Monday, 19 September 2016

Spirituality and mental health

I am writing this post because, as with all my posts, these two topics are things I'm interested in - and what's the point of writing about stuff you're not interested in anyway - but also because I want to dispel the myth that being spiritual or religious precludes you from mental health difficulties. Many people turn to either spirituality or religion (I have done both) to help them get through the shit storms of life - and heck if I didn't know some of the things I know, my life would be one heck of a mess - but that doesn't mean life becomes easy or that problems are easy to solve.

MENTAL HEALTH
So let's talk about this topic, by first of all stating something that should be fairly obvious, but might not be to some - and that is that there are plenty of people going through some kind of difficulty or trauma, including people who you would never think. I have never understood how people manage to hide that they are suffering from depression, but some people do. Men, in particular, are probably suffering a lot more than you might think. I tend to agree with what a friend of mine said a few years ago - 'men are fucked'. Whatever some women might think, men don't have it easy either - and there's little or no doubt that it's harder to get support for mental health issues if you are a man, for reasons that hopefully will dissipate in time along with other societal expectations. The notion that 'boys don't cry' and that men should 'tough it up' is undoubtedly one of the most harmful things that society has done to men. I can say with pretty strong conviction that there are lots and lots of men, particularly in the UK, who are still too scared to talk about their struggles, at least to their friends and family.
People might go to the doctor and get prescribed anti-depressants, but that will rarely if ever be a long term solution.

WHAT I'VE LEARNT TO HELP ME GET THROUGH THE BAD DAYS

Fortunately, touchwood, I don't suffer from severe depression or anxiety now, but have had more than my fair share of difficulties and still have thought patterns which I struggle with. Some days just aren't particularly pleasant, and I don't enjoy experiencing strong emotions.
I just do my best to let things pass without fighting them, or if I am fighting against 'what is', I am aware of it. There are times when emotions get very strong, and being a highly sensitive person who feels things more than the average person, it can be a little bit too intense at times. If things do get too much, trying to 'accept' it is not necessarily wise - sometimes the best solution is a good rant.
Spirituality (which can be a bit of a fluffy word) is, to me, just getting to know yourself and doing your best to allow life to be as it is and to do whatever you can to make your life better. The mind thinks that fighting against an issue will make it go away; it sure doesn't.

I believe in meditation and I believe that there is a life force which could be termed as 'God'. I believe that I am a divine being. I believe in healing and I believe that we should do our best to thrive in life.
But, it's so easy to label things as 'positive' and 'negative'. Mental health difficulties are generally labelled as 'negative' and it's easy to think that we shouldn't have them or that they make us a lesser person than the people we compare ourselves to.
What I'm starting to realise is that I don't need to reject the mental health issues I've faced. They are part of me. Just like some people have physical limitations and health issues, others have mental health issues. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

And that, my friends, is where I'm at right now. It feels like there could be more added to this post, but as the cartoon goes .. that's all folks! For now at least.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Frustration, priorities, time out and things I want to do

So I can quite often get frustrated with life, and also with myself. Wondering why things are not happening quicker, why the same problems are cropping up. One of the biggest reasons is that I can easily compare my life situation to that of others - particularly in terms of the two areas I've struggled with the most, relationships and money. As someone wise says 'We often compare the worst of ourselves with the best of others'.
It's true, when we're comparing ourselves, we often compare our weakest areas with that of others. And it can be hard not to, let's be honest. We can fail miserably in some ways, and that hurts.

There are no hard and fast solutions for these feelings of frustration that crop up sometimes. Sometimes, the therapy that might be helpful for someone might cost more money then they would want to spend. The money thing can be particularly frustrating - when you have a limited amount, you have to prioritise - and sometimes, I choose to miss out on certain things that might be helpful to me - but, right now, it is important for me to have a social life, living on my own with no family close by. 

I am very grateful that I have a reasonably good number of friends now. Putting yourself out there and doing new things does pay dividends. Often, people say that they can't afford things (and yes I have said this many times) - but the reality often is that the thing they can't afford just isn't a high priority for them - or they don't want to pay the amount of money required.

From a cafe/restaurant in Haworth.
We can't do everything and we can't necessarily be like some people we aspire to. For example, I am not the kind of person who could work 60 or 80 hours per week without putting myself at risk of burnout, so being an entrepreneur might not be the path for me. The important thing is to do the best we can and be ourselves. And also be persistent - rewards do not usually come overnight.

