CLARE Echo Thought for the Week columnist Ronan Scully says we need to give ourselves a break.
It is important that we learn to love ourselves, accept ourselves, forgive ourselves and be good to ourselves, because without you or me the rest of us, our family, friends and colleagues are without a source of many wonderful and amazing things.
Suicide is claiming the lives of at least 700 or more people each year in Ireland. Also a recent Europe-wide report found that Ireland has the highest rate of suicide in young females in Europe with the second highest rate of suicide in young males.
It’s important for everyone of us to know that “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. It’s important for all of us to know that there is help out there with various Charities, Churches and HSE programmes. It’s important for all of us to know that we can go to our GP for appropriate assessment and treatment or to trained counsellors and professionals provided by the many schools, universities and various charities and churches if we are in need of help and support.
All of us need to have a chat, to have a conversation, to have a walk and talk with ourselves and with each other!
Let me be honest with you as I write this thought for the week, I have lit a candle and said a prayer for all who will read it. Life is awful tough at times and trust me although you might not think it at times, I definitely truly know it is!!
I am definitely not okay at times and have been finding things very hard during this Coronavirus lockdown due also to the death of some family members and real dear close friends. At times I need help. I need support. I need care. I need love. I need forgiveness. I need mercy. I need counseling. I need prayers. I need guidance. I need protection. I need care.
At times I have felt and feel wrecked, lost, lonely, hurt, guilty, abused, bullied, used and abandoned. There I said it!! We should all say it and have a good honest to god chat about how we feel at times. At times I am not okay. I do get stressed, and I am a total worrier.
I worry about my family. I worry about my friends. I worry about my work colleagues. At times I am sad and sometimes confused. I can be distant. At times I worry that I may not have the resources or wisdom to help my family and friends through the journey of life or do the work I need to do to help the poor especially in Ireland and Africa. Indeed there are times when I feel alone albeit that I am surrounded by loving, caring and the most amazing, brilliant people.
I get upset about things in life, in the past and in our world, particularly injustice, abuse and inequality in society. So at times I am not okay. At times we are all not okay. And you know what. That’s okay. Because I know I won’t always feel this way. As my good friend David, who sadly recently passed away in the last few weeks, used to say to me regularly during our weekly get togethers, “This too shall pass.”
Giving myself time, I will figure things out and I will pray for guidance and protection not to hurt myself or others. I will discover or rediscover my purpose or focus in life. I will be okay. I am lucky because feeling sad or down is temporary for me, and while I am regularly stressed and worried, I know I will be okay. What I have found out as I approach my 54th year, is that sometimes society isn’t too keen on shows of weakness.
We are expected to be the picture of health, fitness, beauty and knowledge and in my case to raise loads of funding for charity. There is a lot of pressure on each of us especially during these times of the Coronavirus. We must be strong and determined. We put pressure on ourselves to be perfect all the time although that pressure may come from others, a family member, a friend, a colleague, although they might not even know they are doing it, but you know it and you feel it.
I personally find it exhausting trying to live up to that expectation. At times I don’t know why I keep trying. As well as that, I have always been self-critical. I beat myself up over tiny things, the smallest mistakes. I have a large blackthorn stick as my friend David would say to me, that although it’s imaginary I beat myself up with it daily. I’ll over analyze conversations and events, wondering if I said the wrong thing and what the other person thinks of me now. I lose sleep over decisions even the ones I made years ago, wondering what I could have done differently or said differently.
I have let people down especially those closest to me at times. I often get wrapped up in trying to be perfect, in trying to please everyone around me except those who mean the world to me, my wife, my family and close friends. I have to regularly remind myself that it’s a fruitless cause. Perfection doesn’t exist although at times you try to convince yourself it does.
I keep doing the bad I don’t want to do rather than doing the good I always want to do and try so hard each day to do. You can’t make everyone happy all the time. And I’m learning that that’s okay even if I have already spent more than 53 years in this world of ours on this journey called Life trying to do exactly that!!
I am learning to forgive myself for not being perfect. And I’m learning to forgive myself for not always being okay and for not always being a good friend to the people who are good friends to me. Because right now as I write this piece, I’m not. But I also know that I have the ability to change that and that who I am makes a difference for good in our world.
I have found out over time that it is so important to acknowledge to yourself how you are truly feeling. Also, to check how your family, friends and colleagues are feeling at times. It is so important to not only identify, but also to verify our feelings.
Be honest about how you feel even if you don’t think people will understand or relate or care. I can’t count the number of times someone has asked me how I am and I respond with “I am good” or “I am the finest” when I’m really not. It’s my automatic response to that type of question. And it doesn’t do me any good. It doesn’t make me feel better, sometimes I feel worse for not being honest.
I try to go to my local church every evening which has thankfully been open during this time of lockdown, and it is there that I have my chat with God! I learn to acknowledge the negative feelings and offer them up. I have learned not to be afraid to admit that I am having a bad day or a rough week, or a hard month or that I was hurt or abused in the past. It’s okay. We all have them at some point. That’s life as they say.
What I’m still learning to do though, is not sink into the feeling. That’s when it becomes difficult for me to get out of the situation or rut or dark place that I might find myself in either from present day issues or past issues. I remind myself that I will feel better at some point and my personal faith in God through prayer helps me get myself back out of the dark place that I might be in and out into the light again.
