14
https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.auTel: 1300 65 94 67
Dear lovely followers,
Here is another guest blog Post from my friend Tara, I think we could all learn something from Tara about how AWESOME we really are!! Hope you enjoy this as much as I did, Thanks Tara
Hi I’m Tara. I want to show you something……..
It’s a rock I found at my local park when I was walking my teeny tiny ChihuahuaMahlee.
This rock was placed in the tree for someone like me to find by a collective movement of people who paint things on rocks and then go hide them in and around local parks and recreation hangouts for others to find. These people do this for the intention of bringing joy and happiness to others especially kids. The rock I found said, ‘BE YOURSELF’.
Anywho I went home and placed my new-found object de art on my sideboard and thought nothing more of it. Got on with my life as you do until I was invited by the Western Australian Association for Mental Health (WAAMH) to share a story that would offer a ‘HAND OF HOPE’ to others.
As someone who identifies as having ‘LIVED EXPERIENCE’ I have built up quite a repertoire of sad stories of bad experiences, dysfunctional coping strategies and dark places……
I tortured myself for days trying to concoct an elaborate and intense story for me to share with you here today. I was becoming very disheartened due to the fact that I felt I had nothing of value to share. I’ve never been on an overseas great adventure, never been anyone of great importance, and never achieved great fame or fortune…….
Then I thought of my rock…..and I asked my sister in law who participates in the Rock Movement to paint me my very own rock… You Are Awesome!!!
My rock states, ‘YOU ARE AWESOME’…which made me think. How do you be awesome? Is something you become? Like the Maybelline Add maybe you’re you born with it? Can you get it from somewhere? Is Awesome simply a state of being?
I googled Awesome and the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of Awesome as an adjective is: ‘extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring awe. As a synonym Awesome is breathtaking, stunning, awe inspiring, unbelievable, extraordinary, incredible, and inspirational’.
Ok…….then how does one become extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring and awe eliciting inspirational.
I reflect back on my journey as someone with a Lived Experience to where I am today. Trying my hardest to remember a time when I can honestly say with confidence that I was amazing or inspiring …..and what springs to my mind ………..life has not always been easy…...and sometimes my stuff is too heavy to carry but when I feel like this I make myself reflect that…………….
My life from the time I can remember until now has been a kaleidoscope of experiences good and bad, colourful, creative memories melded together to form the end project.. a beautiful one of a kind authentic magnificent priceless entity. ME
And I’m still here... Living breathing alive and thriving……perhaps maybe that makes me AWESOME. How did this phenomenon happen you might ask???
If you have time, there is a clip on YouTube that I find inspiring.
You’ll find a clip of a little gender neutral LGBTQI, Culturally and linguistically Diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inclusive kinesin protein walking towards the positive end of a microtubule while dragging an endorphin.
To me when I watch this YouTube clip I see the analogy of abody of happiness carrying all my stuff past and present like a BOSS in a way that is absolutely and unequivocally AWESOME! The more awesome I become the less my stuff bothers me……………………...
Maybe if the fact I’ve just related isn’t enough to convince you that you right here and now are Awesome just as you are, just stop and think of the fact that you were the lucky sperm that beat 200-300 million potential siblings to the one egg existing in your mother’s body.
You are a miracle of creation even if you feel life is hard and challenging at times.
Cyndi Lauper sang, ‘let your true colours shine through’
Pink sang, ‘you are one of a billion of beautiful hearts’
Lady Gaga sang, ‘you, me, we were born this way’ and that’s cause for celebration
Each and every one of you has something to celebrate. Awesome is a trait that exists in all of us.
And opportunities to inflict your Awesome on others can occur 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 365 days per year for the rest of our natural lives. You don't have to wait till someone else gives you a reason or permission to be AWESOME. Paint your own rock ...take time to appreciate the effort and creativity you put into your very own piece of artwork (Yourself).
Perhaps you could place your objects of art in places where people can find them easily. Don't hide them too well. Just think for a minute how many individuals you could impress and inspire with your Awesome. Maybe a little bit of awesome might rub off onto them in a way that offers them a ‘HAND OF HOPE’
A slight glimpse of hope can just be enough to show to someone how they can still have ‘stuff’ but achieve awesome at the same time .
I don’t know your life history as you don’t know mine. We are all on a journey through life. But I would like to conclude that it doesn’t matter where you are in your journey, you can choose to carry your ‘stuff’ like a boss just like a happiness molecule and be totally AWESOME because you are you and how you choose to utilise your Awesome can help change the world for the better.
7 Principles of Recovery: No 1 - HOPE and OPTIMISM
There IS an opportunity in every crisis. The smallest belief can empower the recovery process. As a family member, friend, carer, colleague or peer support worker we can help another carry their hope and optimism until they can do it for themselves.
So what is HOPE and OPTIMISM?
It’s subjective to each individual, for me: HOPE is the desire, the dream of a person, while OPTIMISM is the confidence and positive attitude in a person to succeed.
Here are some other examples my friends with lived experience recently shared on my Facebook page when I asked what HOPE and OPTIMISIM meant to them:
‘Hope to me was identifying that I was not alone, people before me had fallen much deeper and harder into darkness and yet they had survived and were bravely sharing their story to help me and help others. Optimism was me acknowledging the importance of Personal Resilience and how I could fill my own Personal Resilience suitcase to help me survive and help others.’
‘Hope to me is the feeling when you have something to look forward to. Optimism is having the courage to find something positive in each scenario you face; being able to identify the silver linings even when it would be so much easier to seek out and identify the negativity.’
‘Hope to me is the clear sunny day after the storm has passed, Optimism is for me the seeing the good in all situations and providing hope to those who can’t see what you see.’
‘Hope is the tiny “but what if?...” even in our darkest hour and in the depths of despair. Optimism is knowing to look for it.’
‘It means the opportunity to grow from an experience; to do and be better. It’s the spark in your heart that can never be extinguished no matter how trying circumstances get!’
‘Hope is a far away dream, optimism is the realisation that the dream will be fulfilled.’
‘Hope is a place I often dream about and strive to achieve and stay focused on (my North star) goals and aspirations. Optimism is the positivity I have that one day on this journey I will get there.’
‘Hope: An underlying belief that things will work out how you expect them to. A belief based on feelings rather than actions. Optimism: Positive outlook regardless of the odds.’
‘Whether your HOPE in life is to be happier, to find your soul mate, to rid your debts, to start a family, to become a professional, to complete Uni, to lose weight, to get off drugs or to run a marathon mix it with OPTIMISM, make a pan, take action and you CAN go and achieve anything!’
Therefore when helping someone living with a mental health condition it stands to reason that a environment that uses appropriate recovery-oriented language, will communicate positive expectations, that will promote the belief in a person of feeling valued, with a sense of belonging while in a safe place to recover.
Through greater understanding and education; support services, family members, friends and colleagues can make a significant contribution to a persons recovery journey by embedding and communicating a culture of hope and optimism with a person centred approach promoting the dignity of risk and self-determination.
Workplaces (private or public sector) can contribute to recovery outcomes by providing respectful, person-centred relationships, peer support practices and service environments that inspire hope and optimism. It is also my belief that in addition to offering employees, ongoing accredited physical first aid training, we should also be providing the opportunity to all workplace staff to undertake accredited Mental Health First Aid training.
As well as offering Mental Health First Aid Training to our workforces it’s my belief that companies and agencies should make it mandatory for senior and executive mangers to undertake Mental Health Training.
When management are trained in the identification and management of employees wellness it encourages a culture of HOPE and OPTIMISM; an openness about mental health issues, which in turn breaks down stigma and helps remove any actual and perceived barriers care.
Some of the characteristics that people living with mental health conditions can be a feeling of hopelessness, of self-worth, a lack of self-importance and belonging. We can help others by affirming a belief in a person’s ability to recover, to value and respect a person’s worth and their capacity to thrive and lead a purposeful life that contributes to society.
No matter how small, celebrate a person's recovery effort, perseverance and achievements. Whether this is a person managing to just get out of bed on a particular day or if a person reaches a significant goal they had set themselves, celebrating these wins big or small, can really fuel a persons ability to survive and thrive.
This is very important, because our modern society has evolved into culture that demands more from less, in an environment that often focuses on a person most recent mistake rather than in their inherent good.
Furthermore understanding that each human being is a rare and unique individual means their recovery needs and preferences will be just as unique and individual.
Allow and encourage a person to learn from others people with lived experience of mental health issues, in my personal experience, these people are some of the strongest, inspirational and motivational people I have met, and I have learned something from each and every one of them about HOPE and OPTIMISM.
One of the key skills to support a hopeful and optimistic recovery is communication, by promoting living a culture of open discussion and a positive lifestyle through realistic expectations and messages about recovery.
Some of you may be thinking: ‘It isn’t always that easy’, I agree. However, what I can say is, one of the most important steps and principles of recovery is acknowledging that the journey is ‘NON-LINEAR’ (this another of principles and will be covered I more detail in a future blog post). Some setbacks must be accepted as being an inevitable part of a longer-term recovery, just as they can be part of any physical illness or injury recovery journey.
Any setback should be seen as a positive learning opportunity to build strength and resilience. Just as the growth of a plant will be affected by the right balance of hydration, nutrients and sunshine, growth towards mental health fitness will depend on finding the right balance. It’s ok to fall, but try and fall forward.
To help build resilience and self-belief, remind and affirm a persons personal indicators and attributes as they reach to meet each goal they have set.
Hope is the spark
Optimism is the fuel
Positivity is the fire
Emotional stability can be the result
At the start of this blog I aid that we can (and should) carry HOPE and OPTIMISM for another until they can do it and determine that for themselves. While doing this we can try sharing successful recovery stories and making them available not just to those on a recovery journey and with lived experience, but also to their family members, colleagues and friends. There are numerous media avenues these can be shared such as: social media, webpages, e-newsletters, films, music, leaflets/brochures, newspapers (yes sometimes they do print good news stories), podcasts and, of course, awesome recovery blogs.
Not only will these provide guidance, important education, useful information they will inspire, motivate and help instil confidence in a person but also the strength to advocate for themselves as they thrive.
I’d like to sign off this week’s blog with a poem that I wrote a couple of months ago while presenting a Resilience and Recovery Roadshow around Western Australia:
Hand of Hope
Hold the hand of another, look them deep in their eyes;
Be their angel of hope, listen to their cries.
When all appears lost, and they share with you their pain;
No matter how tough, by their side you must remain.
Show love and compassion, a purpose to live;
Hugs on this mission to others we must give.
Hope is a healer, when given free from your heart;
Open your chest, allow it to pour out, let it be a gift, your passion and your art.
Helping others to heal, is humane and the right thing to do;
Through struggle comes strength, look in the mirror and start believing in you.