So anyway, as I have said before, I have not been doing much blogging these last six months. I have been taking some time to discover myself and to continue healing from some of the traumas that have happened in my life. There are times when I feel like a complete fuck up. But thankfully I have the tools to get through the tough times. I have kind of learnt that I don't have to discard the mental health issues I have faced, and that it is more empowering to own them and integrate them with the rest of who I am. I can choose who I want to hang out with and what events I go to. I don't have to always be 'spiritual' (some of you will know what I mean here :) )

Anyway, I don't really know where my life is going. I would still like to travel, meet the woman of my dreams, finish writing at least one of the books I've started and meet new friends. But I have to start with myself. It can be a tough road to deal with and face years of negative self worth. But like I've said before, it's all about small steps :)

Until later
Andy




Sunday, 4 September 2016

One of the most important things I've learnt about acceptance

If you've been wandering around the 'spiritual' scene for a while, you may well have come across books, articles or been to seminars which talk about: accepting what is, living in the present moment, etc etc.

For most people, this is easier said than done. I still find it pretty damn hard to accept some of the things that have happened in my life, and I can feel pretty despondent at how my life is at times.

Thanks to some excellent spiritual teachers, particularly Jeff Foster, I have come to realise that acceptance isn't necessarily about seeing a difficult situation as wonderful or pretending that your life is easier than it is. What do I mean by this?

Well, sometimes there's very little you can do to stop how you feel about certain things, however much you wish you didn't. The mind can be a little irrational to say the least and sometimes I can think to myself:
'I really shouldn't be feeling this way any more'.
'Why can't I get over this issue?'
And, of course, the classic - 'I've been meditating, working on myself, surrendering, and doing my best to 'accept' things - but I still feel like I'm getting nowhere'.

The feeling of 'things should have gotten better by now because I've been doing this and that' is little more than the ego wanting justice and feeling that life owes something.

Anyway - life can be pretty tough at times, and part of the problem is that we seem to think that life should not be difficult, that we should try our best to always feel positive, and that we should do our best to push away and/or run from any sort of emotional pain. The extreme overuse of anti depressants is clear evidence of this.

But who is to say that we shouldn't feel both good and bad? Is this not part of the natural journey of being a human being?

To me, acceptance is about accepting your current situation on some level - even if it's 'acceptance of non-acceptance' - meaning that, if you feel bad about yourself, if you feel like you're lost, if you feel like you should be doing better - accept that. If you feel like the most hopeless basket case in the world, don't try and fight these feelings, and don't judge them by thinking you shouldn't be feeling so bad. One of the biggest issues we create for ourselves is resisting and fighting against things we don't want. Acceptance on some level is, I believe, one of the keys to dealing with difficult stuff. I still have times where I feel like fighting tooth and nail against things which bring about emotional pain - and let's be honest, it's not easy to face pain of any sort. Sometimes, the only thing I can accept is that I really hate the situation I am in - like, okay life, I am fed up and pissed off and feelings are running pretty high, and I'm not sure how much more crap I can take, but I will do my best to allow things to be as they are, right now.

If you want to find out more of the true meaning of acceptance, I highly recommend looking at the work of either Jeff Foster or Matt Licata.

Hope this helps at least one person. Life can be pretty bad, and sometimes we may need counselling or therapy to face deep rooted problems. But you can only start from where you are, not by wishing things were different.

Be like the flowers, who allow the natural flow of life to happen :)

Monday, 22 August 2016

When it's hard to see a way past something

Do you ever wish you could take a magic pill or potion that would miraculously solve your life's issues? I have been feeling a bit like that today.

Whilst I know that acceptance and allowing even the most difficult things to be as they are is the better way to go, my instinct is still to lash out in frustration and wish that the things that bug me had been resolved years ago. There is also a bit of balance necessary - sometimes, mere 'acceptance' isn't enough and a good rant does help - as long as you have a bit of self awareness and even accept that you feel frustration and anger at this very moment.

Emotions are the result of blocked energy and can be difficult to deal with - and as a highly sensitive person who feels everything deeply, I sometimes feel like running a mile when difficult stuff comes up.

There's no point in beating yourself up when you feel shit - I believe that we are all doing the best we can. As much as you may sometimes wish that things would be different, you have to start from where you are. Sometimes, the challenges can seem insurmountable - but at the end of the day, we are here to learn and to help others, not have an easy life.

Listen to your body and ask what it needs. Meditate. Go out in nature. Have a good rant if that's what you need. Ask for help. There are no quick fixes - just do the best you can to allow things to be as they are and be open to what lessons the tough times can teach you.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

What's on my mind?

Well, hello again Facebook. So you want to know what's on my mind? Well, as it happens, it's a bit big to fit on a status. So I'll use my blog instead.

Recently, not for the first time, I've been feeling a little despondent about my whole life situation and wondering what I need to do (or not do) for things to get better. Most of us have good intentions, but when it comes down to it, it requires a lot of motivation and effort to do whatever it takes to really make life work for us. The subconscious mind can seem like an insurmountable obstacle - the thought patterns that we've struggled with for years just don't seem to go away.

Yes, I have been feeling a lot of resistance recently when things come up that I don't like.