A few other things that help me is, a good night sleep usually does the trick. Or going for a walk. Or writing things out on paper or doing what I am doing now, writing an opinion piece. Sometimes I call one of my closest friends Paul, because I know he will tell me jokes and lift my spirits. It’s important, I think, well in my case anyway to find something that works for you so you don’t get stuck in the “not okayness” for too long.
The motto for the “Cycle against Suicide” Charity says, “It’s okay to not be okay”. I have found during this journey of life that it’s alright to reach out to people and say, “hey I’m kind of in a bad way here right now and I was wondering if you could say an extra prayer for me or light a candle for me or give me one of your great hug’s or I need your ear for a few hours can you listen?”
It’s okay for us to answer the question, “How are things?” to say “not so good, can you help me out?”. It’s okay to let people see you cry, it doesn’t mean you are weak, it means you have enough courage to not hide who you are. It’s okay to need someone to sit with you in silence for a while just because you can’t be alone. It’s okay to have those days where you don’t accomplish anything because you just don’t want to go out the front door.
What’s not okay is not wanting it to change. What’s not okay is not asking for help and support. So please reach out for help like I try to do, say a prayer, light a candle, sing out loud to your favourite song, enjoy some coffee or tea with a good and close friend, read one of your favourite books, call a friend and don’t be afraid to get help from a charity or from a professional body.
I really believe the saying, “a problem shared can be a problem halved” and when we share our problems with someone who truly cares, or with a qualified professional we can get help and support. Mental health refers to the state of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It impacts the way we feel, think and act, making it important in all areas of our lives.
Mental health plays an important role in the way we deal with stress, how we relate to others, and the decisions we make in our daily lives. Without positive mental health, it will be almost impossible to realize your full potential, work productively, make a meaningful contribution to your community, or handle the stress that comes with life.
Mental Health Alphabet
So what can you do to ensure you have a healthy mental state? Well there are various ways to maintain positive mental health and live a more fulfilling and enjoyable life. Besides seeking professional help if you need it, you should make time to connect with others, think positively about yourself and get physically and spiritually active. I use the following Alphabet of wellness for mental health that helps me in my daily journey of life and it goes as follows :
A – Anxiety is a normal human emotion. Remind yourself that it will pass and you will be ok.
B- Breathe. Take time each day to check in with your breathing. Take long slow breaths down into your belly.
C- Calming. Calm and soothe your mind with a daily cup of Tea.
D- Distraction can be a useful tool to focus your mind away from negative thoughts and behaviors.
E- Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly.
F- Family and Friends. Surround yourself with support and prioritise healthy connections and relationships. But, accept at times these relationships can be turbulent.
G- Ground yourself in the present moment by tuning into your senses, your mind, your spirit, your breath and your body.
H- Healthy habits create positive daily rituals of self care.
I- Inner critic. Get to know yours and keep it in check with self love and compassion.
J- Journal. Write out your feelings, thoughts, fears, goals and dreams to help you process them.
K- Keep clear boundaries for yourself and others. It’s okay to say No.
L- Laugh. Find time for fun. Let your hair down and keep it light and find humour in life.
M- Mindfulness. Observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment. Be present.
N- Name your emotions and acknowledge them without judgement.
O- Obstacles provide you with a chance to look for opportunities and options for growth.
P- Pray, plan and prioritize. Keep lists and schedules. Don’t overload yourself. Book in down time, meditation and self care.
Q- Quiet time. Give your mind and senses a break. Turn off and tune out.
R- Rest. It’s okay to do nothing sometimes. Put the feet up, grab a cuppa and read a book or snooze or say a rosary like I do.
S- Sleep. It’s so important to get enough sleep. Get a soothing wind down time before bed.
T- Technology free time. Spend time each day away from your screens, especially before bed.
U- Unique. You are the best at being you. Try not to compare yourself with others.
V- Values. A value system can be a great way to help anxiety, stress and sleep.
W- Water. Make sure you drink enough water everyday, not just in teas and coffees.
X- Xamine your unhelpful thoughts and challenge them. Remember not all thoughts are true.
Y- You. Tune into your body and mind and notice where you feel tensions and stresses and fix them.
Z- Zero tolerance for things in your life that don’t honour your values and worthiness or the values and worthiness of others.
Thought for the week
As your thought for the week, remember, everything will be okay if we love and believe in ourselves, and understand that hope floats around us and when we can we should always spread that hope and love with others especially those who mean the most to us.
This month is as good a month to pick a good place to start your “walk and talk” journey through life, Get out there if you can and be well and take care of one another!
Also know that the best of help can be got from contacting some of Ireland’s best charities and organisations such as the Samaritans, Pieta House, Aware, Jigsaw, St. Vincent de Paul, ACT Counselling, your local GPs, your local religious chaplains, HSE groups and various qualified counsellors. Keep as well as you can everyone!
Let me finish with one of my daily prayers that helps me in my living. “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me, I cannot for certain know where it will end. Nor do I really know myself. And the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You, does in fact please You. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. And I know that if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, although I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust You always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, And will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen”