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.
Here is guest blog numero uno, and I’m so honoured that first up is my good mate Heidi Anderson. Perthling’s and Aussies you’d know Heidi either from the H!t929 breakfast show Heidi, Xavier and Ryan or during her time on Big Brother a few years back.
Heidi’s openness about her lived experience with anxiety, battling body image, using alcohol and recreational drugs as a coping strategy continue to help and inspire people all over the world…..me included. Please enjoy.
‘It’s been about two years since I spoke openly about my anxiety and I wanted to let you all know that I am doing ok. In fact, I am doing wonderfully, and I couldn't be more proud of how far I have come.
I get asked all the time how I am coping and how I have helped myself. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support. Thank you!
I also wanted to answer some of the questions people constantly have about my mental health and to give some of you hope that might be struggling right now.
I was in a really dark place a couple of years ago and, to be honest, I can't even pinpoint what fully caused my spiral. All I know is it was hell and I wouldn't have gotten through it without the support of you, and my friends and family.
I got asked to explain to a girlfriend just how my little brain works as she was still struggling to understand anxiety. I told her it’s like jumping on a merry-go-round and every day, going round and round and round and round … haha ok, you get the picture!
The irrational thoughts and fears overtake your brain and YOU wholeheartedly believe the stories you’re telling yourself. No-one can convince you otherwise. They can try, but once you’re in that deep, dark place, it can be very hard to get out of it.
I have been very lucky. The support and love I have been shown, not just from the Perth community, but around the globe filled my heart with love, and I now know I am not in this alone.
Unfortunately, some people still believe they are. So, if this is YOU, then I hope this blog post will inspire you also.
I had been suffering for a very long time but I never really understood what was going on. So, I drowned the anxious feeling EVERY weekend with copious amounts of red wine, ciggies and recreational drugs.
Anxiety doesn't just disappear and it will never fully go away, but I have learnt to live with it and I now understand it a whole lot better.
I solemnly swear that the best thing I ever did for my anxiety was telling people about it. Sharing and accepting my mental illness has been the best thing I have ever done, and I encourage every one of you to do that if you feel the urge.
It might not be for everyone, but just sharing my story helped me out of the darkness.
I was inundated with messages of support, love and people sharing their own stories from all around the world. People stopped me on the street to speak to me about their anxiety. I was completely overwhelmed with a number of people that had been suffering alone.
Opening up means people now understand me. Sometimes I would come across disconnected, not all there, moody, agitated, aggressive and stressed, and people often wondered what they had done wrong.
But they had done nothing wrong! My anxiety had taken over my entire body and I was full of fear.
It could and would happen in any situation, especially if I was pushed out of my comfort zone, or if I thought I was losing control. Colleagues, friends and family often saw it and just thought “Oh, that’s Heidi,” and the most exhausting part was in every situation like this, I would spend days, sometimes even weeks, beating myself up for the way I reacted.
I couldn't win either way.
Today is a different story. Now, everyone knows I am an anxious person and they understand my behaviour, and can empathise where I’m coming from and not take things personally.
Since I’ve spoken out, I feel like I am no longer hiding anything. So to be honest, my behaviour has changed naturally anyway.
The road to where I am now hasn't been easy, but I wouldn't change a thing. I have learnt so much about myself, and anxiety, and I am super excited to share this with you.
I thought about medication at times when my brain just wouldn't shut the hell up, and I looked into it, but I heard about some of the side effects and I couldn't deal with having a shitty sex drive, considering I only see my partner every second week as he works away. So for me it wasn't an option.
So instead, I chose to tackle my anxiety through all different avenues. Now, some of these might work for you and some of them may not.
I have absolutely nothing against medication, you must do what it right for you! My Mum and my best friend (I know, us anxious folk really do stick together) are both medicated and doing really well. For me, as I said, I wanted to try other means.
I see a psychologist by the name of Jan, from Masters Psychology, and she has been an absolute godsend, I couldn't have got this far without her. I have also been trying a therapy called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and, without getting too technical (Google it), it has really helped me and my anxiety.