So - time to be a bit honest here. I am basically quite a lazy person and I often struggle for motivation to do things that I know would be productive. And, perhaps partly because I've already been through more than enough crap in my lifetime, the prospect of doing things like going to therapy, facing emotional pain and seeing a doctor scares me somewhat. And I don't currently have much motivation to go back into education and spend 2 or 3 years getting a qualification, especially if (as would be likely) I'd have to work at the same time.

Whilst I would like to get 'unstuck', the reality is that changing my life will take a lot of effort and perseverance. However, I do believe that we all work at our own pace. We all have different needs and values. And we need to start from where we are.

Trying to do too much all at once would end up overwhelming me. As much as I would like to work for myself, I don't know if I'd have what it takes to do so - and there is nothing wrong with you if you are working for someone else, as long as the job has a degree of alignment to who you are - there are few things worse than working in a stressful job which is totally 'not you'.

So for me, I still feel small steps are the best way forward.




Sunday, 7 August 2016

Friends .. don't always come in the package you expect

It's been six months now since I was regularly posting on this blog. And I still haven't quite got to the stage where I am ready to post every week again. But anyway, hopefully the blog will be ready for something of a re-birth soon. In the meantime, today I want to talk about a subject that is sort of close to my heart .. and sort of not.

The reason I say this is because I have never found it easy to make friends .. well, I guess I find it easier now than I ever have, but I still don't always find it easy to form close friendships, and I still do enjoy my own company and need time to myself.

My friendships have changed a lot over the last 10 years - obviously I made a big change by moving up north where I didn't know anyone, and it is not easy to keep in touch that much with people once you move away. Facebook has been a big help though. Then I went through a time of self-discovery, a time where I rubbed some people up the wrong way when being one of the hosts on City Socialising, and really it took me a little while to learn social skills having been in my own world until my early thirties. There were some people I fell out with during my first years up north, and some who I am still friends with, even though I don't see them much.

To cut a long story short, I moved to a different town in June 2014, at a time when I was at quite a low point in my life - having fallen out with a family member, and having had some fairly stressful jobs. I knew some people in Huddersfield - which is part of the reason I moved there - although now I don't have that much contact with these people - but essentially it was a case of starting over again.

Of course, I went through my brother's death a few months later and being catapulted into uncertainty after (rightly) quitting a job that was even more stressful than the previous bad ones. I went through a period of two or three months where I hardly saw anyone, which wasn't nice. After this, I started hanging out with some people I met on Meetup - one of whom I am no longer friends with after it became very apparent that some of their attitudes and behaviours were not conducive to unity and getting on with others, and that person has sadly alienated themselves from a number of people. I have certainly learnt a big lesson not to blindly believe that other people are bad just because someone else says so, and also to be a bit more discerning as to who I hang out with.

However, what I have also learnt is to be open minded and to mix with people who I may not have normally mixed with in the past. The people on meetup are the ones I spend the most time with, and I've also re-acquainted myself with some lovely people on there who I hadn't seen in a while. One of them rightly said that we are a bunch of misfits .. different ages, different personality types, different backgrounds .. but somehow I've clicked with them. I used to think that my closest friends would have to be 'spiritual', and whilst I do also have some very good friends who are also interested in the spiritual journey, the meetup group came together because people just wanted to enjoy good social events and spend time with other decent people and build friendships. Just because you're spiritual or religious, does not mean all your friends have to be the same type - an easy trap to fall into. Perhaps, if you look outside the box a bit, you may find some very rewarding friendships. There are some good people out there.




Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Hello blog .. sorry if you have felt neglected

It's been ages since I published a blog post. Four months, in fact. There were times when I tried to start a post, but the inspiration was not there to complete it. It kind of felt like the right thing to take a bit of a break from blogging.

Do I have any new revelations or profound insights? Well, not really. I've been taking a bit of time to find myself and go within. I am settled in a new job which is going well, which means a bit more of a routine, and have also been spending more time with some friends who I really have connected with. Recently, I have been exploring the wonderful Yorkshire landscape, and feel blessed that I finally feel like I have found my home in Huddersfield.
Yeah, like this beautiful scene on the Yorkshire moors.
I have to say, my inspiration for writing is still a little dry. Like I don't really know what to say. Maybe I will just have to be patient.

But anyhow, what have I learnt during the last few months .. well, life is certainly not always easy. I am really starting to grasp the meaning of true acceptance .. that is, accepting that you have 'difficult' aspects of your personality, thought patterns you may not like, issues that you wish could be solved. Often, the problem is not the situation itself, but our reaction to it. That doesn't mean we shouldn't want things to change, but allowing things to be as they are, in this moment, is a step towards more peace and freedom. The spiritual teacher Jeff Foster is very good at talking about this whole topic .. check him out.

Anyways, maybe I'll get back into more regular blogging soon. I honestly don't know yet. If anyone has any sensible suggestions for a topic, I'm all ears :)

Until later.


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