How I Sprained My Mental Health and How I Began Fixing It
“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Depression is described as:
A mental health disorder characterised by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.
That pretty much summed up my current point of mental health at that moment in time. I wouldn't say that I had broken my mental health completely but it had certainly suffered a very bad sprain.
I have been working on being more mindful since I first felt that dark cloud over my head and thought maybe people would benefit from me taking the time to document what has helped me to be more centred and reconnect with my life a bit more after such a trauma.
Last year my life changed. A change that was not for the better.
I had just returned from an amazing holiday from the South Pacific and was settling back into the cool breeze in Tasmania when I got a virus that knocked me off my feet. It was a really bad virus, one of those bugs that takes almost everything you have.
I managed to get back on my feet and start my return to work, only to find that I had absolutely no strength or stamina left. I wasn't even able to walk from the nearest bus mall to the office without stopping a couple of times on a particular day.
It turned out that on that day I was having a heart attack. The virus that had taken me for almost everything I had, had just a bit more it wanted from me. The virus had inflamed my heart and the surrounding tissues, and highlighted an underlying fault that I had no idea existed.
Long story short, trying to recover from the damage done to my heart attack has been a long and arduous journey.
One of the most frustrating outcomes has been the side effects of the medication that I now take to allow my heart to heal from the trauma. The side effects have varied from muscle cramps, nose bleeds and lack of energy, to mind-crushing depression and anxiety.
I have found the depression to be the hardest foe to slay, more so than the physical limitations.
An exercise in removing stress from your mind.
Basically, you first need to bring yourself into this moment and be present in it, it can be hard as your brain is wired to start trying to see multiple steps ahead, it can help to make sure that you are sitting (or standing if you're on the go) and maintaining proper posture. This helps to open your body (so your not hunched over) and also should alleviate pressure points so that you're not distracted by the ouchies.
- Now just breath and take some time to ask yourself what is going on in my life at the moment, not your whole life, just this moment in time.
- Be mindful in this moment of whatever happens in your mind, take note and identify any thoughts that pop into your head and then leave them behind, now just imagine that you're moving away from them. Some people find visualising them being closed behind doors, as they are just distractions or even picturing themselves filing them away in draws. I like to think of them as things written in sand and have a wave come up onto the shore and wash it away.
- Now just remember to keep your breathing steady whilst you are visualising this process.
- You'll likely become more aware of your surroundings during this exercise, do much the same as the above, and just acknowledge these sensations and move past them.Few things to note with this kind of exercise and in life, in general, is that:
- painful events, memories and sensations can happen when you least expect it when this happens, just be mindful and in this moment and don’t let your brain get caught up in the tidal wave that it is trying to create.
- identify and give names to those things that your mind brings to the surface. for example, if you are working through your breathing and you are sensing anger or frustration, call a spade a spade and label those emotions and close them behind that door. You will find that this will help to slow the amount and intensity of these thoughts. if done enough
- More importantly, you will begin to identify yourself as an objective observer or witness rather than a person who is disturbed by these thoughts and feelings. This requires practice but can then be used whenever you are stressed.