It was developed in the 1980s to alleviate the symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since then, however, it has become a widely used and effective technique for other psychological disorders, including various phobias and addiction, as well as PTSD.
Meditation has also been a HUGE help and one that I still need to do more of. I constantly find excuses to avoid sitting in silence, but I am getting there and trying to do it a few times a week because when I do, it works wonders! Practicing yoga at ‘Twisting Peacock Yoga’ - http://twistingpeacockyoga.com.au has encouraged me to check-in with myself, and switch off, to seek that peace my brain struggles so hard to find.
I have Doterra - www.mydoterra.com/Australia oils burning in the house and I wear an oil called ‘Balance’ every day. Some people may find this really woo-woo, but I guarantee it has helped me in some crazy way! I read lots of articles and books to educate myself on mental health.
I also openly share my story now and speak at events, even though this does cause some anxiety, but I figure I am allowed to have it as I’m speaking about anxiety. So, it’s a guaranteed laugh at the beginning!
I've done courses and I've surrounded myself with like-minded individuals, such as Julian Pace from ‘The Happiness Co’ - https://happinessco.org where I am now an ambassador, after completing his 21-day course.
Additionally, do yourselves a favour, and look up the ‘Brain and Wellness Spa’ https://brainwellnessspa.com.au in South Perth, which is owned and run by Terri Bowman. This therapy is super relaxing and not confronting at all. It’s a bit hard to explain, so I’ll let her website do the talking.
Most recently I‘m 78 days into a 90-day sobriety challenge with Sexy Sobriety - www.sexysobriety.com
YES ME!! It has been easy, fighting the temptation and being the only sober one when socialising, but it has been so empowering and rewarding.
You see for most of last year, I kept hearing a little voice inside me trying to speak, saying I needed to stop drinking but I kept shutting it out. I have since realised that little inner voice was just looking out for my health.
Over the Christmas holidays I had a ball but my health wasn’t right and I have been trying to avoid the inevitable by drinking through the pain.
I have experienced severe abdominal pain and sickness and if I’m honest with myself, this has been the case for the last few years whenever I drink booze.
I’ve had severe bouts of gastritis and it isn't pretty.
For many people, giving up alcohol for 90 days would be a walk in the park but for this boozehound, it was a tough one, as I relied heavily on alcohol for my stress relief. 78 days in and already planning on staying sober when I reach the 90-day mark!!!
I can’t promise you that any of this will work for you but, what I can promise you, is that there is hope. We’re in this together and you are not alone.’
Thank you for joining me.
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.au Tel: 1300 22 46 36
https://www.lifeline.org.au/ Tel: 133 11 14
https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au Tel: 1300 65 94 67
Please consider the content of my blog before reading it. Some of the topics covered in my blog such as: Suicide, Depression, Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may make youfeel uncomfortable. If you do feel uncomfortable please seek out appropriate professional and personal support.
Imaging the serine trickle of water emerging from the ground, high up in a beautiful mountain, commencing its journey as the source of a fresh water stream. Taking the path of least resistance, growing as it travels, gaining strength and power, carving it’s own destiny, invincible as it climaxes with its marriage with the ocean.
This could easily describe my path living through successful careers in the Royal Navy, Cheshire Constabulary and Western Australian Police.
For those of you who know me, I hope you would agree with me when I say generally I’m an optimist, bubbly in character, and at times a practical joker with a zest for life. At the time of writing that is, it’s exactly who I am, and for the most part of my life that is who I have been.
However, there was a time when the serenity turned into a nightmare of turbulent white-water rapids, and the deafening crescendo of a powerful waterfall, that kept me pinned underwater gasping for breath and drowning in my own senses.
This was was a period of my life, ten years ago, when I contemplated, planned and attempted to end my life after enduring six months of bullying at work while suffering from Depression and Anxiety. With the experience of hindsight Depression crept up on me, several issues, which had been and were affecting me, finally came to a head causing me to lose control of my life and all logical thinking.
But let’s be clear on one thing, in those darkest depths of despair, I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted the pain to stop and couldn’t see or realise that there was help outside of my own being to help stop that pain.
Some of you reading this will have been unfortunate to be diagnosed and live pinned down by the claws of depression I have no doubt you will relate to my lived experience with your own.
If you are blessed not to have been touched by mental health issues I hope that it may help you realise that it doesn’t discriminate and can creep up on any of us if we give it the opportunity and should be treated with respect and not a taboo subject.
In Australia alone, it’s estimated that at least 45% of the population will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.
In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults will be living with Depression and 2 million live with Anxiety.
I’ve shed a few tears while writing this, reflecting about how really ill I was at the time, but in the main for love of my nearest and dearest who held my head above water as I was drowning in vulnerable hopelessness and also I’m shedding tears of gratitude for everything I have in my life.
I’ve learned so much about myself over the last ten years. During my own journey of recovery, which now includes living with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, my family and I also lived through suicide attempts in 2015, by our youngest daughter Holly and have been working closely together to help and support Holly along her journey of recovery.
Through these struggles I have truly become stronger as a person. I’ve found a passion for compassion, to strongly advocate for people living with mental health conditions and working on their mental fitness.
After all recovery is completely achievable from most mental health conditions.
If I can do it, YOU CAN DO IT!! It’s okay not to be okay and it certainly is NOT weak to speak up.
If you’re struggling please visit your GP and open up to your loved ones. Finding the right balance of help, that works for you (and this may take some time), whether that ismedication, psychotherapy, psycho-social rehab, self-help books, physical fitness or a combination of all of these.
My GP is aware of my mental fitness journey and we review this each time I go to request another prescription of medication. Yes, I take medication to help me; I have no shame in that. For me it’s no different to taking medication for a physical injury or illness. I’m on a medication called Escitalopram it’s a ‘Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor’ or SSRI, it helps balance the chemicals in my brain and keeps me on an even keel with regards to the Depression and Anxiety.
Additionally, I have a wonderful Psychologist (about the 6th I’ve seen over the years), the work we have been doing together over the last 12 months, albeit exhausting and emotional at times, is truly helping me unpack historical baggage and process trauma that I have picked up and been carrying throughout my life. I genuinely look forward to each session.
Physical fitness and exercise is a very important part of my recovery. I love the meditative state I get in to when I’m distance running. It is believed that 23 minutes of rigorous exercise can improve a person’s mood for at least 12 hours. I certainly feel much better after exercise, more energy, improved mood and feel physically better.
I have amazing Peer Support from my wonderful friends at Sirens of Silence Charity Inc, from my running family in the Rogue Runners Club Australia, from closest friends here in Australia but also life long friends from around the world.
Probably most importantly, I talk openly to my loved ones about how I feel, whether I’m having a good or not so good day, without their love and support I wouldn’t be the person I have grown into today. They know what coping strategies work for me and how to keep me motivated to achieve my goals.
Finding my voice and sharing my lived experience living with mental health conditions also helps me with my recovery. I gain strength from educating and helping others. I’m passionate about dispelling the myths that have become attached to mental health conditions and I’m focused on continuing to break down the barriers created by stigma.
If the untruthful mark of disgrace that stigma places on people isn’t bad enough, but when it becomes dogma within a culture or societies belief system then it causes real barriers and obstructions for people to reach out for the care they really need.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing guest blog posts and highlighting the 7 Principles of Recovery (below) and how we can implement these to help ourselves and others:
1. Hope and Optimism
3. Person Centered
4. Strengths and Interests Based
5. Inclusive of carer’s and social networks
Thank you for joining me.
Please fell free to contact me, to become a guest blogger or provide feedback via email at: TheKiltedRogueRunner@outlook.com
https://www.beyondblue.org.au Tel: 1300 22 46 36
https://www.lifeline.org.au/ Tel: 133 11 14
https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au Tel: 1300 65 94 67